Tuesday Night Blues this week/month featured a husband wife duo out of Minneapolis called Lost Jim & Robbi. They were absolutely great. A huge change from the Chicago & New Orleans/Memphis styles so often seen. Nothing in the world wrong with those styles, but sometimes it is real nice to settle into a little back porch/living room laid back feel. That is just what these folks did. Jim Ohlschmidt is a self-styled fan of Mississippi John Hurt and his covers and originals reflect it. I’ll use tat as a segue into an intro to a blogger and writer I am going to have you meet. This is from a blog called “The Scene: Music and Events In The Chippewa Valley.
Lost Jim and Robbi
The promise of live blues again drew me to the Unitarian Universalist church. Last night Lost Jim Ohlschmidt and his wife Robbi played and it was good. The couple is from Minnesota and traveled to Eau Claire on a cold Tuesday night at the request of our Blues Society. It was a pure, acoustic, unplugged show.
Lost Jim came out alone and played two original instrumentals from his new CD, “Old Box New Tunes,” warming the audience up, empty chair beside him. A couple of things were immediately obvious: this was not going to be a stand-up-and-dance kind of night; and this guy was good. I prepared to sit back and let the music soothe me. The first tune was "Maggie And Trouble." The second song titled "Avalon Postcard." Then his wife came onto the stage carrying her violin.
These two are everyday people. You see them shopping at the local grocery store, walking in the park, in the middle row of pews at church, sitting on the bleachers at the little league game. They're quiet and pleasant and polite. Lost Jim struggles with a slight stutter and Robbi's smile is crooked. They got up on stage, picked up their instruments and played them in the same quiet, matter-of-fact way she might bake a pie for dinner or he might jump-start a car during a cold Minnesota winter (or perhaps he bakes and she's the mechanic, but you know what I mean). There is nothing about them that screams “special” or “talented,” nothing particularly extraordinary about the way they look or how they present themselves. But their music is extraordinary. Quiet and unpretentious, they warmed the cold Tuesday night.
Lost Jim likes old blues. Country blues. He likes Mississippi John Hurt. He likes Blind Blake and Big Bill Broonzy. He sang "Payday," a “song older than dirt.” He sang "Salty Dog" a “cultural high-water mark” for the blues and admitted he still doesn't know what a salty dog is. He told a few jokes. During all this Robbi, sat on her chair, smiling slightly, tapping her bow against her fiddle, adding quiet percussion. She soloed on it too. She's got a madonna-like smile and pacific demeanor, but I suspect this woman knows how to let loose. She also plays bluegrass but tonight her violin melded with the guitar beautifully, giving these blues just the right feel.
Lost Jim also sang some originals. "You're The One" is a beautiful love song: “Roll like the river/shine like the sun/go on tell everybody baby/you're the one...pretty as a daisy/wild as a dandelion/like flowers in the meadow baby/you're looking mighty fine.” On Railroad Blues “Think about a month ago/your bags are packed your ready to go/leave me with a mule to ride/and an empty feeling down deep inside....I got no letter I got no news/all I got's these railroad blues.”
These two bring us back to a time when making music was a natural cultural extension of life, when family music-making was a way to communicate and bond and entertain. They bring us back to a time before the radio and TV dragged us from our front porch and into the living room. On Tuesday night, their music dragged me away from my computer and onto a church pew. And it was worth it.
Don’t know about you guys, but I like her writing style! If you have been to any live music events in the are, you have probably seen her. If you like, you can catch her blog at http://jenniferruth.blogspot.com
There will be a Chippewa Valley Blues Society meeting December 16th in Eau Claire. Check the website for the place (last I heard, probably Pizza Plus downtown Eau Claire). Meeting will start at 6:30. This will be our Xmas party with a short meeting and some food and libations. If you would like to become a member, or are a member and would like to become more involved, this is the place to do it. I haven’t seen an agenda yet, but I’m sure some of the topics will be Tuesday Night Blues, Unplugged, Blues On The Chippewa, and nominations for officers will probably be opened as well. Hope to see ya there!
Don’t forget to tune in to WHYS 96.3 Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. for Snapshot’s blues show.
Thanks for lending me an ear! We’ll be seein’ ya around.