The Cactus Blossoms to record live album at Turf Club

Photo by John Ratzloff

After this month, they'll be gone, gone, gone, and cryin' won't bring 'em back. Okay, they won't be long gone, but after July 22, close-harmonizing brotherly country act the Cactus Blossoms will call an end to their year-and-a-half-long Monday-night residency at the Turf Club before embarking on a festival tour. But no real cause for cryin': They plan to return to the club, which has obviously been good to them, and which they describe as their favorite bar around. Heck, their faces still adorn a mosaic on the east side of the building, so how could they not?

Tonight, the band will kick off their final month of shows with a special four-hour live recording show at the Turf, featuring co-singing brothers Jack Torrey and Page Burkum backed by the talented lineup of Randy Broughten (steel guitar), Josh Granowski (upright bass), Jed Germond (fiddle), and Patrick Harison (accordion). Expect the live album to be released on CD and vinyl later this summer. Gimme Noise caught up with Burkum for the details on this live album... and also looking for a little reassurance that there should be no tears over their departure.

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Jennifer Markey: I was drawn to country because it's easy to play

Photo by Steve Cohen

What do you do when you lose your dad to a devastating illness while also undergoing a divorce? You sing a country song, of course, which is how local singer Jennifer Markey coped with a rough year she endured a decade ago. The country music stuck -- she and her band The Tennessee Snowpants are now beloved in the local country scene -- and this Saturday at Grumpy's Northeast, Markey pairs her love for country with her love for her dad in the third annual "Honky Tonk Fest," honoring Dad's memory and raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Six country acts, including Markey's band and another visiting all the way from Austin, Texas, will perform at Saturday's event, which also promises prizes, a cakewalk and a photo booth. We caught up with Markey for some background on her dad, the benefit, and why Grumpy's was the obvious place for her to celebrate.

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Hope Country: I love to be open about what I'm feeling


The name of Wisconsin farm-bred musician Brent Johnson's band Hope Country says it all, as does that of his debut EP, I Hurt, I Heal; his music employs a number of personal themes related to Johnson's own tribulations and his mission to inspire hope in others, and it represents his return to the musical genre of his raising.

In advance of his spot opening at the Turf Club tonight for the raucous gypsy Americana of San Diego preacher's sons the Silent Comedy, and legit honky-tonk hero Sturgill Simpson, Gimme Noise chatted with Johnson about his desire to blend genres and scenes, and how he made a roundabout way back to country music.

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The Fattenin' Frogs on paying tribute to Howlin' Wolf's "evil" music

Photo courtesy of Chess Records

From rock to gospel and folk to country, there are countless roots-appreciating musical souls influenced by Chester Arthur "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett and his mid-20th-century, Delta-to-Chicago take on the blues. It's in this spirit that local traditionalists The Fattenin' Frogs bring together other acts representing the spectrum of American music to pay homage to Howlin' Wolf and what would have been his 103rd birthday this Saturday at Lee's Liquor Lounge.

Though he's been dead now for longer than some of these musicians have been alive, The Fattenin' Frogs will join Sneaky Pete Bauer, Javier and Innocent Sons, and Poverty Hash in toasting Wolf at what's now become an annual tribute show to benefit two important blues organizations. We checked in with the Frogs' Chris Holm for the dirt on how this project started and importantly, how all those involved will represent the weighty Howlin' Wolf legacy.

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The Bitterroot Band: It's just plain fun to get people riled up with that noise

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Delanes Brain Photography
Equally inspired by the lonesome sounds of folk, country, and the blues, and the frenetic sounds of rock and bluegrass (and psychobilly!), the Bitterroot Band will no doubt find a welcome home in today's current roots/Americana-friendly landscape. But their presentation is so genuine, it doesn't seem as though the Mankato/Minneapolis-based band is merely capitalizing on the trend.

Gimme Noise caught up with band members Lee Henke, Ryan Acker, and Vinnie Donatelle in advance of their Thursday Turf Club appearance, which will celebrate the release of their debut EP, Mason Jar, to discuss what's inspired their sound, what it's like bumming around on tour, and how they keep their audiences engaged.More »

Trailer Trash's Nate Dungan: "Honky tonk music comes right up out of theĀ ground"

Photo courtesy of
When you walk into Lee's Liquor Lounge, located on downtown Minneapolis' fringes for over half a century, whether it's your first visit or 40th, the whiff of nostalgia and shiver of magic you feel is pretty undeniable. But there's more to it than the bar's wood paneling, its mounted mountain lion, the sound of clinking beer bottles or its throw-back appeal. It's all in the music, and the dancing. For years, Lee's has been one of the best places in town to listen (and dance) to a consistently strong roster of country and rockabilly music - and other stuff too, see standing appearances by E.L.nO. This is in no small part thanks to Trailer Trash, a honky-tonk band that's been a mainstay of the local country scene and of Lee's now for two decades, playing a regular gig there for as many years as of this month, in addition to its popular annual tradition, the Trashy Little Christmas Show.

