Recently we’ve been working with local musicians from the Wisconsin Roots Music Cooperative. The Coop is a forum for artists to collaborate and help each other gain exposure. It’s one of a myriad of ideas and to come out of the bohemian collective that thrives at Driftless Books and Music in Viroqua, Wisconsin.
The bookstore, located a few blocks off the main drag near the railroad tracks, takes residence in a former tobacco warehouse managed by Mr. Eddy Nix, one of the Coop’s cofounders. The thoughts of half a million different authors bombard you as you wander through stacks that continue from room to room and floor to floor. Up an old freight elevator is an insulated room where musicians stow away to practice and play for hours. It was here Star B Imaging and the Coop teamed up to host a series of recordings featuring local artists in “The Bookstore Sessions“.
The room, with its 18-foot high ceilings, served as cold storage for tobacco for nearly a 100 years. Now, it makes the perfect isolation chamber for audio recording and an elegant backdrop for our videos. Before it was re-purposed as a recording studio, pianos were parted out and repaired here and excess incoming books were stacked and stored. To prepare for recording, we cleared out as much as possible to allow space for cameras, recording equipment, and a limited audience.
We have recorded a variety of artists in the space now, and continue to learn a lot with each session. For each video, I create an audio mix and blend up to six camera angles featuring the performer. During the editing process, I often develop a unique connection to each song and artist. When I spend so much time with their material, I learn their lyrics, the chords, harmonies and subtle nuances of their song.
Anima is a duo I’ve recorded that resulted in one of our favorite sessions videos. The strong female pair just graduated from the local Waldorf High School. With their haunting harmonies and rhythmic folk riffs, they may have performed at the bookstore more than any other group.
Another pair of Viroqua’s own comprise The Medicine Brothers. This train-driving jug band duo is the current project of Shawn Neary and another Coop cofounder Sandler Waggoner and sounds like the Man in Black meets Gus Cannon.
Of course, we always like working with Eddie Danger, the third Coop founder, who recorded Dig A Hole during this session accompanied by a vintage Wurlitzer Side Man. The analog drum machine was the first ever commercially produced (back in the 1950s), and seemed appropriate for the venue.
Stay tuned for more projects featuring the Wisconsin Roots Music Cooperative when the Bookstore opens next Spring (closed for season).