Monthly Archives: January 2014

Episode #13 – Jan. 22, 2014

bakerlondonEpisode thirteen features tracks from La Crosse’s Ska & Reggae veterans T.U.G.G., energetic Twin Cities pop-rock quintet Joey Ryan & The Inks, Rochester/Winona experimental rock trio Grey Matter Black, and MN folk/blues institution Papa John Kolstad, as well as a set of related tunes by nomadic mad-cap rock legends Baker London, avant-jazz act Matty Harris Quartet, and Rochester blues prodigy Trent Romens (featuring Johnny Becker).

I was introduced to the fantastic music of Baker London during my time living in Decorah. Formed in 2005 in Chicago, members live in LA, Minneapolis, and Olympia WA, but have deep roots in Decorah and return to visit or perform somewhat regularly (I caught two live performances during my time there). Baker London blends rock, ska, country, and folk to create a sound that is both familiar and strikingly original. Founding member, songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Trevor Grimm tragically passed away in 2007.

The remaining members have re-worked, re-arranged and re-recorded several of Grimm’s compositions over the course of creating their 9+ album discography. “Mannequin Factory” is one such example; originally appearing on their first album in 2006 with Grimm on vocals (click here for that version). The version featured in this episode is from 2010 and is a much refined and fuller realization of Grimm’s unique vision. 

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Episode #12 – Jan. 15, 2014

a1367988571_10All Lights Off Radio has got the blues! Episode number 12 features music from folk-blues legend Spider John Koerner, Decorah’s prolific performer Joe Price, Chicago’s Bentonia-style bluesman Mississippi Gabe Carter, and roots stompers Steve Kaul & The Brass Kings. For good measure, I also threw in some Winona tracks from looping instrumentalist Bo.Monro, pop-rock jam band The Weathered Heads, and SMUMN math-rockers The Cobbs.

Bo.Monro is the musical project of Mid West Music Fest founder Sam Brown. He released his debut Bo.Monro album (featuring tracks crafted over as many as six years) in the spring of 2013 and sat down with reporter Sarah Squires of the Winona Post to chat about it in this lovely piece: “Brown releases first studio album

from the Winona Post:

Local legend Steve Kukowski is featured on the washboard, shaker, and hand drum, providing a steady beat for the smooth melodies of Brown’s guitar work. The rhythmically-looped tracks build into complex arrangements that pull listeners into a story woven into each of the eight songs.

“I call it progressive, instrumental rock,” said Brown of the style he’s developed since he first picked up the guitar at 16. “Progressive because it builds on itself. It starts with one simple riff, and by the end, it’s a wall of sound.”

Over the years, Brown’s musical style has evolved. These days he improvises on the guitar frequently, playing tunes that he’ll never play the same way again. He doesn’t write down his songs; instead, they become part of him. “As far as the song-writing process goes — I don’t really have one,” he explained. “It kind of happens organically.”

Brown uses a looping pedal when he plays, weaving musical loops together and building a full, intricate sound. When he recorded the new album at Ghost In My House Studio in Onalaska, he had to dissect those looped layers for the first time.

The album cover features an etching that Brown created in a print-making class at Winona State University — the scene at Third and Franklin streets that the album was named for. Brown said the album title and cover pay homage to Ed Hoffman, owner of Ed’s No Name Bar, where Brown has collaborated and become an integral part of the local music scene. “I decided to call it Third and Franklin because it’s been a really important intersection for my development as an artist, kind of coming into my own,” he explained. After living in Oregon for six years, “to come back and participate and play in the scene of my home state meant a lot to me.”

Without lyrics, the songs are steeped in opportunities for reflection, the kind of music that can open a mind, that can pull cars across states as drivers are submerged in meditation to melody. Brown hopes that his music will lift spirits and send listeners running to start their own masterpieces. “Hopefully, they’re inspired to create something of their own, because there’s some kind of energy you get from creating music and art,” he explained. “I think it’s a really positive thing that I hope people are willing to explore.”

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Episode #11 – Jan. 8, 2014

a1216837430_2I kick off 2014 by looking back at the in-studio performances I recorded during my tenure as GM at 89.1 KPVL Community Radio. This episode features original recordings of music by indie-blues maestros General B & The Wiz, inspired Twin Cities shoe-gazers Brilliant Beast, NW Iowa’s premier social justice folk-rock act Andy Juhl & The Bluestem Players, Decorah’s transformational songstress Michelle Lynn, Stillwater retro-rock revivalists Ruben, angelic-voiced heart-on-his-sleeve singer-songwriter Jacob Grippen, and quirky Minneapolis soul and blues singer Clare Lockman.

296574_2447615427064_1707731468_nHaving independent musicians stop by the studio for performances and interviews was one of the more rewarding aspects of my job at KPVL. All of the performances featured here are tied to fond memories. Ms. Lockman’s visit in August of 2010 is the earliest, while General B & The Wiz’s in-studio in April of 2012 is the most recent. Andy Juhl & The Bluestem players made the journey from Spencer, IA twice. Their song featured in this episode is from their 2nd stop to Decorah and, in my opinion, is one of the better sounding / recorded performances I captured.

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Click here to view this episode’s playlist