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Semi-Twang @ Shank Hall

March 19, 2011

Mar. 23, 2011
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Perhaps Semi-Twang was guilty of being ahead of its time. In 1988 the Milwaukee band released its debut album, Salty Tears, on Warner Bros. at the height of MTV, big hair and synthesizers.In hindsight John Sieger's Nashville-by-way-of-Memphis songs didn't stand a chance.Today, in the wake of Americana, alt-country, No Depression or whatever else you care to name the genre, Semi-Twang no longer seems quite so alone.

Opening with the rollicking"Sonny Liston,"then diving into the swamp of "Do It" and rolling right on through their new album, Wages of Sin, in its running order, the sextet took over Shank Hall for an evening of rootsy rock 'n' roll.

Semi-Twang's genius lies in the playing of a trio of guitarists that appears as coordinated as a three-man weave on a basketball court. Over the course of a handful of solo albums, John Sieger has demonstrated that his songs can go toe-to-toe with nearly anyone. His spare guitar playing this night left plenty of room for Mike Hoffmann's textured fills and Jason Klagstad's lead work.Throughout the evening all three traded roles at will.

The foundation for all this was bassist Mike Sieger, who contributed incomparable brotherly vocal harmonies, and drummer Bob Schneider, who still may be the most underrated drummer in town.Bob Jennings added accordion, sax and keyboards, most prominently on "It Ain't Gonna Happen Again." This band is a powerhouse, but its true talent lies in the restraint employed by all the musicians.

Following the performance of Wages of Sin, the band dove into its back catalog. Sieger's wordplay on "Disappearing Ink" recalled Chuck Berry and Nick Lowe. Near the end of the night they played "After Hours," a sublime and aptly named tune that perfectly bookended the evening.


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