Help 'em out
The family of Tracy Judd and her daughter Deja Renee, victims of domestic violence in a December homicide in Madison, have organized a benefit concert for Domestic Abuse Intervention Services. The event will take place from 4-11 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 14, at Scatz Sports Bar and Nightclub. Scheduled to perform are Natty Nation, Super Tuesday, Madison County, Might Short Bus and Scatz resident DJ Double A. There will also be a silent auction, raffles and guest speakers. All proceeds from the event go to DAIS, an organization offering crisis intervention, support and advocacy services, as well as Dane County's only domestic violence shelter. "We are going to be holding an event such as this every year right around what would be Tracy's birthday, January 14th," says Rhonda Armstrong, a cousin of Judd and one of the event's organizers.
Any band that is still going strong after a decade and a half is likely to have seen some lineup changes. Madison Top 40 country cover band Wild Heart will take the stage with a new player on Saturday, Jan. 16, at Tricia's Country Corners -- local songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tracy Jane Comer. In addition to her solo work, Comer has been a part of trios such as Likely Stories and Sticky Fingers and various other projects, but hasn't been seen on local stages as often during the recent past. She says the decision to explore a new musical direction came during that time away.
"I was at a crossroads in my musical life, just coming out of an almost two year lull in my music career due to a string of illnesses/deaths among my family and friends down south plus a surgery of my own in March," Comer says. "I decided during this time off that I did not want to resume traveling/touring as a solo artist. Plus, I have been bogged down with emotional turmoil and loss and have not written any new material in a long while."
Comer says that besides songwriting, just playing music is important and offers the chance to choose from a wealth of great material by other writers. "I knew I wanted to find opportunities to sing with others. Hearing about the Wild Heart opening, I didn't hesitate for a moment to audition as it seemed like this was just what I needed to get excited about doing music again. And the timing was perfect.
"The best part is that my Aunt Jane, who passed away in August, would have been thrilled to hear this news since she was a country music fan. She was my life hero who is responsible for me being a musician at all -- hence my inclusion of my middle name in my music career. So that was another signal that this would be the right move for me," Comer says.
Wild Heart guitarist Preacher Man says Comer will take the place of vocalist Carmel Willett. "She is an incredible talent and we definitely miss her. However, Tracy provides us with some awesome opportunities and brings new aspects to the band that we are very excited about!"
Bassist Jeffrey Root says while the band's focus will remain on playing the latest hot country hits, they will also continue to introduce some new material of their own. "Since most of us have a background in original music we get the bug to work on original songs from time to time. We've done some writing and recording and definitely intend to devote more time to that in the future."
Showtime is at 9 p.m., and Tricia's Country Corners is east of Monona, if following either Buckeye Road or Femrite Drive out of town (it's where the two meet up).
Hittin' the clubs
One of the more unique musical combinations in Madison currently also could be called one of the most unlikely, and the group who created it, The Shtetlblasters, will release a new CD on Sunday, Jan. 17 at the Project Lodge. Mixing the melodic character of traditional klezmer music with synths, electronic beats and a funky bass, The Shtetlblasters certainly forge a sound of their own.
"The idea of mixing traditional music with funk came out of a competing loves for far flung styles of music," says Sam Harmet, who plays mandolin and synth for the band. "We wanted to infuse the klezmer sounds of Eastern European Yiddish music with the syncopations and groove of funk, specifically the '80s style of synth-heavy funk of groups like the Talking Heads and early Prince. As we progressed in our development as a group we began adding more and more synthesizers and vocoders which has gradually led to a more electronic heavy sound. These days we most often describe our music as klezmer-electro-funk."
Showtime at the Project Lodge is 7:30 p.m.; Tanz Mit the Shetlblasters will be available at the show and soon in local record stores as well.
Madison Songwriters Group has started the new year with a slight name change, to Madison Songwriters Guild. The Guild has also announced details of the 2010 Song Showdown, taking place as part of a monthly open mike at Alchemy Cafe. The Song Showdown will happen on the second Wednesday of each month through November, with the monthly winners performing at the finals in December. Host Jim Schwall says he'll be at Alchemy with sign-up sheets by 8 p.m., with music beginning at 8:30 p.m. Schwall offers one caveat for potential contestants, however: "Winners have to be Madison Songwriters members -- I'll have the forms. Annual dues are $25."
Performers who just want to play and not necessarily compete are welcome to join in as well, Schwall says, "as time allows. There'll be a separate sign-up sheet for open mike which we'll start on after contest singers finish. If there are a lot of performers it'll be two songs each, but I'm hoping we can do three."