One of the best shows I saw last year outside of the basement was Walter Salas-Humara and the Wooldridge Brothers at the Shitty Barn in Spring Green. So when Salas-Humara booked a show with me for this summer I suggested the Milwaukee band as an opener. I won’t lie, a good part of the Brothers appeal is non-sibling Jack Rice who I know from Goat Radio. I wasn’t the only one embarrassing Rice with applause during their opening set, he had a whole fan club in the audience, and he smiled sheepishly every time we cheered uproariously. In addition to the always happy Rice, the draw of the Brothers is lead singer Brian Wooldridge’s lullaby of a voice, strong and smooth, it’s addictive, while other brother Scott is a subtle and intuitive guitar player. The trio that played the basement tonight is just a part of a larger band that includes a drummer and female vocalist. Though they were missing part of their band, they did get a guest spot from harmonium player Jonathan Rundman, who takes the honor of bringing the first harmonium, an organ that works like an accordion, to the basement. The first of these songs was done as a duo with Brian Wooldridge. He makes a good first impression.
He also joined Salas-Humara for a number of songs, playing both the accordion as well as the harmonium, as he had the night before in Minneapolis and would be again the next night in Chicago. Salas-Humara had produced Rundman’s most recent CD, and Rundman gave me a copy before he left. It’s catchy and an easy listen, I recommend it, and him. His accordion on “Under a Drunken Moon” (perhaps my favorite Silos song ever) was a nice touch. For his part, Salas-Humara had just released a new CD of his own, the excellent Curve and Shake, and many of the record’s tracks showed up in tonight’s set. “Way Too Heavy to Float” and the catchy “Uncomplicated” were both terrific, as was the epic title track. The record’s stand-out track is the sing-along “Satellite” which found us echoing his call of “Like a satellite” several times, until he turned it around and we were the leaders. Unlike some past audience participation numbers in the basement, it sounded pretty good. For the second half of the set he brought the Wooldridge Brothers back up as his backing band, and many of the songs, like the always enjoyable “Commodore Peter,” benefitted from the full band treatment.
Despite the fact that the Silos drew a capacity crowd back in 2007, the crowds have been smaller for Salas-Humara’s last couple solo shows. Tonight was the best turnout yet, hopefully that bodes well for future shows. And it couldn’t have hurt that the Wisconsin State Journal was in the house tonight taking photos that would ultimately end up on the front page of the Sunday’s Best section the next month.
The Wooldridge Brothers