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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Midwest Western

The Championship embrace rural Americana

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Oneof Bay View’s rootsiest bands has just gotten rootsier. The Championship’s 2005 debut album was a more modern exercise in Americana, firmly grounded in contemporary folk-rock and alt-country, but there’s little about the group’s rustic new album, Midnight Golden, that couldn’t have been recorded decades ago.

“We wanted to get back to that late-’60s, early-’70s, AM gold feel,” explains singer/songwriter Joe Crockett, “but the album definitely turned out more country than I’d expected. It’s still my songwriting, but once you add that steel guitar, it takes on much more of a western feel.”

Mournful twang, lonesome harmonica and leisurely songs about long drives and drinking lend to the country vibe, and this time out, Crockett’s voice has taken on some of Waylon Jennings’ gravity. The album is contentedly pensive; if The National recorded a country album, it might sound like this.

The band’s new multi-instrumentalist Allen Cote, an old schoolmate of Crockett’s who moved back to Milwaukee from Austin, Texas, to join the group, can take some credit for the band’s more westernized sound, but Crockett doesn’t expect The Championship to cut another record as mellow as Midnight Golden anytime soon.

They’ve been toying with some more driven material for a future EP. “We’ve done two albums that have been mildly quiet now,” Crockett says. “We’ve gotten that out of our system. I can only write so many songs on an acoustic guitar without them beginning to sound the same, so it’s just a matter of me turning to the electric guitar, and we’ll come up with something maybe not heavier, but a little more rock ‘n’ roll.”

The Championship play a CD release party for Midnight Golden at their venue of choice, The Cactus Club, on Saturday, April 12, with openers The Blueheels and The Record Low.

Rooftop Barbecue: Milwaukee’s all-ages arts collective the Borg Ward takes full advantage of the increasingly pleasant spring weather to host a rooftop barbecue before its 6 p.m. punk show on Sunday, April 13. On the bill are Lefty Loosie, a delightfully bubbly, female-fronted pop-punk group that nods to Pinhead Gunpowder and The Clean; Milwaukee ’80s-punk worshippers Bear Proof Suit; and Minneapolis lo-fi punks Cortez the Killer (not to be confused with the New York or U.K. groups that share that band name).

WAMI Countdown: The annual Wisconsin Area Music Industry Awards Show is quickly approaching. Tickets to the April 28 event at Turner Hall are on sale now at www.wamimusic.com, and a complete list of WAMI nominees is posted on ExpressMilwaukee.com’s music page.

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