The announcement came 10 days after the final notes of the 2015 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival should have filled LeClaire Park: There would be no 2015 Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.

Citing financial difficulties, on July 15 the Mississippi Valley Blues Society (MVBS) said that it had canceled the festival. This followed a decision in February to move the blues fest from its traditional Independence Day weekend to the Labor Day weekend, and to reduce it from three days to two - changes designed to lessen the chance the event would be flooded out of LeClaire Park, to give the blues society the opportunity to raise more money, and to cut costs. The board was sharply divided on both the date-change and cancellation votes.

There are several cruel ironies here.

The cancellation comes a year after the Blues Foundation honored the festival with a Keeping the Blues Alive award for U.S. festivals, citing the Quad Cities event as "one of the longest-running, most-prestigious blues festivals in the world."

And there was no Fourth of July flooding in LeClaire Park this year, and the weather was rain-free and just about perfect. Had the festival happened at its normal time - as it had for the past 30 years - the MVBS would very likely have shored up its financial position significantly. "It would have been the best weather we've had in 16 years," said MVBS Board Member Ric Burris.

Instead, the organization now faces an existential crisis. Will the MVBS be able to put on a festival next year - as its president and many board members hope to? How will the group rebuild its board and fundraising efforts in the wake of this year's cancellation? And would a Mississippi Valley Blues Society without the blues fest be a shell of its former self - or could it perhaps be a stronger organization more focused on its education programs and smaller concerts?

Lewis Knudsen. Photo by Mike Aubrey.

Lewis Knudsen kicks off his album The Way of Most Resistance with a track titled "Death & Cats," featuring the slightly ominous lyric "Death and cats are taking over / You better look over your shoulder."

It's not the most musically arresting track on the record, but in addition to its great title and chorus, it has a gently infectious (and not at all ominous) slink in both verse and chorus. It's a low-key charmer announcing that Knudsen's artistic potential has quickly become confident maturity.

I liked much of what the singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist and his band were up to on last year's Joy, Pain, Love, Songs - although its mishmash nature made it hard to divine how its disparate threads could or would be woven into a coherent artistic vision.

While Knudsen admitted that his 2014 album was a collection of unrelated songs, he said via e-mail that he conceived The Way of Most Resistance as an "alt-funk/neo-soul" album. That description is a bit of a stretch given the restraint in tempo and dynamic range - and how well Knudsen's voice and his band fit within them.

The sax, keys, and bass on "Fire Inside Me" fit that funk/soul description, but the vibe on Resistance seems more rooted in the carefully orchestrated pop of Badly Drawn Boy. (Remember him?) Knudsen's palette isn't quite so broad, but his arrangements (as on his previous album) make smart use of saxophone, violin, and vocal textures, while his heartfelt singing and the wit in his songwriting complete the package.

Walter Trout last month at Royal Albert Hall

Last year was meant to be a celebration of 25 years as a solo artist for Walter Trout. For much of the year, it looked more like an obituary.

"Provogue Records for the last five years has been planning this big push," explained the guitarist/singer/songwriter in a phone interview promoting his July 21 performance at the Redstone Room. "They financed a biography to be written of me; they financed a documentary to be made about my life; they released all my back catalog on collector's item vinyl. And the whole record label was going to call 2014 the Year of the Trout. And to me, being an artist, my ship had come in."

Trout - a five-time nominee in the Blues Music Awards' Rock Blues Album category and a veteran of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers band - also had a new album, The Blues Came Callin'. "I've got this label and they're way behind me, and as soon as the record started to come out, I was sick and I canceled an entire year of touring."

Fast forward to the present. Another new album, Battle Scars, is nearly finished and is slated for release in October. One line from one track neatly summarizes, with a light touch, the fact that Trout missed his own party: "My ship came in and sailed away again."

You won't, however, hear the man complain - which is clear by his use of the vague and grossly inadequate word "sick."

In late May of 2014, Trout had a liver transplant.

Mondo Drag

Describing the evolving musical philosophy of Mondo Drag, keyboardist/singer John Gamino said the band is learning patience: "Letting parts breathe. Kind of letting the listener ease into something. ... Letting things develop. Not rushing them along too much."

Patience has also been required in other ways for the Oakland-based psychedelic/prog band that got its start in the Quad Cities and will return on July 9 for a show at RIBCO. (Three of the band's five members hail from the QCs: Gamino and guitarists Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley.)

In 2011, the year after Mondo Drag's New Rituals debut was released, the rhythm section left. The follow-up album was recorded and co-produced by Pat Stolley in the Quad Cities in late 2011 and early 2012 with Zack Anderson and Cory Berry (both of Radio Moscow), who then moved to Sweden as members of Blues Pills.

"So we didn't have a band, essentially," Gamino said. "We didn't have a rhythm section. We couldn't promote the album on tour." And the record didn't have a label, either. He added that the group had difficulty finding compatible musicians in the Midwest, so in April 2013 Mondo Drag set out for California.

Sophomore album Mondo Drag was finally released this year (on RidingEasy Records in the States) - three years after it was finished.

Davenport started Iowa's debate over using cameras to ticket vehicle owners for speeding and running red lights, so it's appropriate to look at one of its intersections as an illustration of the current situation - 11 years after the city began automated enforcement.

