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Songs sung true: ‘Southside Soul’ compilation hits home

There’s honesty in poverty. That isn’t to say that poor folk don’t lie. They do. But poor musicians are less able to hide flaws in their singing or playing on recordings than those working for major music labels.

There’s honesty in poverty. That isn’t to say that poor folk don’t lie. They do. But poor musicians are less able to hide flaws in their singing or playing on recordings than those working for major music labels.

The voices and instruments of moneyed musicians are caressed and lifted by engineers gifted in the art of beautiful distortion. The engineers recalibrate the off-key and off-beat into high-gloss perfection the players themselves can never reproduce on a stage.

When you listen to “Southside Soul: Volume 1,” you’re listening to South Minneapolis musicians making honest art. There’s some background noise here and there, and there’s some musicianship that isn’t always A-list, and a few notes that are reached for and fallen short of, but there’s no lack of heart.

Pride and soul
The disc was put together by Southside Pride, a monthly community newspaper covering South Minneapolis.

Copies of “Southside Soul” will be given away to the first 200 people in the door for the CD release party at 7 p.m. Saturday (March 29) at McMahon’s Pub, 3001 E. Lake St., Minneapolis. There’s no cover charge.

The show features some of the 19 musicians on the CD, including Papa John Kolstad and Clint Hoover, Johnny Law and the New Century Prophets, the Sexy Bang, Chastity Brown and the Sound, and Cadillac Kolstad and the Flats.

The price of the disc doesn’t go up after that show. You can get one of the free 2,500 copies of “Southside Soul” at Cheapo Records any time you buy a disc by a local musician, says David Goldstein, sales director of Southside Pride and co-creator and project coordinator of the CD.

“We don’t make any money on it,” Goldstein says of the CD. “We’re doing it to support local music and to be a booster for South Minneapolis.

“There’s an amazing diversity of musical talent in South Minneapolis that people may not be aware of,” he says. “We’re trying to bring that to people’s attention. I think a lot of the acts are under people’s radar and now I think they won’t be.”

“Southside Pride” gets off to an appropriately homey start with a brief recitation by longtime Powderhorn poet Mildred Miller. She’s followed by a wheezing norteño and Texas swing hybrid, “Galveston Waltz,” by the Twin City Playboys. The disc ends with poet Roy McBride reciting “Lilac Week” over a bed of squawking horns and metronomic percussion.

In between, we hear the big, urgent twang of Sexy Bang, the finger-snapping gospel of Deacon Elige Brown and the Greater Friendship Baptist Church, goofy musings about a “Favorite Cow” from Rockthrow, the old-timey, stately grief of Mother Banjo, and much more.

All of the tracks for “Southside Soul” were previously recorded; none was recorded specifically for the CD.

Home, sweet home
Mike Lane, singer, songwriter and lead guitarist for The Lanes, says that while South Minneapolis doesn’t have many of the city’s clubs, it is home to more than its fair share of musicians.

“As far as having affordable housing and being able to practice in your basement, South Minneapolis is as good a place as any,” he says with a laugh.
His band contributes “No, Not Lately,” a stomping flashback to 1960s pop propelled by handclaps and sci-fi keyboards. You can hear the song here on the band’s MySpace page.

Lane, an inventory specialist at a warehouse in Plymouth, says he would drop his day job if he could.

“We’re still pursuing music as much as we can. That’s what’s in our hearts and in our blood and we love doing it, but it doesn’t often pay the bills,” he says of the band he fronts with his wife, Kiki Lane.

John Lawyer, a contractor who builds fast food restaurants, is the main man in Johnny Law and the New Century Prophets, a group (more or less) featured on both the CD and at the release party.

“I don’t have an actual, regular band,” he says. “When I play live under the name Johnny Law, I just grab musicians and friends I know.”

Some of those musicians and friends come from Spirit Garage,  a Christian community Lawyer belongs to that gets together Sunday mornings to celebrate “love, faith and rock ‘n’ roll.”

His thumping “Something Here” is a snarl of heartbreak and stuttering guitar, but Lawyer’s deep, rough vocals could undoubtedly be smoothed out by an engineer in a top studio and his riffs tweaked to a more memorable sharpness as well. You can hear Johnny Law tracks on his MySpace page here. There’s no need to fine-tune or shine up the plaintive honesty of his song, however, nor anything else on this disc.