From Bob Dylan to the Jayhawks and beyond, Minnesota has always been fertile ground for Americana songwriters.
The great thing about Americana is that it encompasses so much. From singer-songwriters to folk musicians, country-tinged duos to blues bands, the genre has enough sides for any music taste.
Below are five active Minnesota Americana artists that you need to see.
For nearly 25 years, Erik and the UHQ have brought their unique brand of Americana to every sort of conceivable local venue, from dive bars like Palmer’s to cool spots like the Cedar Cultural Center. Their name evokes rock (urban), country (hillbilly), and jazz (quartet).
Erik and his band are constantly evolving. Their early albums are filled with straightforward Americana rock. By the time of 2002’s Amelia’s Boot, their sound included improvisational experimentation, Middle Eastern influences, and glistening pop/rock. 2006’s Green Eyed Alone features perhaps Erik’s most mature songwriting, 2012’s expansive The Long Winter pushed boundaries, and their most recent EP, South of Dark, hearkens back to the band’s early days.
Check their website often for updates, as they play frequently around the Twin Cities and beyond.
Minnesota’s most popular string band, the Roe Family Singers made a name for themselves by playing every Monday night at the 331 Club.
While they still have that gig, their popularity now goes far beyond that. Their comedy sketch series was featured on community radio station KFAI for years, they’ve released several albums, and they even appeared on our local PBS affiliate.
Live shows from the Roe Family Singers are legendary, sometimes featuring nearly 10 members, and almost always including a little clogging. Be sure to catch them at one of their many gigs in Minnesota and across the Midwest.
“The cactus blossoms – and so can you.” The uplifting phrase, which is used as the tag line for one of Minnesota’s most beloved bands, sums up “Minnesota nice” quite well.
Brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey, who lead the Cactus Blossoms, are basically our Everly Brothers. Their sweet harmonies are always front and center. Musically, they are a unique combination of the Everly’s, 50s country, folk, and pop/rock.
The band got their start at a weekly residency at the famed Turf Club, but their reputation quickly spread throughout the state and across the country. Their last album, Easy Way was released in 2019.
Songwriters Liz Wilkinson and AJ Scheiber lead rootsy local band Wilkinson James. Their ensemble includes fiddle, saxophone, dobro, and stand-up bass.
The music of Wilkinson James lovingly combines country, rock, blues, and more. Although the word is often thrown around recklessly, they exude authenticity. They regularly play all around Minnesota, from small bars in Northfield to the best clubs of the Twin Cities.
Although a relatively new band, Turn! Turn! Turn! have a strong pedigree. Members include Adam Levy (Honeydogs) and popular local songwriters Savannah Smith and Barb Brystad.
Like the Cactus Blossoms, harmonies are front and center for Turn! Turn! Turn! Their originals stand up well with the folk, pop, and rock classics of the 60s and 70s that they cover.