Ellen Stanley of Minneapolis:
1 Doug Otto, Dusty’s Bar. A musician’s musician, he is one of the great undersung talents of the Minneapolis music scene. Every Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m., he holds court at this classic cozy, unpretentious Nordeast bar. With his killer band, Otto plays a unique blend of folk, blues and classic country and welcomes special musical guests every week.
2 Funkraiser, KFAI Radio. Although the volunteer-run community station is noted for its true eclecticism and diversity (airing more than 90 music and public affairs shows in 13 languages), the 24 hours of funk music was a welcome departure that helped raise money on Give to the Max Day. Programmed by a fun mix of live DJs, it had the soul and personality that is at the heart of this radio rarity.
3 Wild Ponies with Rod Picott, the Hook and Ladder. This showcased some of Nashville’s most authentic songwriters with funny stories and catchy Americana tunes. One of the highlights was when Wild Ponies played their poignant “Bury the Young” in response to that day’s Santa Clarita, Calif., school shooting — heartfelt, hard-hitting and cathartic, just what we needed to hear.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune
1 “My Name Is Prince” by Randee St. Nicholas. For 25 years starting in 1991, she periodically photographed and directed videos for Prince all over the world. Her tales of his spontaneity, humor and challenging her are as insightful as her images in this coffee-table book are arty, though she very, very rarely captures him smiling.
2 CMA Songwriters Series, the Ordway. With the standout Shane McAnally calling in sick, three members of Old Dominion and ace songwriter/quick quipster Josh Osborne (Kenny Chesney, Sam Hunt, Midland) entertained in what felt like an in-house song pull, with a cameo by courageous Columbia Heights teen singer-songwriter Sophie Kuether offering an original tune.
3 Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the Fitzgerald. As is their tradition in New Orleans, they did 45-minute sets, one filled with originals and NOLA classics with top-notch solos and the other with explorations inspired by their trip to Cuba, featuring the entrancing guest vocals of Yusa and percussive but funky rhythms.