Summer brought a crazy bounty of local music releases, but in all my years of semi-covering and keeping the beat beat in this beat-crazy burg, I can’t remember a more fertile time for independent tunes than the bumper crop being harvested this fall. I’m here for it, but before we dig into the music and music parties, any time I get a chance to share this quote from the Los Angeles Times’ David Ackert, I take it:
“Singers and musicians are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, they face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again.
“Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every note, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of a normal life — the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because the musicians and singers are willing to give their entire lives to a moment — to that melody, that lyric, that chord, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul.
“Singers and musicians are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in the crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”
Can’t tell the local mystics without a program, so dig if you will the latest bumper crop of homegrown discs:
Genital Panic featuring Tina Schlieske, “Pussygrabber EP”
The leader of Tina and the B-Side Movement brought the house down at the Lady Parts Justice bash at the Cedar earlier this summer with a fierce reading of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s World.” Turns out that was just a taste of the similarly ferocious Genital Panic: The title track, along with of-the-moment songs “Misogyny Is Coming To Get Me” and “Lick My Impeachment” sound like classic punk rock anthems that have only just recently been unearthed. Obviously recorded fast and with great urgency, this EP is a funny, angry, smart and rockin’ tonic for the troops, and here’s hoping the pogo-worthy “Pussygrabber” lights up the resistance airwaves from sea to shining sea. (Release party Saturday, Sept. 8 at First Avenue with Holly Hansen and American Housewife)
Brass Lassie, “Brass Lassie”
Fiddles, flutes, tin whistles, drums and a full horn section power Irish-Scottish music heroine Laura MacKenzie’s magnificent new 10-member group, which takes the basics of traditional music and blows them up into big-band nirvana. Seriously mesmerizing, and wildly danceable. (CD release party Saturday, Sept. 8 at North Garden Theater in St. Paul)
M French, “Sweet Love”
I love this dude. Truly a gentle man, French has a James Taylor-by-way-of-Michael Johnson way with a lyric and melody, and it’s easy to hear that his songs come the very heart of a very thoughtful soul who struggles in matters of the heart but shines on always and keeps killing it with kindness. (Release party Oct. 20 at Aster Café with Julia Christi Ann)
Kari Arnett, “When the Dust Settles”
This holy-smokes country-folk debut is highlighted by some classic-sounding country-blues tunes and Arnett’s force-of-natural-woman vocals. “Only a Woman,” inspired by the lack of female songwriters on music festival bills, is a should-be country radio hit, and “Tired of This Town” is the perfect theme song for anyone who’s ever felt the need to shake up the scenery and soul. (Release party Sept. 20 at the Cedar Cultural Centre with Mary Bue and BeckyKapell)
Martin Devaney, “Plaid on Plaid”
Fitting that the album title nods to Bob, as the unofficial mayor of St. Paul uncorks a rock and soul beauty that evokes classic Dylan and Byrds-y pop. Fueled by some of Devaney’s best songs and vocal performances of his career and Tom Herbers’ warm and expansive production, “Plaid On Plaid” is highlighted by catchy croon-alongers “When You Were Young” and “About My Girl” and the wistful “Getting Cold.” (Release party Dec. 1 at the Turf Club)
Annie Fitzgerald, “You and Me and The Sun”
If you’re lucky like me, you’ve heard Fitzgerald’s delicate voice hush up a room with a single sweet song — like she did at the State Fair with Patty Griffin’s “Heavenly Day” and as she does on this pretty meditation on hope, optimism and summery salvation. Along with Dan Israel’s “You’re Free,” I played the hell out of this while staring at the Crazy Mountains of Montana a few weeks ago, and I felt damn lucky to be alive.
Vicki Emerson-Wallace, “Steady Heart”
The co-leader of The Home Fires and one of the hardest-gigging songwriters in town unveils her latest batch of self-produced tunes, directly inspired by the #metoo movement and how these mad macro times affect one woman’s micro heart. (Release party Nov. 2 at the Hook and Ladder Theater with Mother Banjoand Haley Rydell)
Bev, “Static Elastic”
Led by singer-songwriter Niki Beverly, Bev comes alive with sonic swirls and moody moonshine music and lyrics, highlighted by such inner ruminations as “Burn,” “Disaster of Messes” and “The Truth.” All in all, perfect indie rock headphone music for a rainy autumn night. (Release party Sept. 22 at Mortimer’s with Rank Strangers and Otto’s Chemical Lounge)
Paul Metsa & Willie Walker, “Ain’t Gonna Whistle Dixie Anymore”
Leave it to a couple of Midwestern bluesmen (with a lot of help from Sounds of Blackness) to deliver an anti-racism anthem that artfully takes on the late stages of the fading white supremacy like a couple of preachers leading a New Orleans funeral march. This one’s for you, white power punks and all who fly the Confederate Flag in 2018: “Bury that song in the land of cotton/deep in the Delta mud long to be forgotten.” (irockthecause.org/aint-gonna-whistle-dixie-anymore-paul-me)
Julia Christi Ann, “Before You Go”
An absolutely stunning voice on a single that promises much more to come from this wise old soul singer on her full album release in January. (Release party Sept. 27 at Icehouse with Hemmaand Fathom Lane, who are celebrating the release of their new single, “Laurelee.”)
