Softly, Dear, Sarcasm, and Sober Subjects

Artist Focus, Poignant Songs, TS10

I’ve been contributing articles for Volume One for the past couple of years. One of the first ones I wrote covered the emergence of a new band from the Eau Claire area called Softly, Dear (New on the Scene). Back then, Softly, Dear was just starting to figure out who they were musically. Even though the first tracks they released were a little rough, I could certainly here some significant talent and creativity at work.

After writing that piece for V1, I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the band for a while. And then I saw them play at the House of Rock at Adelyn Rose’s CD release show back in February of this year. Toward the beginning of their set, they mentioned that their Portico EP was available for free at the merchandise table. At first, I wasn’t all that interested. Then, they played Lenses, which is featured on this week’s TS10. As soon as they finished playing that song, I quickly grabbed my copy of Portico.

Admittedly, I am a sucker for songs that have at least a semi-epic feel to them, especially ones that start out mellow and slowly build, and build, and build. Lenses is such a song. It is not a song, per se, in that it is instrumental. Truly, no lyrics are needed for this piece. I remember what it was like listening to them play it live that night. I vividly remember feeling the slow build, finding myself moving along with the music as its intensity continually rose. When the band finally reached the emotive crescendo of Lenses, I was ready for it and I allowed the force of that climax to overtake my heart and mind. Moments like that transcend just listening to someone play music. They become spiritual moments for me. From that point on, Softly, Dear has had my full attention.

I’m glad I snagged that EP. Softly, Dear has the extraordinary gift of taking a serious subject and giving it its due weight, while also, somehow, making the sharing of that subject fun. The best evidence of this gift is Know My Name from Portico, which has become one of their favorites among locals. It tells the story of a man who is drafted by the Army, whose life is altered forever, and who, as he ages, can no longer take care of himself. Sad subject matter… and they treat it as such. Yet the song still rocks and is fun to sing along with. Weird dynamic perhaps, but it totally works.

While Portico obviously showed significant growth from those first couple of recordings I wrote about in V1, Softly, Dear’s new album shows even more. They released the self-titled Softly, Dear in August of this year and it is a great listen (you can stream it on their Bandcamp page… and then you should buy it!). When I listen to it, I hear some serious Weezer influence in it, which cannot be a bad thing. There is the raucous fun of It’s Alright, a sarcastic look at poor life decisions, and Alive Now (Paycheck), a desperate cry for a paycheck owed. Alive Now makes me smile every time I hear it. I’ve always appreciated a good smartass. There’s also the tenderness and sobriety of two people falling out of love with each other in Things I Say. It’s not easy to move from silly to sober, but Softly, Dear pulls it off.

Not only is this album well worth your time and money, it also shows how Softly, Dear is continuing to grow, which promises even greater things in the future. So, take some time to listen to Lenses on the TS10. Even better, go to Softly, Dear’s Bandcamp page and stream/buy their music! My guess is that you will be drawn into their authenticity, playfulness, and smart-assedness as I have been.

A Renewed Focus

Music and Healing

TS Collage

Welcome to the new, improved, and refocused Tomme Suab. I launched this site in October 2013 (after about a year of mental and emotional incubation) with a desire to promote music from the Chippewa Valley, because there is just so many talented songwriters and musicians in this region. Since then, I’ve written about great artists like Adelyn Rose, Savannah Smith, We Are the Willows, and many others. I’ve promoted local events and concerts and advocated for the Confluence Project. I fully intend on continuing this kind of emphasis. However, I have also been experiencing a refining of vision, if you will.

The primary element of that refining process has involved me coming to an understanding of how the emotive aspects of songs are what move me the most about those songs. As I’ve shared my thoughts about various artists and their art, I have gotten consistent feedback from those artists about how I’ve been able to capture the emotional elements of their music. For me, it’s about feeling the artists’ pain and joy.

My focus on the emotionality of music makes sense, in light of my own experience over the last three years. In 2011, I enrolled in “Wounded” at Valleybrook Church, a program that helps participants heal from emotional wounds caused by abuse and/or neglect. The impact of this program on my life has been profound. I feel things deeply now, whereas, for most of my life, I used to numb difficult emotions like sadness and grief. I typically wouldn’t really allow myself to feel joy or happiness. In these last few years, I have learned how to really feel my emotions and allow myself to feel whatever I need to feel. I have learned to really “see” and “hear” people and connect with what they are feeling as well. I could go on and on about the healing and freedom I have experienced because of Wounded. But, that’s another discussion for another context.

