All 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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