From 2001 to 2004 - before any traffic cameras were installed - Kimberly Road and Elmore Avenue averaged 7.0 red-light broadside crashes per year. From 2011 to 2014 - years when speed and red-light cameras were in operation - it averaged 1.0 red-light crash annually, a drop of 86 percent. The percentage decrease is slightly greater if one only considers red-light crashes in the directions of camera enforcement - east- and west-bound speed and red-light cameras.

From the city's perspective, this represents clear evidence that the traffic cameras have improved safety at the intersection.

Yet earlier this year, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) ordered that the City of Davenport turn off traffic cameras at Kimberly and Elmore, which it did in April. While the city presented data on broadside crashes - those in which somebody running a red light was a direct cause of an accident - the state looked at all crashes within 150 feet of the intersection.

And here the picture becomes muddled. In three pre-camera years, total crashes averaged 10.3. The DOT evaluation found 15.5 total crashes per year after camera activation, including 23 in 2013.

Gary Statz, a traffic engineer with the City of Davenport, said those numbers aren't really in conflict: "In 2013, we had a spike in crashes out there, and I don't know why, but we just did. So the average of [total crashes] those two years was pretty high, and they came to the conclusion that the cameras weren't effective ... .

"My argument would be that most of the crashes had nothing to do with the cameras. The red-light crashes were almost nonexistent, but we had a lot of rear-end crashes that were well back from the intersection. Traffic backed up further than people thought, [and they] just weren't prepared to stop. That seemed to be most of them. ...

"I found the vast majority of the rear-end crashes occurred well back from the intersection" but within 150 feet of it. "We only found three [in 2013] ... that occurred during the yellow or at the beginning of the red. ... When it happens five seconds after it's red, and it's 10 car lengths back from the stop bar, you can safely say the camera had nothing to do with it."

Ultimately, though, the City of Davenport opted not to appeal the DOT's order at Kimberly and Elmore. "I didn't really agree with what they said," Statz said, "but we didn't argue it."

This anecdote highlights a few key elements of the present battle over Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE).

Juan Wauters

Juan Wauters has been called "one of the most idiosyncratic and inventive songwriters in New York today" (by the New York Observer), "New York's greatest songwriter" (by Impose magazine), and "one of New York's most compelling singer/songwriters" (by Spin magazine).

That praise would suggest a few things about the native Uruguayan, none of which appears to be true.

The plaudits for his songwriting hint at something aggressively sophisticated and artful, but the songs on his new Who Me? are uniformly easy-going - simple, warm, and seemingly effortlessly charming. Of course, that doesn't mean they don't deserve the great notices; it's just that they're utterly devoid of pretension.

And as much as he's identified as a New Yorker, Wauters has a fondness for the Quad Cities and institutions such as Ross' and Harris Pizza.

Strangled Darlings

If you read the bio of Strangled Darlings on the duo's Web site, you'll get a hint of tension between capitalized Art and something at the other end of the spectrum entirely.

First: "Jess and George met at party in 2009, with their spontaneous duet of the Prince song 'Pussy Control.'"

Then: "The songs work with nontraditional subjects for inspiration. Some song subjects include : the works of great authors (Faulkner, William Blake, Gabriel García Márquez, Donald Barthelme, Anna Akhmatova) as well as witchcraft in the Civil War, the morality of Somali piracy, and the media impact of Neil Armstrong."

Into that mix you can throw in a clear understanding of the crass realities of the decentralized modern music business - the need to get attention, and an acknowledgment that emerging bands have to tour relentlessly to build an audience.

All three of those basic elements are evident on the song "Kill Yourself," from the upcoming album Boom Stomp King. It's a bright, cheery ditty on the one hand, with the title and matching refrain designed to generate maximum curiosity.

In a recent phone interview, singer/songwriter/mandolinist George Veech acknowledged some less-than-pure motives behind the song. "The biggest fear of an artist is to not have an audience, to not be heard. I know damn well that saying 'Kill Yourself' is taboo in a lot of ways, and I'm not advocating [that]," he said. "It helps get attention. I got your attention now, and then let's talk about the actual details."

Strawberries!

It is that great time of year when fresh local produce and fruits are at the Market. Come out and check the variety.

See more deliciousness by clicking here.

When Davenport Community Schools Superintendent Art Tate announced in March that he planned to violate state law by spending more money per pupil than the state allowed, it highlighted the strangeness of Iowa's rarely questioned status quo: There's no mechanism for school districts to consistently exceed the base-funding level.

It's not quite as simple as saying that Davenport's school district can't spend more than $6,366 per student this year. But in the name of funding equality across Iowa, the state is unusually restrictive - meaning that even if citizens in a community would support higher taxes for educational operations, there's no way to make that happen.

At heart, Iowa's system takes the admirable goal of adequate education funding and turns it into a straitjacket.

Busted Chandeliers, Postmarks & Timestamps

The first track of the Quad Cities quartet Busted Chandeliers' Postmarks & Timestamps album is titled "Love Is Bold," and the song is, too, in its folksy way. The vocal harmonies are tight, and every instrumental facet - the guitar, the ukulele, the hand claps, the bass, and the percussion - is integral and integrated yet doing its own thing. The song is emotionally amorphous but at the same time crystalline.

The band - Erin Moore, Amy Falvey, Maureen Carter, and Erin Marie Bertram - certainly leads with its best shot, but it's hardly the only highlight. The ensemble travels on many tributaries of Americana on the record, but it's at its strongest in waters so expertly navigated in "Love Is Bold" - a joyously dense and ambitiously rigorous folk rock that refuses to be pigeonholed from moment to moment.

Pages