So, all this has lead me to a place in which I realize that I really want to connect people with the emotionality of music, especially, but not exclusively, the music of the Chippewa Valley. I believe that there is healing in music, both for the artist and for the listener. There is healing in self-expression; there is healing in listening and connecting to others’ self-expression. I don’t fully understand those dynamics, but I know they are real and they can be life-changing.

Tomme Suab will still promote local events and advocate for the arts. We will still discuss album releases and such. However, we will mostly center on that healing element in music: the emotive quality of a song or album. My hope is that you will connect with this emotive quality and walk away with a new or fuller appreciation of not only this aspect of music, but how it affects you emotionally. I want you to feel what you need to feel, to be more aware of your own emotions, to experience sorely-needed emotional healing.

So, enjoy the site! Use the site to hear about artists you may not know or album releases. But, if you choose to go deeper, I invite you to do so. And, if you have any questions about this renewed focus or emotional healing, please reach out to me at


Coming of Age: Thoughts on Adelyn Rose’s “Ordinary Fantasy” and Album Release Show

Album Releases, Artist Focus, Live Shows

I make no bones about the fact that I am a big Adelyn Rose fan. I love their style, the fullness of their sound, the uniqueness of Addie Strei’s vocals, and the incredible percussion talent that is Dave Power. The first time I talked to Addie and Dave back in August of 2012, their debut album, Mezzanine, had only been out for a few months. Even though I, and many others, thoroughly enjoyed that album, Addie and Dave were quick to mention that the songs there were not really indicative of who they were as a band anymore and they expressed their deep desire to record their newer songs.

In Mezzanine and in the first few AdRo live performances I heard, I consistently heard great potential, deep creativity, rich instrumentation and textures, and emotionally intense moods and lyrics. They were, in my eyes, a diamond in the rough. The production value on Mezzanine was a little inconsistent throughout the album and some of the harmonies were a little loose. In their live shows, I couldn’t help but notice what seemed like a bit of insecurity or anxiety from time to time. They felt a little like a teenager trying to find out who they are. Nonetheless, I loved what I heard from them… and longed to hear them go deeper, stand more confidently, and record a truer representation of the creativity and talent that resides in them.

AdRo’s new album, “Ordinary Fantasy,” is an answer to those longings. What I hear on this album warms my heart. That’s not because of heart-felt lyrics or sappy sweet melodies. It is because, when I listen to this record, I hear a clear progression of the band and their sound. And, it is so, so good. I expected the emotiveness, intensity, textures, and instrumentation that I mentioned before. What I also got was higher production value, a fuller sound, and tight musicianship and vocals. The album is unpredictable and highlights what I consider the band’s greatest strengths: creative songwriting, unique vocals (lead and background), and incredible percussion.

My favorite song on the album is probably “It Means Shadow.” It moves and rocks. It is a riff and drums driven tune that should be playing on the radio. I also really enjoy the emotive “Press” and “The Wire.” “The Wire” is one of those songs that starts out quiet (yet intense) and builds louder and more raucous. I love that dynamic, and especially in that song. The album closes with what sounds like a declaration of independence in “Structured Hostility,” another song that builds steadily in intensity throughout, climaxing in Addie’s powerful declaration, “I’m done,” repeated several times. This album is packed full of mood and emotion: tenderness, edginess, sorrow, intensity…


I got to hear these songs as well as the other songs on the album live at House of Rock on Water Street last night at Adelyn Rose’s Album Release Show. They were so good. This was likely my favorite performance of theirs, not because of precision or showmanship (those things were there). I was enthralled by their poise and their confidence. I have always been a fan of Addie’s, but I felt like she was hesitant to be the front-person she can be. That was not the case last night. She totally looked like the face of the band, standing, playing, and singing with boldness and conviction.

And, Dave Power was… Dave Power. In fact, toward the end of last night’s show, there was a moment in which Dave’s drumming caught my attention and stirred me deeply. I’ve had spiritual experiences while listening to music many times over the years. Such a moment may come while listening to poignant lyrics (like those on Matthew Perryman Jones’s “Land of the Living”). Or, perhaps while taking in an epic classic, like Skynyrd’s “Freebird” (especially the guitar barrage at the end of the song). Last night, I had another such experience while listening to Dave play the drums. In that moment, his talent and passion were so apparent that I got caught up in what he was doing and I could see the God-given ability pouring out through the sticks. It was a breathtaking moment.

After becoming acquainted with “Ordinary Fantasy” over the last couple of weeks and experiencing the band live last night, I feel like I have seen something of a coming of age for Adelyn Rose. Their talent, creativity, and potential have always been evident to me. Now, the missing pieces are coming together. The teenager has become an adult and now has a clearer vision of who they are. Addie, Dave, Hannah Hebl, Leo Strei,  and Jaime Hanson should be very proud of what they have accomplished together. I still think the best is yet to come for Adelyn Rose, but “Ordinary Fantasy” represents a huge step forward for them, and I would not be surprised in the least if it gains traction outside of the Chippewa Valley.

