Semi-Twang reunited in 2009 to play the twentieth anniversary of Shank Hall, the premier showcase club in their home-town of Milwaukee. Expectations beyond fun and basic camaraderie among these seasoned roots rockers were held in check. They were there to help celebrate a venue they played on the night it first opened its doors and nothing else was being discussed.
The band had gone their separate ways shortly after that first Shank gig. They had taken their best shot on Salty Tears,their Warner Brothers debut, and that record generated critical acclaim but little sales. The friendship survived, but other things soon beckoned.
For John Sieger, the songwriter and main vocalist, Nashville seemed like a good idea. Dwight Yoakam was one of many artists who found Sieger’s songs and producers like Pete Anderson were finding slots for his tunes. Mike Hoffmann was already busy producing other artists as the other fellows in the band, who knew their way around their instruments, were soon scooped up by other groups around town.
Fast forward to the first rehearsal for the reunion. The band was sitting in Sieger’s basement studio and they were all thinking pretty much the same thing and that was that it felt like it had been weeks, rather than years and years since they had played together. The chemistry was still in place and that was underscored by a very successful Shank gig. There was nothing to do but make a recording.
And that’s what they did.
Unlike their debut, a major label project with a budget just this side of a NASA launch, the band did it on the sly, mostly at Hoffmann’s House Studio and Sieger’s Room w/a VU — both Pro Tools equipped, comfy and cozy. The pace was relaxed, with sessions every few weeks for most of 2010 and the atmosphere was loose, with a feeling that whole process was more or less a formality. Get in, make a record— what’s so hard about that?
In March of 2011, their first album in 23 years, Wages Of Sin, was released.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Glowing reviews, fans over the top in their praise and lots of local airplay. The CD, a mix of old and new has a timeless feel, which makes sense. The band had never bought into the ‘80s in any of the faddish ways. They had always harkened back to classic artists like Dylan, The Beatles and The
Band. This approach paid off on Wages, a CD that dares you to to put a time stamp on it.
Songs like the title cut and When The Wind Kicks Up border on something like the kind of country music Nashville might be making if producers and record companies weren’t trying to own the middle of the road. Nervous Energy and Move It Or Lose It recall iconoclasts like Dave Edmonds and Nick Lowe in full-tilt mode. Then there are songs likeJust A Train and It’s That Time Again, that are distinctly Semi- Twang — somewhere down the road, some young band may be trying for that unique feel.
As of April 2012, the band is back in the studio to record another album, with 18 songs tracked, new and old, waiting for a few finishing touches, the hardest part will be picking which songs to leave out. Barring an act of god, the follow up to Wages should be available this September. The band is also looking at a possible two week USO tour of Italy, Turkey and Eastern Europe.