Monthly Archives: January 2015

Episode #33 – Jan. 21, 2015

suzieEpisode #33 takes a tour of the musical projects of Minneapolis multi-instrumentalist Mark Ritsema that begins and ends with his playful gender-bending alter ego, Suzie. Other musical excursions along the way include Domino Records trio Night Moves, in addition to celebrated, yet now-defunct groups Mouthful of Bees and The Battle Royale.
Caught between a love for sleazy, riff-chugging glam bands and a fascination with Top 40 pop and R&B, Suzie is a wildly refreshing and charmingly weird new act that utilizes looping grooves, soft synths penetrated by bright angular beach guitars, and fuzzy falsetto vocals to create a sound that is familiar, warm & nostalgic like the blithe closing song of a grainy 80s film.

Stream or download this episode in a variety of formats
via archive.org by CLICKING HERE.

This episode can also be streamed or licensed via PRX.org by clicking here.

Click here to view this episode’s playlist

Advertisements

Episode #32 – Jan. 7, 2015

munson_live_albumEpisode 32 is focused on Winona blues musician Mike Munson’s recent live album, which successfully incorporates many of the desirable qualities of live recordings and very few of the downsides. Solid audio quality, impassioned performances, new arrangements, extended versions, delightful improvisation, a cohesive choice of songs that includes previously unreleased tracks, and a masterfully tasteful dose of ambiance from the audience, not to mention the wonderful washboard rhythms of guest percussionist Mikkel Beckmen, reinforce the overwhelming feeling that Live at Ed’s was simply done right. The result is a satisfying reproduction of the live Mike Munson concert experience.

And what an experience it is! Recorded at a much-hyped Saturday night release party for Munson’s self-titled studio debut on November 9th of last year (the liner notes incorrectly say November 8th), this live album is filled with energy, both from the stage and the crowd. A raucous rendition of Good Gal Said, whose lyrics run through all the different folks that proclaim Munson’s narrator will end up dead if he “don’t quit his guitar playin’” (save his “good gal” of course), is a particularly apt example. At around 3 minutes into the song, at which point Munson is wailing about discouragement dished out by his very own sister, Beckmen opens things up considerably by ditching his washboard in favor of a tambourine and prompts the crowd to appropriately let out collective hoots and yelps of approval.

Good Gal Said is followed by a traditional, Rosie, to close out the album. Both are swampy, caterwauling stompers that are well suited for curtain calls. The rest of Live at Ed’s is more balanced. Munson’s driving electric adaptation of the Delta blues (which interweaves bass and melody lines à la John Lee Hooker), along with his more humble and unaffected vocals, are bolstered by Beckmen’s remarkably reliable rhythms. Their chemistry on tracks like Too Far Gone, Blackbird and Wanda’s Farm help bring the songs a notch above the self-titled in the intensity column, while at the same time also anchoring the music and making dynamic and emotional shifts seem effortless.

Which brings me to my personal favorite, Over Now. At six and a half minutes long (nearly double the length of the version on the self-titled), Munson’s live rendition of Over Now features plenty of variation, including lengthy improvisational intros and interludes. The song is still pleasantly sad and somber; but trading in the studio version’s acoustic timbre for the same electric guitar tone used on the rest of Live at Ed’s gives Munson’s droning slide guitar parts a freshness and weightiness that is disarming, complex, and beautiful. Add in Munson’s melodic vocal lines and Beckmen’s galloping, meditative pounding on the hand drum and the sum product is really easy to get lost in.

In summary, Live at Ed’s is a genuine treat. Munson’s ubiquity, skill, and good character has helped make his music a part of the quintessential Winona experience. And thanks to good fortune, and some really talented audio engineers, this is the definitive document of that experience. Gaze upon the bluffs and enjoy it, people!

Stream or download this episode in a variety of formats
via archive.org by CLICKING HERE.

This episode can also be streamed or licensed via PRX.org by clicking here.

Click here to view this episode’s playlist