Digging in the Live Red Coals
Pulse of the Twin Cites - Artist of the Week 5/31/00 Bob Nordquist "Digging in the Live Red Coals" "The thing that is immediately noticeable about Bob Nordquist is his rich, honest voice. I have never encountered a male Tracy Chapman, Nordquist has the vocals to be just that, and it is impressive. Though he has had airplay on KFAI Radio's Urban Folk show and will hold his CD release at a coffee house, he should not be pigeonholed because his music goes beyond typical coffee house familiarity. Each song sets a different, unique mood. 'Ashes and Jars' evokes humid, mosquito filled nights, deep in the Louisiana bayou. There is Irish folk flavor in 'Nicaragua' as well as old-fashioned hootenanny in the form of 'Scaring All her Boyfriends Off.' Nordquist is quite a talented lyricist. His songs deal with existentialism and the human condition without being bookish. He is a regionalist musician whose songs are often set around the Minnesota/Wisconsin area. There is 'Rose Lake,' a lament about a boy burying his grandfather's ashes on what is now Mounds Park in St. Paul. There is also 'The Burned Down, Blown Down Cafe,' a humanistic story of the goings on and eventual demise of a bar in Wisconsin. Some of the songs are musical history lessons focusing on various aspects of the world, good and bad. A particularly vivid description is the earlier mentioned 'Nicaragua,' a musical painting of a tourist roaming through that country following a revolution. Politics and race issues enter some of the songs without being preachy or bleeding heart. He simply tells stories as he sees them With an interesting array of mandolins, cellos, strings and the help of some of the area's most notable musicians in the genre, Bob Nordquist has something heartfelt and unique. These songs set an interesting mood, while also making you think. Very good all around." David Rangel Pulse of the Twin Cities 5/31/00 St. Paul Pioneer Press "...Bob Nordquist celebrates the release of his debut CD, "Digging in the Live Red Coals," a collection of earnest personal and political songs." Jim Walsh Pioneer Press Pop Music Critic 5/26/00 Local Blend "His lyrics reflect a global vision ("Gentle Rain"), historic roots and native cultures ("Nicaragua") and the simple pleasures of ordinary life. Bob is nicely backed on this recording by David Hanners (mandolin) and Sena Thompson (violin). Wendy Vickers Local Blend, Mar/Apr, 2000 Artist: Bob Nordquist CD: Digging in the Live Red Coals Jennifer Layton, Indie-Music.com The best way to listen to Bob Nordquist's "Digging in the Live Red Coals" is to close your eyes and imagine the stories he's telling. He even provides the atmosphere in some places - ocean waves in "The First Black Man in America" and a scratchy record effect on the old-time bluesy "1,000 lbs of Pressure." This is folk music with a social conscience. Sometimes it tackles general issues like prejudice in a small town or the uncertainties of a young boy growing up. At times, Nordquist comes right out and gets confrontational. On "Ashes and Jars," for example, which expresses the sadness of living on land taken from the Native Americans and not realizing the significance of the history it contains, he sings: "We watch the Redskins and we watch the Chiefs We watch the Indians and we watch the Braves We do the chop, we get drunk and chant And that's our idea of a culture saved." Just when the messages are getting a bit heavy-handed, Nordquist breaks it up with a little something different. "Scaring All Her Boyfriends Off" provides a bit of humor. Then there's the CD's high point, "The Burned-Down, Blown-Down Cafe." This song breaks into a bluegrass spirit and has a great live sound. Most of the music on this CD is quiet so you can focus on the message. It features beautiful violin accompaniment as well as mandolin and cello. Don't get too serene, though. Nordquist really grooves on the harmonica when the tempo speeds up. Bob Nordquist Digging in the Live Red Coals The second thing that calls attention to itself while listening to Digging in the Live Red Coals is Bob Nordquist's love for the natural beauty with which Minnesota has been blessed. References to woods, wildlife and water populate the lyrics, as do references to St. Paul, Duluth and the Mississippi River. The first thing that grabs a listener is how uncannily similar to a T-Bone Burnett album this sounds. There are songs on a wide variety of subjects, done in a number of styles, from straight folk music to Latin rhythms. Nordquist's voice is a dead ringer for Burnett's, and his utilization of instruments seldom heard elsewhere (fiddle, tambourine, accordion, banjo) also bring that worthy to mind. This sounds like the album Burnett would make if he'd been raised in Minnesota. The ongoing loss of cultural uniqueness and Americanization of the world obviously weigh heavily on Nordquist's mind, but this album is a celebration of what remains, rather than simply a lament for what's gone. Several of the better songs here touch on getting to know your personal history both geographic ("Rose Lake") and familial ("Come Back Joseph"). The album's best track, "Gentle Rain," runs through humanity's effects on the planet, starting with "a primitive society/in harmony with nature," then continuing through the Industrial Revolution to the current day "it's the rising of the oceans/it's destruction of the ozone" and beyond, to a future where humanity is gone and nature is ruling the planet once more. In other hands, this could be depressing subject matter, but Nordquist manages to make it uplifting. This is a very good album, though not without it's weak moments. "The Burned-Down, Blown-Down Café" runs too long, and neither "Scaring All Her Boyfriends Off" nor "1,000 Pounds of Pressure" really mesh well with Nordquist's vocals. These are minor offenses, however, and don't detract overly from the listening experience. Nordquist is rightly getting some buzz, and has the makings of an excellent singer/songwriter. -Ernie Engebretson, Ripsaw News, Duluth.