We Three Friends
Yata, Sinz, and Orfield album offers acoustic gems
Words: Tom Giffey
Review for Dancing in the Light
TRIPLE THREAT. Singer/guitarist Yata Peinovich, saxophonist Sue Orfield, and bassist Randy Sinz – all local music scene veterans – have formed Yata, Sinz, and Orfield, releasing a full album called Dancing in the Light.
The debut album from Yata, Sinz, and Orfield is a folky, intimate affair, so perhaps it’s appropriate that the trio of veteran musicians squeezed into a cozy booth at Acoustic Café to discuss the new record during a recent lunch hour. Over sandwiches and soup in a venue where their tunes would be perfectly fitting, the musicians’ strong personal and musical rapport was on display as they talked about their album, Dancing in the Light.
The Chippewa Valley-based trio is composed of singer and guitarist Yata Peinovich, saxophonist Sue Orfield, and bassist Randy Sinz, and to say they have well-honed musical chops is an understatement. Among them, they’ve got more than a century of performing under their belts: Orfield fronts her own eponymous band, and performs with and tours the Midwest (and the world) with several others musical groups, including AcoustiHoo and the Tiptons Sax Quartet; Sinz lays down basslines for the Sue Orfield Band, AcoustiHoo, Rada Dada, and others; while Peinovich has been exploring folk, rock, blues, and beyond for decades as a solo artist and in numerous combos.
Peinovich and Orfield first played together about six years ago, and the latter helped the former on his 2012 record Nature Girl, which was produced by bass player Mark Healey of the classic rock band Badfinger. When Healey got busy with other projects, Peinovich and Orfield asked Sinz to join them on bass about three years ago.
“This particular group has been such a blessing,” Orfield explains. “There’s a great chemistry with us. There’s a mutual respect.”
“I actually like him,” Sinz chimes in dryly. Peinovich grins; the continuous, good-natured joking is part of the trio’s honesty with each other, he explains.
Orfield describes the album as a blend of folk and Americana informed by swing jazz. Peinovich was the album’s primary songwriter, although he got an assist on the lyrics from a quartet of famous poets – Robert Burns, Adrienne Rich, William Butler Yeats, and Langston Hughes – whose words he set to music. The album opens with a smoky, jazzy version of Burns’ ballad “A Red, Red Rose.” After that the songs weave between introspective (“Waking First”), humorous (“My Gal Sal”), and upbeat (“Rocker Makin’ Racket”), all without breaking a sweat. The vibe here is acoustic and mellow.
“When I bring a song to this group, I’m amazed how quickly they pick it up,” Peinovich says. Consider the song “C# or Bb” (for those who don’t understand musical notation, that’s pronounced “See Sharp or Be Flat”), which gets its title from a Muhammad Ali quip. “They just ran with it,” Peinovich says. “Randy had this little Motown riff. … Sue just finds this catchy melody that just hooks us in.”
Amid the musicianship, some cheeky humor stands out: Consider the sci-fi syncopation of “Atomic a Go-Go” (originally an Orfield instrumental) and the tuba-driven closing number, “Music in the Outhouse” (which Peinovich says was inspired by a real-life incident during which he contemplated taking shelter in an outhouse during a gig).
The album was primarily recorded at Orfield and Sinz’s home between April and November, with Sinz engineering and mixing. For acoustic reasons, the three musicians were often spread out around the house, unable to see each other. Despite this physical distance, the album exudes a notable warmth and intimacy – the kind you’ll find when three friends come in from the cold and crowd into a coffee shop booth.
Nature Girl & Imagination Nation
Words by Timothy Young
Review for Nature Girl & Imagination Nation
A trip through sing-songwriter Yata’s two new CDs is a tour through familiar sensations with new, mysterious delights. One CD, Imagination Nation, is the fascinating instrumental version of the other—the spirited song cycle, Nature Girl.
Once again, the ever-optimistic Yata Peinovich shares his unbridled love of life and wife through his lyrics and highly crafted music.
Recorded in Yata’s home territory of Durand, Wisconsin by producer and bassist, Mark Healey of the classic rock group, Badfinger, each CD is like a country road you haven’t walked in awhile. The songs are old growth melody trees simultaneously feeling new and fresh, like that first spring glimpse of a wild, Wisconsin trillium.
