It was a sign of the times when the Downtown Davenport Partnership announced last month that it would replace the River Roots Live outdoor music festival – after a 12-year run – with a multi-venue indoor festival called Alternating Currents.

Consider what’s happened over the past two years. The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival was canceled in 2015 because of financial difficulties at its parent organization. The motorcycle-themed Rally on the River, a fixture on the riverfront for more than two decades, didn’t return in 2016.

All of these things reflect a simple reality: Outdoor festivals are expensive to put on, period, and the cost is much higher with headliner acts to drive attendance. Such events represent a serious financial gamble: Just the chance of rain on one day can depress turnout enough to put a festival in the red, and Mississippi River flooding can force an expensive change of venue.

But let’s not mourn River Roots Live too much. If its death underlines the inherent risk of outdoor musical festivals, its replacement shows just how vibrant the Quad Cities music scene has become.

I've written about four releases from Sean Ryan over the past six years - as a solo singer/songwriter, as part of Jim the Mule, and as the leader of the Dawn (and Sean Ryan & the Dawn). I've always liked his singing voice - a mature blend of authority, precision, and expression. But with much of his work as a solo act and bandleader I've found the combination of standard Americana arrangements and plain-spoken writing dully professional - not vivid enough to avoid the generic.

So the new six-track Waiting on the Storm album from the Dawn came as a pleasant surprise - in particular the expansive rocker "Bring It All Home," a forceful jam that oozes personality and life and has a clear if winding path. An album full of similar songs would quickly become tiresome, but as a startling change-up from Ryan's past work, it reverberates through the entire record.

Rob Cimmarusti working on an audio-equipment installation at Progressive Baptist Church in Davenport on January 4, 2013.

Rob Cimmarusti calls it a "malady" - a gentle label for the cancer he's been told will kill him in the next few months.

But that term is a fair reflection of the attitude the longtime Quad Cities musician, producer, and sound engineer has about the adenocarcinoma that began in his pancreas and has since popped up in the fatty tissue near his abdominal wall. He received his initial cancer diagnosis on February 1 (his 53rd birthday) and has been through chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and surgeries. In an interview last week, he compared the present state of his tumors to a "shotgun blast"; there are too many of them to target with additional surgery or radiation, and because they're in tissues that get relatively little blood, they don't respond well to chemo.

Cimmarusti conceded that his situation is "not good, not hopeful." A few months ago, he said, a doctor in Iowa City told him: "Get your affairs in order. It's going to be a matter of months." His response was to fight: "We're like, 'Well, we're not going to take that.'"

Jim the Mule

I've reviewed several recordings by both Sean Ryan (solo and with his band The Dawn) and Jim the Mule over the years, but the You're Gonna Regret Me EP is the first opportunity I've had to hear Ryan as part of the latter band.

It's a bit of a revelation, as Ryan's voice, musicianship, and sensibilities are excellent complements to Jim the Mule's sturdy country rock. With multi-instrumentalist/singer Ryan and guitarist/singer Tom Swanson splitting songwriting and vocal duties over seven tracks, there's a natural variety, and the EP format feels like an ideal showcase for the different facets of the ensemble.

More importantly, each song is mature with a fully formed, distinct personality, yet they clearly spring from the same parents; their differences resonate as much as their similarities.

The Dawn

When Sean Ryan recorded his solo debut, Lonesome Driver Music, two years ago, his group the Dawn was around, but "I just wasn't ready to take the band I had into the studio," he said.

So he employed some noted local pros -- including drummer Marty Reyhons and guitarist Kerry Tucker, both from Einstein's Sister, and pedal-steel player Tom Pickett Jr. -- in the service of his songs, and the result was an excellent snapshot of a promising young writer and performer in good hands.

The Dawn has now finished its debut, and Ryan has clearly assembled a strong crew in the intervening period. Reyhons and Tucker still make contributions, but the self-titled record is anchored by a proper band: singer/songwriter/guitarist Ryan, Pickett, Jordan VanOpdorp on keyboards, Garrin Jost on bass, and Dave Soliz on drums. The band is an essential element, as Ryan's songs universally benefit from rigorous, full arrangements played with flair.