Posted by: periodistalibre | August 28, 2014

The Secret Sisters Eschew the Down-Low

ssistersBy Holly Henschen

Aptly named The Secret Sisters are flirting with flying over the country music radar.

The Muscle Shoals, Alabama-based sister act released two albums, both produced by T-Bone Burnett. They recorded a 7-inch at Jack White’s Third Man Studio; he played guitar on both tracks. That’s a healthy helping of Southern cred, but what’s more: The Secret Sisters’ song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” graced The Hunger Games soundtrack. Hello, mainstream visibility.

Sisters Laura and Lydia Rogers’ most recent record, “Put Your Needle Down,” is a partial nod to the resurgence of vinyl. (The album is available exclusively at The Cracker Barrel Old Country Store). The antiquated audio trend plays well with The Secret Sisters’ neo-country sound infused with contemporary energy. Decorated with lady pompadours and classic microphones, the duo produces Southern country with nods to blues, gospel, bluegrass and folk. Layers of fiddle, lap steel and walking bass melt into a twangy background for their velvety voices and sweet harmonies. A testament to their something old-something new feel, the sisters’ latest record also features an ambitious and impressive cover of PJ Harvey’s “The Pocket Knife” juxtaposed with songs reminiscent of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn.

While obligatory country tearjerkers stock The Secret Sisters repertoire, their style alternates the traditional with upbeat and danceable ditties in short bursts.

First, the classic country. The sisters played “Iuka,” a murder ballad about two young lovers’ plot to elope in a nearby Mississippi town where a justice of the peace will marry them, on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The narrator seeks not just a husband, but an escape hatch from her tyrannical father. The dynamic, urgent tale’s eerie imagery and melody reaches fever pitch when haunting, impassioned vocals meet a shrieking fiddle.

The Secret Sisters’ versatility is a boon for the listener. The opening track of “Put Your Needle Down,” Rattle My Bones, has the tempo of a Go-Gos song with heavy tambourine. Laced with hints of early rockabilly, the song of anxious infatuation captures the ardor of new and possibly unrequited love while profiling the sisters’ wide vocal range and impeccably tight coordination.

Black and Blue” leans toward the style of a 1960s pop girl band, featuring hand claps and a bouncy plea for a lover to stay. Burnett’s analog recording style crisply recreates the feel of a bygone era while playing into the reverb-drenched surf sound found in the music of Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls.

The country revival grows stronger and The Secret Sisters won’t be hush-hush for much longer.

The duo is scheduled to play a seated show at The Majestic on Wednesday, Sept. 3. Madison’s Whitney Mann opens.



Posted by: periodistalibre | July 18, 2014

Heartless Bastards: The 2nd Shitty Mystery

Photo by Connie Ward

Photo by Connie Ward

“The Shitty Barn” is a misnomer akin to the suspension of disbelief that sold out Tuesday’s show weeks in advance, before revealing the performers to be Heartless Bastards.

On a July night that verged on an overcast fall evening, the Spring Green venue’s second Mystery Barn Session hosted the Dayton-founded, Austin-based, garage blues quartet that’s no stranger to Madison. Heartless Bastards’ tight, driving anthems, paired with frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom’s delicate bellow, emerged after a softer, strummy start to the first set. A rapt horseshoe of spectators stood behind those seated in lawnchairs, surrounding the band in the DIY space’s softly lit, poster-coated walls.

Barn proprietor Chris Staples called Heartless Bastards a personal reference point, explaining he was introduced to the band by Fat Possum Records tribute to bluesman Junior Kimbrough. (They obligingly and raucously covered “Done Got Old.”) The trustworthy label had curated a music experience, much like The Barn does for supporters. In an increasingly intangible marketplace, Staples encouraged fans to make artifact-ual merch like posters, T-shirts and records a part of their lives and “cultural memories.”

Late in the evening, an antiquated sample of Wennerstrom’s grandmother singing testified to art’s progression through generations. A shaker improvised from a found peppermill at one point joined the crunchy Southern cadence. Older, grittier cuts emerged in the second set and crescendoed into Sabbath-eque psychadelic headbangers propelled by alternately sweet and stinging lead guitar.

