Mark Everson on April 9. Photo by Kevin Shafer (KRichardPhoto.com).

Chances are good you've never heard of Republican presidential candidate Mark Everson, and he doesn't (and likely never will) have the campaign cash to change that.

And if you are aware of him, your impression might not be particularly favorable. He ran the loathed Internal Revenue Service for four years under President George W. Bush. And his tenure as CEO of the American Red Cross lasted less than eight months, with Everson forced to resign because of an inappropriate romantic relationship with a subordinate.

It doesn't help that for a person running for president, Everson's electoral-political experience is "pretty thin" by his own admission.

But there are many reasons you should acquaint yourself with Everson and his agenda:

• He's doing his shoestring campaign in Iowa right, pledging to visit all 99 counties. He sat down April 9 for a 100-minute interview with me, reflecting a willingness to go wherever people will listen.

• He plans to spend between $250,000 and $300,000 of his own money on his candidacy, so even if he's not conventionally viable, he's quite literally invested in his campaign.

• The six points of emphasis for his campaign include immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for law-abiding illegal immigrants already in the country - a hot-button example of Everson not pandering to the more conservative side of the GOP.

• Those six planks also include two elements that don't pander to any major constituency. He favors reinstating some form of the military draft, and he supports entitlement reform that would, for example, take Social Security benefits away from people who don't financially need them.

• Despite that, his platform has a populist streak, most notably a major reform of the tax code that would create a 12.9-percent national sales tax and exempt 150 million people from the income tax. (Filing-jointly couples with income less than $100,000 and singles making less than $50,000 would not pay any income tax.)

The new album from the northeast-Iowa blues duo Joe & Vicki Price is called Night Owls, and the cartoonish cover art (by Vicki) features five literally skeletal figures (including a man and woman each with a guitar and amp).

The title couldn't be more appropriate, as the 10-track collection of originals often has the casual feel of a post-midnight jam - intimate, a little on the sleepy side, wholly devoid of self-consciousness. Just two people performing with their guitars, voices, and feet.

The sound is similarly straightforward, unadorned, and unfussy, and some tunes feel so dusty that they're only missing the pops, crackles, and hisses of neglected vinyl or degraded tape. Even though the album was recorded in Nashville, the production is largely (and intentionally) artless.

Yet despite the cheeky cover illustration and lightly electrified tunes that might as well be 60 years old, there's a real vitality in the duo's songs (written, with the exception of "Bones," separately) - and the recordings. The bare-bones (sorry!) instrumentation and the choices in style and singing are employed with rigor, and the more you listen to the album, the more it's apparent how carefully constructed it is.

Hey Rosetta! Photo by Scott Blackburn.

It's not often you'll hear a story about label interference making a record better, so let's marvel at Hey Rosetta!'s Second Sight.

The band was twice short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize and has been nominated for a Juno Award - the Canadian equivalent of the a Grammy - and Second Sight has been warmly received. SputnikMusic.com described it as "a collection of profoundly beautiful and well-arranged songs that I'm sure will stand the test of time."

Yet the story of its creation shows some of the opportunity inherent in a little adversity.

The Canadian septet had finished recording the album's 11 songs, and the band's label liked it, but ... the staff felt it needed a single, something to launch it. Singer/guitarist/pianist/songwriter Tim Baker - in a recent phone interview promoting the band's April 24 Communion Tour gig at Rozz-Tox - said he disagreed.

"We thought we had a great record, and we had to go back in" to the studio, he said of the band's frustration. Hey Rosetta! assented because they also wanted to make the album as commercially viable as possible, "to get it out to people."

But writing to grab people's attention is difficult, and something that was foreign to Baker as a songwriter. "I'd never written a single before," he said. "We'd gotten this far just playing our sprawling tunes and touring all the time. If we were going to try to get something on the radio, then I really wanted it to be moving and really mean something to me. And hopefully be one of those songs that isn't just skin-deep, kind of asinine music. ... A song that actually reaches past and does something to you. ...

