Saturday, June 4, 2016

Bringing It All Back To Duluth Does Dylan -- Inspired Local Musicians Step Up Their Game

Although we heard poets, saw artwork and films, and experienced events last week, what really struck me was how much great music we heard during Duluth Dylan Fest. One of the highlights was Tuesday's CD release party for Bringing It All Back to Duluth Does Dylan. The party took place at the Rex, featuring most of the bands who recorded this year's 15 tracks for the CD. It was like a week of Homegrown compressed into a handful of hours.

I can't say enough about this latest CD. This is the fourth Duluth Does Dylan, a new one released every five years. And it is sensational. Local painter Adam Swanson created the cover art, with liner notes by Dylan archivist Bill Pagel. Referring to this series of CDs, Pagel writes, "These albums have, in a sense, become a time-capsule of the growing and ever-changing Duluth music scene over the past 15 years. Contrary to what some believe, Bob Dylan is both proud and fond of his roots in northern Minnesota. Duluth is proud of its local artists and musicians. This latest CD is a tribute to Duluth's musicians and the music of Dylan, who many consider one of the most influential Americans of the 20th century (and into this 21st century.)"

Here's my attempt to convey a sense of the songs as performed this fourth time around.

Boomchucks Maggie's Farm
The Boomchucks version of Maggie's Farm has become a familiar feature of their Two Harbors performances during the annual Blood on the Tracks Express. Jamie Ness and Brad Nelson rename themselves as the Freewheelers one night a year, but we all know who they are. Brad Nelson batters his drum kit with machine-gun efficiency, energizing whole enclaves to move their feet. Their popular for the force of their driving rhythms. Is rock about anger? Not necessarily. Not they way they play it. It's explosive and fun. For this album they were joined by Erik Berry (of Trampled By Turtles) and Dicky Brooks.

Dave Simonett ~ Boots of Spanish Leather
Heartfelt is all I can say. A wonderful rendition, with musical accompaniment by Lee Martin, Nathan Weiler, Russell Sackett and Brad Nelson. A favorite among favorites.

Murder of Crows ~ One Too Many Mornings
Gaelynn Lea with Alan Sparhawk
Alan Sparhawk's various bands remind me of the inimitable Lon Chaney, Hollywood's "Man of a Thousand Faces." His pairing up with Gaelynn Lea to form The Murder of Crows has produced another sound that translates One Too Many Mornings into the most sublime lament.

Devil's Flying Machine ~ Quinn the Eskimo
Charlie Parr is one of a kind, laying down a grinding undercurrent of churning energy. Here he is joined by Christian McShane and David Frankenfeld.

The Social Animals ~ I Want You
Dedric Clark reproduces that quavering voice of unmet need. The band (Tony Petersen, Boyd Smith, Roger Whittet) revives this Blonde On Blonde classic with style.

Tin Can Gin ~ Subterranean Homesick Blues
Fiddling and jammin', riddling, pickin' and grinnin'. This song's a fun one, and Tin Can Gin was up for it. "You better jump down a manhole, light yourself a candle... The pump don’t work ’Cause the vandals took the handles."

Timothy Martin & the New Norm ~ Like A Rolling Stone
Daring to tackle the classic like this takes stones. They do it well. Timothy Martin is backed by the big sound of Brian Wells, Peter Knutson, Russell Sackett, Dicky Brooks, Rio Daugherty and Bryan Johnson.

Feeding Leroy ~ Billy 1
These folks played the acoustic car last week on the Blood on the Tracks Express, and they will be performing with Mama's Stolen Horses at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum on Thursday July 21. They're clearly in a good groove when they weave their vocals, steel guitar and melodic strings into delicate harmonies. Some nice harmonica licks, too. "Billy, you're so far away from home." Sonja Bjordal, Lee and Luke Martin, Adam Staupe.

The Social Disaster ~ Going, Going Gone
Song selections are fascinating on this CD. Two cuts were taken from Dylan's 1974 album Planet Waves. Though several of his mid-1960's albums established Dylan's reputation, Planet Waves was actually his first album to touch #1 on the charts. Rachel Phoenix, Jacob Swanson, Ryan Nelson, Jake Larson, Jesse Hoheisel.

