Music

An evening with Garrison Keillor

Featured image At the American Conservative Peter Tonguette recently reflected on seeing Garrison Keillor perform in Newark, Ohio. Tonguette’s column was published as “An evening with Garrison Keillor in exile.” Prudence Johnson performed with Garrison. Last month I included Prudence in my series on the Minnesota music scene in “Wash my eyes” (singing a song by Greg Brown). Tonguette covers some of the same ground I did this past December in my »

Waiting for James Taylor

Featured image Those who are doing their best to sell us out to Iran with another wrap on the JCPOA have given up for the time being. The AFP/Times of Israel story puts it this way: “Europe: ‘Serious doubts’ Iran wants nuke deal; program ‘way beyond’ civilian purpose.” The subhead cites a joint statement saying that France, Germany and the United Kingdom have reached the “limit of flexibility” while Tehran escalates its »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I researched and wrote this for Van Morrison’s 75th birthday two years ago. I have slightly downsized it to pay tribute to him as he turns 77 this week. He is a brilliant, eccentric, enigmatic, essential singer/songwriter, performer, and multi-instrumental musician. He’s not for everyone. If you respond to his aesthetic, however, there is no one who comes close. Clinton Heylin peered into Van’s life and work in Van Morrison: »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Today is Jackie DeShannon’s 81st birthday. I compiled the videos below to pay tribute to her in connection with her 80th birthday last year. I had such a good time doing it and enjoyed the music so much, I thought it might be worth laying it down for another spin on the turntable to take a break from the news in search of lost time and placid thoughts. Jackie made »

Mary’s Prayer

Featured image “Mary’s Prayer” is a terrific track off the album Meet Danny Wilson by the Scottish trio Danny Wilson. It wormed its way onto the radio in 1987. The folks behind There’s Something About Mary picked it back up for the soundtrack of the 1998 comedy. Last night TCM played the interesting 1952 Frank Sinatra/Shelley Winters film Meet Danny Wilson. So that’s where the band got the name! It not only »

Love Is the Law

Featured image With Steve Hayward back at his station on the left coast, I wanted to bring this song of the day series featuring Minnesota musicians to an end on a high note. Earlier in the series we sampled Twin Cities supergroup The New Standards — Chan Poling (piano), ex- of the Suburbs, John Munson (bass), ex- of Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic, and vibes player Steve Roehm. They make for a fantastic »

Dead and Gone

Featured image We are close to the end of this song of the day series featuring Minnesota musicians, but I may indulge myself one more time tomorrow. If you have followed along, you may have noticed that I have excavated songs with an upbeat tone or feeling. In the spirit of the Inflation Reduction Act, the time has come for music in a more desperate mood. With my friend Scott Sansby I »

Help Me Find the Way

Featured image When Steve returns to his post on the left coast this week, I will bring this song of the day series featuring Minnesota musicans to an end. Matt Wilson and John Munson have teamed up again in the group The Twilight Hours. Matt and John are ex- of Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic. John is the bassist in the New Standards trio. Matt also leads Matt Wilson & His Orchestra. Matt »

Wait So Long

Featured image It has been my object in this series to draw attention to talented Minnesota musicians who are worthy of attention and still working gigs. Today we come to Duluth bluegrass quintet Trampled By Turtles. You may have heard them on Banjodad Records. “Trampled By Turtles” makes me laugh. “Duluth bluegrass” makes me laugh. “Banjodad Records” makes me laugh. But they are seriously worthy of attention and still working gigs. Take »

Settled Down Like Rain

Featured image I will leave this series featuring the work of Minnesota musicians in the next few days. Before leaving it behind I want to draw attention to The Jayhawks. I picked up on them with Hollywood Town Hall in 1992 and they are still going strong in slightly different form today. Their most recent album is XOXO (2020). The band has some 12 or 13 albums to its credit, all of »

Wash My Eyes

Featured image Prudence Johnson is a talented local musician. I was crazy about her work in the fantastic retro trio Rio Nido and then followed her as a solo artist over the years. I saw her show featuring the work of George Gershwin at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center and stuck around for both of her two shows singing the songs of Gene Pitney (backed on piano by her ex, former »

Forgive and Forget

Featured image Minnesota bluegrass group Stoney Lonesome released two recordings on Red House Records and were frequently featured on Prairie Home Companion. Minnesota bluegrass sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? Yet we have an active bluegrass scene. The lady out front in Stoney Lonesome was the lovely Kate MacKenzie. Kate recorded two discs under her own name: Let Them Talk (1994) and Age of Innocence (1996). I went to her »

The Gypsy Life

Featured image I caught up with the work of modern singer/songwriters listening to the long gone weekly Sunday morning Urban Folk show on KFAI. The hosts alternated between Bob Feldman and Marian Moore. Bob was the (re)founder of Red House Records, Greg Brown’s label. Once he took it over and made it a going concern he proceeded to sign many of his favorite artists including Spider John Koerner, Eliza Gilkyson, Prudence Johnson, »

See a Little Light

Featured image Hüsker Dü — Bob Mould, Grant Hart, and Gregg Norton — was the incredibly influential band at the heart of the punk in Minneapolis and nationally. They came into their own on the double album Zen Arcade (SST Records, 1984). They followed up with the highly regarded New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig on SST in 1985 before they were signed to a major label (Warner Bros.), where they »

I Will Dare

Featured image According to Rolling Stone, The Replacements were the greatest band that never was. I don’t know what that means or whether it’s so, but they may well have been the most beloved Minneapolis band of the ’80’s. They are certainly the only such band to have a (respectable) 500-page book devoted to them: Bob Mehr’s Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements. I’ve read enough of Mehr’s book to »

If You Know What I Mean

Featured image Martin Zellar is the talented singer/songwriter who fronted Minnesota’s Gear Daddies. They released two discs in the late ’80’s before they were picked up by PolyGram/Polydor for a hot minute in the early ’90’s. They made it to David Letterman’s late night show with a performance of Zellar’s “Stupid Boy.” The band broke up in 1992 while Zellar continued his career as a solo artist. I loved Zellar’s covers of »

The Trees Are Testifying

Featured image To restate the thesis of this song-of-the-day series, I want to draw attention to a few of the active artists who have come out of the Minnesota music scene. I hope at least a few readers will find something of interest. I saw the Sussman Lawrence band around town in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The boys were from St. Louis Park. Keyboard player Jeff Victor gives a “self-condensed” »