The story of Lissie – the Rock Island native who went to California with dreams of stardom that you could hear on two albums, and who then returned to the Midwest and bought an Iowa farm – is captured in the second track on her new album My Wild West, and it’s the emotional and musical retreat you’d expect.

Following an instrumental overture, the largely piano-and-voice “Hollywood” hits obvious notes of regret and pain: “Oh, Hollywood / You broke my heart just because you could.”

The nuances here – the shoulda-known-better admission – do little to justify the song or its foregrounding on the album. Its prominence only begins to make sense when you take the long view of My Wild West.

Like “Hollywood,” the front half of the album feels oddly self-conscious – with over-thought stylistic shifts. But the back end goes a long way toward correcting that, as My Wild West reveals itself to be a lot like most Lissie songs: a patient lull before she unleashes that monster of a voice.

And in that context, the whole begins to make sense as a story with its tentative beginning in Hollywood disappointment. Slowly but surely, Lissie sheds shackles over the course of the album, growing more confident and less burdened. Precise articulations of muted moods give way to anticipated but unpredictable detonations. The record, ultimately, becomes the best and freest long-form expression of Elisabeth Maurus’ forceful performance talent and casual authenticity.

Quad Cities musician and engineer Pat Stolley is not a good interview. He’s plain-spoken and blunt, and when asked last week about the origins of Intricate Maps – the new album from his band The Multiple Cat – his answer couldn’t be more ordinary and pragmatic: “I had a band that was doing stuff.”

In the past, the singer/songwriter/guitarist said, he had difficulty keeping a band together, with people moving away or being less than reliable. But following 2013’s The Return of the Multiple Cat, he had a solid ensemble that wanted to keep working. So it was as simple as the confluence of writing songs and having interest from the local label Cartouche Records in putting them out.

Chalk up Stolley’s manner to preferring creation over discussion. Starting with the opening seconds of lead tracks “Maps” and “David,” the record is dense with pop rock that is precise, detailed, and economical but also organically vital and often joyously catchy.

And while the eight tracks that fit that description would be plenty rewarding, the three “Theme”-titled pieces bridge songs and help shape Intricate Maps into a dynamic, breathing album. Listening to the record’s carefully modulated flow, it’s difficult to take Stolley at his word that his limited time dictates that he use just about everything he writes; it’s a triumph of songwriting, instrumentation, and arrangement dovetailing with smart sequencing and evocative connective tissue.

Livia SohnLivia Sohn, the featured soloist for the Quad City Symphony Orchestra’s forthcoming Masterworks: Song & Dance concerts, began playing the violin at age five. Maybe.

“That’s what they tell me,” says Sohn with a laugh. “I think it was earlier than that, because I have no memory of not playing, and I feel like you remember stuff that happened before you were five.”

Outshyne, February 6Until very recently, Quad Citians wanting a rodeo experience had no choice but to wait for the i wireless Center’s annual World’s Toughest Rodeo tour. But for the last month, the District of Rock Island has been housing it’s very own, full-time Rodeo – and it’s got the bull to prove it.

“Right now, we rent one for Saturdays,” says booking manager Red Redahan of the mechanical bull at Red Rodeo – the new, Nashville-style nightclub he operates with wife and venue owner Cherie. “But we’re actually going to have our own mechanical bull soon, and he’ll be there every night. And people love it. You land on an air mattress and nobody’s been injured. People just sign their waivers and have a great time.” Red laughs. “And then we throw ’em off.”

A 2015 Album

For my 10th-annual album of some favorite songs of the year, the simple rules remain the same, although I cheated a little on both: one song per artist, and no artists represented on previous years' collections.

Nova Singers invites you to slow down, take a break from the holiday pressure, and listen to our beautiful singing. Let us give you some precious moments of serenity and beauty in this fast-paced world.

Tickets will be available at the door. Admission is $18 for adults and $15 for seniors. Students are admitted free of charge.  Discounted 3-concert Season tickets are still available for purchase at the door: $45 for adults and $35 for seniors.  For information about tickets, recordings, or other Nova Singers' events visit our website at!

A Nova Christmas is sponsored by The Register-Mail.  Nova Singers' 2015-2016 season is partially supported by grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the City of Galesburg.

Award-winning jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek has released three studio albums, plus one limited-release live album, since 2005, and just glancing at their song lists gives you a strong idea of the varied styles in which she finds inspiration.

Take, for example, Gazarek's 2012 album Blossom & Bee, which called "one of the most impressive releases of the year." You'll find "Some of These Days," a signature hit for the legendary Sophie Tucker; "Down with Love," a jazz standard popularized by the likes of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand; "Tea for Two," the genre staple heard in 67 separate episodes of The Lawrence Welk Show; "Ev'rything I've Got" and "Lucky to Be Me," by the respective show-tune teams of Rodgers & Hart and Comden & Green; "Unpack Your Adjectives" from Schoolhouse Rock ... .'s Sean Moeller isn't announcing the acts for his Moeller Monday shows at Rozz-Tox (2108 Third Avenue, Rock Island;, but band publicists have a way of undermining attempts at secrecy. So here's a preview of a couple groups we know will be playing ... .

The new album from the Cerny Brothers - originally from the Quad Cities area and playing the Redstone Room on November 13 - is called Sleeping Giant, and it delivers on the promise: It's a beast awakened, building on the explosiveness of several tracks from the duo's 2013 self-titled record.

The rock vein is apparent in songs that grow in intensity, but also with the addition of electric guitars to many songs. The album seems designed for radio play and immediate audience connection, and it works as intended. The amazingly consistent duo of Scott and Robert Cerny has produced another front-to-back-solid record, amiable and accessible.

Last year's album from The Dawn featured the seven-minute jam "Bring It All Home," which was for me the highlight of the record. It's safe to call that track foreshadowing, because the new release from the Quad Cities quartet led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Sean Ryan takes the idea and runs with it.

The four songs on At First Light range from just under eight minutes to a touch more than 11. None of the new tracks has the strong, clearly defined verse/chorus spine of "Bring It All Home," and that certainly makes it difficult to find handholds in the sprawling record; At First Light generally lacks the pop-song niceties that served as a springboard for the jams on the previous-album standout.

The vocal elements are sparse here - a late-arriving verse and chorus on opener "Let Me Down Easy," bookend singing on "Slow Motion," and a sustained vocal section on "Paradise." And while the lengthy instrumental explorations on the new album are never aimless, they are linear to the point of having little shape.

But let's take all that as a given rather than a flaw. I'll go a step further and say that by largely discarding formula and recursive structure, At First Light is a bold, committed departure for the band, and it's evident that these four tracks have been sharpened and polished: The compositions have a lean, focused elegance despite their lengths, and the whole is accessibly adventurous.