Doug Collins and The Receptionists, “Good Sad News”
Fresh off his triumphant release party at the Turf Club, Collins makes like his heroes on what sounds like a mini-country-pop classic, thanks in no small part to the production chops of Rob Genadek, an unassuming recording genius in a town full of ’em. By no means some retro-rocker or vintage-white dude-come-lately, Collins is a songwriter/rocker/man out of time whose lived-in and poetic songs evoke the glory days of AM radio country-pop-rock, and this 10-song long-player is his most fully-realized collection of songs to date.
Guante & Big Cats, “War Balloons”
Guante brings all his chops as a poet, rapper, activist, scholar and teacher to this EP, as he and his crew come with intensity and topicality on super-smart ruminations like “Dog People” and “Gifted Youngsters” (featuring Lydia Liza), “Fortunate Sun” (featuringTony The Scribe) and the brilliant trio of “Fight Or Flight,” “Bumbling Shithead Fascists” and “You Say ‘Millionaire’ Like It’s A Good Thing.” (Release party Sept. 21 at the Whole Music Club at the University of Minnesota)
Ben Cook-Feltz, “BCF”
Singer, songwriter, keyboard wizard and hard-working sideman Cook-Feltz could be the middle brother of Ben Folds and Dylan Hicks, and his past outings suggest more heartbreak, romance and lush power-pop craft to come on “BCF.” (Release party Sept. 23 at Icehouse with Sarah Morris)
Hip-hop and poetry slam vet Niles has made a name for himself as a teacher and non-profit organizer, and his latest, “To Remain,” is bolstered by an all-star cast that includes Jayanthi Kyle, Joe Davis, Aleesha Clomon, Dahlia Jones, Carolyne Naomi and Traiveon Dunlap. (Release party Sept. 21 at Icehouse with Vie Boheme, Calvin The Second and David “TC” Ellis)
Terry Hughes, “The Other Side”
At a time when the trend for songwriters is to release singles, EPs and one-off tracks, Hughes has crafted an actual album. Southwest Journal publisher Hughes’ third release in five years, “The Other Side” is a refreshing and uneasy slice of the times, coming from a writer who has obviously been paying attention — and reacting — to the tumultuous here and now with songs like “D.E.A,” “Dangerous Man,” “Viewer Discretion Advised,” “The End Of Wonder” and “Invisible Man.” Highly recommend to all worshippers of the holy trinity of Joe Jackson/Elvis Costello/Brian Wilson. (Release show Sept. 29 at Studio 2 Café)
Preston Gunderson, “Wake Up”
Already a recording veteran at the ripe old age of 28, Gunderson is a robust singer and a songwriter who sounds like he’s just coming into his own on this forthcoming collection of personal ballads and rockers. Easily some of the year’s best love songs this side of Mason Jennings’ “Songs From When We Met.”
Bye Bye Banshee, “Deathfolk Magic”
This new vehicle for Minneapolis songwriter Jezebel Jones is an ancient-sounding shot of swampy blues (“If I Die In My Dreams”) and witchy folk-rock (“Skull Rattles”) that makes for an extremely haunting trip into the afterlife via song. (Release party October 4 at Bryant-Lake Bowl)
Tiny Deaths, “Magic”
Brooklyn- and Minneapolis-based Tiny Deaths singer Claire de Lune is nothing short of hypnotic on the mood-swinging duo’s three previous releases, making like Bjork and Nick Cave’s little sister, all of which promise more beautiful brooding things to come with this full-length album. (Release party Oct. 4 at Icehouse with Gully Boys and DJ Sarah White)
Johnny Rey and The Reaction, “This Modern Age”
The co-founder of the late, great Minneapolis dance-rock-pop pioneers Flamingo is on fire on this five-song EP, cutting through with Clash-like topicality and the sort of from-the-heart raw rock ’n’ roll that always sounds fresh: ripping band, savvy songwriter and great grooves throughout.
Mother Banjo, “Eyes On The Sky”
The heroine of the Minnesota Music Coalition, host of KFAI’s weekly must-hear “Womenfolk” show and ace Americana singer-songwriter returns with more banjo-bred goodness. (Release party Nov. 2 at the Hook and Ladder Theater with Vicki Emerson-Wallace and Haley Rydell)
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in South Minneapolis. He can be reached at [email protected].