By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Feb 22, 2010 at 5:17 AM
Three years ago -- three long years ago for fans -- Milwaukee singer and songwriter Hayward Williams released his debut full-length, "Another Sailor's Dream," and drew attention locally and nationally.

But not only here. In fact, Williams made a splash in Europe where he has since toured and performed in front of enthusiastic crowds entranced by his deep, sometimes dark folk-influenced American roots music.

For those playing close attention, the release of Williams' follow-up, "Cotton Bell," on Lake Geneva-based Machine Records isn't big news. The eight-song record was released digitally last year. But it's only now seeing light of day on a shiny silver CD.

And to celebrate that event -- the disc officially comes out March 2 -- Williams performs a hometown CD release concert at a rather unusual venue. He plays Friday, Feb. 26 in the Skylight Opera Theatre at the Broadway Theater Center, 158 N. Broadway. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. and the $15 admission includes a copy of "Cotton Bell."

So, when you get home, you can keep listening to the murky, mysterious title track, which opens the CD, the folky "Mockingbird," the alluring country ballad "This Ain't My Bed," the tender "Every Night," with its plaintive violin and the sprawling 11 and a half minute closer, "Great Plains" (which is actually that tune and a hidden track).

Warm, intimate and organic, "Cotton Bell" has already gotten raves in Europe, including one in a British magazine that called it, "a fantastic record, one that's a treat from start to finish."

"Everything is based around a live take of musicians playing together in a room," says producer Jon Christopher Hughes of the record's spontaneous feel. "Hayward didn't 'fix' or even punch in anything. We did whole takes until we got something that felt best to all of us. The core of the record is just people in a room playing music. ... It's what we both wanted to capture and it worked."

It sure did. -- Bobby Tanzilo

Shank Hall welcomes Saturday night with a line-up of Milwaukee-based bands. My Mourning Belle is the creation of singer/songwriter Mark Allen. He debuted back in 2007 with a sold-out show at Linneman's Riverwest; recording and playing live ever since.

His latest album, "Evidence and Allibis" is set to be released later this year. Likewise, On the Porch is a Milwaukee-made band playing in local venues and festivals. Band members Scott Hanson, Chris Bausch and Mike Hieb entertain with a fusion of rock, pop and folk. Gabriella Papale and Waiting to Run round out the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m.; tickets are $8. -- Maureen Post

It's not a live band, per se, but The Get Down DJs are sure to get you out on the dance floor. The Get Down is one of Milwaukee's best dance parties and although it's traveled around town for years, it appears to have settled into The Mad Planet nicely. Catch Andy Noble, BrentGoodsell, and Nesh on Saturday, Feb. 27 as they spend the evening exhibiting their untouchable musical tastes, from old-school funk to soul rarities. Be sure to wear your dancing pants. -- Julie Lawrence

You can hardly go to a sporting event without hearing the ominous opening riff of "I'm Shipping up to Boston," a song by Dropkick Murphys. Saturday night, Boston's finest Celtic/punk group will play at the Bradley Center following the Admirals' game against Chicago. Ken Casey and the boys have played many shows in the area over the years, most recently a standing-room blowout at Summerfest's Harley-Davidson Roadhouse that left longtime fans and first-timers alike slackjawed. This doubleheader presents a unique opportunity to mix hockey and full-contact music on one bill. Tickets are available at the Bradley Center box office, Ticketmaster outlets and Admission to the concert, which will begin 30 minutes after the game, is free with a game ticket. A limited number of on-ice passes are available for $20. --Drew Olson