There’s a seemingly obvious reason Doyle Bramhall II was pretty much out of the spotlight between the releases of his 2001 album Welcome and last year’s gorgeously mature and textured Rich Man: The dude’s been busy.

As you might guess, the real story’s a bit more complicated – and interesting.

Lewis Knudsen. Photo by Mike Aubrey.

Lewis Knudsen kicks off his album The Way of Most Resistance with a track titled "Death & Cats," featuring the slightly ominous lyric "Death and cats are taking over / You better look over your shoulder."

It's not the most musically arresting track on the record, but in addition to its great title and chorus, it has a gently infectious (and not at all ominous) slink in both verse and chorus. It's a low-key charmer announcing that Knudsen's artistic potential has quickly become confident maturity.

I liked much of what the singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist and his band were up to on last year's Joy, Pain, Love, Songs - although its mishmash nature made it hard to divine how its disparate threads could or would be woven into a coherent artistic vision.

While Knudsen admitted that his 2014 album was a collection of unrelated songs, he said via e-mail that he conceived The Way of Most Resistance as an "alt-funk/neo-soul" album. That description is a bit of a stretch given the restraint in tempo and dynamic range - and how well Knudsen's voice and his band fit within them.

The sax, keys, and bass on "Fire Inside Me" fit that funk/soul description, but the vibe on Resistance seems more rooted in the carefully orchestrated pop of Badly Drawn Boy. (Remember him?) Knudsen's palette isn't quite so broad, but his arrangements (as on his previous album) make smart use of saxophone, violin, and vocal textures, while his heartfelt singing and the wit in his songwriting complete the package.

Walter Trout last month at Royal Albert Hall

Last year was meant to be a celebration of 25 years as a solo artist for Walter Trout. For much of the year, it looked more like an obituary.

"Provogue Records for the last five years has been planning this big push," explained the guitarist/singer/songwriter in a phone interview promoting his July 21 performance at the Redstone Room. "They financed a biography to be written of me; they financed a documentary to be made about my life; they released all my back catalog on collector's item vinyl. And the whole record label was going to call 2014 the Year of the Trout. And to me, being an artist, my ship had come in."

Trout - a five-time nominee in the Blues Music Awards' Rock Blues Album category and a veteran of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers band - also had a new album, The Blues Came Callin'. "I've got this label and they're way behind me, and as soon as the record started to come out, I was sick and I canceled an entire year of touring."

Fast forward to the present. Another new album, Battle Scars, is nearly finished and is slated for release in October. One line from one track neatly summarizes, with a light touch, the fact that Trout missed his own party: "My ship came in and sailed away again."

You won't, however, hear the man complain - which is clear by his use of the vague and grossly inadequate word "sick."

In late May of 2014, Trout had a liver transplant.

Shook Twins

Shook Twins came into possession of the magical, giant golden egg in 2010. According to the story on the band's Web site, Laurie Shook happened upon a young man holding the thing, and when she asked about it, he said a woman gave it to him and told him to sign it and pass it on to the next person.

Laurie Shook was that person, and she promises on ShookTwins.com that she will eventually hand the egg off to somebody else: "Until then, it shall be musical!"

In that way, the egg is being passed every night Shook Twins perform - including almost certainly April 16 at the Redstone Room. Laurie and her identical twin Katelyn don't appear eager to part with it, but they turned the egg into an instrument: Laurie filled it with popcorn (making it a giant egg shaker) and mic-ed it (making it a drum).

(Editor's note: The venue for Ben Sidran's December 9 lecture has changed since this article was published, and admission fees for both events have also changed.)

Ben Sidran is best known as a jazz pianist and producer; for his work with the Steve Miller Band (he co-wrote "Space Cowboy"); and as host of public radio's Jazz Alive and VH-1's New Visions series. But he also holds a Ph.D. in American studies, and his 2012 book There Was a Fire: Jews, Music, & the American Dream displays not only the storytelling gift and playfulness you might expect from an accomplished songwriter, but also an erudite and thoughtful mind befitting his academic credentials.

It's the mingling of those different facets, however, that makes the book such a compelling read: a love of tales, a deep curiosity about history, the use of personal narrative to ground points in contemporary and emotional life, the creativity to unearth surprising connections, and the jazz artist's willingness to follow a muse or idea wherever it might lead.

All those components will be evident when Sidran visits Davenport as part of the Jewish Federation of the the Quad Cities' "Jews Rock" series: a solo lecture and performance based on his book on December 9 at Temple Emanuel, and a performance by the Ben Sidran Quartet on December 10 at the Redstone Room.

