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10 Great Minnesota Bands and Artists

Minnesota and its cities and towns may not get the musical props of a California or New York, but the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have long and proud traditions popular music that date back to the early 1960s, when artists such as “Spider” John Koerner were the buzz in local coffee shops. Still home to many revered musicians who just never left the frozen north, I present 10 great artists from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

  1. Replacements – The Replacements started as a sloppy punk band devoted to getting drunk and singing mawkish ditties about school, work and other subjects of teen-aged angst. The band grew into a rock and roll vehicle for Paul Westerberg‘s burgeoning writing talents and became legends in the Twin Cities. Recommended album: Tim.
  2. Prince – The chameleonic artist’s career decisions could be questioned, but the talents of Minneapolis’ most famous musical son cannot. Controversial and cryptic, funky and flaky, Prince remains an enigma and a killer guitar player. Recommended album: Sign O’ The Times.
  3. The Jayhawks Gary Louris‘ and Mark Olson‘s voices were a match from heaven, with Louris’ ringing highs countering Olson’s earthy lows. The influence of the Jayhawks is enormous, and the band’s 1992 album Hollywood Town Hall didn’t just kick-start the alt-country movement, it defined it. Recommended album: Tomorrow The Green Grass.
  4. The HoneydogsAdam Levy – the chief songwriter of the Honeydogs – is one of the most unappreciated talents in music. Levy’s gift for melody and arrangement follow the lines of masters such as The Beatles and Brian Wilson. Recommended album: Seen A Ghost.
  5. Husker Du – The twin songwriting genius of Bob Mould and Grant Hart coalesced on the punk-rock tour de force Zen Arcade, and then was refined for the sonic barrage of New Day Rising. Recommended album: Flip Your Wig.
  6. Bob Dylan – The most influential rock and folk songwriter of the 20th century is still going strong nearly 50 years after his self-titled debut in 1962. By 1966, he had set a standard almost impossible for any future songwriter to aspire. Love his voice or hate it, Dylan is one of the few artists who can parody himself and get away with it. Recommended album: Basement Tapes.
  7. Soul Asylum – Another Minneapolis act that first burst onto the bar scene playing Ramones-influenced punk. Unlike their local hero peers, Soul Asylum played to the world following the success of 1992’s Grave Dancers Union and the hit single “Runaway Train.” Recommended album: And The Horse They Rode In On.
  8. The Trashmen – While the lakes of Minnesota are a long ways from the hallowed surfing grounds of California and Hawaii, The Trashmen weren’t deterred. And now everybody’s heard that the bird’s the word. Recommended album: Tube City! The Best Of The Trashmen.
  9. Low – The slow-core trio from Duluth makes music as delicate as a spider’s web – songs that threaten to curl up in a ball and sleep through the long northern Minnesota winter. Recommended album: Things We Lost In The Fire.
  10. Trip Shakespeare –  The lush productions, chiming guitars and harmony vocals of Trip Shakespeare fought for recognition as grunge took over popular music in the early ’90s. You already know the winner of that battle. Recommended album: Lulu.

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