Iowa country artist Rocks the Stacks

ALLYN OXLEY, Staff Writer

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Iowa singer-songwriter J. Jeffrey Messerole was welcomed to the Rod Library on Thursday, January 19, as the newest addition to the UNI Museum’s “Rock the Stacks” series.

Originally from Spirit Lake, Iowa, J. Jeffrey Messerole shared his story with live audience members attending his concert Thursday night.

“As a writer, I like to be able to talk about what I’m writing and have people actually pay attention to what I’ve written,” Messerole said.

During the show, Messerole took time in between songs to tell his personal story as a singer-songwriter growing up in a small town in Iowa – all the while taking the audience through his own writing process and musical endeavors.

Messerole credits his musical upbringing and inspiration to classic country music of the 80’s and 90’s, as well as some of the great songwriters in rock and roll.

“When you talk songwriters, you go into Bob Dylan and things like that,” Messerole said. “He’s often considered the greatest songwriter of all time and, while I think he’s up there, if you take some time to research other songwriters, you’re going to find a lot of people that are even better than he is. Leonard Cohen is another one of those greats. Tom Waits is another one of those greats.

“When you talk about mainstream songwriters — a lot of my influence comes a lot from a lot of the Texas writers from the 80’s and 90’s, where they had most of their popularity – Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Joey Lee, Rodney Crowell, guys like that,” Messerole continued.

These influences come out in Messerole’s music through his lyrics, guitar playing and overall performance style. His set on Thursday night covered relaxed acoustics, along with a comfortable, country feel that was propelled by Messerole’s raspy voice and subtle twang.

“[The show] was very interesting – I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said freshman criminology major Naomi Hubbell, who was in attendance Thursday night.

UNI Museum Exhibit Preparator Jess Cruz explained how Messerole was chosen to perform for the latest edition of “Rock the Stacks.”

“I like the idea of putting together a program that was not only a concert that you could listen to, but also kind of understand the process of music-making,” Cruz said. “And he was interested in actually doing a storyteller kind of setup to where it’s him singing and then we also get to hear […] stories behind the songs and the inspiration for them.”

“Rock the Stacks” is a series within UNI Museum’s exhibit “Ballroom Bash: Iowa’s Rock and Roll Legacy.” This exhibit was planned alongside the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association Museum by UNI Museum Curator Nathan Arndt.

Steps, a former local nightclub located on College Hill where Sidecar Coffee now resides, was an inspiration to both Arndt and Cruz. 

Located on the first floor of Rod Library, this exhibit aims to embody a history of rock and roll that is close to home. Decorated with vintage posters, recording equipment and finished off with a black and white checkered floor, the exhibit offers an atmosphere welcoming to all who recognize the work and appreciate the art in making music.

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