The CD, Nature Girl, features Yata’s clear, tenor voice and his lyrical appreciation for the world he knows so well, whether a local river town or his ever-renewing love for his wife, as in the song, Cool, Queen Jean. This song features the tasty slide guitar of Yata’s neighbor, Tim Caswell, and an edgy surprise in Yata’s usually polished vocals. It’s a great credit to Yata that he can call upon friends like Healey, Caswell, saxophonist, Sue Orfield, and Howard “Guitar” Luedtke who rock various cuts with solos that ascend to the realms of mastery. As long Yata continues to sing, write music, and bring together such fine players we will never be out of reach of the deeper expressions of life and love.
The songs, Del Mar, (Sue Orfield’s sax solo rolls like beach sex) Cocobutter, (it’s pure happiness) Nature Girl, (with a melody as addictive as maple sugar) and Go Slow (with its rum-and-coke pedal steel) come right out of Yata and his wife Jean’s winter adventures on tropical islands. Yet, those of us who know his repertoire aren’t surprised when we find his optimistic social beliefs pouring through Imagination Nation or Rewrite History, where he asks us to “make the world shine.”
As this CD continues, we begin to witness Yata’s mature soul. Cellist Dean Langby gives deep resonance to two songs and amplifies that soulfulness. On first hearing Rise and Fall and the poignant lullaby, Good Night, Ian, my notes say, “This collection of songs is a rosary--with beads of beauty and optimism strung on a thread of sorrow, represented by the cello’s long notes.”
The grinning Yata, however, makes sure we don’t swim too long in any sorrow. The CD ends with a good-time tune of small town Americana—Mississippi River Rag. This song, with Yata in faux Louis Armstrong form, has the timeless feel of early American songs. While a tuba, clarinet and snapping syncopations support the fun-loving Yata, an eternal light of happiness buoys the listener and infuses us with optimism. What a wonderful world—with men like Yata who give us their music!!!
The instrumental versions of these songs are collected on the second CD, Imagination Nation. As I listened, I realized that this collection is the soundtrack of a man’s purposeful life. One doesn’t always need words to share one’s feelings and thoughts. This CD highlights the melodies and the fine musical talents of Yata and his friends. The music is saturated with his friendships, his American philosophy, his drive, willpower, technical expertise, and his ongoing re-examination and reminiscence of the artistic life, his family life, his married life and love. Yata is an artist whose loves are on his sleeves. They are in these vocals, these tunes and in the spirit of his generosity and we are lucky to have his gifts anytime we turn on the music.
Timothy Young, poet, St. Paul, MN
Thanks so much for the CD . I LOVE IT... dancing to Cocobutter and Mississippi Rag!!......Yata you are such a talented musician and singer. I'm so glad you have stayed with it over all these years. You bring great joy to many...
~MTG, Fargo, ND
Yata's music comes out of folk but is genre-bending, incorporating jazz, rockabilly, gospel, Americana and blues into his smooth, tranquil songs....Both of Yata's new records are heavily inspired by the natural world (in fact, the Chippewa and Red Cedar Rivers actually get a writing credit on Imagination Nation.).
~Thom Fountain, music editor, VolumeOne, Eau Claire, WI
2008 - YOUNG & YATA
Snow Has Fallen
Poet, Timothy Young and singer/songwriter, Yata Peinovich have collaborated to produce Snow Has Fallen—fourteen tracks of music and poetry. These two mature artists clothe lyrics with multiform melodies, driving rhythms and piercing harmonies. For today’s listener, Young and Yata offer a new trail into the wild realm of spoken word art.
These tracks maintain the integrity of Young’s contemporary poetry and feature his gritty vocal performances. Yata’s fertile garden of guitar sounds and his impeccable singing are highlighted by his melodic compositions. A chorus here and there, a few poems transformed into songs, and a variety of emotional tones and poignant observations make Snow Has Fallen unique and accessible.
