Give Yourself a Gift and Buy Local

By George Halas

While The Inquisition is renowned for cutting-edge content, it is also respectful of the role tradition plays in our culture. Each December, this column delivers a message that expands on the now traditional “Buy Small Saturday” that follows Black Friday.

“Buying Small” or “Buying Local,” focuses attention on the benefits of spending your holiday dollars at small, local businesses instead of the big-box retailers; among other things, it is significantly less hazardous physically than the cluster fun at the chains, more money remains in the local economy rather than traveling to China or offshore tax havens and…it’s more fun.

The Inquisition’s proposition is simple: go to a local venue that is presenting a local band and buy CD’s for those special and deserving recipients on your holiday gift list. Make it a night out – enjoy the food, a locally-brewed beer and the growing local original music scene – give yourself the gift of fun and revelry.  All the money stays local and you can get it personalized with autographs.

The programming on 91.1 The Avenue and WAPL’s “Home Brewed,” as well as the growing success of The Mile of Music have shined a spotlight on what The Inquisition has been noting for 60 columns or so – the Fox Cities area is home to a veritable boatload of great musicians who are composing, releasing and playing outstanding original music that encompasses virtually every genre. The songs have been attracting national and international attention and the recordings produced at places like Steel Moon Recording in Oshkosh and/or Rock Garden Studios, Studio H and White Raven Audio in Appleton among others are comparable to anything produced by a “major label,” and often better.

In keeping with tradition, The Inquisition has some recommendations; all of these albums have been reviewed or mentioned in SCENE during the last 12 months.

JANET PLANETJANET PLANET – “Just Like A Woman: The Music of Bob Dylan, Vol. 2” – a purchase of this CD may include the added value of being able to say, “I had the album BEFORE the Grammy nominations.” The production of this collection of some of Dylan’s best songs was truly an international effort, beginning with a phone call to the late Fred Sturm from a friend and bandleader in Norway and leading to mixing and mastering by Darryl John Kennedy in Egypt, but the musical contributions are all local. Sturm was at Lawrence University when he created two arrangements for the album to go along with two by Lawrence’s Matt Turner and eight by co-producer Tom Washatka, whose arrangement of “Boots of Spanish Leather,” is receiving Grammy consideration for Best jazz Arrangement. The album includes many of the best players in the area and was recorded by Larry Darling at Lawrence. Most deservingly, Planet is receiving serious Grammy consideration for Best Jazz Vocal.

“By reimagining Bob Dylan’s tunes, Janet Planet has given us something wholly unique and fresh. Her orchestrations are lush, her melodies are memorable, and her harmonies are colorful. She has taken Dylan’s music to a higher level, one that is awakened by her virtuosity and dazzling touch,” said New York Times bestselling author as well as Grammy and Latin Grammy-winning producer Kabir Sehgal.

Planet has a monthly no cover gig at Becket’s in Oshkosh – one of the area’s best places to see live music – and her schedule is always available at The CD is also available at CDBaby.

PERIDOT – This eponymous EP features “Lonely Work,” which has been in the rotation at 91.1 The Avenue.  Appleton native Hillary Reynolds is in town for performances during December – check her Face Book page for times and dates – before moving to Los Angeles in January. The songs on the EP suggest that the band will be a success in LA, so, again, “we knew her when…”

KYLE MEGNAKYLE MEGNA AND THE MONSOONS – also released an eponymous EP this past July. It showcases the growth of the band both in terms of numbers and Megna’s personal evolution as a songwriter. Already a fan favorite for the energy and musicianship of their live shows, the addition of saxophonist Ross Catterton, trumpeter Kurt Shipe and keyboardist Noah Harmon has taken the Monsoons to new dynamic and artistic levels.

ERIN KREBS – “Love Always Wins” is an album that has been getting radio time and features 11 original songs penned by Krebs with co-writing credit to Mark Martin-Kriha and Jeff Johnston on a couple of tunes. Krebs assembled an all-star local lineup to play on the record including Johnston, Martin-Kriha, Andy Mertens, Mike Underwood, Mike Malone, Justin Zopel, Steve Cooper, Drew Hicks, James Lefevre and Brian Gruselle. She performs in a duo with Johnston, as the lead vocalist in The Swinging Johnsons and is a frequent guest of The Jazz Orgy at Becket’s, Peabody’s and Cena.

THE HOOK UP – has a self-titled CD featuring their latest single, “Hold Your Breath,” available for purchase live or at their website The band delivers generous portions of high-energy rock in live performance.

Rändi FAY – has a number of excellent full-length albums to her credit, including a Christmas album, which she has available at her gigs. This year, she has released “Little Babe,” a single that has been described as “an epic, inspirational and heartfelt journey through the intimate experience of the Christ Child’s first hours, as seen through Mary’s eyes.” It can be found on, (free with email) or purchased at iTunes, Amazon Music, CDBaby, Spotify & more. She gigs regularly and her appearance schedule is available at her website.

JAMIE LYNN FLETCHER – “My Desire of You” – so The Inquisition is breaking with its own strict guideline and recommending a CD that was also on last year’s list, BUT, Fletcher is back performing in town after playing internationally for a few months and this CD is simply fabulous and she is one of the best live performers around.

While you’re out gifting yourself and your loved ones as well as fueling the local economy, The Inquisition also recommends making an expression of gratitude for all the great music, all the great musicians and the all the great venues that create a truly fabulous music scene in the Fox Cities.

Happy Holidays.

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