A Toast to Beth Lodge-Rigal's Follow Me

The earthy art of a Midwestern singer/songwriter

It's a worthwhile piece of art that transports me from a kitchen sink full of suds to the smoky, sparkling Loring Bar in Minneapolis where grownups mingle to bluesy guitars and smooth vocals. Bloomington, Indiana singer-songwriter Beth Lodge-Rigal hasn't hit the Loring yet but her debut CD, Follow Me, gives a good solid hour of grownup indulgence that evokes the same earthy chic.

The dozen tracks all feature Lodge-Rigal on fluid alto and acoustic guitar. Husband Dan Lodge-Rigal and a host of fellow Indiana artists blend a backdrop of vocals, piano, organ, and rhythm that walks the line between pop and folk. No single track stands out as a likely hit. Rather, it's the rolling flow of all 12 tracks together that distinguishes Follow Me.

Lodge-Rigal's strong, warm vocals add tender brown tones to the classic black-and-white snapshot of a rural Midwestern family. Her lyrics are thoughtful and melancholy, revealing an artfully examined existence all the way from a child's matter-of-fact look at an alcoholic neighbor mom in "When I Was a Girl" through twenty-something yearnings in "Way Back When" to patient understanding of life and love in "Carnival." "Family History" could have come from the pen of Indiana neighbor John Mellencamp: "As a young girl I had this dream/as I lay down by the old farm stream/I rocked in great-great grandad's arms/with the aunties all around." "Look Out My Window" takes on the voice of Lodge-Rigal's grandmother Louise, first from her nursing home window and later as an angel watching "a young girl her hair blows behind her/she's running through my daddy's clover/all of my cousins hiding in tall grasses/now that our supper is over."

The opening cut "Solid Ground" is one of the most lively, with electric guitar and witty lyrics: "I can make you a turkey sandwich darlin'/won't you tell me why you feel so bad." The title track "Follow Me" featuring Lodge-Rigal on guitar alone is the best showcase for her sweet, husky voice. Spare accompaniment serves her best and suggests that live performance is a far superior medium to CD for this sometime coffeehouse singer.

Tucked into the liner notes are brief prefaces by Lodge-Rigal offering a context for each song. They read like the seedlings of sage advice nurtured by close attention to Grandma Louise and others: "Call me crazy, but I believe grace and beauty reside in the ordinariness of our lives. If you look there you will find something to write about."

Lodge-Rigal herself has had time to look. A few years ago she took a break from performing to raise two daughters full-time. Maybe it's the wisdom of this experience that makes her songs so nice to listen to, so easy to trust, even in the potentially unflattering venue of my kitchen. Her songs remind that the daily grind of family life is a rich muse. Next time the Loring loses out to the dishes I intend to raise a glass of Merlot in my Rubbermaid gloves to Beth Lodge-Rigal and the warm, smooth tracks of Follow Me.

To order direct from the artist, send check to Beth Lodge-Rigal for $15.00 to P.O. Box 6657, Bloomington, IN 47407. "Follow Me" is also available online at www.folkweb.com and at the National Online Music Allinace www.songs.com/blr

Ann Rosenquist-Fee is a frequent contributor toMinnesota Parent.

 
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