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The Cow Ponies spoke to WMSE's Local/Live about its biggest influence.
The Cow Ponies spoke to WMSE's Local/Live about its biggest influence.

WMSE Local/Live: Milwaukee alt country rockers The Cow Ponies

The Cow Ponies would be right at home in a proper honky-tonk, their classic country-meets-rockabilly sound crafted unwittingly (or wittingly) for simultaneously dancing up a storm and chasing life’s storm clouds away in a tall glass of something non-liver-friendly. John and Robin Graham lead the way, trading vocals and snarling stories peppered with lively guitars and that heartstring tug of the pedal steel.

Members of the Cow Ponies got their early start as Milwaukee rockers and rollers, playing in groups like the Cocktails/Rock-a-Dials, Those XCleavers, Torn Soul, Xposed 4heads and Resist Her Transistor. With John Graham on guitar and vocals, Robin Graham on vocals, Tom Tiedjens on bass and vocals, Keith Bolog on pedal steel and vocals and Andy Stilin on drums, the band uses those rock roots to open up into a more full-on rootsy sound, picking up that bit of rockabilly that was often the foundation of the Rock-a-Dials and their other projects.

On Tuesday, May 3, the Cow Ponies played on WMSE’s Local/Live. At the end of Local/Live, for the "This Is Your Song" segment where the musical guest chooses one musician or group (and one song) that has influenced their own music, John Graham dished on why Robert Gordon and Link Wray’s "Lonesome Train" really gets to him. If anyone recalls the Rock-a-Dials, they will surely remember the Rock-a-Dials’ version of this tune. Clearly, this singular song has been one of Graham’s longest burning song flames.

Catch the full segment in the WMSE archives, and below, get band leader John Graham’s take on why Robert Gordon – especially when paired with Link Wray – is his biggest influence of all-time.

The lowdown

  • Musician/Band: The Cow Ponies
  • WMSE’s Local/Live Date: Tuesday, May 3, 2016
  • "This Is Your Song" pick: "Lonesome Train (on a Lonesome Track)" by Robert Gordon with Link Wray (from the album "Fresh Fish Special," released in 1978)
  • Interviewed: John Graham (guitarist and vocalist)

What/when is your …

AUTOMatic chatted with WMSE Local/Live about Herbie Hancock and his influence on the group.
AUTOMatic chatted with WMSE Local/Live about Herbie Hancock and his influence on the group.

WMSE Local/Live: Milwaukee hip-hop trio AUTOMatic

AUTOMatic is undeniably a savvy crew, fronted by scene veterans A.P.R.I.M.E. (emcee, producer), TrellMatic (producer) and JDL Rockwell (DJ, production). The trio has consistently created fresh, upbeat and funky yet structured sounds since its inception in the late '00s. Very much influenced by the '90s with its easygoing but conscious hip-hop style, AUTOMatic’s output is simply great danceable stuff with a great message.

AUTOMatic, along with the House of M, helped pave the way for the recent Milwaukee hip hop explosion. On last year’s "Arising" EP, they were still pushing forward with their solid foundation of modern R&B influences mixed in with the jazzy stuff, but they also began edging it up by throwing in a bit of experimentation with some electronica-infused sounds.

The group’s latest release is centered around A.P.R.I.M.E.’s more solo-leaning project under the alias of "3099." Although admittedly still AUTOMatic, the group’s latest EP is indebted more heavily writing-wise to its leader, fittingly entitled "AUTOMatic Presents: 3099." On it, they dig even more smoothly into their effortless balance between classic and more modern sounds, steadily adding on those burgeoning new elements of sound and adding depth of field thanks to a strong collaborative spirit. In the past, they’ve worked with younger local artists Vincent Van Great and El Shareef; on "3099," they prominently feature guest vocals by local R&B crooner Lex Allen.

