Duluth Fiddler Gaelynn Lea has been a staple of the North Shore music scene for quite a while, and came to national attention when she won NPR’s tiny desk concert contest this spring. Following that was an on stage appearance at First Avenue for a Lucius concert and some live dates. Lea’s musical style mixes traditional fiddle tunes with looping, giving modern live to songs that have been played for hundreds of years. She uses a looping pedal to build her songs making them complex and deep.
She was in town yesterday performing at Sociable Ciderwerks in NE Minneapolis. I am a sucker for a good Cider and their Freewheeler has a dedicated spot in my fridge; so it seemed a match made in heaven. My first time at this venue, I found very cool, rustic and a perfect place to spend a warm summer evening. Turns out Gaelynn Lea was performing for a retirement party so Joanne who was the guest of honor got some unexpected press coverage – Happy Retirement Joanne!
Lea started her set with a Medley in D Major, describing it as “most fiddle tunes I know”. The first half of her set was played solo but she was joined by college friend Al Church on guitar. She introduced each song with a short explanation of the history behind it or how it came to be for original songs. The fiddle teacher in her shone through the whole set talking about her students and how they exposed her to new music. She also played songs from her band “Murder of Crows” (which is that a flock of crows is called, also learned that).
Gaelynn Lea is a unique artist both her playing and her voice are far apart from what I usually see at other shows. The fiddle tunes have a haunting quality, especially for her original songs with her singing voice rising above them with an almost angelic feel. Before Al Church joined her she got the audience to sing the chorus to “Bird” in his stead. Overall I left deeply impressed and with a grin on my face.