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Joseph Huber aims for honest, forthright folksongs after .357 String Band's demise
Straight shooter

Huber: "On my own, I'm allowed more freedom to write anything that pops into my brain."
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Milwaukee's .357 String Band spent many sweaty nights playing "streetgrass," a sped-up form of bluegrass, at venues around the world. The band broke up in 2011, but the music hasn't stopped. Since then, singer and banjo player Joseph Huber has released Tongues of Fire, a solo album full of Americana, folk and singer-songwriter influences.

I asked him about his solo act before his Dec. 20 gig at the High Noon Saloon.

Isthmus: How would you describe your transition from band member to solo act?

Huber: It has been pretty smooth. I have no memory of any "Oh no, what now?" moments. A number of folks still say, "I miss .357," but I can honestly say I'm not missing those songs quite yet. But I'll throw an old tune into a solo set here and there...and I'm proud to have been a part of it.

Which songwriters did you look to as you started your solo career?

A bunch of different folks. From Robert St. Ours, to Townes Van Zandt and Paul Simon, and even Alabama. I had a bit of an obsession with Paul Simon. There's a sincerity and openness in the feeling of his songs. When I get darker, I look to Townes, and when I get lighter, I look to Paul.

Do you have to edit yourself more as a solo artist?

On my own, I'm allowed more freedom to write anything that pops into my brain. It doesn't have to match an [established] sound or fit into a theme. If it sounds like nothing I've ever done, then all the better.

How do the new songs compare to those on your first solo album? Did any songs surprise you or reveal something new?

My first [solo album], Bury Me Where I Fall, is dark and brooding from listening to a bunch of Townes and Leonard Cohen, while Tongues of Fire is more light.... The next [album] contains a little of both and will hopefully be out in early summer. There's no singular theme or vision. I take each song as its own thing, yet somehow they all still work together.

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