Dig that Merry Virgin was co-written during a snowy winter FAWM session by two Madison, WI writers and performers. The recording also features the soulful vocal talent of two more Madison artists, Andrew Nath and Erin O'brien. Tim Haub, area librarian and lead guitarist, lends some tasty picking to complete our joyous holiday noel. Dig that Merry Virgin aspires to make its place in your annual playlist. Dig That Merry Virgin should not be taken with any degree of historical accuracy or religious zealotry. Can you dig it?
As a young rocker from the Minnesota valley of Rochester, Michael Gruber first loved the song craft of Lennon and McCartney, Bob Dylan, and Paul Westerburg. Following the drop of a needle in the well worn grooves of Leo Kottke's Mudlark and Greenhouse lps, a deep admiration of finger-style guitar lead Gruber to pursue music studies in a conservatory setting. He graduated with a BFA- guitar performance degree but his love of songs brought him back to writing and singing, recording and arranging.
His first cd, Yesterday Is Make Believe, is an easy swinging collection of folk with R&B leanings, pop songs and finger-style acoustic artistry. Gruber uses his production talents to mix vocal harmonies with live performances and samples. Each song has a unique sound with instrumental contributions from Biff U. Blumfumgagnge on violin, Lil Rev on harmonica, and Peter Roller on dobro.
Gruber's history in the Madison music scene includes playing side man to Jim James and the Damn Shames, Mark Croft, Josh Harty, and members of The Hang Loueys. Long ago he played bass and sang with Milwaukee band Blackfish. These days he mostly plays his guitar and sings solo at house parties, patio concerts, backyard gatherings, and just about any venue that hosts live music. He also is a prominent player in two Madison bands: The Sugar Daddies is a classic RnB harmony-driven project with Andrew Nath; The Palace Flophouse Players is a collective of Madison songwriters that occasional performs Americana roots and records soon to be holiday classics.
The music of James T. Spartz exposes deep influences from across the American Roots songbook. Notes of Folk, Country, Rockabilly, Blues, Rock and a little Basie-style jazz all pop up. Having been a mainstay in the Madison, WI music scene for over a decade, Spartz has spent much of that time fronting the roots-rock quartet Jim James & The Damn Shames. Train enthusiasts might recognize the band’s song CP Rails (also featuring Michael Gruber on backing vocals) as the soundtrack to a widely circulated video showcasing many a Canadian Pacific Railway rattler. More recently, the folk duo “Hello, Central.” (with Spartz along with fellow University of Wisconsin graduate student, Camille Rogers) has garnered positive attention on the local coffeehouse circuit. As a PhD student studying science/environmental communication, Spartz has even found ways to mix his love of music and nature with academic pursuits. His song “Clean Boats, Clean Waters” has been used internationally in social marketing campaigns to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.