Music Features

GLT has always been devoted to music. Blues, folk and jazz have been among our offerings for decades but we're also eager to explore just about any musical genre with you.  We love to feature interviews with musicians, visits to record stores, talking about who's rising in the local music scene and telling you about national acts headed our way. Here are some of our best music features. 

Marcie Hammerstrand

So how does the name "Mongolian Death Wyrm" symbolize J Alan Balmer's vision for his progressive blues/rock/funk trio?

"It doesn't symbolize it so much as it begs the question: Who are we? And what kind of music do we play?" said Balmer.

dawestheband.com

The indie-rock band Dawes plays the Castle Theater in Bloomington on July 31. Occasional GLT Music Critic Taylor Bauer considers the California born and bred quartet to be one of the most exciting bands of the past five years.

Ennemay Photography

Downers Grove native Scott Marek is an aspiring country singer/songwriter/bandleader ready to up his game.

"It's so much fun to get up on stage and sing," said Marek. "Hopefully everyone is listening, and as long as that continues to climb as it has been, I don't see why I should turn back."

Courtesy

This is the first time in several years arts advocate Tina Salamone won’t be involved in the Miller Park Summer Musical. But the former director of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, who passed away earlier this year, won’t be forgotten. This year’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress” is being staged in her honor.

Jesse W. Johnson
Kelli Morrison / Courtesy

Listening to Jesse W. Johnson's latest album certainly begs a comparison to Bob Mould's Husker Du and Sugar incarnations of the 1980s and 90s. But a hint of the early to mid 70s sounds of Love, Fleetwood Mac, and John Stewart can also be discerned. 

Phil Brisse / Courtesy

Joel Da Silva came to blues in the Chicago bars he worked in as a teenage bar-back. That’s where he bumped into legends including Junior Wells, Magic Slim, A.C. Reed and Rod Piazza. Well, he didn’t just “bump” into the them; he would pick them up at the airport and deliver them to their hotel.

“Or I would get them barbeque or whatever they wanted,” said Da Silva.

matthewcurry.com

Matthew Curry is in a groove. Oh he was in a groove three years ago opening for legendary names including The Doobie Brothers, Steve Miller, and Peter Frampton. It's just that that sort of exposure isn't supposed to happen right out of high school.

"It almost happened a bit backwards," said Curry, referring to his career path. "I think most people start with the club circuit and build and build and then hope to be on some of the tours we had the honor to be on."

Don Oneil / Don O'Neil Photography

A woman in her early 30's embracing honky-tonk? A music genre that peaked decades ago? Sarah Shook has answered the query many times.

"I had a very strange upbringing as far a music goes," explained Shook via phone from her North Carolina home. "I was certainly not exposed to a lot of the pop music that was popular in my age group, then and now."

Henhouse Prowlers

The Chicago based bluegrass quartet Henhouse Prowlers is now a teenager. Founding member and banjo player Ben Wright said despite the title of their latest album, he's not surprised the group is "Still On That Ride" 13 years later.

"When you start something like a band," said Wright. "You don't think too much about the future, because so many bands come and go."

Jon Norton / WGLT

Occasionally I like to drop in on local record stores to hear what's playing on the turntable while customers browse the bins.  This week I stopped by Waiting Room Records in uptown Normal, where owner Jared Alcorn was playing an album a little out of left field for the a store named after a Fugazzi album.

Loren Root

An injured shoulder derailed country-rocker Joe Stamm from his dream of playing college football. A star quarterback at Metamora High School in the mid 2000's, Stamm signed with Northern Illinois University after initially committing to Illinois State University during the Denver Johnson era.
 

Robert Earl Keen

A conversation with country-folk-rocker Robert Earl Keen is easy and enjoyable. He'll "go on forever" about many topics, including his music, how he lobbies Congress on behalf of musicians, and his friends Lyle Lovett and Joe Ely. But he was especially animated this day talking about children and classical music in his home state of Texas.

David Carroll / Flickr

Thornetta Davis is known as "Detroit's Queen of the Blues." Her childhood was anything but royal.

"My mom raised four girls with the help of my grandmother," said Davis. "It was an upbringing of turmoil .... my father was an alcoholic and quite violent. When my mother got out of that situation, that's when I feel I started to live."

David McClister

St. Paul & the Broken Bones front man and songwriter Paul Janeway said his reading of "Just Mercy" by "Equal Justice Initiative" founder Bryan Stevenson played a role in the direction of the band's latest album "Sea Of Noise."

"Being from Alabama, and with the Equal Justice Initiative (which was started by Bryan) being from here in Montgomery, I said 'if I'm going to write a record, these are the things that are moving me,'" said Janeway. "So are we trying to seek out love, is there a possibility of that? So it's been an interesting journey and the record kind of navigates through that.

Dennis Beck / Broadway Tour

A story line taken from Tolstoy's War and Peace. A musical remake of the nineties film Ground Hog Day. The trials of an anxiety-ridden adolescent and the true story of a Newfoundland town faced with hosting stranded air travelers on 9/11. 

Those are the themes of this year's line up of Tony nominees for best musical. The four nominated musicals are Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,Ground Hog Day, Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away.

Once there was a brief shining moment known as Camelot the musical, with a score by Lerner and Lowe that became a Broadway classic.