On Tuesday, April 26, AUTOMatic played on WMSE’s Local/Live, the same day as the release of "3099," playing two live sets that featured songs from that new EP as well as unreleased material set for release in the fall. During the interview portion, AUTOMatic mentioned several times the great influence musicians like Herbie Hancock had upon their own creative output. Fittingly, AUTOMatic chose to feature "Come Running to Me" from Herbie Hancock (from his 1978 album, "Sunlight") at the end of Local/Live for the "This Is Your …

David Sedaris stops by Milwaukee as part of his book tour.
David Sedaris stops by Milwaukee as part of his book tour.

5 reasons you should see David Sedaris at The Riverside on Saturday

David Sedaris, the award-winning humorist, essayist and radio personality, returns to Milwaukee this Saturday as part of his nation-wide tour celebrating the paperback release of his most recent book, "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls." If that title alone isn't enough to intrigue you into getting tickets, here are five more reasons you should consider going to the show.

1. Owls

Everyone loves owls, whether it's the cute one on your daughter's backpack or the nocturnal predator. And since Sedaris will be reading from his work, you'll probably get to hear the essay explaining what they have to do with diabetes.

2. Colonoscopies

Who doesn't love a good colonoscopy story? Turns out, Sedaris thinks the procedure, which most people dread, is "soft-edged and lovely." We can assume he wrote that after the sedatives wore off. When I worked in health care, I heard colonoscopies described many ways. Not once did it include the word "magnificent." 

3. Dental work

In comparing American health care to European, Sedaris describes dental visits. I laughed. Hard. There might have been a tear. Anyone who can make you belly laugh about oral surgery is a comedic gem. The Hope Diamond of laughter.

4. Pet peeves we can all relate to

His book discusses that most insidious societal evil: someone who takes forever to order and pay for their overly-fancy coffee drink. We've all stood in line behind that person when all we want is our morning dose of caffeine. Sedaris understands. Sedaris feels our pain.

5. Laughter

I've laughed to the point of tears while reading every one of Sedaris' books. Reading the title essay from "Naked" involved an unfortunate Diet-Coke-through-the-nose incident (which I don't recommend). We all know laughter is the best medicine, so what better way t0 spend your Saturday evening?

Convinced you need to see the show? Tickets are still available through the Riverside's website, in person at the Riverside box office or by calling the box office at (414) 286…

The Sounds Of Time chat with WMSE's Local/Live.
The Sounds Of Time chat with WMSE's Local/Live.

WMSE Local/Live: Milwaukee hip-hop duo The Sounds Of Time

The Sounds Of Time expertly create hip, retro-laden hip-hop gems, filled with a bit of disco, soul and lots of references to everyday life in their hometown of Milwaukee. They utilize the golden sounds of the golden era of hip hop (as well as funk and soul) to fuel their own creative output. Fronted by rapper Kid Millions (John Kuester) and flanked by multi-instrumentalist and producer Sage Schwarm, the duo honorably does not use any outside samples, instead choosing to create their own samples with organic instrumentation (guitar, synths, bass, etc.).

One of their first collaborations was before they officially teamed up (for Kid Millions’ 2009 release, "Recession Proof Rap," which Schwarm produced). Soon after, the The Sounds Of Time was formed, their likemindedness and differences both coming together to fuse their unique sound.

"When I opened up a record store in 2000, I really got into the funk and the hip hop" says Kuester. Schwarm adds, "My last band before I was working with John was called Codebreaker, and it was an all-synth band ... techno, disco, etc. and that just kind of stuck."

Kuester dug even deeper, explaining, "We first worked together around 2006 – he produced a track that we worked on when I first started recording. We were friends way before that ... I’ve known him since ’97-ish [when he was in The Thousandaires)."

On Tuesday, March 8, The Sounds Of Time played on WMSE’s Local/Live. The duo has three recent singles out – "Three Sheets," "In a Graveyard" and a Cars cover, "Just What I Needed" – and plan on releasing a couple more singles soon with an official full-length, single by single, out by year’s end. The Sounds Of Time will also be playing several shows coming up, including playing the 25th anniversary "silver celebration" show for the Little Blue Crunchy Things at Shank Hall on Saturday, April 30 and the Brady Street Festival this summer.

The Sounds Of Time played two live sets on Local/Live, featuring those new…