The band's lineup is comprised of some of the best talent in the region, but their success, and indeed the vibrancy of Lee's and our local country scene at large, has a lot to do with the enthusiasm and smarts of guitar player/vocalist Nate Dungan. On the occasion of the band's 20th anniversary playing Lee's, we checked in with this influential music booster and man about town -- or more accurately, man about the outskirts of downtown, and the Fair Midway.

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Country Music Festivals: The good, the bad and the smelly

Nikki Miller-Rose
Toby Keith at the Minnesota State Fair
Ohhh, the weather outside is... not as bad as they said it was gonna be? Okay, it still sucks. But soon -- yes, soon... too soon in fact! -- it will be summer, and it will be really stupidly hot, and we'll be going to music festivals and become reacquainted with the sweet summer smell of a beer-and-mud-soaked tent, 100-degree sun-baked port-a-potty, and the rancid pickle smell of a field full of sweaty cowboy boot socks and hat rims. Right? Right.

Outdoor country music festival is very nearly upon us! Here's the nitty-gritty, the good, the bad, and the smelly.

See also:
Ten country songs to bring on the spring
The ten best country albums of 2012

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Willie Nelson is 80

Photo by Steve Cohen
Willie Nelson neither looks nor seems 80 years old. This is an age reserved for, well, old people. The unhip, those not in-the-know, not totally with it.

And yet, Willie turns 80 today. What's his secret? We doubt it's the weed -- sorry -- but think that it likely has more to do with his totally Zen outlook on life, a go-with-the-flow ideology that manifests in his very style of playing. He's an unconventional poet who chooses whatever cadence strikes him in the moment, and he has a gracious, accepting, and loving attitude toward performing and toward the world. Best of all, Willie always stands up for the underdog. Forget blood pressure meds, a vegan diet, or hours grinding on the treadmill; these qualities are the true fountain of youth.

The ultimate country outlaw, Wilie's dabbled in pop, jazz, and reggae, and wears sneakers, not boots. Or, as we hear his departed friend Roger Miller used to describe him, Willie "flushes to the beat of a different plumber." (Roger always knew the right thing to say.) In total, all this adds up to one bad ass 80-year-old M.F., and to give him his due, we present to you 15 legendary facts about Willie Nelson, paired with 15 of his very good songs.

See Also:
Willie Nelson at Mystic Lake Casino, 10/29/10

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Ricky Skaggs at Dakota Jazz Club, 4/18/13

Photos by Nikki Miller-Rose
Ricky Skaggs
With Kentucky Thunder
Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis
Thursday, April 18, 2013

I've seen Ricky Skaggs perform now at three different venues, each as different as the next. He played alongside Little Jimmy Dickens and Eddie Stubbs before an immense theater of country music fans and blasting out over the WSM airwaves, continuing to write that legend that is the Grand Ole Opry. He was onstage at the Minnesota State Fair in the Leinie Bandshell on a warm summer night, audience with bellies full of beer aisle-dancing to bluegrass music. The latest is at a jazz club in downtown Minneapolis, on an intimate stage and before an audience that seemed comprised of equal parts bluegrass fans, and the folks who probably go to every show the venue offers, and are more accustomed to tapping their toes (slightly out of time) with a jazz ensemble.

For stages and audiences as diverse as each has been, Skaggs and his backing band Kentucky Thunder have played equally well to all of them, consummate performers who seem not to have "off" nights, unfazed even by a sedate, seated (and still dining) crowd as was the case at their Thursday night show at the Dakota Jazz Club.

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Ricky Skaggs: Music is a cleansing; it's life

Ricky Skaggs is not old -- he'll turn 59 in July -- but his actual chronological years belie the elder statesman status he's achieved in country, bluegrass, gospel and neo-traditional music. Rare talent, a bevy of stories, an enthusiastic attitude and a passion for performing have a lot to do with it, but it also has a little to do with the fact that of his 58 years, 53 have been spent playing music.

Given his first mandolin at the age of five, by six he sang onstage with Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe, and the next year appeared on the Opry, as well as alongside Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs on their Martha White variety show. In keeping with this trend, before long he and friend Keith Whitley would be invited to join the band of bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley, and by young adulthood, Skaggs would be already recognized as a master in both bluegrass and mainstream country music, having first performed as a member of Emmylou Harris' Hot Band and later as a solo artist. Today, he has countless Grammy and Country Music Association Awards to his name -- many more no doubt yet to come -- and has established his own label, Skaggs Family Records.

As testament to his flexibility as an artist, Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder are set to take the stage at the Dakota Jazz Club tonight (it appears his Friday night performance in Cannon Falls may be sold out). The band will undoubtedly treat us both to tunes off their upbeat September 2012 album, Music to My Ears, as well as some older songs made famous by Ricky Skaggs and by others. We caught up with Skaggs by phone -- we in wintry Minnesota, he in springtime Tennessee -- and chatted about his record, the Father of Bluegrass, and the, uh... curative properties of ham?

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