Randy Erickson

Randy Erickson

I’ve not often pitched in for crowdfunding campaigns, I’ll admit, partly because of a built-in skepticism about online financial transactions. Sometimes the cause hits so close to home — an acquaintance with a medical malady, say — that I can overcome that hesitation, but people’s artistic pursuits have rarely seemed like an emergency situation to me.

I once contributed some money for moving expenses for Richard Lloyd, a guitarist I greatly admire, with the promise of getting a print of a cool photo of him. It’s only been a year or so now since he actually made the move from New York City to Tennessee, so I’m hoping to see that photo in my mailbox any time now. The delay left me a little disappointed, although I don’t take it personally. I’m hoping Lloyd is just a little bit behind schedule, and I don’t mind if he concentrates on recording new music.

I recently found another artistic crowdfunding cause I can get personally get behind, one that has a deadline of midnight on Monday involving a Viroqua musician and creative force for good.

Edward Stanton Lemar was Eddie Danger before he became a performer, earning the nickname because of his predilection for rock climbing. People were calling him Eddie Danger a couple years before he took up the guitar, and he didn’t perform under that name for another few years after that.

Just for fun, he added “reverend” to the mix, to make things extra confusing. So he was known as The Rev. Eddie Danger for much of the past two decades of performing music he describes as “cosmic country-folk with a tribal twist of jazz.” He made 11 albums as Eddie Danger, appearing in a film with Garrison Keillor, winning songwriting contests and becoming a familiar voice to listeners of Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Simply Folk” program.

Danger also was the creative force behind the Feel Good Music and Arts Festival, the Wisconsin Roots Music Cooperative and a musical marionette show with a seafaring theme, all the while handing out “magic acorns” to unsuspecting music festival patrons.

But Eddie Danger died recently. He survived a bout with malignant melanoma, and that’s part of what killed him. Confused? Sorry about that.

After going through his struggle with cancer, Lemar saw an opportunity to reinvent himself as someone other than Eddie Danger. For the past 10 years, he’s been a stay-at-home, home-schooling dad and part-time organic farmer in addition to being a performer. His kids are old enough to all be in school now, and with cancer having prodded him with the reminder that life is short, Lemar is starting his musical career anew under his grandfather’s name, Stanton West.

As I write this, West is working on recording his debut album with Joe Craven, his musical hero. Craven is best known as a percussionist for mandolin master David Grisman and for his work with Jerry Garcia on his acoustic albums.

Craven has a studio in California, affording West his first chance to record in a professional studio after 11 independent home-studio productions. West is calling the concept album “Songbird,” and describes it as the story of his life, with “groove-driven folk tunes about feeling good, being who you are and staying present in the moment.” As the story of his life, it’s a more metaphorical approach involving an injured songbird’s flight from the nest, migration, transformation and a return to home.

While Danger might be transitioning to a new artistic life as Stanton West, he still has a commitment to promoting “family fun, environmental stewardship, building community, healthy local food, live and local music, creative expression and being a positive (yet practical) force in the world.”

How can you not want to get behind that?

West has been making thought-provoking, often funny blog posts since early March, with titles including “Why Am I So Strange?,” “Worry Is Misuse of the Imagination,” “Where Do Songs Come From?” and, my favorite, “Don’t Look for a Partner Who Is Eye Candy. Look for a Partner Who Is Soul Food.” (I will say, for the record, that my partner is both.)

The blog entry about why he is strange was especially charming, telling how this lanky (6-foot-6 or so), left-handed, freckle-faced redheaded rock climber “embraced his uniqueness,” picking up a guitar and flipping it around to play it upside down and backward like Elizabeth Cotton, Bill Staines and Dick Dale.

West’s crowdfunding campaign had raised $3,212 as of Thursday afternoon, not quite halfway to the $7,500 target and about a third of the way to the $10,000 “stretch goal.” The $7,500 will cover production costs, studio rental, studio engineer, mastering, session musicians and travel to California, with the extra stretch goal money to pay for printing the CDs, artwork and graphic design and a publicist to “get the album out into radioland.”

Like a lot of crowdfunding projects, there are perks for donating. For a gift of $15, you can get a digital download of “Songbird,” while $25 gets an autographed CD. For $50, you get a magic acorn pendant and an album download. Double that and you get a signed poster, magic acorn pendant and signed CD.

If you’ve always wanted an “executive producer” credit on an album full of groove-driven folk tunes, you can get that for $500, and $1,000 makes you an official sponsor and host of a CD release party.

Even if you’ve never heard any Eddie Danger music, it sure seems like paying a little extra in advance to get a signed copy of Stanton West’s debut CD is a pretty painless way to support an artist. Personally, I think a magic acorn might have some useful mojo in it. Couldn’t hurt. Might help.

Rock on …

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Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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