American Roots Revue presented by Larry Long returns Saturday to the Dakota.
This is Long’s 12th Revue with its revolving roster of talent from different genres. Sharing the stage with Long this time are HALEY (formerly known as Haley Bonar), Antwaun Stanley, Cory Wong and The Hornheads. “All of the featured artists on this show are new, including Cory Wong, [who] has played with American Roots Revue as a sideman, but never as a featured artist doing his own material,” said Long. “He’s young and amazing. You’ll be hearing a lot from him in the coming year [or] two.”
Vikings fever should be at peak downtown on this night before a big playoff game, but Long’s fever is doubtful. When I asked the troubadour for his favorite sport, Long said, “Badminton.”
Q: What keeps you in the Twin Cities vs. other cities, say Nashville or Austin, with bigger reputations and audiences for your style of music?
A: I like it here. My family moved here from Des Moines, Iowa, when I was quite young. The Twin Cities is the “land of memory” for me. My father and I would go fishing for sunfish and crappies along the shores of Bde Maka Ska [Lake Calhoun]. Directly across the street from where we cast our lines into those waters is the Lakewood Cemetery, where our good friends Paul and Sheila Wellstone are laid to rest. As I learned from Pete Seeger years back: Find a place you love to be, stick with it, care for it, the whole world depends on it.
Q: Woody Guthrie and others have influenced and inspired you. Who are the talents next in line for carrying on the American folk music tradition?
A: Chastity Brown, Adam Levy from the Honeydogs, Guy Davis, Dorene Waubanewquay Day, hip-hop artist Tall Paul, Ann Reed, Eddie Allen, Charlie Maguire, Raldo Schneider, The Pines and this one young man out there who is really doing good work with his music, who’s not only walking in the tradition, but bicycling around the Great Lakes with it and that’s Ben Weaver.
Q: Have you written any songs lately that tap into the social challenges and uncertainties that the country faces?
A: Sometimes the most powerful song a person can write in times like these is a good love song. Love drives out fear. Love tears down walls. We sure need more love down them congressional halls. My new CD release, produced by my cousin Melvin James, is entitled “Dove With Claws.” The title comes from a quote from Johnny Cash after he sang for the troops in Vietnam. One of the songs on this collection is called “Seven Strong Women.” It was written in honor of seven workers who walked off their jobs in 1987 at American Linen Supply Co. in Hibbing, Minnesota, when their union contract expired. They were protesting wages and the company switch to individual retirement accounts from pensions.
Q: From where did your social conscience come?
A: My father died in his middle 30s from a heart attack, leaving my mother alone to raise two sisters and I out in the suburb of St. Louis Park. If it wasn’t for the help of good neighbors and government assistance, my mom and us would have had a hard time making it.
Q: Is there a rap artist whose lyrics speak to you?
A: I have a great admiration for the work of Toki Wright, Tall Paul, Brittany Delaney and Brother Ali from our community. Eminem’s freestyle cipher on Donald Trump at the BET Hip Hop Awards was an inspiration. The lyrical wisdom of the late Native American artist John Trudell travels with me everywhere.
Q: When it comes to songs that raise social awareness, you can’t beat Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” and Randy Newman’s “Sail Away.” Your favorite songs in this genre?
A: Billie Holiday “Strange Fruit,” Joni Mitchell “Big Yellow Taxi,” Adam Levy “Gaslight Face,” Mavis Staples “If All I Was Was Black,” Buffy Sainte-Marie “Big Muddy,” Santana “Put Your Lights On.”
Q: If you won a Lotto jackpot what is the first item on which you would spend money?
A: Helping to birth my wife’s new organization called One Thousand Women. The purpose of which is to help 1,000 women in a significant way and to promote 1,000 other women to take on 1,000 women of their own. Examples of which are buying women out of slavery or helping First Nation women go to college.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on FOX 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.