Rusty Wille of Mankato:
1 Murder of Crows, Rock Bend Folk Festival in St. Peter. Gaelynn Lea admitted that it was her first festival performance when she took the stage with bandmate Alan Sparhawk. The Minnesota Square Park setting, blue sky and breeze were perfect for her “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun.” The Nirvana cover was a bonus.
2 Dead Man Winter, Rock Bend Folk Festival. As a big fan of Trampled by Turtles, I was thrilled to see and hear this side project featuring three TBT members including frontman Dave Simonett. Every expectation was met. A perfect band at a perfect time at a perfect place on a perfect day.
3 City Mouse, Rock Bend Folk Festival. Mankato’s own City Mouse invited Erik Koskinen onstage. The 45-year veterans backed the rising Twin Cities country artist as he played his song “First Time in Years” to an appreciative crowd.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Trampled by Turtles, Festival Palomino. They demonstrated once again why they are one of Minnesota’s most essential and compelling live acts. The bluegrassy reading of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” was touching.
2 The Specials, First Avenue. Never thought of these “Rudy, a Message to You” hitmakers as one of England’s top-notch ska bands of the 2 Tone era. But their energetic, infectious performance had a sellout crowd of Euro-loving fans carrying on like they were at a soccer game. A bloody good time.
3 John Prine, “For Better, or Worse.” This is a collection of duets with famous female singers on 15 classic country songs. Prine, who sounds in stronger voice than he has in a while, skillfully balances his limited voice with the stellar but understated voices of Iris DeMent, Lee Ann Womack, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Susan Tedeschi and others. A wonderful project from “Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out” and “Mr. & Mrs. Used To Be” to “Fallin’ in Love Again” — with a bonus solo number by Prine, Hank Williams’ “Just Waitin’.” Out Friday.