Shawn Holt. Photo by Linda Cunningham.

Shawn Holt would regularly ask his father – the Chicago-blues legend Magic Slim – when he could become a member of his backing band, the Teardrops.

The Low Down

The debut album from the Quad Cities instrumental ensemble The Low Down, 7 has a clearly defined sound with its jazzy funk, bright keyboards, and concisely well-spoken guitar against the busy percussion patterns. Fans of Carlos Santana’s distinctive fusion will feel right at home in the record’s smooth, comforting stew.

C.W. Stoneking. Photo by Kane Hibberd.

In a way, C.W. Stoneking’s Gon Boogaloo brings the Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist back to his childhood.

Illustration by Nathan Klaus and Freepik

The national Tax Foundation wants the Iowa legislature to perform a little magic.

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In his annual “state of the judiciary” speech to the General Assembly in January, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark S. Cady highlighted a new initiative.

“Three counties – Johnson, Linn, and Scott – are collaborating with Georgetown University on juvenile-court pilot projects,” he said. “These projects seek to eliminate racial disparity in the juvenile-justice system and its adverse consequences to our state.”

David G. Smith. Photo by Roger D. Feldhans.

When Blue Grass, Iowa’s David G. Smith recorded his last studio album, he actually cut enough material for two records. Given the consistently topical/political nature of 2014’s One House, a listener might expect the leftovers to taste a little like ... leftovers.

As the singer/songwriter/guitarist said in an interview last week – in advance of the local album-release show for First Love – “This one covers quite a bit of territory. ... This record is a little bit more on the softer side of things, maybe a little more introspective. It’s funny how a group of songs can seem to fit together.”

Indeed, it’s easy to hear that the record is bound in sorrow; half of the songs deal with lives and loves lost.

Matthew Logan Vasquez

Delta Spirit frontman Matthew Logan Vasquez characterizes his song “Everything I Do Is Out” as “sweaty,” and the description is apt, with its howling, hoarse, Cobain-like vocals, meaty hard-rock guitar groove, and a generally pummeling manner suitable for any aggressive workout.

And then, just before the three-minute mark, the sound drops out for a split second. Ten seconds later, it abruptly cuts off at peak volume, giving way to the languid Americana of “Black East River.”

In a phone interview last week promoting his April 18 performance at Daytrotter, Vasquez shrugged off my question about those choices. “That’s just a producer trick I learned when I was 19, and I never get to do producer tricks, so I was having fun,” he said. “I recorded everything myself, so I get to use all the things that I wanted to do it. I felt like doing that, so I did it.”

That last sentence could be the motto for Solicitor Returns, the official debut of the singer/songwriter/guitarist as a solo artist. It’s Vasquez unbound and only slightly filtered.

Listening to Sean Watkins’ fifth solo album, What to Fear, you might get whiplash trying to follow the wild swings in lyrical tone in just its first half. The title track opens things with an acidic attack on the media told from the perspective of the media, and it’s followed by the earnest, bite-sized confessions of “Last Time for Everything.”

“I Am What You Want” has menace and attraction in equal measure, as the narrator gently threatens to bend its target to his will: “But I swear you’ll learn to love me. / Darling, would I lie?”

“Keep Your Promises II” returns to a clever lyrical refrain from his previous album: “Just keep your promises. / Don’t let them leave your lips.” And that admonition to a serially dishonest partner segues back into a heartfelt love song in “Everything.”

Watkins, one-third of the platinum-selling Nickel Creek (with his fiddler sister Sara and mandolinist Chris Thile), doesn’t apologize for those abrupt shifts. In an interview last week promoting his April 14 Redstone Room show, he said: “If they like the songs, they like the songs. ... It’s all very me. It’s sincerely coming from me, and something that I feel is part of my musicality, so that’s okay. ... I’m not worried too much about the schizophrenic aspect, because I’m being honest.”

The Sesser Egyptians circa 1940. Gene Moore is in the back row, fourth from the left.

Gary W. Moore had lots of dots to connect about his father’s life. The problem was that, for many years, Gene Moore refused to talk about them.

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