Article by Colton Davis
Photos by David Rubene
Downtown Minneapolis was the place to be Wednesday night. Fine Line Music Cafe played host to Maiden Dixie’s CD Release Party for their newest album UNSAFE & SOUND. The pre-show evening was filled with energy and excitement as Producer Kevin Bowe and Manager Chuck Thompson circulated throughout the venue chatting with guests while Maiden Dixie was upstairs doing the same. The band joked and mingled with friends and fans, taking many breaks for photo ops and autographs.
Although they were busy, I was able to sit down with lead vocalist Channing Himes for a few questions about the band.
Maiden Dixie really looks like a great group of friends, how did you all meet?
It started with John (guitar) and Drew (bass) who were in an army band together. After they came back from Iraq they wanted to start a band. John, Tyler and I all went to the same college and we found Jesse on YouTube … so it is was all very random. We started as a cover band and just wanted to make some money, but as we worked together more and got closer, we decided to take it to the next level and do our original music.
What is your favorite type of venue?
Oh my. We are doing WE Fest this year, and we did that last year as well. That was super fun; we got to play a side stage and the main stage. We were riding around on golf carts and taking videos and stuff like that. Since we are all from different towns, it is cool to see the support from each individual’s hometown.
How was it working with Kevin Bowe?
Kevin is amazing. As a band, we had taken a few trips to Nashville to write with different people, and we had met with a few producers in Nashville who all brought different things to the table. When we met with Kevin, things just clicked. If you sat in a room with all of us you would see how well we gel. He was really on board with what we were doing with our original music, it wasn’t just another band for Kevin, and he really supported us and had the same vision.
With ‘Unsafe & Sound’, do you have a favorite song on the new album?
That’s so tough. I don’t know if I can choose. “Story of Our Own” was the first one that was definitely going to be on this album, so that one has been around the longest. But after the album came out and I started listening to it, I could easily gravitate towards different songs. I don’t know which one I would pick as a favorite at this point.
There were some big changes musically between your two albums, do you see that evolving more or have you found your niche?
With the first album, we were still figuring out who Maiden Dixie was. Up until that point we were doing mostly covers and added in our own original music here and there. We took the safest route and played by the book. With ‘Unsafe & Sound’ we created our sound with the entire band contributing musically. We have so many different musical styles and backgrounds that came together to make a cool product we are happy and excited about. If we put out another one, I’m sure we will keep growing and evolving as musicians together.
Kevin Bowe &The Okemah Prophets
Once the venue was filled, The Okemah Prophets took the stage, led by Kevin Bowe on a ruby red guitar (given to him by Paul Westerberg). This band features some veteran musicians who proved they have done this before. Like a well-oiled locomotive, the trio made their rockin’ Americana riffs look easy. It would have been a struggle not to enjoy this set, as they played a style of rock that isn’t heard too often these days, but was very well received. It was classic rock, but had an alternative edge. At times the group would make an unexpected turn mid song and slide into a savory, bluesy jam for a few measures. This was just the right amount to leave you wanting more. Between songs Kevin would dive into a story or make jokes that set the tone of a fun and easy atmosphere. I imagined the Prophets being schoolyard punks whose antics would cause teachers to clutch their pearls in shock. These veteran musicians humble attitude and talent kickstarted the night with a solid set.
With the crowd amped and ready to go, Maiden Dixie hit the ground running. The crowd was pressed to the stage while the St. Paul based band rocked out their genre bending music. With an edgy country rock sound, Maiden Dixie undoubtedly has that classic country sound with a whole lot of soulful meaning. It’s like a sports car that has a cover pulled over it, you can’t tell what kind of car it is, but you know what is underneath is truly impressive. Maiden Dixie has a solid country theme, with a traditional and new country rock sound. The vocals of Channing Himes and Jessie Becker were expressive and contagious, and even though this is a fairly new band, nearly half the audience sang along for the entire show. The friendly onstage banter between Himes and Becker revealed how the two feed off each other and allowed the audience in on the fun times. The crew behind these two is what sets the band apart from the rest. Tyler Kloewer showed his drums kit no mercy during the performance. While many bands today shy away from drums, there was no escaping the rowdy and almost tribal beats. On bass, Drew Sherman held it down with rolling rhythms and some surprising vocals. He even pulled a miniature trumpet out for a special series of Johnny Cash songs. On guitar, Jonathan Krentz added depth and complexity to the music with blues riffs and Jimmy Page-esqe softer moments. Zackary Scanlan was most often seen with a fiddle, but he also played keyboard and mandolin. It was exciting to see how each new instrument was going to be used. Producer Kevin Bowe described the members of Maiden Dixie as having ‘wisdom beyond their years’ and it was overtly apparent while they were on stage. Aside from playing songs from their newest album they played full-blown rock, a Johnny Cash montage, sang well-practiced harmonies, and even jammed out a homage to Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog.
Maiden Dixie’s CD Release Party was a wonderful look at a very talented group of solid musicians. This likable crew is more like a group of brothers and sister, than a band. Their easy relationship and close connection with fans gave the packed venue an intimate atmosphere. Overall it was a memorable and spectacular Maiden Dixie event.
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On April 14th, Navigator Records has released UNSAFE & SOUND, the sophomore studio project from the Minnesota based band Maiden Dixie. The follow up to ‘Little Black Dress’, the album was recorded in Mastermix and Okemah studios with award winning singer/songwriter/producer Kevin Bowe at the helm.
You can find Maiden Dixie on the web at:
Edited by Anna Rubene