Bruce Hecksel engineered the recording and provides layers of musical solos, savvy accompaniments and deft productions. Add an occasional confection from Dalyce Elliott’s violin, and this work reaches back in time and honors an attention to the natural world of Troubador minstrels while pushing ahead to the Twenty First Century. It dives into timeless love and cavorts in a delight for the complexities of life.
Share this poetry, these messages and the music with your friends. If you feel so inclined, review it for any of the various on-line venues, blogs, or paper publications. Lyrics are published and available online at Praise for SNOW HAS FALLEN
For decades Timothy Young has pursued the music of poetry, while Yata Peinovich’s songwriting has consistently showcased a poet's sensibility. What luck for us listeners that these two heart-minstrels should meet and combine their talents in this deeply felt and richly modulated collection of poem-songs. Their unique delivery, equal parts rocksalt and honey, is as refreshing and joyful as a drive through Wisconsin's Mississippi River bluff country in late spring.
~Thomas R. Smith, poet & musician, River Falls, Wisconsin
author of Waking before Dawn, 2007
We know that Timothy Young is some kind of rare Irish Tiger, semi-mythical, with a fondness for kindling and heading out of town before dawn. His poetry has the sharpened tips of a hunter, but he laces the stalk of his arrows with honeysuckle and brandy, so that we make ourselves willing targets. He is an emerging and brilliant performer of the spoken word, and carries something very ancient with him.
SNOW HAS FALLEN is a raw, deep and precious thing. Its top branches are singed by firebirds wings and its roots are in ancient clay. Sell the car, make love by rivers, befriend impossible odds-its messages take hold like a heavy wine your grandmother warned you about.
Young and Yata are soulful outlaws giving away treasure from the Temple. This CD is absolutely superb-My Heart is Your Home is going to become the anthem of some kind of new movement just stirring in the land. There is something new happening here, I sense trouble. Best record of 2008 I'll wager.
~Martin Shaw, mythologist, storyteller & musician, Devon, UK
author of A Branch from the Lightning Tree, 2008
These are poems rooted in the realities of life; poems that do not flinch from the truth, but look deeply into it to find nourishment and joy. The best work here has both grit and shine, and recklessly seeks beauty among the scars. I love Pilgrimage especially, a terrific piece.
~Jay Leeming, poet & musician, Ithaca, New York
author of Dynamite on a China Plate, 2006
2008 - BRYCE & YATA
“If you can't get up a head of steam... you're gonna have to make it on sheer caffeine.”
That's a line that Wisconsin songwriter Bryce Black says popped into his groggy brain "real early one morning" years ago, as he was desparately trying to wake up and rush off to his day job. Fortunately, that line stuck in his head and started percolating. Eventually it was brewed up into Sheer Caffeine, the energizing title cut on the eagerly awaited first recording recently released by Bryce and his long-time neighbor, friend and collaborator, Yata Peinovich.
Bryce & Yata's new release is crammed with 13 witty and thought-provoking original songs. They range from wicked social satire and irreverent whimsy, to the profound, heartfelt meditation "Loving the Questions."
One of the funniest songs on the album, "Mad Cow," (a moooving invitation to "express your inner bovine") won First Prize in the Folk Song Competition at the 2004 Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference.
Bryce’s rich bass voice is perfectly offset by Yata’s deft vocal harmonies and irresistible jazz/rock/reggae/blues flavored rhythm guitar work. Yata has performed on A Prairie Home Companion and was a member of Minneapolis trio Artesian Dreams (recipient of a Minnesota Music Association award for Best Folk Band).
This album was produced by Bruce Hecksel of the nationally known "Fast Forward Folk" duo Patchouli. Bruce is a man of many talents, who variously adds lead guitar, bass, banjo, keyboards, marimba, and a broad spectrum of percussion to these eclectic, imaginative folk/acoustic arrangements.
2007 - Yata and Dave Ja Vue
Spirit of the Raven
Drawing on the great poetry and philosophy of the ages, Wisconsin songwriters Yata and Dave Ja Vue announce the release of their new original CD collaboration “Spirit of the Raven”. Dave and Yata weave into their lyrics the thoughts of culturally diverse thinkers such as: Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher; Chief Seattle, Native American leader; Isaiah, biblical prophet; and Wallace Stevens, post-modern American poet.
