BECCA MARX: Hoot Report from Harriet Brewing, April 30, 2015

The latest incarnation of the Mad Ripple Hootenanny kicked off Thursday, April 30, 2015, with Mother Nature’s blessing. Sun shining, beer flowing, and an audience that spilled out onto the patio of Harriet Brewing on the last day of April. On stage there were four Martins and a Gibson polished and ready to go.

Jim Walsh introduced the players and warmed the house with his jocular banter putting everyone at ease, and opened the night with his buzzing spring tune, “Flight Of The Dog Day Cicadas.”

Sarah Streitz – who is not only a folk-soul-country singer/songwriter, but a painter, teacher, and mother of four – opened up with her smoky Lucinda Williams-like vocals performing a gorgeous rendition of her song “Empty Pockets.” On the eve of May Day/International Workers Day, the song about immigrants was timely.

Shawn Gibbons has a throaty voice reminiscent of Carole King or Joni Mitchell, but in an Annie Lennox way. After a comment about how it was “hard to be in the [South Minneapolis] neighborhood (following) Sarah Streitz,” she humbly requested “lowered expectations.” No need to as she took the house on an emotional journey with her rendition of “To Sir, With Love.”

Next came a singer whom Molly Maher has encouraged to play out more. Dana Thompson is a Jewel lookalike from the Iron Range who possesses a tremendous voice and sweeping range not unlike her doppelganger. She showed her guitar chops as well, while performing the original “Shadow in the Water.” With pride she spoke about her daughter, a talented badminton player at Southwest High School who spearheaded a growing resurgence of the sport from a mere ten to 60 team members.

The owner/teacher of The Linden Hills House of Music, Brad McLemore displayed his guitar prowess in his Texas meets Minnesota brand of country-rock. His “Lose Your Mind” was suggestive of a less angst-ridden Ryan Adams. Brad is a contributor on Streitz’s new album “Take On,” the CD release show for which is at Honey NE May 16th.

Folk veteran Larry Long was intercepted on his way to a badminton match by photographer Tony Nelson and his wife Lisa Middag and, with racket in tow, was convinced by Jim to contribute a song to the night’s Hoot. A Minnesota treasure that has worked with the late Pete Seeger, Larry’s “Mother Jones,” on the 40th Anniversary of the end of The Vietnam War,  was a thought-provoking moment from the intergenerational educator and storyteller.

Speaking on behalf of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Mary Beth Hanson highlighted “Voice: Songs For Those Who Are Silenced” CD release and poster event that advocates for the needs of children (18 and under)who are victims of sex trafficking in Minnesota. Mary Beth then joined Jim for a great rendition of Jim Roll’s “1955.”

Jim’s brother Terry Walsh, fresh from the recent Belfast Cowboy’s release show for their latest album “The Upside to the Downslide,” sang a heartfelt version of “Hard Working and Poor.” In the spirit of music education, Scott Schuler spoke about the new Arrowhead Music Experience, which offers roots-based music workshops in the beautiful north woods near Lutsen, Minn.

So there you have a snapshot of what makes the Mad Ripple Hootenanny tick — a spontaneous blend of community, music and love. Stories and songs that evolve and inform all the while entertaining and inspiring even the youngest in the room.

One such lass, the daughter of local singer-songwriter Scott Walker (The Camdens) was thrilled to put money in the tip jar and confided to her father that she would be “the youngest player at the Hoot.”

Experience the Hoot for yourself and in Jim Walsh’s words: “We’ll be at Harriet every Thursday now until we’re not.” Cheers to that!

Becca Marx is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and critic and staff reporter for Rift Magazine.


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