The band Darlingside drew its name from an old chestnut for writers - the instruction to "murder your darlings." (Killing your darlings would be "darlingcide," which is made softer and more enticingly opaque as Darlingside.)

All the band members met at Massachusetts' Williams College, at which they heard that advice in class.

Guitarist/singer Don Mitchell explained it this way in a recent phone interview promoting his group's November 12 show at the Redstone Room: "You should be willing to get rid of the things that were initially what made you excited about the work, because those ... tend to be the clever ones; those ... tend to be the most indulgent moments. You might need ... to blow up the song in order to put it back together and continue to move forward."

That's an important lesson for songwriting, but it also applied to this band as a whole, which has over the past year-plus reinvented itself - shifting from an atmospheric, earnest rock band to a folk outfit.

Halloween is an opportunity for people to try new identities, so it's appropriate that the Quad Cities-based band The Candymakers is marking the release of Ridiculicious with a pair of All Hallows' Eve shows at the Redstone Room.

Yes, the group will be wearing costumes. But Ridiculicious is such a radical departure from its predecessor that it feels like an entirely new - freer and better - ensemble. Using the same musical building blocks, the band has transformed itself largely by stripping the material of any pretense of nutritional value; one could say it's found its wheelhouse by sticking to the spirit of its name.

Last year, Quad Cities-based singer/songwriter Lewis Knudsen decided to give up substitute-teaching to devote himself full-time to music. Lots of musicians make a similar leap, but few of them commit to it as fearlessly and smartly as Knudsen has.

He performed at open mics and got gigs wherever he could - restaurants, bars, wineries, nursing homes, birthday parties, company parties.

He set out to write and record a new song a week in 2013, a project that ended up generating 40 tracks (all of them available on his Web site at LewisKnudsen.com/songs-from-2013). For the uncharitable who think Knudsen was a slacker for falling short of his goal, the song-a-week project was waylaid by a three-week tour of Europe through the Germany-based Songs & Whispers organization.

He assembled a band and professionally recorded the self-released album Joy, Pain, Love, Songs. - whose debut he'll be marking with a June 5 show at the Redstone Room.

And while studio recording can be a challenge for neophytes, Knudsen sidestepped that issue in two ways - by fine-tuning the songs in live settings and having the process come to him by tracking with mobile equipment in his quintet's practice space. "It was exactly like being in my living room and recording the whole album," Knudsen said in a phone interview last week.

David G. Smith. Photo by Avory Pierce.In putting together his new album One House, Blue Grass, Iowa-based David G. Smith "ended up with 10 issues-oriented songs," he said in an interview last week.

This was a bit of an accident. Smith - who will be celebrating the album's release with a May 17 show at the Redstone Room - said he brought 21 songs to producer Blue Miller and "figured we'd find an album out of that. ... We ended up recording two albums. ... We've got another one on deck. It's already been mastered."

And when Smith considered which songs to put on which album, One House's 10 tracks seemed to naturally go together in the order they appear.

The title track asks the question "Can we live in one house built on higher ground?" "Ivory" deals with the illegal trade of elephant tusks. "Jesus Is in Prison" is about a death-row inmate. "Angels Flew" tells the story of a boat lift rescuing people on 9/11. "Doesn't Take Much Light" and "Ariel" are specific narratives based on real people - with Parkinson's disease and the extremely rare Rett syndrome, respectively. (The River Music Experience concert is also a platform to raise money for the latter illness.)

It's a heavy collection, and for some tastes it will likely be too on-the-nose, even though it's rarely preachy - which Smith called "the mortal sin of songwriting": "It's a supreme challenge to try to write something that will strike a chord with people and at least make them pause and maybe think a little bit."

The subject matter and directness are countered by folk arrangements that are thoughtful and evocative, but more importantly the album - Smith's second studio effort - is also filled with hope, conviction, earnest heart, and lovely turns of phrase that elevate it. Smith is at his best finding unexpected light in the darkness.

Chuck Ragan. Photo by Tom Stone.

When Chuck Ragan stops in Davenport later this month, his fans shouldn't miss the opportunity to see him. He's not likely to announce his retirement from touring any time soon, but he's regularly talked about the difficulties of being a touring musician and the price that families pay.

And he said in a phone interview last week that someday he will hang up his guitar to spend more time with his family. "Absolutely," he said. "I'm sure a lot of musicians would say the exact opposite. ... [But] I really look forward to that in a huge way. And I don't know when that is. ... I've always had a love/hate relationship with touring and the road. It does take a massive toll. But I think it takes more of a toll on our loved ones, who are on the other side of it."

Ragan is not, I stress, stepping out of the spotlight soon - which should be apparent from both his recent activity and his plans.

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