The ten songs on this recording open with “Valley Spirit”- a spiritual quest over a topography of mountains, valleys and prairies with Yata's voice echoing down the canyons. In the next song “The Man with the Blue Guitar” a dialogue takes place between an interpretive artist, and those living in a literal world. “Footyprints” is a cry for common sense and compassion for the environment, fully expressed in three part harmony vocals with Thea Ennen and Julie Patchouli joining Yata , while Ja Vue drives the song with his vintage Gibson guitar.
Bassist Randy Madsen and drummer Harvey Fields contribute colorful touches in the instrumental arrangement that accompany the transformation of “caterpillar, chrysalis, metamorphosis” in the dream song called “I Thought I Had Wings”. “Spirit World” describes how one can find their own peace even when science and scriptures cannot agree.
The title track “Raven” tells the true story of a young man who lost his life in the Gulf Wars, yet his voice is heard in a dream while reappearing in the form of a raven. “Spirit of the Raven in a young man's soul, I can hear his song, through the wind it blows”. The recording concludes with a 2500 year old poem by Lao Tzu which concerns the price of wealth versus the value of self in “Sidetracked”. The percussion work of Marc Anderson highlights this carefree and danceable song.
Ja Vue is a noted jazz, folk, poet guitarist as well as a record producer. His instrumental arrangements have been used to score a diverse array of programs from award winning documentaries on PBS, to the modern dance choreography of the Ozone Dance Company. He has taught guitar methodology, harmony and jazz theory, and writes articles on the “Origins of Harmony”.
Yata is a prolific songwriter, singer and guitarist, known for his skill in setting poetry to music. He coordinates the music for area events such as the Stockholm Art Fair, Laura Days in Pepin, WI and the Emerging Artist Program held last New Years Eve at the Mable Tainter Theater. He is a licensed social worker as well as a representative for the watercolor work of his wife, artist Jean Accola.
Dave and Yata began their songwriting careers in the 70's at St. Olaf College. They have made a commitment to producing original recordings with poetically derived lyrics, and presenting shows in a variety of musical styles.
Mad as the Mist and Snow
Music by Yata. Poetry by Wm. Butler Yeats. Produced by D. Griffith Peterson.
Review in Free Verse by Timothy Young
Mad as the Mist and Snow is songwriter Yata Peinovich’s musical homage to the poet, William Butler Yeats. Listening to this CD has the same throat-catching thrill as watching an oriole drink sugar water from a hummingbird feeder. Yata contorts and stretches his musical affections- sometimes upside-down, sometimes sideways, sometimes perched, sometimes fluttering like the hummingbird-and all the while drinking deeply from pure music and poetry. This is a courageous task with a beautiful result. The hummingbird poet defies natural laws by directly drinking from the spring of poetry and we expect that from great poets, like Yeats. But when a musical oriole unexpectedly adapts the deep poems to his own bright and colorful ways, listeners are doubly blessed.
As a musical bird whose voice carries these poems from the tops of trees, Yata honors twelve Yeats poems with original musical compositions. This is not a gravelly, Dylanesque collection nor a clever, chocolatey Greg Brown CD. This is a CD of distilled colors, tones, and refined liqueurs with the old-fashioned sweetness and bitterness of old Irish theatre or blind, Breton troubadours. As a labor of love, it began and continued over seventeen years and has culminated with this CD collection. The music, with Yata on guitar and accompanied by his former Artesian Dreams mates, D. Griffith Peterson and Jim Price, hints of Irish folk music, yet it is a more timeless troubadour music that knows no ethnic boundary. In fact, when Carly Harschlip sings the lead vocal on “Girl’s Song”, a haunting gift emerges from another world-maybe The Sidhe:
And that was all my song
When everything is told,
Saw I an old man young
Or young man old?
The paradoxes of time on which Yeats loved to dwell are also captured in the mandoin and tenor guitar work of Kari Larson, whose penetrating sols match Yata’s bittersweet vocals, especially on “The Lover Pleads with his Friend for Old Friends.” When Yeats writes:
But think of old friends the most:
Time’s bitter flood will rise,
Your beauty perish and be lost
For all eyes but these eyes.