"We took it as a challenge ... trying to write something short and catchy but meaningful. ... I think we got it, but it was a trial for sure."

Shook Twins

Shook Twins came into possession of the magical, giant golden egg in 2010. According to the story on the band's Web site, Laurie Shook happened upon a young man holding the thing, and when she asked about it, he said a woman gave it to him and told him to sign it and pass it on to the next person.

Laurie Shook was that person, and she promises on ShookTwins.com that she will eventually hand the egg off to somebody else: "Until then, it shall be musical!"

In that way, the egg is being passed every night Shook Twins perform - including almost certainly April 16 at the Redstone Room. Laurie and her identical twin Katelyn don't appear eager to part with it, but they turned the egg into an instrument: Laurie filled it with popcorn (making it a giant egg shaker) and mic-ed it (making it a drum).

Scott Beck (left) and Bryan Woods. Photo by Fred Hayes.

The train rumbles toward you, and then it's over you, throwing sparks. It's a short train, but it's nonetheless a harrowing seven seconds - looking, sounding, and feeling uncomfortably real.

That's because, on a practical level, it is real.

This happens less than 10 minutes into the new, nationally distributed horror movie Nightlight by writers/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the filmmaking duo from the Quad Cities now based in Los Angeles.

"That whole sequence was a lot of fun to figure out," Beck said in a recent phone interview. The special-effects team proposed using computer animation for the train, he said, but he and Woods asked: "Could we actually get a real freight train on these tracks?"

We've been introduced to five teens who've come to a supposedly haunted forest for "flashlight games." One involves laying down a flashlight on railroad ties, running down the tracks to a specific point, and then running back and grabbing the flashlight. There's not much to it ... except for the train.

This bit lasts roughly a minute and 40 seconds, done in a single shot.

"The scene starts with the train incredibly far away, [and] it just gets closer and closer," Woods said.

We can only hear the train's horn as the first three people complete the task - getting louder with each blast. With the fourth teen, we can see the headlight peeking through the trees as the engine comes around a bend.

And after Shelby, our protagonist, puts her flashlight on the ties, we see the train itself, with her sprinting toward it and then back toward her flashlight.

She jumps away just before the train hits her, but her flashlight - which belonged to a friend who committed suicide and provides the point of view for all the movie's action - remains on the tracks, and the audience gets an unsettling understanding of what it would feel like to be under a freight train moving at full speed.

I'm trying to pin Chris Noth down on some dates, and he's not helping.

"The older you get," he said, "the years just start running together."

In fairness, it's not merely age. The topic of our interview is Natty Scratch, the band Noth co-founded that will be celebrating 43 years of existence this weekend with a pair of shows featuring all the group's original members - and people who've joined over the years.

The band's current lineup includes founding members Noth (guitar and vocals), Tommy Langford (bass and vocals), and Steve Cooley (percussion and vocals). Keyboardist Rick Stoneking joined in the early 1980s to replace Noth (who joined several touring bands), and drummer/vocalist Richie Reeves has only been with Natty Scratch for about a decade.

For this weekend's concerts, the group will also feature original drummer D.L. Blackman (who cut back on performing, making way for Reeves) and - returning from Alaska - guitarist/singer/co-founder Pat Ryan. (Noth said he's not sure when Ryan left the Quad Cities, except that it was before his own return in 1991.)

When Iowa's motor-fuel tax increased by 10 cents a gallon on March 1, it represented a road that was both brave and opportunistic.

It was also stupid, for two key reasons: Raising the gas tax doesn't fully address the funding need for critical road improvements, and over time it will provide less and less money while road-construction costs continue to increase.

Despite that, the hike was still brave, because raising taxes is never popular among voters - especially when they feel the pain every time they visit the gas pump. The Des Moines Register has polled Iowans about a gas-tax hike for the past five years. While the amount of the hike in the question has varied over the years, opposition to an increase was 70 percent in 2011. Opposition has eroded since then, but it was still 58 percent in February 2014.

