When I was a kid, I had dreams of recording an album — and this was back when an “album” meant a largish round black thing you put on a turntable, with songs on both sides and a sleeve that had a cool photo on one side and more photos and interesting words on the other side, usually big enough for even an old person to read.
Back then, making an album usually involved using very expensive equipment in a recording studio, and you needed a record label’s deep pockets to make that happen. Studio time was expensive, and a record label could pay those costs up front for recording, make sure the records got to stores and pay the guys at the radio stations to play your record so people would buy it.
I’ve been thinking about how things have changed this week because of a lot of local news involving albums. Roger Wendover, an Oregon transplant who now lives in Holmen, is celebrating the release of his first album Saturday night at the Popcorn Tavern (starting at 9 p.m.), and the album — titled “I Pray for Peace” — is on Wild Midwest Records.
Over the past four years, Wendover has fronted a local band called Raj Montage, and some of them will join in Saturday at the Popcorn. But 40 years after he first picked up the guitar, he’s getting a little serious about doing more solo shows and getting his original songs out more widely, and the album largely reflects his approach as a solo artist.
After talking a little with Wendover, I couldn’t picture him being crazy about being with an old-school record label, but Wild Midwest Records is an artist-run label that he connected with through Honeywise members Jason Surratt and Sophia Landis, so it’s cool.
From the few songs I’ve heard so far from Wendover’s album, I can’t wait to hear more. He’s got some mad finger-picking skills, a voice that drips with soul, and songs that suck you in, folkie but funky. The title track is especially good, sweetened by cello and pan flute and with lyrics that could not have been more timely this week if he’d planned it.
I also heard this week that another local band, RIG TIME!, has signed a contract with Philadelphia-based Innerstrength Records. It’s a hardcore punkish metal trio made up of husband-and-wife Bryan Fleming (drums and vocals) and Rebecca Fleming (guitar) with Mark Trueman on bass. The band’s debut full-length album, to be called “War,” is due for release in October.
For people who want to put out albums on their own without a record label to worry about, crowdfunding is another route, and even well-established bands have done it.
I was impressed by the way Viroqua-based Stanton West (the former Eddie Danger) did his crowdfunding campaign, especially with the short lag time between pledge and having the new CD in hand (and the “magic acorn” I received as a perk). His album, “Songbird,” oozes with sweet folkie charm and giddy grooves. He’s got a lot of local shows coming up, including performances at the Great River Folk Festival next weekend, the Trempealeau Hotel on Sept. 8, Turtle Stack Brewery on Sept. 13, Driftless Books and Music in Viroqua on Oct. 10 and a La Crosse album release show in November.
Last weekend, former La Crosse music scene hero Reed Grimm, now in the Twin Cities and a veteran of “American Idol,” completed a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to fund his first album, which will be recorded in Nashville. He set out to raise $25,000 and he overshot that by at least a few thousand.
Meanwhile, a Kickstarter campaign was started this week by a local hard rock band, The Homeland Conspiracy, to raise at least $5,000 by Sept. 10 to record an album. I’m tempted to pledge at the $100 level so I could get the “hang-with-the-band-in-the-studio” perk, which probably would be the closest I’ll come to my album dream.
Rock on …