By Tom Smith
Vera Deirdre has been lurking around Milwaukee for the last two years, dreaming up sonic reliefs of slow sad redemption with the deep, mournful clarinets of Daniel Fischer setting up the soaring catharsis of Rebecca Schoenecker’s sweet, melodic vocals. It’s a moving contrast.
What’s special about this group is that they are true artists in many mediums, and they use this talent and taste to produce truly original works using words, sounds, paint or film. Rebecca is, in fact, preparing to open a show of her paintings and mixed media art at the Wailing Banshee Boo-tique on the corner of Astor and Brady. I met her there and was taken by her series of Memory Boxes. Rather uninviting paintings on the lids open to fragments of clearly disturbing prose and sketches inside. Says Rebecca “They’re from a time in my life that I had to look at, get past, and put a lid on.”
The band has tracked their upcoming release with the venerable Bill Curtis of Curtis Technologies. Busy guy, I’d say. They’ve added a banjo, manned by Eric Holiday of Decibully, to stretch the arrangements. Unfortunately, they’ve been held up by technical and personnel problems during post-production, but hope has arrived in the form of Bill Cicerelli of WMSE, who has agreed to tackle the mixdown. There is still no word on a possible release date. If you want to get a feel for what it will be like, be at the Wailing Banshee October 15th, where they will be performing live for the official opening of Rebecca’s show. There’s even word that drummer Kenneth Zanowski may show his short film Going Home.
Has anyone else ever felt this way? Going to most “folk” shows, I’m left with the impression that Dave Matthews and Radiohead have conspired to destroy the genre. Most of it is either absent-mindedly meandering and pointless, or absolutely mindless and frantic. It’s like my dad used to scream at me from the back of the club, “Play something we can all sing along with!” I was about to lose hope when I received an invitation to see Old Man Oak at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn.
The title might lead one to expect a band (as I did), but Old Man Oak is just one man; John Williams, a troubadour from the old school. His songs have everything you could hope for; a message, melody and hooks that really hook you. There is an ease about him that could be called the mark of the real deal. His songs are confessional, accusatory, and above all, conversational, as if he might break into a chorus or two of what time it is, or what’s for supper. The highlight was when Michal VanDyke joined in, singing songs of his own with John on harmony, and harmonizing just as naturally with John’s tunes and the overall vibe. They have neither a name nor a record yet, but they will be working together around town, and I’ll be looking out for them.