Delta Spirit frontman Matthew Logan Vasquez characterizes his song “Everything I Do Is Out” as “sweaty,” and the description is apt, with its howling, hoarse, Cobain-like vocals, meaty hard-rock guitar groove, and a generally pummeling manner suitable for any aggressive workout.

And then, just before the three-minute mark, the sound drops out for a split second. Ten seconds later, it abruptly cuts off at peak volume, giving way to the languid Americana of “Black East River.”

In a phone interview last week promoting his April 18 performance at Daytrotter, Vasquez shrugged off my question about those choices. “That’s just a producer trick I learned when I was 19, and I never get to do producer tricks, so I was having fun,” he said. “I recorded everything myself, so I get to use all the things that I wanted to do it. I felt like doing that, so I did it.”

That last sentence could be the motto for Solicitor Returns, the official debut of the singer/songwriter/guitarist as a solo artist. It’s Vasquez unbound and only slightly filtered.

Listening to Sean Watkins’ fifth solo album, What to Fear, you might get whiplash trying to follow the wild swings in lyrical tone in just its first half. The title track opens things with an acidic attack on the media told from the perspective of the media, and it’s followed by the earnest, bite-sized confessions of “Last Time for Everything.”

“I Am What You Want” has menace and attraction in equal measure, as the narrator gently threatens to bend its target to his will: “But I swear you’ll learn to love me. / Darling, would I lie?”

“Keep Your Promises II” returns to a clever lyrical refrain from his previous album: “Just keep your promises. / Don’t let them leave your lips.” And that admonition to a serially dishonest partner segues back into a heartfelt love song in “Everything.”

Watkins, one-third of the platinum-selling Nickel Creek (with his fiddler sister Sara and mandolinist Chris Thile), doesn’t apologize for those abrupt shifts. In an interview last week promoting his April 14 Redstone Room show, he said: “If they like the songs, they like the songs. ... It’s all very me. It’s sincerely coming from me, and something that I feel is part of my musicality, so that’s okay. ... I’m not worried too much about the schizophrenic aspect, because I’m being honest.”


Adriana Zabala, performing at the April 2 and 3 Masterworks concertsFor many, the word “symphony” evokes the names of famed composers such as Brahms, Mahler, and Tchaikovsky, each of whose talents will be duly represented in the springtime repertoire for Quad City Symphony Orchestra (QCSO) musicians.

But if you have young children, it’s entirely possible that the word “symphony,” for them, will soon bring to mind a whole new set of names, among them Mary Poppins, Pocahontas, and Mulan.

Photo by Bryan C. Parker

Yonatan Gat knows dangerous. As the guitarist for Monotonix – banned in many venues in its native Israel – the peril was physical.

“Monotonix ... was dangerous because you could always get hurt – wounded – at the show,” Gat said in a phone interview last week, promoting his eponymous trio’s return to Rozz-Tox on April 1. “This band is very dangerous, but because it’s musically dangerous.”

He later continued that thought: “This is a show that you can close your eyes and listen to the music. In Monotonix, if you close your eyes, a trash can would hit your head. It would be unsafe to close your eyes.”

That’s not to say that the current band – composed of Gat, bassist Sergio Sayeg, and drummer Gal Lazer – is in any way sedate. Your head might be safe from flying trash receptacles, but an ill-prepared brain might still be ducking for cover.

Jokingly called “the bedpost,” the bassoon is the most omitted instrument in the classical solo repertoire. But the Quad City Symphony’s March 5 premiere of Jacob Bancks’ Dream Variations was serious musical business – a delightful and diverse 22-minute exploration of all things bassoon that helps fill the void.

Dream Variations for bassoon & orchestra was a plunge into the technical and musical possibilities of a solo instrument seldom heard up-front. But the Adler Theatre concert was also a showcase for local talent. Bancks is an Augustana College faculty member, and his technically acrobatic Dreams was brought to life by Mark Timmerman, the principal bassoonist of the New York Metropolitan Opera but also a Davenport native. And leading a performance that also included Johannes Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn and Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations was Quad City Symphony Associate Conductor Benjamin Klemme, a Pleasant Valley High School graduate making his conducting debut with the orchestra.

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.

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