Duluth Budgeteer News - November 30, 2007 I'll admit, when I first saw the cover of Bob Nordquist's "Kettle River," I thought, Oh, no, not another hippy-dippy folk record. While that may be at least partially true, at least it's a hippy-dippy folk record you will actually want to listen to. For this solo album (the Intangibles frontman's third), potential record-buyers are first greeted by an image of Nordquist sitting on the banks of the Kettle River, guitar in hand, joined only by a faceless reclining man, hiking gear and well-worn notebooks. Why, you ask, would he package his collection of impeccably relaxing folk tunes with such a sloppy-appearing scene? Because said tunes were all recorded on the banks of the river, genuinely out there. That's right; when Nordquist wrote in the liner notes that his goal was to produce an album "you could play in the woods that wouldn't clash with the beautiful music that is constantly being played there - the wind in the trees, the birds, the rivers," he wasn't kidding. This "live and outside" approach may sound gimmicky, but it works; it really does. Even when you hear the rain beating on Nordquist's guitar at the end of the gorgeous opener "Sunrise in the Cedars," you don't feel like you've been cheated out of a "definitive" studio version, you feel like you're right there with him. It's as if you are the unidentified* individual sitting next to him on the cover. So, while the gentle strumming of an acoustic guitar (as it turns out, he picked a "cold, miserable weekend" to record the album, so the songs were slowed down due to increasing numbness) is nothing groundbreaking, Nordquist makes up for that fact with a surprisingly adept knack for storytelling. "Weeping Water, Nebraska," which he wrote in memory of his father, is an honest-to-goodness tearjerker (with a swift, Storyhill-esque delivery), and the self-explanatory "Cloquet, MN - 1918" is a fascinating precautionary note about fire's destructive power. Just listen to a few tracks and you'll hear why some people (well, at least your humble reviewer) can listen to this record on repeat for an entire day. *It turns out this "mystery man" is actually Leo Whitebird, who was there to put all of Nordquist's Carlton County musings to tape. -- Matthew R. Perrine Pine County MN Pine Journal - November 29, 2007 Our Neighbors.... Bob Nordquist by Lisa Baumann -- Pine Journal - 11/29/2007 Although Bob Nordquist is an environmental engineer, after he attended a recent conference on global warming, he took action - not through engineering, but through music. "They began talking about how [global warming] would affect northern Minnesota and I thought as a musician I should address this," he said. Instead of writing songs directly addressing global warming, however, Nordquist chose to write songs that convey his love for the region. Once he began, songs poured out quickly. With song titles such as "River Music," "Sunrise in the Cedars," and "Cloquet, MN - 1918", the resulting CD is an homage recorded on the banks of the Kettle River where he purchased land two years ago. He told a friend he wanted to record there - outside - and they hauled up a portable studio last May and set up on some rocks. "Unfortunately it was a horrible weather weekend but we recorded anyway with tarps over our heads and over the equipment," he recalled. "If we didn't do it then, I didn't know when we'd get back to it." Rain and wind whipped at Nordquist while he played and sang and at the end of the first song, the sound of rain beating on his guitar can be discerned. They had to slow down the songs because his fingers wouldn't move quickly in the cold. And he sang softer than usual to keep his voice from cracking. "There are certainly some things we wouldn't tolerate in the studio ... but in the end I hope people will find the woods of Minnesota had a positive effect on this recording," he wrote in the CD notes. Nordquist always wanted to do a solo folk, quieter album, and to that end, he definitely achieved that goal in this recording, simply called "Bob Nordquist - Kettle River." Although this is his fourth CD, Nordquist's first two solo albums had a distinctly different sound, while his third is not a solo album at all, but one recorded with his seven-member band, The Intangibles. "The first was mostly folk while my second leaned more toward folk rock," he explained. "The third has jazz, blues and Latin influences from international travels to Nicaragua and Europe. I can't stay focused on one thing for very long," he joked. Although Nordquist is originally from Minneapolis and currently lives in St. Paul, he spends as much time as he can in Kettle River and spent a lot of time in the northern part of the state as a child. He purchased 15 acres of land and a hunting shack near Kettle River because it had everything he sought with the woods and river. It is also close enough to make it a weekend destination and far enough away from any city. "Rivers have always held a fascination for me and with rapids just outside, I can listen to it all night," he said. "This place is just right for me." Although Nordquist is from Minneapolis originally, his parents are from Hibbing and as a youngster, between visiting relatives and participating in Boy Scout adventures, Nordquist estimates he spent at