Frankie Lee – Ophelia

Frankie Lee

Local Minneapolis artist, Frankie Lee, will be performing tonight at The Ice House if you’re looking for a good show!

I heard Lee’s song Country recently on The Current and his simple, Americana Folk style caught my attention immediately. His album Middle West came out today and I feel this quote from his site provides a window into the record:

“YOU’RE INVITED TO RIDE ALONG THROUGH MIDDLE WEST ON A DREAM 
BED OF FOLK AND AMERICANA SOUNDS .  I FOUND THESE SONGS ON 
THE ROAD GOIN WEST TO CALIFORNIA.  WHEN I CAME BACK TO MINNESOTA
I MET A BUNCH OF CHARACTERS WHO HELPED ME PUT DOWN WHAT I’D 
BEEN HEARING IN MY HEAD.

WE RECORDED THESE SONGS LIVE (LOOKING AT EACH OTHER) IN A WAREHOUSE
 WITH A BUNCH OF REALLY WARM SWEATERS ON.  IT ONLY TOOK 2 NIGHTS 
TO MAKE AND 1 YEAR TO PUT IT OUT.  THE PEOPLE ARE RIGHT…
THE INTERNET IS GONNA SAVE MUSIC. HALLELUJAH!”

There isn’t much information about Frankie that I could find, but hopefully we’ll be hearing more about him now that his album has been released. At times, he reminds me of Ryan Adams, sometimes My Morning Jacket/Jim James, and at other times Bob Dylan.

The song below was recorded with the Real-Phonic Band and portrays a little bit bluesier side of Lee’s music.

For a very traditional country sound, you can also check out another local band, The Cactus Blossoms, at this show. Their music is reminiscent of Hank Williams and other patriarchs of the country and honky tonk genres. Especially the brothers’ honeyed harmonies, the twangy lap steel, lively fiddle and two beat rhythm.

Henry Thomas – Fishin’ Blues

So neither of these men at actually Henry Thomas, but  they are blues musicians that played around the same time. I thought it would make a better cover photo than Thomas’s actual photo

Alright, so I know this isn’t Throwback Thursday (in fact it is supposed to be new music Monday), but in my defense, unless you are a true Blues aficionado, Henry Thomas will probably be new to you. More importantly, it gives me the opportunity to not only expose you all to some of the best music of the last hundred years, but also to give you a history lesson – something I’ll never pass up. So, Henry Thomas – for someone so influential to the evolution of Blues music, we know very little him. Born in Texas in 1874 to a family of ex-slaves, he hoboed around for a few years in his teens and twenties, recorded twenty-three songs between 1927 and 1929, then disappeared, probably dying around 1930. We don’t know where he recorded his music, where he died, or really anything about him. We don’t even know if the picture of him below is actually him (although we’re pretty sure). And yet he was one of the greatest early Blues musicians, originator of the Texas Blues style of guitar playing which he created by adapting banjo picking to the guitar, and his songs have been covered by Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the Grateful Dead among others.

Henry Thomas – This is the best and only photo known of him.

I picked the song Fishin’ Blues (1928) to introduce you to Henry Thomas for several reasons. One reason is that it is his most well known song having been featured on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (which I’m obviously going to assume you are all intimately familiar with). More importantly however, it is an excellent example of his use of the quills, a traditional African-American pan flute. Finally, I picked this song because it is one of the most clear recordings he has. However, it is not close to the crisp music we are used to hearing today, so remember that this song was recorded who knows where under less than favorable conditions over 85 years ago and forgive the sound quality.

 

 

Charlie Parr – 1922

Charlie Parr

Hometown: Austin, MN

Charlie Parr is a true folk singer and guitar picker.

This excerpt from the bio on his website describes Charlie really well:

It’s the music of a self-taught guitarist and banjo player who grew up without a TV but with his dad’s recordings of America’s musical founding fathers, including Charley Patton and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. With his long scraggly hair, fathertime beard, thrift-store workingman’s flannel and jeans, and emphatic, throaty voice, Parr looks and sounds like he would have fit right into Harry Smith’s “Anthology of American Folk Music.”

You can read the full bio here.

I found it interesting that, although Charlie’s shows are primarily in Minnesota and the Northern Plains, he’s gained enough of a following in Ireland and Australia to tour there frequently. He will be performing at The Cedar Cultural Center on Friday and Saturday (Feb. 1 and 2) if you’d like to see him live.

This is a video of Charlie performing his song, 1922, at the Eagan Library – right in my neighborhood! This song really exemplifies his raw, old fashioned style and classic “working man” lyrics.

Well I worked all summer couldn’t save a cent
I gave all my money to the government
I don’t know quite how it got spent
but the banks are coming for my deed though
Man at the mill can’t see though
Let me get my feed for free though
Ain’t that the way it is

I cut out down a braver road
I traded my stock for a V84
Danced for town down on the floor boards
And the title owed down to me though
That gasoline ain’t free through
Just guzzling out my knee bone
Ain’t that the way it is

Well I met me a woman down in Saint Paul
With a little money and a little pole
Bloke told me that he’d bust my jaw
I talked to his sister again though
Don’t mean I couldn’t win though
There’s blood running down my chin now
Ain’t that the way it is

Well I slept all night on the bar room floor
And woke up this morning my head was sore
Pockets empty but I want some more
The bar man’s got my car though
Tales worth more by far though
As I leave her down at the bar now
Ain’t that the way it is

Well I hitched me a ride on the way back home
I got me a job on a family farm
Times are hard here but I can’t roll
And I ain’t got nothing more
Oh that company store
Gold’s looking good for sure though
Ain’t that the way it is

Well I worked all summer counldn’t save a cent
I gave all my money to the government
I don’t know quite how it got spent
But the banks are coming for my deed though
Man at the mill can’t see though
Let me get my feed for free though
Ain’t that the way it is

Think That You Might Be Wrong by Great Lake Swimmers

I’ve been listening to Great Lake Swimmers here and there over the past few months but it wasn’t until this week that I fully delved into their music. I must say, Tony Dekker (Lead singer and songwriter) has been very prolific over the past decade. The band dabbles in a number of styles ranging from bluegrass to blues, but I would probably describe them as folk rock or alternative.

Their music does seem to maintain a melancholy theme throughout all these styles, and the song Think That You Might Be Wrong is no exception to this.

What time is it?
Would you tell me wolf?
Are you coming around here?
With your teeth so sharp
And I never gave you the best part of me
I just left you in charge for a little while

Must’ve been some
Must’ve been some great fury
That took you so far
Took you so far away

Think that you might be wrong
Think that you might
Think that you might be wrong
Think that you might be wrong
Think that you might
Think that you might be wrong

And look at you now
With your confidence
Riding around on a lion’s back
Mistaking shadow for a stranger’s love
Well, you’re larger than life
When the lighting is right