Claudia Schmidt | Peterborough

Music in Bass Hall: Claudia Schmidt

Fri 1/18 8:00pm

Admission $15 / $12 PHS members, students, seniors.

Tickets available at

The amazing Claudia Schmidt (who opened the Folkway Remembered Concert Series in 2010) returns to Bass Hall with a new recording to her credit: Bend in the River: Collected Songs (Red House Records)

This review, by Andrea Canter by contributing editor, “Jazz Police”, says it all.
She’s widely known as a singer/songwriter of folk and blues, an accomplished performer on 12-string guitar and mountain dulcimer, and a regular during the early years of Prairie Home Companion. Describing herself as a “creative noisemaker,” Claudia Schmidt has released more than a dozen recordings (including 5 on the Red House label) and has appeared on the stages of concert halls, small clubs, and folk festivals. In recent years, she has explored a long-time bent toward jazz, most notably with the release of Live at the Dakota (2006). Along the way she also found time to operate an inn and restaurant on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. Now back in the Twin Cities, Claudia celebrates the release of Bend in the River, a 16-track retrospective of her Red House discography showcasing her diverse range and talents. Special appearances by members of JJ Farley & the Original Soul Stirrers, Beausoleil, Violent Femmes,and Tom Waits’
Band meld here with Claudia’s work with Minnesota jazz and folk favorites Dean Magraw, Gordy Johnson, Phil Hey, Peter Ostroushko, and Marc Anderson. “There’s a full circle feel to this album,” says Claudia. “Listening to these songs is like watching a sped-up camera shot of a flower opening. I can summon up exactly what was happening in my life at the moments when I wrote and recorded these songs.”
From Big Earful (1987), Claudia teamed with the J.J Farley band, jazzers Billy Peterson (bass), the late J.C. Hear (drums). The opening/title track is a propulsive jazz/folk commentary on social change, with fast-paced, searing lyrics, while “Pretty at the End” has a dark blue hue that bleeds day into night. “You Can Call Me Baby” opens with a moaning solo from Billy Peterson, Claudia showing off her skill putting blues into folk notions with a bold slide of jazzy humor tying it all together. “Making it Across the Road” has the feel of an African ritual, a call and response spirit, a percussive underlay, and a snakey melody that suggests a horn line.
From Essential Tension (1991), Claudia brings on the one-time favorite jazz ensemble of Don Stille, Gordy Johnson and Phil Hey along with Jay Young, Dave and Kathy Jensen, Dean Magraw and more. “Racer” has more of a folk/pop sensibility with a country vibe from Magraw’s guitar; her own dulcimer and Andrea Stern’s harp put the Americana touch onto “Persophone’s Song;” “Into the Weep” melds a big band swinging chorus with the soul-stirring sass of Claudia, the comedienne/storyteller, while “Black Crow” summons (again) the African roots of American jazz and blues, enhanced by Kathy Jenson’s turn on alto sax.
1991’s While We Live (With Sally Rodgers) added Marc Anderson, Gordy Johnson and Dean Magraw to the two voices. “Grampa Johnson” particularly grabs with the dancing quality of dulcimer and bass; “Going By” gives more space to Anderson’s percussion, but again the dulcimer gives this track it’s distinctive, almost Celtic folk feel.
It Looks Fine From Here (1994) was recorded while Claudia was preparing an old log house as a B&B on Beaver Island, MI, the instrumentation pared down to her own strings, Anderson’s percussion and Magraw’s guitar. “Banana Moon” and “Waltzing on the 45th Parallel” highlight Claudia’s instrumental prowess on both 12-string guitar and dulcimer, while “Rising” has an assertive rhythmic foundation that again seems to draws from an African folk tradition.
Claudia again used a smaller ensemble to record Wings of Wonder (2000), this time with just Dean Magraw on guitar and e-bow and Peter Ostroushko on fiddle, mandolin and percussion. The album’s title track features Claudia’s facility (writing and singing) fast-paced lyrics against an almost-bluegrass backdrop; her voice and the instrumental harmonies haunt the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger;” while “It All Depends” ends the collection with a song of introspection and hope.
This is no more a jazz album than a folk album or a blues album. It is a quintessentially Claudia Schmidt album. ‘Nuf said.