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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

‘Iowa Outlaws & San Francisco Angels’ on Sondheim stage Saturday

Apr 03, 2018

Four songwriters are coming together for a night of poets and prophets at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center’s Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts stage to close the 2017-18 FAIRfest at the Sondheim series.

“Iowa Outlaws & San Francisco Angels” features William Elliott Whitmore and David Zollo’s new band Middle Western and Jolie Holland and Samantha Parton of The Be Good Tanyas.

Iowa singer-songwriters Whitmore from Montrose and Zollo from Iowa City are joined in Middle Western by Steve Doyle and Brian Cooper and will charge through a set of bluesy, roots-rock, while Zollo and Whitmore alternate take the lead vocals on different songs. Middle Western brings together the influences and talents of its members to create something unique and familiar.

Merging the unique piano, strings and singing styles of its two front men, Paste Magazine recently named Middle Western as one of the “9 Best Things We Saw at Daytrotter Downs,” which is Daytrotter’s annual festival in Davenport.

Middle Western is the culmination of almost 20 years of friendship and discussion between Whitmore, Zollo, and Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist, sideman and producer, Stephen “The Kid” Howard. Zollo and Howard played together in The Body Electric, the band Zollo formed after his first group, High and Lonesome, disbanded, and both played on recordings of Whitmore’s.

In 2011, the three began performing together, along with Body Electric drummer Brian Cooper, under Whitmore and Zollo’s names, but the idea of forming a group that would write together and employ multiple singers, began taking shape.

In 2015, with the addition of Chicago-based lead guitarist Steve Doyle, Middle Western was born. Work began immediately on writing songs for a debut recording, which was begun at Iowa City’s Flat Black Studios in March 2017.

With Whitmore moving to bass guitar and Howard playing lead and rhythm electric guitars; Doyle on all manner of slide guitars; Zollo on keys and Cooper on drums, and Whitmore, Zollo and Howard sharing singing duties, Middle Western mixes the members’ many, varied, influences to create a sound that is both comfortable yet distinctive. From punk rock to New Orleans-inspired piano stompers, and everything in between, the band has a sound that is, frankly, Middle Western in nature.

Despite Whitmore and Zollo having decades of experience between them, Middle Western still is a relatively new collaboration. You can say you saw one of their early shows by catching the band at the Sondheim.

Holland and Parton, the two original founders of wildly popular The Be Good Tanyas, have joined forces once again to create a newly inspired duo of songwriters. Holland, a singer with an immediately arresting voice and Parton, joins in with breathtaking harmonies, will be presenting fresh arrangements of Be Good Tanyas material, as well as songs from their separate catalogs. Their new project, as always, is a page from the big book of North Americana and outsider folk.

It’s been 15 years since Holland and Parton, first joined forces. Holland had grown up in Texas, and by her teens was performing as a traveling musician. In the mid-1990s, San Francisco was home for a time before she made her way to Vancouver and co-founded the group.

Vancouver singer-songwriter Parton had spent her post-high school years traveling with her guitar, and drawing strong musical influence from visits to the southern U.S. Holland contributed to the Tanyas’ Blue Horse LP in 2001 before moving back to San Francisco. Parton continued to tour and record with The Be Good Tanyas until two car accidents and other health concerns took her off the road in 2012.

Following the hiatus, Holland and Parton, have started a new chapter in their ever-evolving creative songwriting relationship. They are touring in support of the critically acclaimed Wildflower Blues.

On the album’s 10 tracks, they weave together influences spanning jazz, blues, country, folk, rock, experimental, and the great wide history of American song, into their own kind of soul music. Wildflower Blues features mostly original tracks written by Holland and Parton, as well as re-imagined versions of songs by Bob Dylan, Michael Hurley, and Townes Van Zandt.

Tickets for Iowa Outlaws and San Francisco Angels are $25 for Zone 1, $18 for zone 2, $15 for Zone 3 & 4. Youth and student tickets are $10. Tickets are available at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center ticket office, 472-2787 and online at www.FairfieldACC.com.

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