Then there was the dark, free-wheeling Spamalot, a musical based on the cult film classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's that version of the English legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that will prance across the Connie Link Amphitheatre as the first of this summer's outdoor musicals.

Hannah Lauber

The 30-something brother team of Page Burkham and Jack Torrey are deep into classic country. Getting there was somewhat accidental, originally stumbling onto the music through thrift shops and libraries in their hometown of Minneapolis. Performing the music came from extended shows as the duo ramped up their performance schedule .

Sgt. Pepper Turns 50

May 24, 2017
Jon Norton / WGLT

North Street Records owner Jeff Wilson paused to contemplate the 50 year anniversary of The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album.

"I can't believe all Beatles records are starting to be 50 years old," said Wilson sitting next to the turntable behind the counter in his store. "I guess it's like the world's classical music, especially Sgt. Pepper because it's so iconic."

Adairs Run

Adairs Run frontman Todd Hanchock said the title track to the band's 2016 EP "Turn Back The Miles" is where the band is headed.

"All these songs we're writing are based on some serious experiences in the last few years, or when we were growing up," said Hanchock. "For me, 'Turning Back The Miles' is just a cool way to put a spin on 'hey man, I wish I COULD turn back time.'"

Jon Norton / WGLT

Reverberation Vinyl owner John Anderson has spent the last few weeks dropping the needle on the turntable in his store onto late 1960's and early 1970's Pentangle albums. Though not old enough to have been at the show, the group's May 11, 1970 concert at Illinois Wesleyan's Fred Young Fieldhouse has him obsessed with unearthing a recording from that show.

DelmarBrown.com

Bloomington lost a major musical son when Delmar Brown passed away last month from cancer at age 62. The diminutive keyboard player who wowed fellow central Illinois musicians later did the same with some of the most recognizable names in music.

Sheryl Clark Productions

"This is very much a partnership," said Sara Quah, glancing sideways at the man who produced her upcoming "Taking Me Back" album. I don't think the album would be what it is, if it was just my vision."

Quah was referring to Tony SanFilippo, owner of Oxide Lounge Recording Studio in Bloomington. Quah enlisted SanFilippo to produce her first full length album, and credits him as the person who put meat onto the bones of the lyrics and musical song skeletons she had written over the previous year.

Hip Pocket

Hip Pocket band leader and founder Marc Boon said losing three friends recently made the decision to reunite the band an easy one.

"I think at some point along the line we get into a stage of life when we take account of stuff," said Boon.

"Whenever I call it a jazz band I do air quotes. 'Jazz.'" said Disorganizer mandolin player Stefen Robinson, gesturing with the index and middle fingers of both hands over his head.

Why?

"Because I don't even know what that means anymore," continued Robinson. "Are you talking about Miles Davis? Are you talking about Wayne Shorter? Are you talking about Kneebody?

Paul Beaty

Blues, R&B, and rock were stamped on Mojo Stew's calling card from the mid 1980's through the early 90's. The central Illinois quintet that toured the Midwest extensively and appeared on Natalie Cole's "Big Break" show reunites for a show with The Mechanics and The Something Brothers April 8 at The Castle Theater in Bloomington. Guitarist Bill Porter said the reunion show has jogged fond memories from the band's heyday some 30 years ago.

Scott Harrison

I could have opened with "which Something Brothers members will play the reunion show?" Or "why now?" Former manager Denny De Bourbon would have been an appropriate opening salvo, as the April 8 show at The Castle Theater will also serve as a benefit for the man who guided the Bloomington-Normal sextet into a regional powerhouse in the mid 1980's and early 90's. And they got sooooo close to making the big time.

Instead, "so how many 'hauser's' did you tip back ... back in the day?" popped out of my mouth.

Paul Hudson / Flickr

Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is a devastating disease that has been described as "Parkinson's on steroids."

"I hate to say that's pretty accurate," said Steve Gorman, founding member of both The Black Crowes and more recently, Trigger Hippy. "It's the kind of disease that's very rare, it's very hard to diagnose and it's the kind of thing that's usually only diagnosed after all other neurodegenerative ailments have been eliminated.  So it can take years to get a proper diagnoses."

Laura Jane Grace Of Against Me!: Talking Is Still Honest

Mar 30, 2017
Casey Curry

Against Me!'s 2014's "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" was a coming out party for band founder Laura Jane Grace, who announced two years prior she was a transgender woman.  The punk-rock outfit with roots in Gainesville, Florida has been on Lilyana Arielle Fey's radar since the early 2000's. The Peoria native is also a transgender woman, who says she has found solace and community through the music of Against Me!.  
 

EMily Butler Photography

The viral 2013 video of Puddles Pity Party covering Lorde's "Royals" (see below) propelled the "sad clown with the big voice" to national and international prominence. The man who channels Puddles and his operatic voice is Big Mike Geier, who makes an appearance at the Castle Theater in Bloomington March 26. At 6' 8", Geier IS big, something he acclimated to at an early age.

Tyler Zoller

The line "I just want to make music and friends/Been that way since I was 12 years old" is from "Music and Friends" off Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band's recent "So Delicious" album. Hearing the words fed back to Josh"Reverend" Peyton elicits a smile from the trio's founder.

Pages