'('Kanoka') is a tale of traveling through the back roads of small, hardly-noticed places. It's a fun ride. Put some belongings in a bag or knapsack, hop onboard and enjoy the journey.'
-- Paul Schneider,
freelance writer, editor
'We're proud to call this area home and we look forward to having a celebration with our fans who helped us get our start all those years ago.'
- Brian FitzGerald
It has been a year of celebrations for the award-winning duo, Switchback.
2013 marks 20 years of touring around North America and Europe. In addition, they have released two new albums, "Kanoka" and "Live, Volume One."
Martin McCormack and Brian FitzGerald will be celebrating these milestones in their Midwest home state of Iowa with a concert in Decorah Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Steyer Opera House in the Hotel Winneshiek.
The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Tickets are available from the Hotel Winneshiek by calling 800-998-4164. Hors d'oeuvres and cocktails will be available for purchase throughout the event.
Since forming Switchback in 1993, FitzGerald and McCormack have brought their music around the world, from Hawaii to the Netherlands. Two PBS specials and over 14 albums of original music have garnered praise from critics and fans alike.
Three years in the making, "Kanoka" is a departure from the band's Celtic roots. Rather, they've crafted a disc of Americana, a journey of the soul and imagination across the heartland.
Ron Pen, director of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at the University of Kentucky, sums it up best: "Deliciously retro in its unity, wonderfully conceived as a whole, "Kanoka" is an astonishing ramble through the heart of Americana soul, a love story redolent of Walt Whitman's lyrical verse. 'Kanoka' is more than Americana-it is the sound of America itself."
According to FitzGerald, the title track "Kanoka" isn't about a real place. Instead, he says, it's state of being.
"'Kanoka' is a fictional name for a destination," FitzGerald explains. "It encompasses the feel for the Midwest especially -- a homecoming for some people or an escape for others. That is how many people view the Midwest. People that live here have powerful tales to tell. We tap a bit into that with this tribute."
"Playing Northeast Iowa has been chock-full of 'Kanoka' moments for us," FitzGerald says. "Each experience showed us we were on our path."
'LIVE, Volume One'
The second album being celebrated at the Nov. 16 Decorah release party is an anthology of live songs recorded over an eight-year period at various venues in the U.S. and Canada. "LIVE, Volume One," completed this year, includes a selection of 12 of the most popular Switchback songs.
The album was the brainchild of Michigan videographer Jim Sundberg, who has traveled with the band and recorded concerts all over the world.
"Several years ago when we first met the band, I was absolutely overwhelmed with the variety of songs they had written and played while out on the road," says Sundberg. "After I got to know them, I felt compelled to document their travels. With so much material gathered over the years, it was inevitable that we would release a series of live albums. These tunes were selected to give a true flavor of a Switchback concert, with all the energy, enthusiasm and eclecticism that comes from these two guys every time they perform. It's like your own personal, hand-crafted Switchback show."
Decorah artist will perform
The Steyer Opera House show will feature the Switchback trio with Nick Hirka of Decorah playing percussion and banjo. Hirka moved to Decorah from Chicago after the last concert Switchback performed at the Hotel Winneshiek several years ago.
"Nick fell in love with this part of Iowa just as hard as I did," says FitzGerald. "Switchback's sound really came into being from playing every club in almost every town in the region over the last 20 years. We're proud to call this area home and we look forward to having a celebration with our fans who have helped us get our start all those years ago."