Mid show, the unmistakable tangibility of a homespun community music scene made bassist Jesse Ebaugh comment on The Barn’s comfortable, inviting vibe. For the regional music patrons gathered in those wooden walls, the feeling was noticeably mutual.

Posted by: periodistalibre | January 11, 2014

tomato canellini sage soup

My basil plant is having a rough time, what with me being out of town for the holidays and it being winter and all. But I had some sage from an New Year’s Eve Mushroom Leak Tart in my fridge and presto-change-o! It could be vegan if you use oil or fake butter instead of cow butter. Perfect for a Saturday of drinking Fox Barrel Pear Cider with Cardamom and something else amazing and listening to The Blow and dancing around as I clean… The canellini beans make it kind of carby and creamy and the tomato base is delish. Sage is often under-utilized in place of the traditional basil. Not today!

2T butter or oil
1/2 onion diced
4 cloves minced garlic
1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
1/c veggie broth (or 1/2 c. water and 1t Seitenbacher vegetable broth and season, like I used)
1 leaf of the bay
2Tish sage, chopped or snipped up nicely with kitchen shears

1T pepper

1T salt

1T basil or 2T dried

1. Saute onion and garlic in melted butter over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add all ingredients EXCEPT for beans to a crockpot. Bigger is better if you have an immersion blender. Add the bay leaf. Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2. Whatever suits you best.

3. Let the crock/soup cool slightly, like 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender (or throw it in the pitcher kind) to break up, but not completely soupify, the soup. Unless you don’t like chewing. Your call

4. But the soup back on low for half an hour and add the beans and sage. Stir. Enjoy!

(Originally posted here at

The rattling of plastic cassettes sounds like nostalgia in the age of MP3s and vinyl, but a subculture of tape fans are curating a kitschy renaissance of the DIY music medium.

Case in point: the second annual, and first international, incarnation of Cassette Store Day is set for this Saturday. Meanwhile, Madison musicians and record stores are reviving tapes for the love of music.ssance of the DIY music medium.

For the better-known Record Store Day in April, some shops open their doors early to a troop of loyal customers queued to snag rare vinyl and celebratory deals. Cassette Store Day may be a slightly different story. Coordinators in London call it “a celebration of a physical product that is accessible, fun, cheap and still going strong in the turbulent current musical climate.”

Around the globe, bands are releasing albums on cassette for the event, including Animal Collective, Volcano Choir, the Flaming Lips, Fucked Up, At the Drive-In, Los Campesinos!, Guided by Voices, Haim, Suicidal Tendencies, and Gold Panda.

There’s been a resurgence of cassette releases in the last six to seven years, according to Dave Zero, owner of Mad City Music Exchange. Recent small-scale tape releases emphasize the physicality of music.

“Indie labels that release cassettes are the labels that simply love the album in a tangible form,” Zero said. “No one plans on making big money from releasing and selling cassettes.”

The audiophile underground kept cassettes from going by the wayside as CDs gave way to MP3s and vinyl re-emerged.

“Bands never stopped releasing tapes, the general public just turned their back on it,” says Bobby Hussy, half of the Madison-based psychedelic punk duo The Hussy and guitarist for Fire Retarded. Fire Retarded has one tape to its credit and The Hussy’s fifth cassette release, on Italian label Welcome in the Shit Records, is due out soon.

Hussy co-founded Kind Turkey Records in 2010. The label produces only cassettes and 7-inch records. Every Kind Turkey release is hand-numbered and a small portion of each release is a special version, including hand-painted tapes.

Producing cassettes is a labor of love that creates an intimate tie between the label, the band and the buyer, Hussy says.

“Every copy is slightly different,” he said. “The limited-edition aspect, in a way, creates demand. People want something that’s limited, something that will go out of print, something that in a few months or a year will be sold out and unavailable.”

