Hoot Review from Harriet Brewing, July 9, 2015
Wondrous Hoot! by Becca Marx
Hope that I didn’t put you off with my Hoot preview rant, post Hoot I can say that I am satiated and chill. My frustration with the lack of appreciation for local artists evaporated as Harriet Brewing welcomed in the best Hoot audience that those onstage could desire. It was a crowd that actively listened and participated, all the while experiencing some of the best local music around. I say experience because listening to music at the Hoot is much more than an earful, it’s watching intently as musicians pick up their instruments and feel their way through another’s song; it’s touch as your hands come together to applaud their efforts; it’s the smell of hops, of people, of traffic, of air moving through the open garage doors, and the taste of a cold beer and in my case: a delicious YUM food truck Vietnamese Po’Boy. YUM indeed.
After a beautifully sung “1955” (Jim Roll), by Jim Walsh in dedication to his sister Min (born in 1955), Mother Banjo sang a group of songs that all dealt with water. The first was “Fly Song,” a “catch and release” ditty about a former beau for whom fly fishing was a passion. “Water” was a love story with a tragic end, and the third was the majestic “Wade in the Water.” All three songs were punctuated by her sense of humor and easy rapport that’s seemingly effortless. “Wade in the Water” from Mother Banjo’s 2013 record “The Devil Hasn’t Won” is truly a favorite of mine, every time that I hear it the hair on the back of my neck stands on end. It’s a powerful gospel dirge that stirs something primal within, and ignites visions of a life, but not yours. Mother Banjo (Ellen Stanley) is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Music Coalition (MMC), and filled the Hoot in on its latest news: On August 1, the MMC will hold a fundraiser and 5K at Harriet Brewing, which should be full of great music, and great beer! Get your run on, and support those, who support the musicians, that you love.
Heretofore, please note that I am referring to London native turned Minnesota singer/songwriter Scott James Walker (Scott Walker), not the Wisconsin Scott Walker, who shall not ever be invited to perform at the Hoot. Walker sang his original “Never Too Late”, a beautiful tune made even better with a soulful and tender performance. Walker treated the audience to a cover of the Jason Isbell (Drive-by Truckers) song “Cover Me Up,” which was timely as Isbell happens to be performing at the Basilica Block Party this weekend. Having played in many a band, Walker was completely as ease jumping in and joining the other players. For his final song, “Wild Horses” by The Stones, Walker urged his fellow musicians to contribute. In addition to Walker’s guitar and vocals, the fantastic range that Terry Walsh is blessed with, gave it that extra wow factor. Huge credit to Barbara Jean, her fiddle solo was like crack, couldn’t get enough of it! The audience sang along and loved every moment, a great song choice. Head over to JR Macs on 7/31 to see Walker perform with Laura Ranck.
Art Vandalay’s (Brandon Henry) song “Eye of the Beholder” rolled off the lips like poetry with an alt-country twist, a nice nod to his iconic influences Wilco and Tom Petty. Brandon charmed the crowd with “If You Love Me,” a tune about Rockmount pearl snap shirts. Admittedly, these shirts aren’t in my fashion repertoire, but I’m certainly intrigued after Vandalay told his story of contacting the Denver based company, and being invited out to play at their headquarters. How awesome is that? Hard to top that song/story, but for his final song of the night he offered the audience a choice: either a song about death, or an energetic Bossa Nova. I was very happy with the latter: “Way It Goes” an upbeat way to end his round. You can see Art Vandalay at Butter Bakery & Café, where he co-hosts the “Songwriters & Storytellers” night.
It was a real pleasure to hear the “The La La La’s”, a song that Mayda will perform at her one-woman show “DEMAYDA”D” (Guthrie Theater 7/10, 7/11). That’s right, nearing the debut of her one-woman show, Mayda found the time to entertain us with her intensely driven music. She sang the pun-filled “Lions” from her 2011 release “Tusk in Furs,” and when asked about her creative process, she related that she “Has a need to get it out.” If you’ve heard her music over the years you can get an idea of the journey that she has taken, a journey that has included traveling across the world to meet her birth parents in South Korea. Mayda is a compelling artist, and I cannot encourage you enough to make it to any of her performances, especially her show this weekend at the Guthrie. Get DEMAYDA’D!
Barbara Jean, from her melodic Emmylou-like voice, to her huge fiddle skills, she truly delivered. “Wishing Well,” off of her 2014 record “Darker Than Blue” sounded like North Shore Americana with a decidedly Appalachian folk undercurrent. Molly Dean’s back-up vocals on the mystical song “The River” echoed Jean’s crystal clear stylings beautifully; perfection as the audience clapped along. A favorite of the Hoot was her fiddle waltz “Basket of Flowers,” which felt just right for the warm Minneapolis night. Jean mentioned her desire to do a live record after fielding requests for songs that she has performed live with players like Erik Koskinen, but never has recorded. Don’t miss Barbara Jean at next weekend’s Longfellow Roots and Blues Fest, just down the street from Harriet Brewing at Patrick’s Cabaret.
Sometimes you don’t know where you’re going until you get there, and every week the Hoot proves that. This week, the Hoot seemed to flow at a comfortable and easy pace, just like water. An unspoken theme that washed over us, and as Terry Walsh sang “Harriet”, an ode to our beloved lake, it all came full circle.
Becca Marx is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and critic and staff reporter for Rift Magazine.