Kzoo’s The Almanac Shouters to Play One Final Show

Posted by Garret Schuelke

THE ALMANAC SHOUTERS, a trio of Kalamazoo Folk-Punkers who ended their reign of glory in July 2011, is one of those bands that brings out my selfish side as a music lover: I adore the music, and I respect the musicians involved and want them to be successful and happy in their musical careers, but I don’t want them to go away—ever .  Lucky for me, and Kalamazoo’s music scene, the Shouters are having a one-off reunion show this Friday (May 25) at The Ant Hill (check out DIT Kalamazoo for information regarding the house venues location), with performances by Lincoln County War (watch live performance here) and George Costanza, who happen to be playing their first show on their upcoming tour.

In celebration of the Shouters being united again, let’s take a look at their two albums: A Long Road Home, released in January 2010, and Windmills, released in February 2011. Both albums consist of 13 tracks, and are about as similar as the two sides of a piece of tree bark.

A Long Road Home is the more energetic album.  The first song, “Jack Kerouac” (stream below), in itself contains all the themes that make up the album: an enthusiasm for traveling, wonderment at what the world has to offer (physical, spiritual, good, bad, or otherwise), and a search for one’s identity. In the tradition of other Folk-Punk bands such as Defiance, Ohio and Andrew Jackson Jihad, many of the songs have become embedded enough in our minds that, at shows, we can’t help but give our own impromptu performances when Alex Quinlander starts rocking out, with Rory Svekric egging us on with each slap of her double bass (once to the point of one of the strings breaking during a performance).

The more somber songs, like “Vice of Men”, are the type where it’s best to close your eyes and croon along with the chorus. I believe Nola Wiersma’s singing on “Going Nowhere” to be even more emotional and nostalgic than Ryan Woods singing on “Grandma Song” (or any other of Defiance, Ohio’s somber song on “The Great Depression”, for that matter).

Windmills is a more introspective album. Rather than an album that invokes the open road, it invokes sitting in a living room, reflecting on your home life while strumming your guitar, sometimes going off into space. The second track, “Allen Blvd” (stream below), like “Jack Kerouac”, sets the albums stage when it comes to themes and attitude, and while certain songs, such as “A Mountain Song” and “Ann Bancroft” are reminiscent of some of the sing- a-longs on “A Long Road Home”, Windmills seems to avoid anthems in favor of spirituals.

 Some fun facts that you should know: the name “Almanac Shouters” was inspired by The Almanac Singers, a New York Folk group back in the 1940’s that included, at various times, legendary folk and blues musicians such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry, Cisco Houston, and Sis Cunnigham.  In the tradition of Folk music (not Folk-Punk), two songs on each of the albums seems to be inspired by other famous tunes (“Little Black Train”  seems inspired by a spiritual also titled “Little Black Train”, and “Windmills” tune was taken from Elizabeth Cotton’s “Freight Train”). Nola has also been known to do an intense rendition of “Railroad Bill” at some Shouter performances.

On the invite page for Friday’s show, the description notes that, since Nola is moving away at the end of May, this is most likely the final time the Almanac Shouters will ever perform.  I cringe at this prospect, and hope that the Shouters will come together again sometime in the future, but in case that doesn’t happen, it’s comforting to know that we have the Shouters music to listen to and, like many great musicians and bands that are no longer around, their spirit will always be hanging around somewhere in our heads.

STREAM: The Almanac Shouters — “Jack Kerouac” and “Allen Blvd”
Garret Schuelke is a graduate of Western Michigan University. He writes, sorts clothes, and does all sorts of awesome tricks.
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