The subculture of cassette promoters and purveyors is a unique group that relishes the singularity of its music medium of choice.

“Some people take their mass of cassettes as a measure of identity, dedication, and knowledge,” said Mikel Dimmick, who plays harmonium, gongs, bowls, and bells in the experimental Madison outfit Spiral Joy Band. “Cassettes are usually pretty obscure releases, so they speak to a certain knowledge base.”

Spiral Joy Band’s fourth cassette, 13 Moons of Doom: Birth of the Water Dragons, on the Houston, TX Dusty Grass Imprint, is due out this month.

Fans are drawn to cassettes as a cheap, easy way to support bands.

“You might go to a show and not be able to pick up an LP, but you can afford the tape and it easily fits in your back pocket,” Hussy said. “The biggest advantage is the cost; you can take a chance on an unknown band with a cassette because it’s so cheap to make. That’s really important for independent bands.”

The versatility of cassettes attracts to bands as a simple way to record, reproduce, and distribute their own music.

“You can make a very professional tape and sell it for only $5 or $6,” said Vincent Presley, a local musician who plays guitar and sings in rock act Zebras. Presley also plays drums and synths in gothic doom group Those Poor Bastards. Both bands stock their merch tables with cassettes. “The garage rock and noise scenes sell tapes like crazy,” he said.

The popularity of tapes is flourishing in a niche market because of this hands-on aesthetic.

“Cassettes were the MP3s of their day. Cassettes were the medium of the people,” said Stephen Baraboo, guitarist in Madison post-punk prog act Control. “The role of the cassette could replace the role of the 7-inch. You can’t make your own vinyl.”

Control emphasized forming a connection with their music through a tangible element like a tape. The band put out three cassette EPs on Madison’s Science of Sound records from late 2011 through 2012. The collection was brought together on full-length vinyl release in March.

Many bands opt to include a download card along with cassettes, like those that typically accompany new vinyl. Even fans without tape decks can own a physical representation of the band, often including art and lyrics, along with a digital copy of their music.

“No one is going to have a sentimental attachment to a song that they’ve only listened to on their laptop,” Baraboo said. “When it’s a physical object, you have to interact with it.”

Along with the debatable quality of audio tapes versus other media, cassette lovers admit that that their romance with lo-fi is a bit tongue-in-cheek.

“I think the idea of Cassette Day is pretty comical myself, but sure I’ll be a part of it since I am in fact releasing tapes and not just to be kitschy,” Hussy said.

Zero said cassette labels “most importantly, have sense of humor about it all.”

Madison tape lovers can hit up local vendors for Cassette Store Day events. MadCity Music Exchange is having a buy one, get one free sale on all used cassettes, with limited-edition and new cassettes for sale and drawings for new tapes and store gift certificates. Strictly Discs will have approximately 700 cassettes for sale at 25 percent off on Cassette Store Day. Sugar Shack always carries a few thousand cassettes sold as buy one, get one half-price.

It’s time for an international revolution.

But first things first. It’s not the Syrian people’s’ fault that the public sentiment and coffers of the only country that will help them are drained from the powering-down robot that is the military industrial complex. Reaction from the international community to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on its citizens is the equivalent of everyone at the table slowly turning to stare at on person… You guessed it, Uncle Sam.

However, the European Union and extended Eastern European community enjoy the mutually assured defense that NATO membership entails. Yet no country seems willing to collaborate in military strikes on Syria. NATO was born when Western Europe was still rattled and ruined following two world wars. The desire for safety and protection gave birth to multilateral liberal institutionalism. But as the threat has faded, so has their steadfastness to keep the world balance for peace and democracy. NATO has successfully initiated humanitarian missions in the in Bosnia (1992-1995) and Rwanda (1993-1996). In other instances, like Afghanistan and Iraq, NATO followed the lead of the US. Since, the Bush Doctrine shattered what little credibility our empire had left. This must not set the standard for future US international military operations. It’s irresponsible from both national and international angles. If our allies are unwilling to collaborate, it’s time to examine our alliances.