Yata writes, plays and sings as if grasped by that flood of beauty, and Jim Price uses his violin to give us the same delicacy an illuminator would give when using gold on an old manuscript.
There’s an old saying: “Death and Beauty lie in the same direction", and Mad as the Mist and Snow carries us that way with a quavering grace of which Yeats would be proud. We are lucky to have this music available. Yata has given us a musical opus of gorgeously loving art.
Review in Dunn County News by Deb Anderson (Menomonie, WI)
While Yeats, born in 1865, found fascination with Celtic folklore, reincarnation, the supernatural and mysticism, he also derived satisfaction from writing about human reflection, a link shared with his present-day contemporary. It would seem his desire to have his thoughts given melody have transcended time, his enchantment with mediums having paid off after all. Capturing various moods, the CD’s tunes range from melancholy, playful, wistful, haunting and touching.
Review in Eau Claire Leader-Telegram by Pamela Powers
Kathy Stahl, host of “Spectrum West”, an arts and humanities program on Wisconsin Public Radio stations said she likes the CD because of its range of commentary on life.“Yata can do a lot of different things with his voice,” she said. “There is such a tenderness and honesty in his voice.”Stahl added that he also did an excellent job interpreting the poetry and putting the lyrics to music that really fits them. “The range of music Yata does is pretty incredible and that speaks to the depth of his emotional perceptiveness,” Stahl said.
2002 - Yata and Michael Flaherty
Mississippi River Blues
Music by Yata. Lyrics by Yata, Robert Burns, Robert Browning and William Butler Yeats. Produced by Tim Caswell
Review by Billboard of Mabel Tainter Theatre by Gary Schuster
Mississippi River Blues was nine years in the making. It came to birth along the backroad establishments and country fairs throughout Western Wisconsin. Yata and Michael have combined their pure vocal harmonies with an ensemble of musicians from the coulees and hills of West Central Wisconsin to create a bodacious, emotional sound. This album comes right out of the gate, rockin’ with Rocker Makin’ Racket, a slick rockabilly number with a swing backbeat. The richness of this album comes from both men who draw from a deep well of experience. The Mable Tainter is proud to present these veteran regional musicians in an acoustic concert that promises to rock away your blues and reaffirm the soulful messages of life.
Borders of Eau Claire, WI
Yata and Flaherty. This rollicking blues/rock band promises to have your toes tappin’ in no time.
Mary, a singer/songwriter from Minneapolis
Your CD is so much FUN! It is such a great movement and dance CD and it also makes me amazed at your prolific writing talents. Wow. Great tunes, and fabulous delivery.
Boy With a Pail
Formerly titled “The Near Future of the Far Pasture” Yata ©1989. Music and Lyrics by Yata. Produced by Steve Tibbetts.
Review in Eau Claire Leader-Telegram by Chris DuPre
Yata lined up a major gun in the person of guitarist Steve Tibbetts, who records for the ECM label and runs his own studio.
The ten songs on “The Near Future of the Far Pasture” divide fairly neatly on the two sides. Quieter songs inhabit the first half, while the second brings in electric instruments and harder edges on some songs, quicker tempos on the acoustic tunes.
Throughout, the lyrics are thoughtful – occasionally sentimental (as in “Martha”, a ballad for a grandmother) and occasionally political. Yata sings them in a tenor that would sound familiar to Dan Fogelberg fans, and he’s joined in places by two female vocalists for interwoven harmonies.
The core of the recording has Yata and Tibbetts on guitars and Marc Anderson on percussion. On one tune, ex-bandmate (of Artesian Dreams) Jim Price provides violin, mandolin and piano, Michelle Kinney adds cello and Steve Kimmel plays recorder. On “Wisconsin Waltz”, Yata is backed by Randy Sabien on violin and mandolin.The most fetching aspect of the tape is the three part harmonies, with singers Cisko and Kate Shaughnessy.
Review in The Alley by Steve Parker (Minneapolis)
Singer-songwriter Yata Peinovich has released ten songs on an excellent recording called The Near Future or the Far Pasture.
