Where the Trash Picks You Up

With their first album of originals, Lee's house band heads for fresh country

"She's country," Gaarder says, with a hint of class pride. "Jesse, I believe, is a Washburn boy."

Broughten corrects him. "He went to Roosevelt," he says.

"If he'd been from Central, he might have been cool," replies Gaarder. "Prince went to Central."

Nearer my bar to thee: (clockwise from front) Dan Gaarder, Randy Broughten, Jon Duncan, Nate Dungan, Andy Olsen, and Keely Lane of Trailer Trash
Daniel Corrigan
Nearer my bar to thee: (clockwise from front) Dan Gaarder, Randy Broughten, Jon Duncan, Nate Dungan, Andy Olsen, and Keely Lane of Trailer Trash

Regardless of whether the new album garners them gubernatorial support, Nearer should at least pacify skeptics who scoff that the band is a one-trick mule for swingers. Heavy on torch and twang, the work is also wildly clever without resorting to shtick. Even non-country fans will grin at Broughten's kiddie caper "Buster Likes a Choo Choo Train" or Gaarder's wistful "Sawtooth Mountain."

Dungan explains that the album didn't emerge from the marathon sessions of recording and mixing that produced the band's previous two releases, 1997's Live at Lee's and last year's Hell, It's X-Mas. "I finally had to realize for myself that recording is a process, not an event," he says. "It's a journey, not a destination."

The group took a whole year with Nearer, recording in fits and starts at various studios, an odd tack for a band that professes to rarely practice (save rehearsing numbers for its annual Christmas shows). Lane says that recording Nearer represented a journey onto new terrain. "We're a cover band," he says. "We were really worried about putting out original material. We were really picky about getting it done right."

While Live and Hell replicated Trailer Trash's onstage chops, Nearer is a better showcase of the band's collective aptitude--and its ability to bump chests with good-ol'-boy greats. The 14 tales of sorry SOBs are delivered in the spirit of Trailer Trash's heroes, free of the kitsch that greased their previous work. "Bedslats" is a loopy floor-shuffler that gently pokes fun at the limited mobility of Twin Cities twentysomethings. "South Minneapolis is hell on bedslats," sings Dungan, a Nashville émigré in the mostly native Minnesotan group. "I don't think I need to tell you that in this town the way the kids move around/From Lake to Franklin, Lyndale to Hennepin/hop, skip, and jump--where you goin', son?/You're moving again."

Speaking of moving, the album marks a departure of a different sort: Dungan left his five-year booking post at Lee's last month in what he says was an amicable, carefully considered exit that was necessary to keep the club's calendar robust. "Five years--we took this place a long way," Dungan says. "It was simply time for me to move on. I think you can ruin it for everybody if you hold on too long, and I didn't want that to happen."

Dungan now books music for the Minnesota State Fair while Minneapolis City Council member Jim Niland has replaced him at Lee's. Both Dungan and Sirian seem pleased with the choice of Niland, but Dungan says it's tough handing over his baby.

Despite the job turnover and the new album, Trailer Trash show no signs of giving up their standing Wednesday gig--or of taking themselves too seriously. When asked about long-term plans, Dungan and Gaarder envision a gospel à la Anthony Robbins. "What we're going to do is issue bonds on Trailer Trash against future earnings," reckons Dungan. "We'll probably start our own TV show and get Louie to be the spokesman. We'll get an 800 number. We're going to be selling our own wine."

"We're just a bunch of ladies trying to make it in a man's world," deadpans Gaarder.

"See," laughs Dungan, "now the cat's out of the bag."


Trailer Trash perform Wednesday, December 15 at Lee's Liquor Lounge; (612) 338-9491. On Friday, December 17 they play their sixth annual "Have Yourself a Trashy Little Xmas" show at Lee's. The group also performs a special kids' matinee version at 2:00 on Saturday, December 18 at the Loring Playhouse; (612) 332-1619.

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