No doubt the US’s history of imperialism makes it the go-to country for quick military intervention. Every “defence” decree from NATO since the European economic crisis points out that they’re skint, but in case everyone forgot: all of the money we have is fake. The US simply appears to have more fake money than Europe. It comes down to what the international community, including the US, values: fake money or human lives. This reductive quandary is brought to you by our sponsors, capitalism and Bretton Woods. But when the US doesn’t have don’t have the “money,” who will?

Look at this list of NATO countries who will shy away from humanitarian responsibilities. Twenty-seven in all.  The United Nations has 191 member states. A major motivation for joining an multilateral international organization is to make decisions and conduct operations as a group. No one will deny the political gridlock this creates. But without the application of the Bush Doctrine, perhaps the United Nations would have to consider why exactly Russia maintains a security council seat in an organization devoted to human rights despite its policy of persecuting homosexuals. The UN is figured out of the equation for a military strike in Syria because Russia is allied with the ruling regime there. Evidence that these international institutions are outmoded and toothless. Neither has a rapid reaction force, which is why the world turns to the international equivalent of the mafia on occasions such as this.

Let’s no longer pretend that the responsibility of a hegemon isn’t leading, in part, to our downfall as a nation. Neither nationalism nor isolationism are not politically correct. Nor should they be when innocent people are dying at the hands of their government.  But there must be a middle path between isolationism and our country acting as the default World Police. Yes, this expectation is a reaction to the US having its way with international political economic system for the last 65 years. We will have relinquish some of that power to gain strategic respect and cooperation.

When it comes to unilateral military strikes, one would think a responsible legislature in a democracy would consider the perception of the US worldwide. Rather, our elected officials seem to be sworn to uphold the the ideology that makes them the most money. Authorizing military operations was once considered with gravity. But 30 years out from a war that saw massive American casualties and civil unrest and the seriousness of such situations is just another chance to play party politics. The US must set a responsible example politically as we so fervently export the lifestyles associated with our economic system.

The current world order was arranged by the winners of World War II. If the US is going to be the fallback peacekeeper when other nations shirk their responsibility for international humanitarian crises, then it’s our responsibility to reexamine the world order and our place in it. Whether the US legislature OKs strikes on Syria or declines as the British House of Lords  chose to, this issue is ripe for discussion. Perhaps we’ll see the Arab League, France and Turkey take action.

When will the US’s singular world policing stop? When we’re so economically debilitated that not even the rich can maintain power? It could stop, or even pause, if the US decides act in the interest of global stability by reassessing the United States’ roll in international military operations. We must call for an ideological audit of NATO and the United Nations, as well as our involvement in them. Much like the US Constitution, they’re outdated and ineffective at achieving the goals laid out in their charters.

Posted by: periodistalibre | August 19, 2013

Alice and the Glass Lake Flow Home

Alice and the Glass Lake Flow Home

From the between the rivers of New York City to the lakes of Madison, a native daughter is bringing her music home Thursday.

Akin to both watery locales, Alice and the Glass Lake’s dream pop floats ambiently through lush sensory overtones. Synthy sounds trickle into shimmering vocal cascades like sunlight glinting off of a lake

Click on the title for the full article at Jonk Music.

Posted by: periodistalibre | June 19, 2013

The Ex-Bombers Spin the Black Circle


Vinyl tempts the discerning aural palate and the nostalgic imagination. Like a fine wine or craft beer, playing a record is cause to pause and savor. That said, The Ex-Bombers would rather you didn’t hear their music at all than hear it digitally reproduced.

The self-described dirtbag spy jazz/beatnik punk duo [say it five times fast] lists influences you have no choice but to take their word for unless you see them live or hear their record.  Imagine “early Velvet Underground/Sonic Youth and the content and style of Soft Cell or Girls Against Boys.”