The music is varied in kind. There are love songs and songs of protest, there’s a meditation on a great-grandmother and another on a child playing at the beach, there is the saga of an aging rail worker, and there’s a lullaby. The arrangements and accompaniments are outstanding and feature a number of fine local musicians backing Yata’s vocals. My favorites are the personal songs, tunes like “Boy with a Pail”, “Martha”, “Directions”, and “(The Wonderful) Wisconsin Waltz”. I know that my preferences have to do with the way I like to remember Yata – as a warm, gentle, humorous person. I like the way he sings warm, gentle, good-humored songs.
Two songs recorded in Selbu, Norway (South of Hell … Norway) under a sun that never set, when tracing my family roots.
We Got to Make Music in the Outhouse (cuz we can't make music in the house)
We're Going to Hell (ya, it's up in Norway)
Yata - Vocals, guitar and mouth trumpets
Per Birger Kulseth - Bass and lead guitar, studio engineer
D. Griffith Peterson, Jim Price and Yata. ©1980. Produced by Fred DeVir, Peterson, Price and Yata.
Recipients of Minnesota Music Award for “Best Folk Band” in 1981. Also nominated for best male vocalist and best
Noted Performances and Reviews
Mabel Tainter Theatre in Menomonie,WI - Six CD release parties in 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2002 and 1989.
Email from Glen a singer/songwriter from Minneapolis
“I’m still flying from Thursday night! That was truly a dream come true for me to see you and the lads actually perform onstage. I hold the Artesian Dreams album as one of the finest ever made, and couldn’t believe the power of the music live. Well, that’s a lie. I knew the power was there, but I had no idea you’d pull it off so beautifully! My soul was fed the meal of a lifetime…”
Email from Pat from Durand, WI
“I marveled at the tremendous talent and energy that was spread throughout the theatre. I am not kidding, either. It was wonderful.”
Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Garrison Keillor on National Public Radio
“Talent from Towns Under 2000” in 1995. Also, performed on the show with Artesian Dreams in late 70’s.
Concert Performances in Twin Cities
Walker Art Center, Northrup Auditorium, Met Sports Center, University of Minnesota “Whole Coffeehouse” fronting Tom Paxton and John Hammond, Jr., Williams Pub, New Riverside Café, Coffeehouse Extempore, Minnesota Folk Festival, Minnesota Jazz Festival, Guthrie II, and many more.
Other Concerts in Colleges and Fine Dining/Cafés
St. Olaf College, University of Minnesota-Morris, Somebody Else’s Troubles (Chicago), Blue River Café (Milwaukee), Acoustic Café (Eau Claire and Menomonie, WI), Amazing Grace (Duluth), Stone’s Throw (Eau Claire), Blue Moon (Red Wing, MN), and many more.
“Yata is an entertainer of the first order, bringing life to the forefront through his witty use of music and storytelling.”
~Richard Thomas, owner of the Creamery Restaurant and Inn
(Downsville, WI – rated Top 10 Restaurants in WI)
longtime singer/songwriter takes new direction
Words: Thom Fountain
Review for "Y"
If you know Yata Peinovich's music, the first notes of Y are a real kick in the pants. His newest record adds a true rock direction to Yata's songwriting, with huge full arrangements and driving melodies.
"I'm always open to new challenges," Yata said. "I've always appreciated bands that don't have real predictability about them and are diverse."
The 61-year-old songwriter has definitely fallen in that camp over his long career, but for the most part has stayed in softer forms of music - being mostly well known for his folk, bluegrass, and jazz stylings. That's what makes the raw sound of this album so much more surprising and gratifying.
Yata was pushed in this direction with the help of Menomonie producer John Richardson.
The two connected after a show and Yata was invited to record some songs with a handful of Nashville-based studio musicians who were visiting the area. After three long days of recording, the beginnings of Y were taking shape - as was the new sound.
Richardson challenged Yata to stretch his songwriting to new levels, and the results pay off. Y has a huge sound in places, with driving rhythms and growling guitars. Songs like "Achin' for Love" and "Young Boy" maintain Yata's knack for melody (and his soaring voice), but layer it over a solid rock base.