Adelyn Rose… The Best Is Yet to Come

Artist Focus


(Adapted and updated from a post for Visit Eau Claire from 2012)

In my previous post, I mentioned the first time I experienced Adelyn Rose’s music. Since then, they have become a mainstay in the local music scene here in the Chippewa Valley, even winning the “Best Rock Band in the Valley” award from the readership of Volume One in 2013. That night that I first heard them, they were the opening act and played only a few songs. When my family and I had a chance to see them again the next summer, they were the main event, headlining the concert that night, and they have now toured various regions throughout the U.S.

Their growth as performers has been evident in the several times I’ve seen them since that first set. What has been even more evident is the potential for greatness that lives in them. And, I don’t mean that they will sell a billion records (maybe they will, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if they do). No, I mean there is incredible artistic and creative potential living inside of them, the kind of stuff that could produce some profound and meaningful art.

I also hear this potential in their first full length album, “Mezzanine,” which was released last year. It is not a perfect album, and the band would be the first to tell you that. I had the chance to meet with Addie Strei and Dave Power from Adelyn Rose shortly after it’s release. Addie compared the album to “looking at baby pictures.” I thought that was a great analogy. The album, in my opinion, is well worth the $9 or $10 you may pay for it, but it is only a foggy reflection of the greatness that resides in this band. Still, there are songs on the album that really speak to me. My favorite two songs are “Chords” and “Never Get Tired.” In “Chords”, the driving piano is reminiscent of what drew me to Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head” album. There is an emotional intensity in these two songs and throughout the album. In this musical layman’s opinion, these two songs are worth the cost of the album by themselves. There is an intimacy and vulnerability in the album that certainly draws in this listener.

Addie said that the songs on Mezzanine were pretty old (at least to her) and are not even really representative of where they are now as a band. So, she and Dave both expressed their excitement about the album they were about to record at the end of 2012. From what I understand, they have recorded that album and are now working on editing and the rest of the finishing touches. I cannot wait to check it out myself… You can listen to the first track, “Primitive”, off the new album on their Bandcamp page:

I’m really excited about the future for these guys. The next big step for them is opening up for Volcano Choir at Schofield Hall at UWEC next Saturday and Sunday (October 19-20). Volcano Choir is the internationally touring band including Jon Mueller, Chris Rosenau, Matthew Skemp, Daniel Spack, Justin Vernon, and Thomas Wincek. So, this is a great opportunity for Adelyn Rose to be heard by a larger audience. And, this can only lead to good things for them.
If you’d like to check out Adelyn Rose’s music for yourself or get more information about them, here are some places you can do just that:
Adelyn Rose (Spotify)

An Introduction

General Thoughts


Three summers ago, my family and I had the opportunity to hear Adelyn Rose play a set at Volume One’s  Sounds Like Summer series at Phoenix Park. That experience, quite literally, changed my life. I was immediately taken in by the emotional intensity of their music. They were unique. They were special. I became a fan instantly.

As great as that performance was, it wasn’t their music, instrumentation, presentation, or lyrical content that profoundly affected me, even though I enjoyed all of those things immensely. No, it was that, for the first time in my time in Eau Claire, I caught a glimpse of the incredible musical talent that resides here. Adelyn Rose’s performance that warm summer day served as a gateway for me, a gateway that would open the way for me to experience other bands like Kalispell, The Daredevil Christopher Wright, Bon Iver, and Field Report.

In 2012, I began writing posts for the Visit Eau Claire blog ( and Volume One ( Much of what I have written has been focused on local musicians or musical events. As I have done these pieces and connected with local musicians, my passion for the music scene here in the Chippewa Valley has only increased… dramatically.

This site, Tomme Suab, is an outgrowth of that passion. I want you to hear what I hear. I want you to be surprised by the unpredictability of The Daredevil Christopher Wright’s album, “The


Nature of Things”. I want you to hear the intense, sometimes brooding quality of Addie Strei’s vocals in Adelyn Rose’s work. I want you to feel the warmth and appreciate the craftsmanship of Kalispell’s “Westbound” (which has become one of my favorite albums of all time). There is so much talent here and my heart is for gifted local artists to have the opportunity to be heard by as large an audience as possible.

So, here we are. In upcoming posts, I intend to share about upcoming events and record releases, as well as other local music-oriented subjects. Occasionally, I’ll throw in something about a non-local band or record, but the main emphasis here will be on the wealth of talent that lives right here.