One of the best things to happen to the Minneapolis music scene this winter was when Brianna Lane (nee Melford) slipped on the ice and broke her foot. As a result, the normally hard-touring folk songstress was forced to the sidelines and into the local clubs. And, although we feel her pain, it’s been a treat to regularly bear witness to her easy charm, gorgeous voice and songs such as "Porchlight Song," "Stranger," and "Birds," because it’s a good bet that when the snow melts and the cast comes off, the Kingfield-raised product of Annunciation grade school and Holy Angels high school will be outta here.
"I have to tour, I just have to," says Lane, cuddled up with her crutches on a couch on a recent Monday night at the Kitty Cat Klub in Dinkytown, which — from the "Positively Fourth Street" painting on
SE 4th Street and 13th Avenue, to the Varsity Theater where Bob Dylan’s "Renaldo and Clara" got its premiere, to the enduring specter of Dylan’s old hang the Purple Onion — is haunted by the former Bobby Zimmerman and the road he took out of the Midwest. Refreshingly, the 29-year-old Lane knows very well the wanderlust, if not the Dylan catalog.
"I was always a questioning child," she says. "My mom was a flight attendant all her life, my dad was a professional musician, and an addict, and a taxi driver, and a factory worker and a trucker. My [road-restlessness is] probably in the genes.
"I’ve been on the road non-stop since I started. I graduated from college, got a job as a part-time music teacher and said, ‘This is bull—-. If I’m gonna do this, I have to do it now. I lived in my red truck, crashed on people’s couches for a year and criss-crossed the country."
This night, sitting across from Lane on another comfy couch is Chastity Brown, copies of her stunning new CD tucked under her down jacket; while on stage and singing her achy-quirky heart out is Ashleigh Still — two more rising stars to have emerged from the suddenly fertile hotbed of impressive local female singer/songwriters that includes Jaspar Lepak, Aby Wolf, Jen Markey, Suzanne Vallie, Mayda Miller, Eliza Blue and many more.
Lane, in true folk and anti-folk fashion, is an all-for-one-one-for-all kind of artist: She books her own tours, hauls her own gear, makes her own CDs and is quick to champion other songwriters ("I just got back from the New Folk Alliance in Memphis and John Elliot was amazing, probably the best thing I saw there") and help out others in any way she can (as we chat, touring Canadian folk outfit Po’Girl is crashed back at her house — the same house she grew up in with her mother, and which she now shares with her budding musician girlfriend, Heidi Johnson).
"My plan was to stay in Minneapolis the whole winter and whole spring, but I can’t do it. I love it, but I want to see things, experience things and meet people. Random-ass people. But the messed-up thing about me breaking my leg is that I have gone out more than ever before."
Such is the lure of live music and a community that nurtures it with open arms and eager ears. And, in Brianna Lane’s case, those ears are rewarded with something that taps deeply into the human condition and all its romance, love, lust, drinking, art, music, and the shared experience of being alive in these hard, soft, and in-between times.
"The reason why I started listening to music more closely is because I needed to know that someone felt the same way as I did," she says. "I’m such an emotional girl, and I was so depressed, and I go through all my bouts of depression all the time, and so when I was young, I naturally got into chick-centered folk rock. Feeling-based stuff. But then it transferred into this sense of universalism: ‘We’re all people, and we all feel this [crap].’"
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.