By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 22, 2010 at 9:06 AM

It's been a while now since Cowboy Junkies went back to their roots and recorded at Toronto's Church of the Holy Trinity, where the band's acclaimed second disc, "The Trinity Session," was born in 1988.

Those sessions took place in 2006 and were recorded and filmed for a DVD/CD, "Trinity Revisited," that came out in early 2008.

But don't think the band -- which plays in Milwaukee this week -- has been sitting idle.

If you follow the Junkies on their blog, you'll know that the outfit is currently working on a new disc, tentatively titled "Renmin Park." The disc is the first in a projected 18-month, four-CD cycle called The Nomad Series.

Guitarist Michael Timmins has been updating fans and including music so that the faithful can get some insight into how their favorite band creates music.

"When we first got to China one of the first things that struck me, aside from the poor air quality, were the sounds," says Timmins, explaining the genesis of and inspiration for the record.

"Not only was it loud and unrelenting, but there were so many textures to the sounds that were completely foreign to these Western ears. So, I wrote back home and asked brother Pete to pick me up a high end portable digital recorder. I had it, along with my camera, wherever I went.

"I'd spend hours in the park walking around and recording music and conversations, exercise classes and badminton games; in the streets I'd record the intense sound of the traffic; at the school I'd wander the halls and sit in on some classes and record the students chanting their lessons, or capture them at their morning exercise where the entire school of three thousand students would do their calisthenics. Even drifting by our apartment window were the calls of various hawkers, selling everything from vegetables to propane. I recorded it all."

You can likely hear many of the Cowboy Junkies' new songs when they play at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 25 at Historic Turner Hall Ballroom. Lee Harvey Osmond opens.

Tickets are $29.50 and the opener has yet to be announced. --Bobby Tanzilo

When Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers take the stage Wednesday night at Shank Hall, you can be pretty sure that you'll hear the song "Milwaukee." You can also be pretty sure that you'll see a memorable show. The band known by fans as "SK6ERS" seldom disappoints fans of witty songwriting, clever stage banter and tight playing.

The new album, "The Bear," includes this lyric from the title track: "Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. Sometimes you're gonna win, sometimes you're gonna lose ... but you know in the end -- there's no apologies!"

That's a pretty solid philosophy from a bunch of guys who have paid their dues and deserve all the success they can muster.

Graham Colton opens the show at 8 p.m. Admission is $15. --Drew Olson 

If you were absolutely blown away by Vampire Weekend's 2008 self-titled breakout album, chances are, you'll love the latest release from the New York quartet, as well.

"Contra," which came out at the start of 2010, isn't much of a departure: It features frontman Ezra Koenig well-versed in classic literature and sarcasm, as was to be expected, and the twinges of reggae and Afro beats are prevalent as ever.

Catch the band Tuesday, March 23 at The Riverside Theater. Tickets are $22.50 and doors are 7 p.m. Special guest Abe Vigoda opens the show. --Julie Lawrence