Three former and sporadic Michiganders are doing the mitten proud musically these days. If you haven’t heard already, I’m guessing you’ll be hearing a lot about these three performers in the coming months and early-to-mid 2002. Musically, they don’t have too much in common, but when it comes to performing, they’ve all got charisma to spare.
I caught a solo gig by Rosie Thomas a week ago when she opened up for Damien Jurado at Schubas in Chicago. Each cascading guitar and piano orchestration made way for angelic, almost operatic Sarah McLachlan-esque vocals. Eccentrically dressed in some kind of gauzy rag, ribbon and wool concoction, she introduced each song in a suspiciously squeaky Midwestern twang. Sure, her credits read Seattle, where she attended a fancy-pants performance-art school and caught the attention of Sub Pop. But her roots are in Michigan, where she sang and toured with Velour 100 (featuring former members of His Name is Alive) from 1997 to 1999. But suspicions still arose, especially after an impromptu stand-up routine, featuring her “Sheila” impression, where her voice made yet another 360, giving off a sort-of neurotic-stoner mall-rat vibe. Then I overheard the couple next to me say that she tends to switch up speaking tones a la Andy Kaufman. Interesting. If her name sounds familiar, you might remember Thomas from her cameo on Jurado’s Ghost of David, where she provided the vocals to “Parking Lot.” Or maybe you heard her contribution to Badlands: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. Right now, you can check out her CD-EP, In Between, which is available at www.subpop.com. Her full-length release, When We Were Small, is due out on Sub Pop Jan. 22. Hopefully, a tour will coincide.
Details are a bit sketchy, which is I think the way he likes it, but I know that the guy spent a good portion of his upbringing in the Ypsi-Ann Arbor area. His sound is simple, big and epic, very rock ’n’ roll, the stuff that a lot of people have been waiting a long time for. Right now, Andrew W.K.’s spoiling the English with a tour and an earlier date for his full-length release, I Get Wet. Here in the United States, we’ll have to wait until March, maybe May for the record, which is coming out on Island. You could always order his blisteringly amazing CD-EP, Girls Own Juice or his new 12-inch EP Party Til You Puke on the Bulb Records (www.bulbrecords.com), though. And be sure to check out the video for his single “Party Hard” available for download at his Island site (www.islandrecords.com). You won’t be able to tell if it’s the dumbest or most brilliant thing you’ve seen or heard, and that’s the best part!
As NME put it: “Simple but effective, big but not clever, a superstar in the making, Andrew W.K. has come to save us all. From what is up to you.” The UK magazine put him on the cover of its Oct. 20 issue and has been championing his every move on its Web site, almost as much as it follows every sneeze of Jack and Meg White. His mass popularity over there has the UK paparazzi in a tizzy, of course. I even read a rumor that Dave Grohl writes all of A.W.K.’s songs and that the long-haired singer who apparently has a problem with nosebleeds is a vehicle for some kind of practical joke by the Foo Fighters’ main man. But then again, the British press hasn’t always been known for fact-checking. Regardless, it’s really, really good stuff. Trust me.
Y’all are probably pretty familiar with this guy. Until recently, he was a principal of the Volebeats — Detroit’s treasured somber country-rock collective. Since leaving shortly after recording Mosquito Spiral, which came out earlier this year on Third Gear, Bob McCreedy has wandered between Detroit, Minneapolis, New York, Vermont and Nashville, and has written some damn fine songs. Streamline (Safe House) is his much-anticipated first solo recording since leaving the Volebeats. Produced by Mike Daly (Whiskeytown) and featuring guest appearances by Laura Cantrell, Claudine Langille and Daly, among others, it’s beautiful. As you might guess, it ranges between near-optimism, resignation, heartache and all-out despair. Mandolin, lap steel, acoustic guitar and McCreedy’s sleepy folk vocals melt away the sorrow; surprisingly, things feel mostly OK by the last track.E-mail In One Ear at firstname.lastname@example.org