BEST ACOUSTIC PERFORMER (2010)

Spirits of the Red City

Spirits of the Red City are the real deal—no amps, no microphones; even the squeeze organ is analog. A group of eight musicians swell and sway in unison, gathering around one another to listen for breaths and pauses, squeezing their eyes shut as they strum banjos and mandolins, bow cellos, and brush an old snare drum while singer Will Garrison amazingly, astonishingly sings out loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear. In an era heavy on neo-folkies and old-timey revivalists, Spirits stand out simply for the purity of their art form. There have no pretenses and no fashion requirements—it's just Garrison, the wandering troubadour poet, playing his heart-wrenching folk songs for whoever will listen with a band of brothers and sisters and balladeers. That the group has only played the Twin Cities four times in the past year and a half is a shame, but it's also a testament to their nomadic nature; Spirits of the Red City spend their time drifting from place to place, setting up in coffee shops and anarchist bookstores and street corners across the country and rippling their pensive, dynamic love lore out into the ether.

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