The Mad Ripple Hootenanny at the Dowling Studio, 11/27/11
The Mad Ripple Hootenanny November 27, 2011 The Dowling Studio at the Guthrie, Minneapolis
Five years ago, Jim Walsh began the Mad Ripple Hootenanny in the basement of Java Jack's in South Minneapolis. The Hoot was then a ring of singer-songwriters, folk and non-folk and local big shots and up-and-comers, a cast of musicians with no relation to each other beyond their gypsy-style circle of collaboration--a format that still holds true. Walsh, possibly one of the most obnoxious, passionate, and brilliant music men about town, has a knack for zeroing in on the pulsing talent of the Twin Cities and beyond and bringing out unexpected collaborations. Last night, at the five-year anniversary performance of the Hootenany at the Guthrie's Dowling Studio, Walsh didn't disappoint with the cast of musicians he presented to a packed audience.
There were six rounds of musicians, packed into three and a half hours of rotating playing in the black box that is the Dowling Studio, with a backing band composed of a basic who's-who of Twin Cities instrumentalists: Ken Goldman, Mick Wertz (drums), Pete Christensen (keyboards), Tony Nelson (electric guitar), Rick Widen (bass guitar), and Paul Odegaard (trumpet). In case you're unfamiliar with the format of the Hoot, it goes like this: there are no rehearsals, no formal structure to the playing. The first line of Hoot players sit in, and the band joins in as best they can, accompanying the music--sometimes it works beautifully, sometimes it doesn't, and that's always the glory of the Hoot.
The first round of players began with Stook!, a one man example in folk-rock-electronica, whose blues-driven contributions to the song circle last night included the story of how he first met his wife--at a Hoot, of course. There was also Brianna Lane, a first-rate Americana artist, and Ashleigh Still, whose stunning voice was soulfully plaintive as she covered heartbreak and longing.
The second rotation was a little Northfield-themed, with Alison Rae and Michael Morris hailing from the small town, a little dash of dusty, earnest folk. Julia Douglass, a recently back-in-town folk veteran who has spent the last 22 years in New York, who delivered her sly satirical song "Poor People On TV" with a simple grin and deceptively dulcet vocals. Rounding out the set was a ten-year-old girl named Dani, no last name given, but most people seemed to call her F7--or at least, that's what she's known as down at Willie's Guitars in St. Paul, so-called for her ability to nail a complicated guitar line like the one in "Hey Jude", which she covered last night--with an expert's hand and the confidence of an artist three times her age.
In the third round, there was local legend Slim Dunlap, most known for his stint with the Replacements; Terry Walsh, brother to Jim Walsh and lead singer of the Belfast Cowboys, a local Van Morrison cover band (and an excellent one, at that); up-and-coming rediscovered singer-songwriter Katy Vernon; and Martin Devaney, one of the Twin Cities' busiest and most well-known musicians. This was a spirited set, with Dunlap introducing new work from "about four in the afternoon today", and the group widely and humorously acknowledging that no one should ever have to to follow a kid.
And that was just half the night. Walsh, the maestro of the evening, took in equal parts to jabbing and praising his fellows, and as the night wore on, hollered out to members of the audience for the time--apparently the Dowling turned into a pumpkin at 10:30 p.m. sharp, or something like that. In any case, Walsh seemed to have a tighter grasp on "planning ahead" than usual.
The fourth rotation featured local pop-rock goddess Mayda, hot off her latest album, Tusks in Furs, and preparing for her first U.S. tour in December. Johnny Solomon and Molly Moore of Communist Daughter contributed a heartfelt and surprisingly delicate tune, while John Swardson delivered some smooth-as-rust Americana.
The one and only Curtiss A, along with singer-songwriter Gini Dodds and acoustic rocker Joe Fahey rounded out the fifth set. In the sixth line, veteran folk rocker Dan Israel entertained, along with the easy folk melodies of Dana Thompson and the piano-driven honesty of Natalie Lovejoy. What a night.
If you missed the Hoot, fear not--another season will come again, though Walsh says he isn't quite sure where yet. We aren't worrying; the Mad Ripple Hootenanny seems like one of those Twin Cities constants that will always find a way.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Meredith Westin.
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