A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:


Cloud Cult, First Avenue. Craig Minowa admitted that he and his family have relocated to Wisconsin, but he learned that the Current (89.3 FM) has “You’ll Be Bright” heavy on its playlist, so Cloud Cult played it for us.

The Amsterdam hosting Cherie Currie on Saturday as part of the Girls Got Rhythm Fest. She’s a member of the pioneering Runaways, a terrific rock/punk singer, a chain-saw artist and the author of “Neon Angel,” a must-read for music heads. How’s that for talent?

Willie Nelson turned 80 on Tuesday. What an amazing artist and human being. The cherry on the sundae was Bill DeVille’s “United States of Americana” show on the Current featuring two hours of Willie music last Sunday morning.

Anne Thom, St. Paul

To contribute: E-mail us at popmusic@startribune.com.


Pistol Annies, “Annie Up.” This trio of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley is sassy and playful, smart and smart-alecky but invariably honest. This disc would make the young Dixie Chicks envious. Not only is this the best mainstream country album of 2013, but it includes two future classics, the spiritual-sounding “I Feel a Sin Comin’ On” and the George Jones-worthy ballad “Dear Sobriety.”

Gary Louris, the Dakota. Working solo and with various players from the Jayhawks and Suburbs, he put the emphasis on the songwriting, not the harmonies or his guitar playing. Moreover, Karen Grotberg’s grand piano often became the lead instrument. A generous and rewarding evening in which to reassess and appreciate Louris’ talents.

Gwen Matthews, the Dakota. At a benefit to help her because of two knee replacements, the veteran Twin Cities singer preached a bit and then eased into “Natural Woman”— the Aretha version, with one of the most remarkable “ah-oops” choirs you could assemble locally. Seated but surrounded by loving musicians, she tore it up in what was a remarkably moving moment.

Jon Bream, Star Tribune