The Okee Dokee Brothers: Instruments of outdoor adventure

  • Article by: CHRISTY DESMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2013 - 7:03 AM

The Okee Dokee Brothers write songs that move families to fish, camp, paddle — and dance.

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The Okee Dokee Brothers partnered with the Wilderness Inquiry on this hybrid concert-canoe trip in July.

“Come listen to this,” I shouted to my husband from across the apartment.

I was in the living room with our infant daughter, Lydia. We were listening for the first time to “Can You Canoe?,” the Grammy-winning children’s album by the Minneapolis-based Okee Dokee Brothers, when I noticed a brilliant and subversive song lyric, something only a cynical grown-up like me can appreciate:

I got myself in trouble When I bought myself a home Cuz I thought myself a millionaire But then I couldn’t pay off the loan So I moved down to the river Where fishin’ hooks pay the rent And now I’m livin’ off of rice and beans And sleepin’ in my campin’ tent.

Released in 2012, “Can You Canoe?” is a storytelling album based on the band’s monthlong paddling adventure on the Mississippi River. The record is well known and beloved within parenting circles, partly because adults find the catchy banjo and wry lyrics more palatable

than most children’s music. Rich with river-inspired sounds and imagery, “Can You Canoe?” provides the perfect soundtrack for families, couples, friends, even hermits en route to water-based adventures this holiday weekend, so long as the listeners enjoy bluegrass and folk music.

“Their genre is children’s music, but I don’t think of them as children’s musicians,” says Greg Lais, executive director of Wilderness Inquiry, a Twin Cities based outdoors adventure group, and a big fan of the Okee Dokee Brothers. “If they were only appealing to 6- and 8-year-olds, they wouldn’t be selling so many CDs, would they? They’re kind of like ‘Harry Potter.’ ”

PLAYING TO OUTDOOR THEMES

Friends since they were 3 years old, bandmates Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing grew up in the outdoor playground of Denver, both within “socially conscious families,” says Mailander. They attended an all-boys Jesuit high school, where the values of empathy, kindness and environmental stewardship were further ingrained in their fledgling brains.

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