When the twosome, previously ⅔ of the trio that was Colombia, Missouri’s ’60s-style garage-pop outfit Pat Boone’s Farm, found themselves drummerless, bassist Keri Cousins switched to drums and Scott Walus swapped in his 12-string guitar for an eight-string bass. A 2010 move to Charleston, Ill., home of Eastern Illinois University, transplanted not just The Ex-Bombers, but also their proprietary, vinyl-only incubator, Cavetone Records. Relocation found them rubbing elbows with local acts like Malt Liquor and championing the medium that satisfies their musical taste.

Like musical foodies, some connoisseurs permit only the most premo tones to tango with their art and their eardrums. Those folks, Walus said, turn to vinyl.

“Digital versions of songs are fast food,” Walus said. “Music deserves a place away from the same device where people text, play pointless games, and look at naughty pictures.”


Unfortunately for aficionados, digital has the financial edge at about a 1:5 production cost ratio to analog, Walus said. Hence mass shift to digital recording and playback. He records and mixes Cavetone’s records, then sends the product out for mastering, equalization to the requisite RIAA standard, and lacquering. The heavy lifting  is done at the front end of analog recording, relying on the ears to perfect levels while the sound is being captured. With digital recording, music is manipulated later with eyes on a computer screen.

In true form, The Ex-Bombers advocate records locally, flouting the status quo with their newest vinyl-only LP “The Tightwire.”

“We held our ground and at least 10 people bought turntables and got into vinyl. This is infinitely better than 10 million views on YouTube,” Walus said.

As for The Ex-Bombers’ sound, the twosome jams on their drums, bass, and vocals sans effects rather than trying to make up for lost noise.

“We could never out-loud a four-piece band, but we could certainly out-quiet them,” Walus said.

Check out an audio morsel in the promo video below. The Ex-Bombers will play at Mickey’s Friday. The 10 p.m. show also features Madison’s own TT and the Night Owls and The Lonesome Organist of Chicago fame.

Posted by: periodistalibre | June 13, 2013

Control Your Czarbles! Shitty Barn Session 6.12.13

Rolling from Madison to Spring Green’s Shitty Barn is a pleasure indeed, casting off the summer construction and surrounding traffic of Wisconsin’s capitol into the territory of Taliesin and the American Players Theater. The air becomes more pure, particularly after you pass the half a dozen farms strung together by fields and timber that line Route 14 on the 45-minute drive to The Shitty Barn (left at Rainbow Road, left at Madison, right into the Barn zone). The skyline emerges, particularly interesting as a threatening storm front alternately circled and struck the tiny town Wednesday. As always, if tornadoes approach when you’re outside in an open area, you know what to do: lay in a ditch! Luckily, that course of action was uncalled for.

Few chairs dared show their… backs? in the typically sit-down venue as the sold-out (or damn near) Control and Czarbles show engaged. The pair of Madison-grown bands’ prog-as-fuck, precision-based grooves kept listeners intrigued against the gusty, wet backdrop outside.

Control unleashed their ToolVoltaGazi sound (with just a *hint* of Snapcase) with nary a pause between songs nor a lyric interspersed. Control guitarist Stephen Baraboo told me before the show that 90% of lyrics are horrible. I begged to differ, but that comes from one whose singer songwriter/skills outshine their instrumental prowess. Lyrics or no/few, and prowess aplenty, Control’s tight, tight set satisfied many a pair of ears hungry for crunchy, yet rolling, jams. Check out their newest record. Your organs will rejoice.

Barn proprietor and Furthermore Beer co-founder Chris Staples introed Czarbles‘ set as “if Frank Zappa, Primus and Black Flag had an indiscreet three-way.” These ears detected a sprinkling of White Zombie, if White Zombie came in a sprinkleable form (please, Rob, one day). Raucous as that description suggests, Czarbles kept the full house guessing with odd meters and daredevil transitions that wound around and came back to tap you on the shoulder and yell in your ear (and possibly your rear, as I originally mis-typed) when least expected.

It was an early night at The Barn, a bit of a godsend for those trekking back to Madison on a stormy school night. So, The Shitty Barn, an inviting venue for all. Fraternize with stimulating concert goers of all ages and walks of life. Eat some delicious local food from Enos Farms, whose wholesome and delectable pozole (in a compostable bowl! with a compostable spoon!) was available pre-show. Hominy… who knew?