Throughout the record, Yata borrows from a number of poets - something he's experimented with for much of his career. He said his day job as a social worker often leaves him drained at the end of the long day - and searching for inspiration.
"I would just crack a poetry book and pull out lyrics," Yata said. "It was some almost mystical connection. Sometimes the first one would jump out as a song. I'd let it inform a tune or sometimes just let the words jump off the page."
Some of the poets credited on Y are Walt Whitman, A.E. Housman, and even e.e. Cummings, though the most surprising is a nine-year-old named Ella Peinovich - Yata's daughter.
Now in her 30's, as a child Ella would sing in the kitchen and Yata has a distinct memory of scribbling down the lyrics to one of her songs before putting it to music. As the production for Y kicked off, he brought the song in and he and Richardson made it album-ready.
Wherever Yata is looking for inspiration, he must find it often. The prolific songwriter has now released ten albums in his career and continues to play and host music events around west-central Wisconsin. While there's nothing definite yet, Yata said he's sure it won't be long before he's back in the studio.
As to what it will sound like? We'll just have to wait and see.
Dancing in the Light
Words by Timothy Young
Review for Dancing in the Light
DANCING IN THE LIGHT, the new CD by Yata, Sinz and Orfield, is a paradox of familiar surprises by three exceptional artists. There is no mistake. This is music of high quality. Yata’s vocals are superb. Sue Orfield’s saxophone solos are as intriguing and delightful as a river trip on whitewater. Randy Sinz’s bass work holds the entire CD steady and smooth. As always, Yata’s songwriting is a bridge carrying the listener back and forth between deeper meanings and joyful musical light. His voice reminds me of honey sprinkled with thistle down. On the other hand, on the alt-country-styled KNOW MY NAME Randy Sinz’s voice feels as if it were a thistle dipped in honey.
The CD is ‘in the light’ yet Sue Orfield’s impeccable sax work makes this album completely human, as she explores darker tones and some of life’s shadows. Her solo on the title track finds those unexpected and perfect notes in her building solos. On any given track, she might show the aggressiveness of The Big Man, Clarence Clemons, or the smooth jazz vibe of John Klemmer. Then on her own composition, THE LAST TREE, she supplies a uniquely strong, feminine sound that caught me off guard. Another great surprise for me appears in Yata’s lyrics for ROCKER MAKIN’ RACKET. Just when I felt the 50s rock n’ roll fun was veering toward a cliché, he throws it to a new level rhyming “the man in the leather” with a woman “fanning her eyes with a peacock feather.” I love such surprises. Only experienced artists can make the familiar feel new.
The opening track, THE RED, RED ROSE, is Yata’s adaptation of Robert Burns’ 18th century poem, and as I listened I could have been in a jazz club in St. Louis in the 40s or 1970 Devon, England with the poet, Ted Hughes. But that is what these Wisconsin musicians give us in the age of Pandora, Spotify and YouTube.
These players have Western Wisconsin soil in their bones. The music comes from the heartland, and the heartland of American music is steeping in an amalgam of styles and influences. ATOMIC A-GO-GO feels as if Young Frankenstein meets Maxwell Smart and the Partridge Family in my pop-culture memory. WAKING FIRST, adapted from an Adrienne Rich poem, is not poetry, nor pop music, nor folk, but an elegant three- way bridge connecting the listener to a Jack Kerouac highway life. As he is wont to do, Yata also adapted another poem, Langston Hughes’, I’VE KNOWN RIVERS, and the song feels like a soul-trip around the earth. I have loved that poem for decades, and I love how Yata wrote it into a song.
The human struggle for existence also is exquisitely expressed whenever Gregg Wheeler’s harmonica appears at just the right time with just the right amount of ache and desire. And I best not forget--the harmonies on each track are exactly right, too, whether backing Mark Vlahakis’ smooth piano on RED, RED, ROSE or hyping the vaudevillian camp in MY GAL SAL, or goofin’ on MUSIC IN THE OUTHOUSE.
My head is still spinning, and I appreciate that. This album has the depth, the fun and the gutsy performances only mature artists are capable of providing.
Thanks, Yata, Sue and Randy.