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Yeltzi's latest celebrates sweet yet stoic winter

Jason Wussow and Sara Softich form the duo Yeltzi and call their blend of music "twisted gypsy bluegrass." Their brand-new release "Snow in August," with the CD release party Oct. 17 at Beaner's Central, is an ode to cold and winter, even if it w...

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Jason Wussow and Sara Softich are Yeltzi. Submitted photo

Jason Wussow and Sara Softich form the duo Yeltzi and call their blend of music "twisted gypsy bluegrass." Their brand-new release "Snow in August," with the CD release party Oct. 17 at Beaner's Central, is an ode to cold and winter, even if it was recorded in summer's heat.

The record has an infectious energy that may come from its origins on the highways and byways of the Great Plains and the Southwest, where Yeltzi has toured a great deal over the last couple years. It's both sweet and tart, and is alluring but with a certain amount of emotional detachment that gives it (like some Minnesotans) a kind of stoic quality.

The title track was one of the first songs Softich wrote. She had forgotten about the song until she rediscovered it in a notebook. It began with a dream she had about being dropped off in an alley. It has a spacious melancholy feel. Softich's vocal has an air of resignation and sadness. The mix blends mid-rangy guitars with the voice where "snow is falling from the sky" is the oft-repeated chorus. The title is backed up by the meteorological fact that in August 1949 it snowed in Duluth.

There's a hoedown afoot with "Whistlin' Pip," an ode to Sara's baby that makes reference to everything from red lipstick to warm mittens. It's an insistent, sprightly little tune.

Recorded over the last year at the newest Duluth-area studio, Sub Central Records, in the basement of Beaner's Central. The board's configuration allows recording from the stage above or using the downstairs as a more typical studio. This record, engineered and mixed by Wussow, is a fine early effort by someone who amazingly wore five or six hats during this project.

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"Get Up And Dance" is the perfect "live" closing tune about a "last chance to dance." It brings Wussow's fondness for ska and zydeco together in one package and it's a winner.

I think there are now more tunes titled "Duluth" than any other town on this good earth. (Mason Jennings has one, Luke Zimmerman has one; by my count there are at least six or seven) Softich's version is a sentimental look at this port town.

Wussow and Softich chose Yeltzi as their name when they merged the groups No Room To Pogo and the Sara Softich band. "Snow In August" is evidence it's a nice marriage of talents and ideas.

JOHN ZIEGLER has worked in the music industry for more than 32 years. He writes reviews for the News Tribune. Reach him at johndziegler@gmail.com .

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