(2017 Stone by Stone)
Wisconsin Vinyl Collective, Vol. 1 will be available in independent record stores beginning April 22nd and will be available for online purchase beginning April 29th. April 22nd is also Record Store Day and the album will be available as part of that promotion. Go here for updates.
The release party for the Wisconsin Vinyl Collective, Vol.1 will be held at the High Noon Saloon on April 23rd. Appearing are The Mascot Theory, Kyle Megna and the Monsoons, Future Stuff, Seasaw and Jesse (of Locksley).
A limited number of VIP tickets are available and a copy of the album is included along with an autographed insert.
A Fox Valley release party is also scheduled for April 21 at Riverview Gardens with the same lineup of performers.
The vinyl vs. digital format debate rages on with vinyl getting a nod from the Wisconsin Vinyl Collective, a project that was put together by solo artist and the Mascot Theory’s frontman Erik Kjelland. Kjelland recruited artists having strong Wisconsin ties including one Butch Vig whose side group the Emperors of Wyoming contributed a song. The album is comprised of ten tracks of unreleased material from ten artists. While vinyl purists argue a sonic warmth that digital lacks, others argue that most vinyl releases are digitally mastered anyway. Whatever side of the argument you fall on, or whether it’s an argument at all, the Wisconsin Vinyl Collective is a welcome collaboration that does more than reward its listeners with new tunes, it provides monetary assistance to the Keep Wisconsin Warm/Cool Fund, a statewide non-profit charitable effort that steps in and keeps the heat and power on for thousands of elderly, people with disabilities, veterans and working families with young children in crisis. A portion of the proceeds from the two planned release events, along with a portion of the album’s sales at those events will go to the charity, a favorite of Kjelland’s as another of his projects, Flannel Fest, also benefits the nonprofit. In any case, the vinyl version comes with a digital download card.
The album is being distributed by Think Indie, an independent job racker that is closely associated with the Record Store Day phenomenon which is now in its tenth year and has been a strong pro-vinyl proponent. Kjelland credits Think Indie with being able to get the album in every record store in Wisconsin that participates in Record Stored Day (over 30 stores) plus a least another 45 stores across the country.
The album kicks off with a “Rain or Shine,” a track credited to the Bodeans but played and sung entirely by Kurt Neumann. Likely an unused track from the Bodeans’ album Thirteen being released simultaneously with Wisconsin Vinyl Collective, it’s a major score for the project. The lyrics don’t cut deep but the strong melodic hook in the chorus sticks while preserving the Bodeans’ initial Midwestern feel.
The Mascot Theory’s “Tear it Down, Make it Better” sits very comfortably alongside the Bodeans, Erik Kjelland’s lyrics resolutely poetic with shimmering vocal harmonies. The song borrows Don Henley’s lick from “Heart of the Matter” but there is little other resemblance.
Locksley’s contribution, “Song for Our Sisters,” brings rock sensibility to what is otherwise a collection of roots rock, Americana and countrified folk. At first there are hints of Nirvana and Alex Chilton but then the song takes a turn with an extended refrain repeating the line, “Where’s there’s love / let it show,” breaking into a capella after a lengthy build before returning to the intro. There’s authenticity in the delivery and the melody reels the listener in.
The Emperors of Wyoming feature Butch Vig and Phil Davis (of Firetown renown). Davis’ nasal drawl and the cowboy feel, along with a nice twelve-string interlude and return make this one very Byrds-like, circa Sweetheart of the Rodeo. “I’ll be Waiting for You” suggests a lyric delivered from the afterlife but maintains the album’s optimistic vibe.
Side Two opens with a strong contribution from Appleton’s Kyle Megna and the Monsoons whose horn section and blues-driven sound distinguish it from the rest of the collection. Big and ballsy, with a boozy piano solo followed by a tasty, snarly lead guitar make this a highlight.
The show-stealer on the record is Madison/Nashville sensation Gabe Burdulis. So impressive at such a young age, Burdulis oozes star power. His contribution “Okay” is a beautifully crafted gem, a great vocal performance of a pop ballad with simple, honest and effective instrumentation that’s dynamic as hell. This one was produced in Nashville, no doubt the product of one of his bountiful collaborations. Worth the price of admission.
Seasaw’s eclectic acoustic pop “Party” has a little difficulty connecting but is catchy and bouncy. Its familiar chord progression had me stretching to name that tune. The harmonies are most impressive with this female duo, shades of the Andrews Sisters in the jazz-tinged intervals melded with pop and iced with ironic wit.
Much-lauded Milwaukee artist Trapper Schoepp and the Shades contribute “John the Revelator,” a traditional gospel song given the folk treatment with a revivalist feel. The group has toured extensively and is being hailed in many corners for their storytelling abilities and colorful characterizations. Another Milwaukee entry, Buffalo Gospel close the album. Their track “Hard Labor Side of Getting’ On” is pure Hank Williams. Great vocal harmonies and tight instrumentation give the track an edge. The band has numerous recordings and are worth exploring for authentic country and bluegrass fans.
While Wisconsin Vinyl Collective, Volume 1 is genre specific on its surface it actually cuts a wide swath and is a fine representation of the state’s up-and-coming musicians whose emphasis lies in quality songwriting. Putting them in the company of more established artists like Cory Chisel and the Bodeans is brilliant and is what compilations are all about. The series could prove valuable in spreading the word and is presenting itself as a unifying force. The cause is doubly noble then and what is not to like about being exposed to new rising artists in our state? Let’s hope some of this love crosses over to bring the respective live music scenes into equivalent harmony.