The Sugar Maple Traditional Music Festival is celebrating its tenth year in existence, and this was the second year that they invited me to book a band for the second stage. Even though most of the action takes place on the main stage, a handful of people did wander over to the park’s shelter to watch Dietrich Gosser and Dan Kuemmel play. While it wasn’t a huge crowd, there was a steady stream of people who would stop for several songs before heading back to the big tent that housed the headliners. “It’s our fault,” Kuemmel protested when I apologized for the lack of people, “we just don’t draw.” Which frankly doesn’t make any sense, Gosser may be the best songwriter in Madison right now, he’s certainly my favorite.
He isn’t exactly prolific, he’s about to release just his fourth record since I met him nearly ten years ago, but “Oh to Begin!” promises to be his most intriguing work yet. The perfectly paired “Somewhere in the Night” and “When Morning Comes” were released on a 7” record earlier this year and hint at how great this record will be. Both tunes, as well as several more new songs, were part of a set list that included many Gosser favorites. “Abraham,” “Ocean” and “From a Mercury Lynx,” which he says is the first song he ever wrote, were all part of a stunning set in the twilight. As usual Kuemmel’s playing was inspired, inventive and intriguing. Watching him play as he juggles a variety of percussion instruments is as fun as hearing the sounds he makes. The best of his toys was actually designed to mimic whale sounds. Played with a bow, it haunts Dietrich’s dusty folk.
Not only did the nice people at Sugar Maple let me pick a band and put me on the list, they also donated $100 to the house, which will be going toward a new vocal microphone (that I should get engraved with their name). Even more impressively, they gave me more beer tickets than I could possibly use. Since I wasn’t going to be able to come the next day, I made a friend very happy by giving them my leftovers. Before Dietrich’s set I caught one and a half sets on the main stage. I didn’t know any of the bands playing this year other than Freakwater, who unfortunately played Saturday, but I should have known that didn’t mean they weren’t good. Al Scorch & the Country Soul Ensemble were playing when I arrived and I was impressed by the accuracy of their name. The multi-ethnic band had the dance floor rocking and heads in the seats nodding. I only saw a few tunes from Steel Wheels, but it was enough for me to invite them to the house.
It was a great night; I just wish I could have been there the whole weekend.
Al Scorch & the Country Soul Ensemble
Dietrich Gosser & Dan Kuemmel