Long Mama, The Cooperage, Milwaukee, WI, 10/28/2022
Long Mama Proudly Launches Its Debut “Poor Pretender” at Milwaukee’s The Cooperage
Milwaukee-indie band, Long Mama, formally launched its debut album, Poor Pretender, before a packed crowd on Friday, October 28, 2022, at The Cooperage.
Poor Pretender is the project of Kat Wodtke (pronounced ‘Wood-key’). Wodtke wrote all of the songs on the album with the exception of “The Narrows,” on which Andrew Koenig shares co-writing credit. The songs have been described as weaving tall and not-so tall tales of mountain manhunts, doomed honeymoons, stalled engines, and gravel roads into an experience as captivating as the landscapes Wodtke’s traveled.
The inspiration for the songs on the album trace to Wodtke’s personal struggles and challenges in dealing with heartbreak and disappointment.
At its heart, Poor Pretender is mood music that reflects the breadth and soul of the sounds and genres that fall under the moniker Americana. At times part country and R&B, with touches of soft bluesy notes and even a bit of punk, the album is an ambitious venture in self-examination and a reflection of loss and sorrow.
Formed in 2017, Long Mama is headed by Wodtke (vocals, acoustic guitar), Andrew Koenig (electric guitar, 12-string guitar, banjo), Samual Odin (upright bass), Nick Lang (drums), and Eva Nimmer (backing vocals). Erik Koskinen, the co-producer of Poor Pretender, plays the lap steel, Wurlitzer, tambourine and back-up guitar on the album.
Asking the audience if they were ready to “get spooky,” Kat Wodtke opened the band’s set with “Badlands Honeymoon,” a haunting tune set in the wide-open desert. Starting off slowly, song’s tempo quickly picks up the pace and, through a coyote’s howl, raises the question about whether her companion was with her, or if it was all in her imagination.
Wodtke’s voice shines on all tracks with a mature clarity and brilliance reminiscent of a young Linda Ronstadt. At times silky and sultry, Kat’s voice frequently rose into a siren’s song, as it did midway through the next song, “Kite Flyer.” The track also included a wonderful picking solo by Andrew Koenig.
The next song, “Quiet,” starts out in a deceptively simple way with Wodtke’s distinct, repeating acoustic notes. Samual Odin’s bass notes then slide into place, followed by Eva Nimmer’s backing voice. All band members join into the song to bring up the tempo as it weaves its tale about how people either seek to avoid quiet moments or fail to achieve the solitude of such moments.
Next up was “Clean Break,” lamenting that the ghosting by a former love left a mess behind rather than a simple escape. Despite that mess, the singer is left waiting in vain for a message or perhaps some light to shine on the misery left behind.
Each of the band members has deep experience and appear frequently with other prominent Midwestern bands. Andrew Koenig and Nick Lang also play with Milwaukee-based country music-hybrid band, Ryan Necci & The Buffalo Gospel. Samual Odin is a member of the Americana and bluegrass band, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades.
Koenig is especially well-known around the area as a reliable session player always willing to lend his guitar skills to other artists. There is a certain gratification to hear his exceptional skills highlighted front and center on every track of Poor Pretender.
When it came time for Wodtke to introduce the band, she paused on Koenig, saying she was going to refer to him as the band’s co-pilot. After correcting herself, Kat labelled him as the true pilot of the band for his long-standing support and role in the crafting of Poor Pretender.
There was a special energy evident throughout the entire show. The excitement of Long Mama’s first show celebrating the release of the band’s first album, Poor Pretender, was palpable. Kat Wodtke positively beamed as she glanced among all of her bandmates during the show. And who could blame her for relishing this milestone for her and her band.
Next up was “Poor Pretender,” the title track for the album. Starting with Andrew Koenig’s slide, Wodtke’s vocals started off almost as a soft lullaby with Eva Nimmer’s backing vocal then blending in seamlessly into a beautiful harmony.
Kat Wodtke spent several of her formative years acting and singing in theater productions. (Eva Nimmer, who provided backing vocals for the band, is a highly acclaimed Midwestern actor). Her theatrical background shines on through her songwriting as her lyrics convey mental images of the stages each song represents.
Kat compared what she loves about performing live to her stage experiences. She told me that, in theater, everything is scripted and directed so that performances from one night to the next are consistent. In contrast, she loves performing live “because every night is a little different, which makes it exciting.” She said the spontaneity of live performances brings out the best of each band member.
Kat said there is a good deal of mutual trust among the band members, such that she’s very comfortable as they change up their playing during each performance. This mutual trust contributes to the cohesiveness that is clearly evident in their playing.
Nick Lang’s distinctive drum intro launched the song, “The Narrows,” an ode to an outlaw running from the law in the frontier mountains near Calgary.
Long Mama ended their set with a tribute to one of Wodtke’s favorite artists, Justin Townes Earle, who died tragically of an accidental overdose during the Covid pandemic. The band performed a brilliant and heart-felt cover of his “Christchurch Woman.”
Caley Conway opened the evening at The Cooperage with a selection of her ethereal, almost dreamlike songs. Local folk singer Ellie Jackson provided backing vocals sweetly harmonizing with Conway.
Singer-songwriter Joseph Huber rounded out the evening’s performances with a sampling of the distinctive folk/rocker songs spanning his musical career.
Simply put, Poor Pretender is a joy to experience. It’s easy to expect that Kat Wodtke and Long Mama will continue to craft memorable music as their musical journey continues.
For more information about Long Mama and a list of their tour dates, visit their website at: https://www.longmamamusic.com/
Enjoy our previous coverage, here: Song Premiere: Long Mama “Poor Pretender”
The Cooperage, 10/28/2022
DUST AND GRAVEL
TAKE IT OUT