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Steps Forward and Back: The Quad City Symphony’s Season Opener PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Frederick Morden   
Tuesday, 15 October 2013 12:17

The first Masterworks concert of the Quad City Symphony’s 99th season was a checkerboard of strengths and weaknesses. Huge, transcendent moments filled the Adler Theatre in the October 5 concert, but when things got quiet, discrepancies in tone color, balance, and rhythm appeared.

Under the direction of Music Director and Conductor Mark Russell Smith, the orchestra explored four diverse approaches to composition in reverse chronological order. Commissioned by the Quad City Symphony, the world premiere of American composer Michael Torke’s Oracle opened the program, followed by fellow countryman Aaron Jay Kernis’ Musica Celestis, featuring only the strings. The mid-20th Century’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by British composer Benjamin Britten – with humorous narration by local media personality Don Wooten – completed the first half. After intermission, pianist Jonathan Biss joined the orchestra for Johannes Brahms’ Concerto for Piano No. 1.

The concert was an elegantly designed program that included a variety of contemporary works balanced by a classic masterpiece, but – except for Torke – it was not a good selection of music for this orchestra. In the tutti sections, when all the instruments were played, the mixture of timbre was profuse. Yet as the scoring broke down into smaller instrumental combinations, the differences in individual colors became more problematic. The result was tonal incompatibility both among the same instruments and between instrumental families.

Surrounding an Idea: Willy Mason, October 17 at Codfish Hollow Barn PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Friday, 04 October 2013 05:49

Willy Mason

An online comment on the American Songwriter review of Willy Mason’s Carry on disputed the gushing praise heaped on the album, complaining that “the percussion sounds to me like it’s straight from a drum-machine loop.”

There’s a simple reason for that: It was.

The singer/songwriter will be performing October 17 at Maquoketa’s Codfish Hollow Barn as part of the Communion Tour with Rubblebucket, Roadkill Ghost Choir, and others. In a phone interview last week, Mason explained that the drum-machine idea came from producer Dan Carey. “He had that, and I had the songs, and we went in and we started working with that rhythm, and things just unfolded from there pretty quickly,” he said. “I was actually skeptical at first, but I thought it would be worth a try. ...

Photos from the Truth & Salvage Co. Concert, September 27 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Matt Erickson   
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 08:44

Photos from the Truth & Salvage Co. concert at Rozz-Tox on September 27, 2013, with opener Ernie Hendrickson. For more work by Matt Erickson, visit

Truth & Salvage Co.:

Photo by Matt Erickson,

Different Ways of Digesting: Laura Stevenson, October 4 at Bier Stube PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 16:00

Laura Stevenson. Photo by Dave Garwacke.

Laura Stevenson’s song “Sink, Swim” could be called an apocalyptic ditty, a cheery, up-tempo rock song with soaring vocals that sketches out the destruction of the West Coast: “Oh California, I tried to warn ya. / The earth is gonna quake before ya. / You’ll be real sorry but it won’t be sorry. / The dirt is gonna crack and split you in two.” The casual address certainly suggests the musical approach, but it’s easy to miss the lyrics in such a joyous ruckus.

The song appears on her 2013 album Wheel, and she explained in a phone interview last week that “I like that juxtaposition of mood and ... undercurrent – the actual meaning of the song. ... Two different ways of feeling the same word[s]. You can read them on the page and take them at face value, or you could hear them put to music with a completely different mood. It’s just a different way of digesting it. Kind of what life is like.”

She and her band will be playing the Moline Bier Stube on October 4, and in that setting it will be easy to gloss over grim words. But Stevenson’s songs are rewarding both musically and lyrically, whether you consider their sometimes disparate components together or separately.

Photos from the Chuck Ragan Concert, September 18 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Roberta Osmers   
Tuesday, 24 September 2013 09:20

Photos from the Chuck Ragan concert September 18 at the Redstone Room, with openers Comfort and Jamestown Revival.

For more from Roberta Osmers on the Quad Cities music scene, visit

Chuck Ragan:

Photo by Roberta Osmers,

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