Since June, the Iowa City Public Library has been offering free downloads of local music at music.icpl.org. Fifty-eight albums are available, and more are coming over the next few months. What’s there that you might like? Most of the local heavyweights from the last few decades — Dave Zollo, Euforquestra, Big Wooden Radio, Mike and Amy Finders Band, the Salsa Band, and others — a good introduction to the local music scene.
Beyond that lie any number of gems. Too Much Yang, for instance, was an acoustic female trio with talent to burn. Their tight harmonies and jazzy arrangements suggest Dan Hicks or Asleep at the Wheel.
Amazingly, almost a generation has grown up never seeing High and Lonesome play. Not only was this the massively talented Dave Zollo’s first band, but guitar player Darren Matthews often seemed possessed by Keith Richards. ICPL offers all three of their releases. (Best of luck finding these for sale anywhere.)
Iowa City isn’t known for producing concept albums, but check out Let’s Get Clecky. When a band wants to record a wide variety of styles, from British Invasion pastiche to polka to county to Japanese cartoon theme music (!), why not just call it a compilation album by a nonexistent record company? Borges would approve.
Iowa boasts just a few world-class bluesmen, and you can own records by two of them. Catfish Keith dazzles with his picking and charms with his take on early blues. Joe Price (and wife Vicki) bring a more electric, rowdier vibe.
Scott Cochran’s band Flannel features Steve Ellis on guitar and up-and-coming Ryan Bernemann on bass and vocals. Think Townes Van Zandt. Think Gram Parsons. The Java House recording is unreleased, except through the Library.
Dustin Busch is quietly putting together a career as a musician’s musician, a go-to guy for tasteful guitar. His Down Home offers his take on blues standards.
One of the best parts of working on this project is being reminded how good Ben Schmidt is. The man can turn a phrase, feels things deeply, and his playing is impeccable.