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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Paul Cebar Explores That Tomorrow Sound

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"I wanted to put a name on the forward thrust of what we're doing," Paul Cebar says of his decision to change band names a few years ago. Except for the group he once shared with John Sieger, the R&B Cadets, he had performed under the handle of Paul Cebar and the Milwaukeeans since the early '80s, until the shift to the Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound. "A lot of the press I was getting always spoke of me as the archivist of this or that," he continues. "There certainly was an antiquarian bent to me at the beginning. The '30s, '40s and '50s colored my world. But I've been writing my own songs for 25-30 years now and our set list isn't peppered with Louis Jordan covers anymore."

Like an old-growth tree with many concentric rings, Cebar has grown from deep roots. Grounded primarily in mid-century R&B, Cebar developed a more contemporary, funky sound with a scope that continued to expand along with his famous omnivorous record collection. "We staked out a wide turf to begin with—putting our arms around Caribbean music, soul, American funk, New Orleans," Cebar explains. "For the most part, our music has become more of a meld of influences, an interaction—and hopefully more recognizable as its own thing."

During the past decade, Cebar has sought opportunities to collaborate with other songwriters. "It's been a really good experience, a way to write a different kind of tune—a number of different kinds of tunes," he says. Cebar has written with Milwaukee's Paul Finger and Willy Porter, Milwaukee expatriate Peter Mulvey, and Nashville's Pat McLaughlin and Chuck Mead. Just out is Cebar's second CD with story collector David Greenberger, They Like Me Around Here, which features the Tomorrow Sound and guests laying down a soulful groove under snippets of Greenberger's conversations with elders in Sheboygan senior centers and homes. Along with Cebar on vocals and guitar, Tomorrow Sound includes Mike Fredrickson on bass, Mac Perkins on percussion and Reggie Bordeaux on drums. A new Tomorrow Sound CD has been recorded.

"Its release is on the horizon, but I don't know where that horizon is," Cebar says. "We're trying to find a home for it where someone can give it promotion and distribution."
Changing the band name could be called re-branding, but, as Cebar adds, "We don't have Don Draper guiding our campaign. I carried the Milwaukeeans' banner for a long time in a stubborn attempt to point out the anti-provincial nature of what we're doing. Some people would expect a polka band when we'd show up in a new town—and it was a sweet realization when they heard what we're trying to do."

Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound performs 8 p.m. April 14 at Shank Hall.
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