JOUR – new name, new look, new CD all released at the Cedar Cultural Center

It is fun to watch the metamorphosis of an artist, especially a young artist like JOUR (formerly known as Jourdan Meyers) with such a strong voice. I remember saying years ago that Jourdan had the voice of the sweetest torch singer in town. That’s not what I would say now. Her presence, her voice they feel more full force than sweet. Today she owns herself, owns her voice and is unafraid to use both to their fullest capacity.

Black Hole is a song that exemplifies the dichotomy of JOUR’s new sound. There’s a hint of Americana in the world of Electronica. JOUR’s voice is so powerful it propels a narration but on the side is a very interesting guitar meander. It’s like watching a play that features two conversations at once. Done poorly, it’s confusing. Done right, as JOUR has done it, it’s layered and interesting.

There are several songs like Black Hole that support multiple tunes or storylines that work in part because of the strong vocals that are generous enough to allow the other musicians to take the stage. It’s complex but again JOUR’s crystalline voice controls the chaos so much that it doesn’t feel like confusion it just feels like multiple simultaneous stories coming together.

My favorite song was Revolution; maybe because I appreciate anyone who highlights current events, especially in a time that is so divisive. And it does it with such finesse. Great art comes of troubled times. And the message isn’t overt but it’s purposeful.

Also worth noting, JOUR’s music brings the men on the dance floor. I love to see that support!

Bye Bye Banshee sings out Deathfolks Magic

Bye Bye Banshee is a new project by Minneapolis songwriter Jezebel Jones. It’s a modern ballad of our final trip through death’s door with nod to ancient themes and characters that have preceded us. It explores death with curiosity and embraces the eventuality with coquettish spirit.

Jones’ ethereal presence sets the stage. The full band around her brings the celebratory feel of a New Orleans funeral march. Her sultry tone in If I Die in my Dreams has a swampy torch singer feel that makes the invitation to her dream equally sexy and scary. You can’t say no.

If the album is a voyage, Pschyopomps is sound of the footsteps into the abyss or dusty trail. There’s room for the instruments to take on their own winds in different directions that pull in different directions.

Skull Rattles reminds me of the Bare Bone’s Halloween show in St Paul. Similar to Deathfolk Magic it is the story of death and life and life after death – but at a community level. Skull Rattles has the unraveling feel of dénouement – of finale but freedom. The narration between songs alludes to previously being under the spell of religion but moving to an understanding that life is a dream – punctuated in the performance with a rendition or rift on Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Women holding strong at Kari Arnett’s CD release at the Cedar Cultural Center

I am a sucker for a strong voice belting out a twangy-angry anthem, especially on women’s rights. So hearing Kari Arnett sing Only a Woman at the Cedar on Thursday was a highlight. She wrote the song in reaction to how some men talk to women in the music industry – and get away with it. It’s unfortunately both a timely and timeless theme. I loved the music as well – especially toward the end of the song, there was a melee of tunes and sounds coming from each corner of the stage, filled with seven musicians. It was like listening to an interesting conversation – disassociated but complimentary and compelling.

Arnett’s music is country but there’s a range of country in it. She opened with Dark Water, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac – in the best way. It has the same slow beat of The Chain. (Funny enough, the only cover Arnett played was another Fleetwood Mac song.) You can hear the influence of the band and the era when there was a cross over between country and rock, especially the rock ballad. Then The Americana Life has a very Western feel. Starting with sounds of languor from the steel pedal, the horse’s gallop in the drums, the plaintive violin and then the voice. The big, bold voice that carries the song from a hot summer day to some musical victory. There’s a sense of accomplishment just listening. Tired of This Town has a completely different sound; remorse and reverence turns to church choral with the harmony of vocals. It’s a twist to have a lovelorn song have such a sweet sound.

It will be fun to watch Arnett’s move forward. The new CD, When the Dust Settles is a terrific start. Unfortunately we’ll be watching it from a distance as she is soon moving to Nashville. Before she left she gave a gracious nod to the Minnesota Music Coalition for helping her get connected when she first moved to the Cities a few years ago.

Bonus of the night was having three women take center stage. Mary Bue started off the night. She played a new song, All the Things Broken. The power of the keyboard, her honest lyrics of heartbreak and the seemingly easy comfort of her voice can bring tears every time. Next was Becky Kapell with Paul Bergen, playing country music like I’ve heard on road trips with my dad my whole life. She can hit and hold a high note and bend it into any shape she wants.

Taking back the power through punk – Genital Panic CD release at 7th Street

The silver lining of the current state of affairs in American politics is the wave of women raising their voices (to use the vernacular of the Women’s Mach) to effect change. We just don’t all sound as good as Tina Schlieske and Genital Panic doing it.

