Saturday, May 25, 2019

America's Got Talent. We Know Because We've Seen So Much of It During Dylan Fest


A setting with acoustics and ambience.
Photo by Michael Anderson.
One of the highlights of the annual Duluth Dylan Fest is the Singer/Songwriter Contest, a tradition carried over from Hibbing's Dylan Days. The last Singer/Songwriter Contest that I attended in Hibbing stretched two days, the year before Zimmy's folded and many Northland hearts were broken.

Our first Duluth S/S contest was actually an event seeking a home. One year we did it at Beaners Central in West Duluth. The crowd was so small one could hardly call it a crowd, but it was a good first effort. The following year we convened at Red Herring, but the Friday night bar crowd had a different agenda and thought packed, half the folks there were not there for Dylan covers.

Two years the S/S Contest was held at Clyde Iron in the West End, a great venue for events. Except when they are having two events simultaneously. Both years we had to compete with wedding afterparties that interfered a bit with the quieter acoustic performers in our event.

Alas, last year we found ourselves a new home, courtesy the Sacred Heart Music Center. This former Catholic church building has become a real boon to the music community, and will likely become a permanent home for the Singer/Songwriter competition.
Gene LaFond and Zane Bail talk with the other judges.
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The program last night featured a welcome by host Pat Eliason, which included introduction of our celebrity judges.* Gene LaFond and Amy Grillo performed an original tune to set the stage, and then the show began.

Jim Hall. Photo credit: Michael Anderson
Jim Hall, who won this competition the year it was held at the Red Herring, was first to perform. This own composition was titled "I'm Still a Working Man." His Dylan tune was a heartfelt "Dear Landlord" from John Wesley Harding.

The next on the docket was Josie Langhorst, whom I raved about last year when she performed here at age 12. Her original tune, "Talk To Me," revealed an incredibly mature understanding of relationships, nuanced and subtle. Dylan himself, who wrote such remarkably mature songs at such a young age -- like "Boots of Spanish Leather" and "One Of Us Must Know," would undoubtedly be proud of how advanced this songwriting prodigy appears to be. She sings with force and a confidence that belies her youth.

There were 17 composer performers in all from a variety of places in Minnesota and Wisconsin. In the audience we had Dylan Fest visitors from Denmark, Ireland, Scotland and Australia, among other places. I could bore you with details, but will simply cut to the chase.

Shane Nelson of Superior impressed us all. Michael Anderson photo.
The winner of this year's competition was Shane Nelson, of Superior. The judges grade on their original song, and his "I Do What I Do" wowed them enormously. He followed with an equally potent "Positively Fourth Street" that left few of us surprised when he later won.

Mike LaBo of Lansing Michigan. Photo, Michael Anderson
Second place Mike Labo wrote and performed "How Cn A Bird?" followed by a favorite of mine, "New Morning." Third place Jim Hall was noted above.

Hall, Nelson and LaBo. Photo: Michael Anderson
What's distinctive is the variety of styles, the variety of selections, and the breadth of the Dylan catalog. Words are insufficient, which is why we keep listening to the music. What Dylan album have you been listening to today?

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* Celeb judges this year:
Mriam Hansen, host of Highway 61 Revisited, KUMD 103.3
Gene LaFond, musician
Christa Lawler, Arts & Entertainment reporter, Duluth News Tribune
Jamie Ness, musician
Karen Sunderman, Producer, Making It and The Playlist, PBS 8

1 comment:

OldBobFan said...

Sounded like a whoppin' good time. I was there with you in Spirit, Ed. My best to all who remember me. Regards from Frank + Pati in California.

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