Soundgarden from Seattle sang about feeling Minnesota, and John Prine from Chicago reflected on the jungles of east St. Paul. So why can’t a kid from Eau Claire, Wis., make a record about California?
The Wisconsinite in question is S. Carey, better known as a drummer for Bon Iver and Mason Jennings. He just released his second album as a singer/songwriter, “Range of Light,” and as the John Muir-quoting title might suggest, it was inspired by the Golden State’s Sierra Nevada. Carey, 28, regularly visited the area as a child and has gone back often as a mobile young adult. From the sound of it, when he’s not there he misses the place as much as his buddy Justin Vernon missed that Emma girl on the first Bon Iver record.
Recorded at Vernon’s April Base Studio with members of the Bon Iver band, “Range of Light” is even more subdued and subliminal than Vernon’s work. There are parts where the nature vibe gets so hushed and granola-y, you might imagine Carey singing to a leaf he picked up deep in the forest. The best moments recall the lush, serene sounds of Sigur Rós’ mellower material, including the piano-prettied “Alpenglow” and the orchestral closer “Neverending Fountain.”
After a short East Coast jaunt, Carey (the “S” is for Sean) and his band return home for release parties Friday at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis and Saturday at Schofield Auditorium on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus.
South by Northeast
With their centralized downtown bars and communal scenes, the cities of Winona and Duluth have both managed to do something Minneapolis and St. Paul have never pulled off: launch a small-scale version of the South by Southwest Music Conference, with dozens of bands playing in multiple venues under one banner and ticket price.
Winona’s burgeoning four-day bash, the Mid West Music Fest, kicked off Wednesday and continues Friday with a lineup including Caroline Smith, the Cactus Blossoms, Grant Hart, the 4onthefloor and Bomba de Luz. Saturday’s schedule features Farewell Milwaukee, John Mark Nelson, Night Phoenix, Enemy Planes, Fathom Lane and many more. Details at MidWestMusicFest.org.
Duluth’s 15th annual Homegrown Festival — which eschews the city kids for the North Woods crowd — kicks off Sunday and continues all week in 15-plus venues with the likes of Actual Wolf, Southwire, Black-Eyed Snakes and Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. The fest culminates next weekend with its own trolley service (lah de dah!) and acts including Low, Portage, Fever Dream and Kickball Classic. Oh, wait, the latter might not be a band. See DuluthHomegrown.org.
Patrons are already seeing renovations in action at the Turf Club following First Avenue’s purchase of the St. Paul bar, but they’re not going to see anything there for a good chunk of the summer. Plans call for closing the Turf on June 1 for at least two months to install a kitchen, put on a new roof and lots more. The good news (besides the fact that the club can stand for another 70 years now) is that there will be a reopening celebration. …
One of the acts playing Winona’s fest Saturday, rootsy hootenanny picker Gabe Barnett and his band the Big House Rounders, kick off a monthlong Thursday residency at the 331 Club next week. Their new album, “Old as Stars,” is full of rowdy, kazoo- and washboard-enhanced blues, vaudeville and Dixieland-style tunes. … Poliça is down to play a free show for University of Minnesota students Friday from noon to 1 p.m. in Coffman Union’s front plaza for Spring Jam. …
By all accounts, last Saturday’s Record Store Day was a smashing success for local stores. I saw fans crowd into Hymie’s backroom to catch Ben Weaver, while Sonny Knight & the Lakers gave new meaning to “tight” on the mini-stage inside the similarly packed Electric Fetus, where the special RSD release bin was nearly empty by 3 p.m. Bravo, music lovers, but remember: Those stores are well-stocked and doing cool things year-round.