Hoot Review from Harriet Brewing, July 16, 2015
by Becca Marx
Even before the Hoot happened on Thursday night at Harriet Brewing, I had an idea that it’d be a memorable one. Hoot patriarch Jim Walsh had written a piece about his affection for Hoot veteran Jeaneen Gauthier (Jan), and it occurred to me once more that Walsh doesn’t randomly pick these players. This particular line-up was one that I wasn’t familiar with, but as Walsh himself said, there was a “wealth of talent” onstage, a fact strikingly evident as all the players collaborated on Walsh’s own beauty of a song, “Homebodies (Don’t Be Careful With Your Love).”
A face new to the stage was that of Oberlin Conservatory senior and jazz trumpeter Joe Suihkonen. Suihkonen played a recently written “sketch of a song” that was touching, with a vocal style reminiscent of Thom Yorke. In fact, there were many new faces in the Hoot crowd, noted by Walsh, and celebrated with a heartily inclusive “Yee-Ha!”
I’ve got to agree with Chris Riemenschneider (Star Tribune): singer/songwriter/guitarist Brian Drake (The April Fools band) sang his rocking blues in a way that was suggestive of Warren Zevon. Drake’s lyrics to the song “Not The Man She Knew” told the tale of a love gone wrong in a devastatingly heartfelt way. Drake has that ability to breathe life into a song, and in the simply titled “Smile” (Charlie Chaplin composed, Nat King Cole added the lyrics), the emotion Drake shared with us echoed the advice to, “Smile though your heart is aching, smile even though it’s breaking…” Pure delight.
Jim and Jeff Crandall bantered good-naturedly about Crandall’s “confused persona,” a result of recording not only a Swallows’ record, but a solo one as well. Crandall has a powerfully rough-hewn voice that fills a room. The ominous “The Gravediggers” is sung from the point of view of a man watching his own burial, and will be released on the upcoming “In the Shadow of the Seven Stars” Swallows record. Crandall also gave glory to the lusty Chris Isaak tune “Wicked Game.” See the Swallows at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall, 8/16.
The singer songwriter Jeaneen Gauthier began her round with a song as yet only performed for her cats: “Chinese Restaurant,” a tune filled with tongue-in-cheek references to life, but via sweet and sour sauce. I’m a huge Janis Ian fan, and there were moments that Gauthier’s tone and music was reminiscent of Ian. The classic country tune of lost love by Lefty Frizzell “Long Black Veil” was new to me, but done sweet justice to, by Gauthier. Watch for Gauthier in The Ronnie Buxtons, and keep your eyes peeled for a video she’s making that’ll feature a cast of cats playing the roles of humans.
The Frye are in their seventh year, and if they’ve got an itch, they’re certainly scratching it with the barroom operetta “The Best of Hank and Rita.” Joe Tougas wrote the show that’ll debut in the duo’s hometown of Mankato, and the Twin Cities debut will be at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater on 8/23. The combined voices of Tougas and Ann Rosenquist Fee gave off an effervescence that the audience devoured. “Without a Home” reveled in the rose-colored glasses view of life on the road, while “Don’t Let Me Stand in the Way” was a touchingly sad song that was about love, and a partnership gone wrong. Upon learning that Fee had performed in a high school version of the musical “Grease”, the audience was insistent that she perform one of its hits. The bemused Fee obliged, and hit the high notes on “Tears on my Pillow” while the audience sang along. Don’t miss out on “The Best of Hank and Rita”, it stars both Tougas and Fee, and from what I saw is going to be amazing, so get your tickets!
An integral part of the Hoot is the banter between Jim Walsh and the players. Those onstage delve into topics both relevant, and irreverent. For the listener, these moments can summon pathways of thought that can be just as inspiring as the musical performances. Walsh’s hopeful song “Go For the Bloom” is about “growth and survival,” of making it through the difficult actual or metaphorical winter to the fresh rush of spring. The gorgeous chorus was made more so, with the collaboration of Brian Drake, Jeff Crandall, and Ann Rosenquist Fee.
The final song of the night brought it full circle. Joe Tougas picked a great one, and Miss Becky Kapell and Doug Collins (without The Receptionists) joined those onstage for a heartwarming rendition of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Dixie Down.” The song was the perfect statement that symbols which promote hate and evoke anger and disgust can be taken down, and that hope springs eternal.
Becca Marx is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and critic and staff reporter for Rift Magazine.