The first time I saw Becky Schlegel perform was six years ago at a bowling alley in Shakopee, where her soft talent shined even amid the hard noise. The last time was onstage with "A Prairie Home Companion" when Wilco performed (she has been on the show several times since).
The next time might just be on "The Grand Ol' Opry." That's jumping the gun a bit, but Schlegel is garnering some interest from Nashville for her strong new album, "For All the World to See."
The South Dakota-reared country/bluegrass singer recorded her third CD at Wild Sound Studio in Minneapolis with such local stalwarts as Gordy Johnson, Bo Ramsey and "Prairie Home" bandleader Rich Dworsky. Schlegel made it her most countrified album after two bluegrass- and folk-styled CDs, so it's extra fitting that it's making its way through the Nashville chain of command.
There's a Nashville-based boutique label (IGO Records) behind the CD, as well as a publicist and radio promoters based around Music Row. Schlegel is heading down there in a few weeks to perform for Country Weekly magazine and has another gig scheduled at the fabled songwriters' haven Bluebird Cafe (remember that River Phoenix movie "The Thing Called Love"?).
She even got a nice little blurb of praise from a Nasvhille icon, legendary song man Tom T. Hall, who said, "I stumbled across Becky the way you find a shiny new penny in the parking lot: It won't change your life, but there is something you really like about it."
As can be gleaned from the album's all-too-fitting single, "Bound for Tennessee," the country music capital has always been in Schlegel's sights.
"We would've loved for our other albums to be heard in Nashville, but we just didn't know how to reach that point," said Schlegel, who also has a local gig Saturday at the 318 Cafe in Excelsior. "We feel like this record in particular deserves to be promoted there, though, so it's great timing."
The "we" she referred to includes her guitar player and harmony partner Brian Fesler -- not to be confused with her husband, Heath Loy, who's also a picker in the band Tangled Roots and played with Schlegel in her old band, True Blue. Schlegel, 35, has been performing since she was in grade school in Kimball, S.D. She spent 13 years performing in her mom's band, the Country Benders.
The angelic-voiced songstress considered moving to Nashville before the release of her first solo album, 2002's "Red Leaf."
"I was almost there, all ready to go, but then I met Tom Tucker and wound up making 'Red Leaf' here, which worked out well," she said. "You know: shoulda, coulda, woulda. I certainly don't regret staying in Minnesota, especially now that I have kids and my family is all here." Schlegel and Loy have two sons, ages 1 and 3. Their flexible gig schedule actually works in their favor, she said: "When he's playing somewhere, I stay home, and vice versa."
When Schlegel leaves home for Nashville and points beyond to promote this album, "I think people appreciate that I'm from the Midwest," she said. "It helps me stand out a little."
"No matter what happens," she added, "I'll still be happy we made this album the way we did. I grew up on country music, and even though I love bluegrass, I also love having steel guitar and drums on my record. That kind of music is deep in my heart."A bigger Roma di Luna
Part of the magic of Roma di Luna's music has always been the stark intimacy put forth by husband-wife team Alexei and Channy Moon Casselle. Listening to their rustic, hallowed-sounding acoustic folk/alt-country numbers felt like spending a chilly summer night on their back porch. Part of that charm has been lost but plenty more gained on their first album with a full band, "Casting the Bones," which they're promoting Saturday at the Cedar Cultural Center (8 p.m., $12-$15).
With a tight-knit crew of musicians including Ben Durrant (also the co-producer), J.G. Everest and Michael Rossetto (whose Spaghetti Western String Co. opens the CD party), the Casselles rounded out their lonesome-whippoorwill sound with bits of banjo, horns and atmospheric guitar, at times recalling the Cowboy Junkies, Sadies and even Calexico. There are a few rollicking numbers such as "Trouble Down the Road" and the stormy closer "Pearls for Pigs" that will liven up their live shows. But the best tunes are still the softer ones -- softer musically, not lyrically -- including the six-minute epic "Wildfire" and the low-down "I Can't Afford to Be Broke," an anthem for the times.Holy Sheiks!
When former Cows frontman Shannon Selberg moved back to Minneapolis from New York last year, it might have signaled the end of his sleazy, inner-city-grime rock band the Heroine Sheiks. Be thankful it didn't, now that the newly reformed Sheiks have finished a harrowing album, "Journey to the End of the Knife," which arrives on the sorely missed Amphetamine Reptile imprint (the Cows' label in the '90s).
Officially the band's fourth release, it's the first to feature the all-local lineup that includes guitarist Paul Sanders (Hammerhead) and bassist Jesse Kwakenat (Stnnng). The results are as freaky, thundering and unsettling as any of the Sheiks' discs, from the expletive-laced throttler "Four F" to the just plain scary mumbler-turned-screamer "Meurte Vous." Release party is Saturday at the Turf Club with Skoal Kodiak (10 p.m., $5).Random mix
A phone call home from Jessy Greene this week might go something like this: "How's the Foo Fighters tour going, Jessy?" "Oh, I just got done playing with half of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, at Wembley Stadium in front of 85,000 fans." "Well, hang in there, I'm sure things will work out." ...
Consistently one of the best all-local music festivals, the 24-hour Day of Music at Orchestra Hall will be reconfigured a bit when it arrives again July 11-12 -- namely, the free music won't go all night, but will last longer into Saturday. But the lineup is the usual who's-who of diverse talent, including the Honeydogs, Haley Bonar, Mambo's Combo, the Sweet Colleens, Spaghetti Western, Black Blondie, Jeremy Messersmith, the immortal Teddy Bear Band and -- one of the best things about it -- two performances by the Minnesota Orchestra (noon and 8 p.m.). ...
After last week's column about Epic, booker Beecher Vaillancourt wanted to clarify that when he worked at the now-defunct Foundation nightclub, he butted heads with a silent investor, not his chief promotions partners and friends Zak Khutoretsky and Bill Boldenow. ...
The date that Doomtree cryptically threw onto its home page, 7/29/2008, is indeed the day that the hip-hop crew's all-star album will finally hit the masses, P.O.S. confirmed. "In the end, we're all really proud of it," he said. You can hear a lot of the tracks performed live at tonight's Electric Fetus 40th anniversary party at First Ave. A release party hasn't been set yet because the crew snagged a summer tour with the Flobots.
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