Superior Siren ~ Isis
These women also played in the acoustic car on the BOTT Express. Many of the selections for this year's CD are lesser known or unexpected. Isis hails from Dylan's 1976 album Desire, featuring the violin accompaniment of Scarlet Rivera. Superior Siren features strings and a drummer with a light touch. Laura Sellner, Rachel Gobin, Nyssa Krause and Emma Deaner.

Space Carpet ~ Things Have Changed
An unusual sci-fi ambience opens this song and provides an undulating undercurrents as Space Carpet gives us a suitably dystopian vibe, dark and amorphic. "People are crazy and things are strange, I'm locked in tight and out of range... I used to care, but things have changed.." Rory Isakson, Jen West, Steve Isakson, Ken Thiemann, Tyler Dubla.

Actual Wolf ~ Something There Is About You
This is the second cut extracted from Planet Waves, and indeed it rouses. Furthermore, this is one songs with an undisguised reference to the town where Dylan was born.... walking the hills of Duluth. Yes, all Duluth snakes along hillsides, with fabulous vistas wherever you let it take you. Actual Wolf brings a sparkling kind of sound into the mix here, and it's easy to lean right into it. Eric Pollard, Steve Garrington, Russell Sackett and Alan Sparhawk.

Wood Blind ~ Million Dollar Bash
Another more than pleasant surprise. Million Dollar Bash has never received a treatment like this, and how it soars when interpreted by this lively component of the Duluth music scene. Don't know Jason and Veikko? This piece alone should make you buy this CD.

Mary Bue ~ Desolation Row
Now I've always loved Mary Bue's music. Her live performances always add brightness to any setting. She's a more than capable performer and very popular here in the Midwest, but her self-assured interpretation of Desolation Row is inexplicably strong. Every line is delivered with such piercing authenticity. So tell us, Mary, what new insights have you gained by performing such a classic as this? Bue is backed by Kyle McLean, Zac Bentz, Heather and Scott Millis and Brett Molitor.

The Weary Tunesmiths ~ Lay Down Your Weary Tune
Though not previously familiar with the Tunesmiths by this name, I'm quite familiar with a number of the players.  What a perfect summation for this fabulous collection. The song has an anthem-like quality here that lifts the soul. Each vocalist rises up with solo renditions and then gets joined by a chorus of harmonies that can literally bring tears. Such perfect splendor, glorious and majestic. If only humanity's seas would unite in such harmony.

Struck by the sounds before the sun
I knew the night had gone
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn

I keep thinking, how did one man write so many great songs? And then, how truly wonderful that this next generation of musicians is taking up these anthems.

The Tunesmiths are comprised of Rich Mattson, Germaine Gemberling, Tim Saxhaug, Marc Gartman, Eric Pollard and Russell Sackett. Rich & Germaine also performed at Saturday night's concert at Sacred Heart.

The album is dedicated "In honor of John Bushey, host of KUMD 103.3's Highway 61 Revisited Radio Show for 25 years and counting." You can find out more and purchase your own copy here at

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Noteworthy News Item: A very special concert, aptly titled the Rolling Thunder Reunion, is taking place at Weber Hall Saturday July 23 featuring Eric Anderson and Scarlet Rivera. Tickets on sale here. The concert is a fund raiser for the Armory Arts & Music Center. More stories about Eric and Scarlet coming soon.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Don't forget the DuSu Film Festival.  It's Free.

PHOTO CREDITS: The Weary Tunesmiths photo and the Lea/Sparhawk image were borrowed from their Facebook pages without permission. Permissions and photo credit will hopefully be acquired soon. 


Marc Percansky said...

Hi Ed, nice review of another great volume in the Duluth Does Dylan series! I agree with you. It is fantastic! I just want to let your readers know that the CD is now for sale at both Electric Fetus stores. Here is the link to order it online from them as well Best to you.

Ed Newman said...

Thanks, Marc. The link works. I will share it again soon.