The ambient, earthy awesomeness continues all summer and into the fall. Get your tickets to hang out with the sexy, brilliant cast and crew of The Shitty Barn, folks, cause they’re going fast.

Posted by: periodistalibre | March 27, 2013

Egg-Sucking Vegan

vegan-labelSucking down, that is. Yes, it’s true. I’ve added eggs to my diet. It’s a shock to my psyche, but nourishing to my body. Here goes.

I’ve been vegetarian and vegan for the better part of 12 years. One watch of Meet Your Meat as a college sophomore was all it took to turn this cattle-farm-raised girl to a veg-head. I dove into the socially conscious, subversive intelligentsia I’d always knew was waiting for me and didn’t look back. Fast forward to my first desk job, a summer internship at a local newspaper, and, coincidentally, the same summer I decided to shift into a vegan diet. It seemed like a natural progression, a new challenge, and another way to control my diet as about eight years of eating disorders was dying down.

Like most new converts, I wasn’t initially the healthiest vegan or vegetarian. I was eating on a college student’s diet for much of the time. I was vegetarian and then vegan in Costa Rica, which was by no means easy, healthy, or cost effective. But I did it to uphold my ideals—ecological, political, physical. I ate fish and meat (maybe two servings a day, max) for roughly two years when I lived in New York. My body needed the energy, I said. When I migrated my current dairyland biome, I quickly weened myself from the meat, then the dairy. No easy task in Cheesetopia, but it felt right.

Did I mention that I’d been suffering from mild acne the entire vegan time? Bad skin had never been an issue, not even as a teenager. I chalked the unsightly development up to stress, spent exorbitant sums on products and facials, and hoped it would go away. About a month ago, I sought the help of a professional trained in Chinese Traditional Medicine as a last resort. Now, for the first time since buying over-the-counter (prescription strength in the U.S.) harsh topical chemicals in Central America, I’m actually beginning seeing some relief. Much of it is likely dietary.

See, the herbalist told me, based on what he’d assessed from an extensive battery of questions (dude asks me about my”bowel movements” A LOT and other lady things frequently), that I wasn’t consuming sufficient fat and protein. He also implored me to stop eating soy, tofu, and soymilk, the building blocks of my protein intake. What the hell was I going to eat? I didn’t want beans for breakfast and snacks every day! I invested in a $20 tub of chalky rice protein powder. At the same time, I was reading Michael Polan’s expose on American food culture, In Defense of Food. The thesis of this book is, Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize because the commercialization and politicization of food hasn’t yielded the healthiest results.

So, last weekend, after experiencing some of the fear I used to feel about eating certain things, I researched local egg producers. I bought a dozen from my local food co-op. They’re produced without feeding soy to the chickens, which have their full beak, as well as pasture space to scratch around. Now hard-boiled juevos and omelettes are a healthy part of my diet!

What I haven’t done is bring this up to any of my vegan friends. I feel the need to justify my decision, though I know there isn’t one. It wasn’t easy to admit to myself that I probably damaged my hormonal balance for the last decade in the name of doing something “good” for my body and for the world. There’s also a bit of admiration that most people, even vegetarians, have for self-denying vegans. Remember, I grew up on a family cattle farm and I know how delicious T-bone steak and roast are. That’s, like, all I ever ate for the first 17 years of my life. But it wasn’t a CAFO or industrial dairy. So the only eggs I plan to eat are local and humanely treated.

Now, in a healthier body, I can better promote general well-being, which totally includes mine. Even the Dalai Lama isn’t a vegetarian because his body can’t work optimally on that diet. Also, it’s good to remember that most of us live in a world where one has the choice of what they eat, rather than subsisting on anything available. For that, and for happy chicken eggs, I am grateful.

Posted by: periodistalibre | October 30, 2012

Kaia Wilson-Two Adult Women in Love

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