Genital Panic is taking punk back to politics in the spirit of Dead Kennedy’s using sardonic and simple observation to point out the obvious – something’s broken. Locker Room Talk isn’t just Locker Room Talk – if it takes hard core passion and a bubble gum chorus to make the point, so be it.

The sound is fun. Watching with a friend we warred about whether it was like X, the Go-Go’s, the Bangles or Patti Smith. Schlieske’s voice is strong and powerful, awesome yell when you need it and not afraid to go high when it’s appropriate. The band was also awesome. Some members were drafted in late when originally scheduled guests couldn’t be there but they nailed it with the cow bell on Donnie Talks to Russia along with the keyboard suspense rift, the tight bass on Menopause or the dark string interlude on Action Pants.

As much as I loved the music, what I really loved was the message. Schlieske told the story behind the new project. She had seen the work of Valerie Export, a feminist artist who, in 1968, wore crotchless pants into an art house cinema. She walked around with her genitals exposed at face-level to make a statement about the historical portrayal of women in cinema. (Action Pants: Genital Panic is the name of a poster series created to commemorate that famous viewing.)

For better or for worse, it’s time for women to take back our power by raising our voices, by reclaiming terms, by calling out what’s happening around us – through the #MeToo movement or a song such as Pussygrabber.  It’s happening with more women running for office, with more people voting (even in midterm primaries!) and daily protests. And it’s great to see a local hometown music hero joining the soundtrack for change with a bold change in her sound. It’s time for us to be heard!

Also every punk show should start out with a song about menopause.

Doug Collins & the Receptionists CD release – retro and fun

It can be concerning when the lead singer hits the stage with a vintage, brown polyester suit on. It sets a high bar. You better have the chops to back it up – and I am pleased to report that Doug Collins looked awesome in the brown suit and had the chops. There’s something retro, yet timeless in his music. It dates back to the early days when country and rock really did blur. I enjoyed seeing Doug Collins & the Receptionists at the Turf Club for the release of Good, Sad News.

My favorite song of the night was Conversation with my Heart. It opens his CD. It’s one of those super happy, snappy sounding songs with words that don’t necessarily match. It’s maybe just a little bit of what we need given the world today. A vacation from the gloom, without forgetting. It was great to have Katy Vernon take to the stage to sing it with him at the Turf Club. It just does a heart good to see so much joy in playing.

Halfway Through is another toe tapper. It has a more Americana sound but still upbeat. Ironically I had spent my day driving home from Winnipeg with my dad, listening to Willie’s Roadhouse the whole way. Hearing Collins sing Halfway Through fit the soundtrack of my day. But even after 8 hours (long time at the border) it’s music I enjoy, especially when it’s done well.

A bonus was Collin’s cover of Babba O’Reilly. I’m a sucker for The Who at the best and worst of times. It’s was a different rendition and I liked it.

Another super bonus was catching Katy Vernon before Doug Collins. Another musician with happier beat and sound than lyrics but it’s really hard not to enjoy a thoughtful ukulele!

You can see how Collins looks and sounds in his brown suit on his new record. We appears to be sporting it on the cover.

John David and the Jerks album release at Seventh Street Entry – I Love You Means I’m Lucky!

It’s going to be a strange comparison, but John David reminds me of JJ Grey. There’s a swampy sound to this Northern band. But also they both share a joy on stage that is infectious.

It was fun to see John David & the Jerks play with the Collapsing Stars and Monica LaPLante at the Seventh Street Entry. David started by playing a dozen (or so) old songs and followed up with a rendition of the latest album in its entirety. The crowd clearly loved it. It’s always smart to go from the known to the new.

I found the newer material to be more reflective, especially with Swedish Dreams. It’s a pretty song. It’s mellow but melancholy is a positive way. But then there’s still danceability and toe tapping to be found in a song such as Friend Like You. David’s voice has a slight Dylanesque lilt. The band is awesome and really go full tilt.

Lowland Lakers album release Lost in the Move at the Turf Club

There’s a sadness, longing and remorse in the music of Lowland Laker’s latest album, Lost in the Move. But there’s a sense of redemption too – or maybe growth. It’s calmly uplifting in a country music way.

The band at the Turf Club included regular members Haley Rydell ( on guitar, violin and vocals), Nate Case (on guitar, banjo and vocals), Taylor Donskey (on bass and vocals) and a borrowed keyboardist in Dave Mehling.

Let the Light Through is a slow song; Case is lead singer. It’s dark but it’s good. You have to like a song that fits in a Shakespeare quote!

Turns out He Doesn’t Waltz is about Donskey’s grandfather. It’s slow, pensive and Donskey sings. He has almost a bluesy voice and extends the words in a slow way that adds interest and I’m sure is reminiscent of his grandfather.

