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The Best of Both Worlds: Black Star Riders Build on Thin Lizzy, May 30 at Rascals Live PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 15 May 2014 05:23

When guitarist Damon Johnson was recruited from Alice Cooper’s band to play in Thin Lizzy in 2011, he had no idea that he was also joining another band.

“The initial discussions were just about filling that soon-to-be-vacant guitar spot,” Johnson said in a phone interview this week. “And that was enough for me, as a student of Thin Lizzy’s music – not just the guitar players, but Phil [Lynott]’s songwriting.

“So it was extra exciting for me, literally the second or third day that I was there, [that] there was a discussion about wanting to write and record new material for a Thin Lizzy album.”

 
Pin It Beneath Glass: Julie Byrne, May 28 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 12:08

Few people would be surprised to find Julie Byrne working in the service industry. The singer/songwriter, after all, is in her mid-20s with one album to her credit, and it’s hard for an emerging musician to make ends meet performing for small audiences and selling records one by one.

But if you see Byrne working at Rozz-Tox in the coming weeks, it’s not for that reason. Instead, she’s the first artist-in-residence at the venue, and her one-month stay in the Quad Cities – running through early June – will include a show on May 28.

The residency, Byrne said last week, originated with the idea of finding something to fill the gap between a two-month tour and her summer concert bookings. “I knew that going on such a long tour would be really wonderful and really exhilarating but also challenging just because there’s no privacy and no space to reflect on these constant, rapid experiences – each day in a new place,” she said. “So I was trying to figure out a calm, tranquil environment where I could exist after the tour to kind of take it all in and begin working on new material.”

 
Unexpected Light in the Darkness: David G. Smith, May 17 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Saturday, 03 May 2014 08:48

David G. Smith. Photo by Avory Pierce.In putting together his new album One House, Blue Grass, Iowa-based David G. Smith “ended up with 10 issues-oriented songs,” he said in an interview last week.

This was a bit of an accident. Smith – who will be celebrating the album’s release with a May 17 show at the Redstone Room – said he brought 21 songs to producer Blue Miller and “figured we’d find an album out of that. ... We ended up recording two albums. ... We’ve got another one on deck. It’s already been mastered.”

And when Smith considered which songs to put on which album, One House’s 10 tracks seemed to naturally go together in the order they appear.

The title track asks the question “Can we live in one house built on higher ground?” “Ivory” deals with the illegal trade of elephant tusks. “Jesus Is in Prison” is about a death-row inmate. “Angels Flew” tells the story of a boat lift rescuing people on 9/11. “Doesn’t Take Much Light” and “Ariel” are specific narratives based on real people – with Parkinson’s disease and the extremely rare Rett syndrome, respectively. (The River Music Experience concert is also a platform to raise money for the latter illness.)

It’s a heavy collection, and for some tastes it will likely be too on-the-nose, even though it’s rarely preachy – which Smith called “the mortal sin of songwriting”: “It’s a supreme challenge to try to write something that will strike a chord with people and at least make them pause and maybe think a little bit.”

The subject matter and directness are countered by folk arrangements that are thoughtful and evocative, but more importantly the album – Smith’s second studio effort – is also filled with hope, conviction, earnest heart, and lovely turns of phrase that elevate it. Smith is at his best finding unexpected light in the darkness.

 
No Messing Around: Water Liars, May 14 at Rozz-Tox PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Friday, 02 May 2014 05:31

Water Liars. Photo by Maggie Huber.

With the Water Liars’s self-titled album – the band’s third record in as many years – you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re in for a jarring ride based on the song titles and the opening track’s bleak but majestic riff. “Cannibal” is followed by “War Paint” and “I Want Blood.”

You are in for a ride, although it’s less the beat-down and carnage that the titles suggest than a careening from loud distortion to gentle Americana and back. “Ray Charles Dream” is a hooky, punk-tinged rock song sandwiched between the slow-footed guitar lament of “Tolling Bells” and the even-slower-footed piano lament of “Vespers.”

“That’s always been sort of a point for us,” said singer/songwriter/guitarist Justin Kinkel-Schuster in a phone interview last week, promoting the trio’s May 14 performance at Rozz-Tox. “Widely shifting dynamics has always been an important part of our sound ... both live and on records. ... I just always am intrigued by moving between those poles. There’s something interesting about taking a ride like that.”

It’s not merely a sonic roller coaster. The title and sentiment of “I Want Blood” (“I want blood all the time”) would seem to lend themselves to a ravenous rock treatment, but the song instead places the lyrics in a warm and ethereal musical context, making it a reverb-heavy anthem to searching and soaring. “Tension is why art exists,” Kinkel-Schuster explained of the apparent contradiction. “Without tension, I don’t think there’s a whole lot to go on. ... Without tension you don’t have a story; there’s nothing to resolve.”

 
Photos from the Joe Bonamassa Concert, April 19 at the Adler Theatre PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Matt Erickson   
Monday, 21 April 2014 13:30

Photos from the Joe Bonamassa concert, April 19 at the Adler Theatre. For more work by Matt Erickson, visit MRE-Photography.com.

Photo by Matt Erickson, MRE-Photography.com

 
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