The Mad Ripple Hootenanny This Week: “Don’t Be Careful With Your Love”
July 15, 2015
Dear Good People,
When I was a cub pop music reporter for the Pioneer Press, my friend Amy Carlson Gustafson turned me on to Jan, the wonderful mid-‘90s Minneapolis-based indie pop group led by Jeaneen Gauthier. The trio’s CD “The Early Year” was one of my favorite records that year – a melodic and rocking glimpse into Jeaneen’s heart and life as an artist – and it remains a late-night go-to to this day.
I fell hard for it and wrote a gushing piece in the PiPress that read, in part:
Many of Gauthier’s observations sound like they come from the antennae of a seasoned bartender, which makes sense, because she used to own a knickknack boutique in Uptown. Which is to say that this thirtysomething artist (she does calligraphy and handmade jewelry to make ends meet) sounds tough and wise, like a woman, a strong woman. And while they describe themselves as “indie-pop,” that lowballs it. This lush-‘n’-sweet gem is pure “Pet Sounds” as shuffled through “Exile in Guyville.”
With breathy (definitely not dippy) vocals, Gauthier, gives voice to all the dramas, revelations and mysteries of clubland and beyond. Her songs speak to the loneliness of modern times, whether it’s the wonderfully romantic, impossibly empathetic “Dumb Guy,” which finds the singer infatuated with a shy boy she met at a party, or the recurring refrain of “You’re never alone on a cellular phone” that concludes “Scanner,” a lighthearted personal harangue about communication addiction.
Then there’s “Baby Forgot How,” written from the perspective of one girlfriend cajoling another to live a little, to get out of the house more, but you get the feeling the singer is pep-talking herself. To that end, it’s impossible to hear “The Early Year” and not come away without knowing something very intimate about Gauthier.
For example, what I discovered, or what I suspect, is that she likes to be alone. She prefers her own company, and her own fantasies, crafts, guitar and keyboards, but then again, she craves human contact because she knows that if she retreats into her room, her rut, which beckons with its easy rituals and known pleasures, she might never come out.
Sound familiar? Me, too.
After that, Jeaneen and I became friends and when I was writing songs for my first Mad Ripple CD, one in particular came in a rush, done in 15 minutes and written as a duet with Jeaneen in mind. Since then, whenever I sing it, I always dedicate it to my old friend Paul Kaiser and his beloved wife Nan, who passed away January 27, 2013, and who loved the Hoot and songs and that song.
I do so because I can still close my eyes and see Nan smiling and listening, and because it’s a song about hope, love, and possibility, and I like singing the chorus of “Don’t be careful with your love” as a reminder to myself and to anyone else who might need the encouragement to open their heart again, or for the first time, to that mysterious four-letter word love, baffling and beautiful love; romantic, platonic, nomadic, sporadic, all good love. Self-, especially.
I’ve loved singing “Homebodies” with Brianna Lane and Mary Beth Hanson and others (Venus, Joel Bremer, Stook!), and I’ll be happy to sing it again with Jeaneen when she returns to the Hoot Thursday at Harriet, along with The Frye (Ann Rosenquist Fee and Joe Tougas), the April Fools’ Brian Drake and the Swallows’ Jeff Crandall, but until then here’s a video of “Homebodies” from the first year of the Hoot, in the basement of Java Jack’s with Phil Solem, Fran King, Duncan Maitland, and more, thanks to Tony Nelson. Enjoy…