But they aren’t all slow. I like the uptick of All I’m Good For, sung by Rydell but written by the former bassist, Matt Donoghue, for his daughter. The keyboards on that song are especially catchy.

Jeff Krause CD release Naked and Hardhearted at the Icehouse

Jeff Krause looks like he sounds and that’s a treat. With a winter beard and a black hat and a couple of guitars, he’s the picture of Americana. He has the patience on stage to unfurl his songs like good stories. He gives room for the other band members to weave in their characters (especially the keyboard), which adds a depth to the songs and end of the song comes in its own time. With nice punctuation!

Like the old school country I used to listen to on road trips with my dad (OK, still do), Jeff’s lyrics are lessons to be learned. “How does he treat you when no one else is in the room.” I ought to needlepoint or tattoo that awesome line somewhere obvious.

The slow steady build of Trying to Forget You is one flavor classic country. The keyboard takes a little dance during the song. The drums push it forward and Jeff was joined on stage by Lena Elizabeth. She offsets his voice nicely. Jeff has a gravely, yet young voice. Picture your favorite (male) country singer in his heyday. The chorus is particularly catchy.

Love You this Way is another slow one. It feels like the last song at the high school dance – or maybe the song after last call in the honkytonk. But they aren’t all slow. There are some toe tappers too. There was a new song (for a future CD) Better Shoot Me Now that was a hip shaker with a great guitar interlude.

Becky Rae Dalton album release Ready or Not at The Hook and Ladder

Walking into the Hook and Ladder I was welcomed by Becky Rae Dalton and her unassuming rock band. Four people on stage – two guitars, bass and drums. There’s a country twang, I heard some great rock strong solos and there’s a thoughtful folk rock sensibility. It’s the kind of music you might pack for a road trip.

Becky’s voice is strong and clear. There’s something comfortable in her voice. My friend insisted that it’s because she sounds Minnesotan. He may be right and I mean that in the best way. There’s some something warm and straight forward about her voice. Listening to older albums I think that her voice has become more naked and strong. She played an older song Thursday night, Blue; there was gypsy feel to the staccato pace of the song and her voice had a lilt. I liked the song and her voice in it but it also drew me to the purity of her voice in other songs.

Ol’ Mississippi is a potential breakout song on this album. It has that country twang. There’s a freedom in the lyrics and the feel of a hot summer day (ironically the name of an entirely other song) to the song – like you’ve been walking a long time and finally sit down. It has an easy but traveled pace.

As a special bonus – it was fun to see that Becky’s video was a the top of the top five City Pages videos of the week!

Weekend of festivals: Northern Spark, Stone Arch and Rock the Garden

Summer in the Twin Cities is crazy. So much fun, so little time. This weekend was like that on steroids. I managed to get to three festivals – to greater and lesser degrees.

Northern Spark is the all night arts festival in Minneapolis. Except this year it was only from 9 pm to 2 am but it went on for two nights. I brought Aine and a friend – then we met up with a friend of mine there. The festival was set up in three parts of downtown Minneapolis: the public library, near the stadium and on Nicollet Ave. Different artists set up stations – most are interactive. And you can meander from one to the next.

Some of our favorite exhibits include the Meme Weaver – a giant interactive machine programmed by Arduino to weave poetry. Then Keith Braveheart worked with the local Native art community to creatively recreate Buffalo Nation – an historical picture of buffalo skulls killed by settlers in an attempt to eradicate Native people. There we created buffalo skulls that they assembled.

We love the library. The trans dance was kind of awesome – people just dancing in a circle. There was a singalong – although much higher brow than I could do. Aine got a chance to ride a virtual reality bike. And we just got to be downtown last at night with hundreds of other people.

I got to take a tour through the Stone Arch Bridge Festival the next morning on a walk. It was so muggy, so hot and it rained for the whole 8 miles! Stone Arch include dozens – if not a hundred artists booths. A highlight was the robot art. And the free sample of brats at the Weber grill booth. And the area around the Stone Arch Bridge is gorgeous.

Finally – thanks to the generosity of a friend – I got to go to Rock the Garden. It’s a full day of music at the Walker Art Center. Three of my favorites were there – Father John Misty, Chastity Brown and Nikki Lane and I got to hear a lot of new music. It was steamy hot but there was a breeze.

Chastity Brown told a sad story about playing in Eau Claire earlier this year. She was in front of the venue when a white supremacist accosted her – yelling and getting in her face. No one around her helped – until a band member happened to walk outside. It has led to many discussion of “what would you do?” I hope it made everyone in the crowd ask – so that we’re all prepared if something like that happens near us.