Which leads us to opportunistic. Mirroring national trends, from July 2014 to early 2015 gas prices dropped from more than $3.50 per gallon in the Quad Cities and Des Moines to under $2, according to GasBuddy.com.

Prices have risen since then but are still more than a dollar cheaper than in mid-2014, so legislators saw a window of opportunity. The February 2015 Des Moines Register poll found 48 percent support for a 10-cent gas-tax hike and only 50 percent opposition - and the cost of fuel was certainly a factor in that shift.

The timing was great in political terms, too, just after a statewide-election cycle. The problem of deteriorating roads and bridges - and the choice for a solution - had been on the table since late 2011, but there's nothing like the longest period of time before an election to spur legislators into unpopular action.

Culture Coup, Blue Faith Sunrise

Culture Coup

Music rooted in reggae has an inherent warmth, and that's certainly true with the Quad Cities quintet Culture Coup on its debut album, Blue Faith Sunrise. But it doesn't take much time with the record to notice that there's a drag on that vibe, an early-adult ennui in the vocals and lyrics.

Rather than being a wet blanket, however, that contradiction actually enlivens the 11-track whole - bringing a welcome complexity to a style that too often feels one-dimensional to me.

Lead singer/guitarist Ben Miller, guitarist/singer Chris Miller, drummer Jack McNeil, bassist Jim Drain, and keyboardist/singer Joey Pautsch successfully meld the building blocks of reggae with indie-rock's youthful angst, and crucially they never coast on easy grooves. Every song features some combination of compositional depth and articulate playing, particularly in the drums and lead guitar. There's often a magical interplay among the instruments, a cohesive collection of distinctive voices.

This article was first published on February 19, 2015 as the cover story for that week's Reader. On February 26, 2015 "As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed new net neutrality regulations. . . " On December 14, 2017 the FCC will vote to replace the "current Open Internet or net neutrality rules, which prevented Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or throttling legal content users sought to access, as well as preventing ISPs from accepting payment to prioritize some data.".

On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting on rules that would reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility. The stated goal is to give the commission the authority to enforce what's called "net neutrality."

Unless you're a rare breed, I've already frightened (or bored) you with a topic you're certain is arcane, technical, obscure, and confusing. You might also think it's irrelevant.

So to goose your interest, I'll note that John Oliver - the host of HBO's Last Week Tonight series - recommended replacing the dull "net neutrality" with "Preventing Cable Company F---ery."

My goal is to present a simplified (and in some cases over-simplified) explanation of net neutrality as a public-policy issue, specifically in the context of the FCC's impending vote. The proposed rules won't be made public before that meeting, but FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has sketched out the broad strokes - no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization.

All Them Witches hails from Nashville, and the combination of name and hometown gives you a pretty good sense of a split personality. The moniker hints at a band in thrall to Black Sabbath, and the Tennessee city hints at something Southern - although its debts are to blues and Southern rock and not in any way country. (Bassist/singer Michael Parks Jr. noted, however: "We have been known to just pop up on the street somewhere during tour playing bluegrass on the street.")

But when the band returns to Rozz-Tox on February 15, it will be apparent that the quartet is far more expansive than that would suggest. All Them Witches embraces not just blues-based music but the blues themselves, particularly on "The Marriage of Coyote Woman" from its most recent album, Lightning at the Door. The elemental riffs of Ben McLeod have the heaviness of Sabbath's Tommy Iommi but also the razor-sharp lyricism of Queens of the Stone Age's Joshua Homme.

And, most importantly, there's an experimental psychedelic core, a grounding in improvisation that allows each person in the band to bring a distinct personality to tracks that might go anywhere - including, to cite just one example, throat singing in the folk-ish and completely un-metal "Romany Dagger."

And that anything-goes quality is the reason I was curious about this comment I read from drummer Robby Staebler: "As individual players we are more concerned and focused on our own playing. We are not focused on what the others are playing. We all do what we want. It's why it works."

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