It may be common for Madison musicians to collaborate, but it's rare that one CD captures the sound of several local influences as clearly as on Jim Schwall's Short Stories.
You'll hear strains of the Cajun Strangers in Brian O'Donnell's fiddle, echoes of the Stellanovas in Mary Gaines' cello and the rhythm of the Bar Time Lovers in Ken Stevenson and Ethan Noordyk's bass and drums. At the center of it all is Schwall's priceless wit and wisdom.
The country-folk of "Sunday Go-to-Cheatin'" lends a down-home feeling to a wife's infidelity. She schedules her indiscretions between cooking omelets and taking the kids to soccer and ballet, during the weekly time she says she's going to church.
"Again" is a sad love song grounded in gentle guitar. The verses pine for a romantic escape from too much work, too many bills and too many lonely nights at the bar. It's a sonic wish for companionship that never comes to pass.
The album concludes with a resounding memorial for a "Jersey Boy," a charismatic, beloved man remembered for his resourcefulness. "He could cut marble. He could weld. He could edit a book," sings Schwall. The song's pathos is carried by Schwall's delicate guitar work.
Short Stories captures everyday boredom, joy and heartache with the richness you'd expect from one of Madison's best songwriters.