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Joan Shelley and band December 7th 2019 The Back Room Milwaukee WI

Joan Shelley with Daughter of Swords

by John Noyd

Kentucky folk-singer Joan Shelley describes her latest album, “Like the River Loves the Sea,” as a haven for over-stimulated heads in uncertain times. Visiting Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee Back Room for the third time in as many years, Shelley created a welcome sanctuary playing songs anchored in tradition and transformed by a warm, rich voice detailing nuanced feelings and conjuring shaded places. Geography figures prominently in much of Shelley’s literate songwriting with a passive patchwork of pastoral allegories populating her set-list, from odes to hometown mountains to portraits of mounting storms. She drew primarily from her last three albums, chatting between songs with childhood memories sprinkled alongside adult confessions that drew warm smiles from the attentive crowd as her artistic eye and writer’s thirst revealed anecdotes inside lyrics expressing spiritual connections in shared awareness. Milwaukee was fortunate to host what Joan called her dream band with long-time cohort guitarist Nathan Salsburg shining a constant light on Joan’s lyrical delivery and sophisticated folk-songs via acrobatic trills and swift melodic runs; fluid bass player Nick Macri on upright and electric, both bowed and plucked, and drummer Spencer Tweedy who succeeded to drive each groove with nary a drumstick in sight, relying entirely on brushes to rally the troops. Each musician exhibited an unerring ear for cohesive allegiance, cradling Shelley’s polished Southern Gothic softness in waxing arabesques and subtle flutters employing graceful patience and mathematical restlessness. Seamless stories poured over rippling rhythms, the evening passed all too quickly traversing emotional landscapes and personal journeys quietly enlightening and casually comforting. Minnesota-born nomad Daughter of Swords started the night with a lovely solo acoustic session touched with sweet country warbling fusing cultivated roots to post-modern blues.

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Reina del Cid at Madison's High Noon Saloon Dec 1st 2019

Reina del Cid

by John Noyd

Minneapolis’ Rachelle Cordova, whose stage name Reina del Cid also refers to the band she fronts, wrapped up their Morse Code Album Release tour in Madison’s High Noon Saloon Sunday after the long Thanksgiving weekend. Officially the last show of the tour, the band theorized the Madison show may have the band at its sharpest performance-wise, but also possibly the stinkiest. As it turned out, the only time the crowd held its breath was in anticipation of the band’s next move as their casual professionalism brought a smart charm and joyous fluidity to an evening rifling through their rock-solid discography. The set-list’s subject matter ran the gauntlet, roaming from serial killers to ghosts, zombies and death-bed promises, with tangential banter that included Fond du Lac haunted houses, Google-less flip-phones and literary trivia. RCD’s chosen covers also revealed a sardonic side, from Janis Joplin’s snide, “Mercedes Benz,” and the done-me-wrong of Tennessee Waltz to the twisted love of The Cars’, “Just What I Needed,” and Bill Withers’, “Use Me Up.” Adept at casually radical folk-pop ballads, the outfit’s tight chops and agile faculties brought funk, country and blues into the already rich mix with ace sidekick and guitar wizard, Toni Lindgren laying amazing flat-picked bluegrass over “Sugar” Shane Akers’ sweet mournful dobro.  Powered by the versatile Andrew Foreman on bass and Nate Babbs on drums, Reina’s warm matter-of-fact sass jumped, nudged and uncoiled, beautifully accentuated by Joe Peterson on keyboards and harmonica. As the only act on the bill, RCD came on strong, paced themselves with tour stories and gave the gentlemen a break with a set within a set from Reina and Toni. Patterning the latest album and tour around the live spontaneity of her weekly YouTube series, “Sunday Mornings with Reina del Cid,” Reina combined coziness with catharsis, applying wicked wit simmered in friendly phrases to turn the last bits of a long weekend into a shiny final hurrah.

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John Lohn of The Moody Blues at Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino

John Lodge of The Moody Blues

by Tommy Rage

John Lodge of The Moody Blues dazzles Milwaukee at the Northern Lights Theater Potawatomi Casino with a brilliant night of music from The Moody Blues, and his stellar career.

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Armchair Boogie and their loyal crowd at the Sylvee

Armchair Boogie

by Tony Mueller

Armchair Boogie opened for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at the Sylvee

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A view of Crumb and the crowd at Majestic on a Thursday night


by Tony Mueller

Crumb showcased their new album at the beautiful Majestic Theater in downtown Madison.

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