Riverwest is presently riding a wave of talented twenty-somethings who are pitching in oodles of enthusiasm, classical training, and a host of styles that are equally eclectic and inventive to forge an understated renaissance of folk, bluegrass, and Americana in Milwaukee. One of the latest contributions to the tight-knit, continually updated canon that already boasts up-and-comers like Ugly Brothers, Calamity Janes And The Fratney Street Band, Lousy Trouts, Ladders, and so many others is Grasping At Straws. In fact, Straws even features an Ugly Bro and a Fratney Street resident in its ranks. Despite the overlap in its makeup, the band’s self-titled debut album offers something that’s somewhat off the beaten path of the cleaner, more delicate output of its neighborhood brethren.
Recorded by Rob Hickey at the Tannery in Bay View over the course of the spring and into the summer (and later mastered by Tony Scholl), the 10-song introduction finds Grasping At Straws veering wildly and entertainingly between sub-genres, driven by the gruff, calculatedly cracking and oft-unhinged voice of primary singer Josh Backes. As they twist and turn through the loops of emotive folk (best expressed in “Like Smoke”), classic bluegrass (“Ridin’ A Fence”), and borderline streetgrass that’s reminiscent of a darkened and slowed-down .357 String Band (“Warm Blanket”), Grasping At Straws is kept on track by all-around versatile musicianship (highlighted by Palmer Shah’s banjo plucking and the fiddle work of Ernie Brusubardis) and infallible harmonies (spearheaded by Kate Salscheider and Maggie Iken). Sure, Grasping At Straws is the latest release in the long, crowded line of young Riverwest kids playing music with banjo, fiddle, and upright bass. However, the wandering work also serves to extend the stylistic coverage area of the neighborhood’s burgeoning folk and bluegrass scenes. Listen to it now, only at Milwaukee Record.
Grasping At Straws will release its debut album Saturday, September 27 at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn. Caley Conway And The Lucy Cukes, Pay The Devil, and Renegade Lightning Rebellion play in support. The 21+ show begins at 9 p.m. and costs $5 at the door.