least one weekend a month in the region. He used several of his personal experiences in northern Minnesota to influence his songwriting for the album. "The theme of my [album] is just the story of northern Minnesota ... and that we have a culture and a history and we're proud of it," he said. "I've always been struck by [musician] Lucinda Williams who writes beautiful music about the south and Louisiana and [yet] it seems when anyone writes music about Minnesota, it gets written off as only regional [in scope]. We have a lot of material in our state for story telling and I want to get those stories out there." Telling stories is the focus of his music, even more so than the music itself. "I'm more influenced by authors than song writers," he said. "I try to write songs as stories and relate them throughout an album so they make sense as a whole." One of the stories he chose to tell on the album is about the Cloquet fire of 1918. In the song, he sings of the fire as the "most dramatic sunset he has ever seen" and proceeds to tell the story of people watching the fire from the porch before fleeing to Duluth on a train. In another stanza, he tells a story of people in Kettle River who died while trying to escape. Nordquist hopes the song is well-received by those who live in the area. "I researched it and found it to be a dramatic story," he said. "I'm always concerned that I get it right and that no one takes offense. I certainly hope I've taken a sympathetic view of things." Nordquist has had good luck with people responding to other songs in the past. He wrote a song about Nicaragua after traveling there and was pleased to receive an e-mail one day from a local Nicaraguan, who took the time to write because he found it on the Internet and liked it. "That was a really good feeling," he said. Nordquist's musical skill does not come from formal music training. Instead, while in college, he started playing a guitar belonging to his older brother. "I started playing because songs started coming to me and I needed a way to express it," he said. "I was always interested in music during my youth but I never thought I'd be a songwriter." In fact, Nordquist earned his college degree in civil engineering with an emphasis in water resource engineering from the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis. Soon after he first picked up the guitar, however, Nordquist bought a Bob Dylan guitar book and began playing the instrument for hours at a time. He also wrote hundreds of songs, most of which do not exist anymore. "I don't think they were all that good, but it was a good exercise," Nordquist said. Eventually, he began playing and singing around the Twin Cities and learned more musically from playing with others. "When I started playing with other musicians I didn't even know the language of music," he remembered. "A friend told me I did know it, I just didn't know I did. I still learn a little bit from everyone I play with." When he completed his first two CDs, Nordquist booked himself on extensive tours mostly around the Midwest, traveling most weekends. Eventually, however, he became exhausted holding to that schedule along with his full-time engineering job. "Doing my regular job along with booking, promoting, practicing and writing, I just got burned out," he said. Nordquist continues to book gigs, but not to the level he once did. "I won't book a schedule like I did before," he said. Nordquist said this album was also born out of a life-changing experience that came in the form of a rare illness called miolitis last year, in which the lining of the spinal chord becomes inflamed. Nordquist found himself in the hospital for a week and unable to walk as a result of the illness. His outlook at the time was not so rosy, he said. "Not all people recover from this and I wondered if I'd get back up and be able to still see the woods," he said. The condition can appear as the result of any viral infection and although most people will not suffer from it, Nordquist was lucky in that he recovered fully. "I think this album came out of that so that's been a positive," he said. In the album notes, Nordquist thanks his family, friends, co-workers, doctors and nurses who took care of him, got him back on his feet and kept his spirits up when he needed it most. A song on the album called "Duke and the Porcupine" tells the story of Nordquist's illness which is woven through his dog's experiences during that time period. Additional songs speak to invasive species, the sounds of Kettle River, and camping in the woods while contemplating a trip to Kansas "to see what northern Minnesota will look like in 50 years." He doesn't mince words yet he reiterates his goal in making the album as one to celebrate and preserve his memories of northern Minnesota. "It's an area that has meant so much to me and an area that appears destined to change dramatically over the next century from global warming," he said. "The goal was an album of songs you could play in the woods that wouldn't clash with the beautiful music that is constantly being played there - the wind in the trees, the birds, the rivers." St. Paul Pioneer Press - October 12, 2007 "The Intangibles' Bob Nordquist recorded his new one, Kettle River, earlier this year on a rainy weekend in, you guessed it, Kettle River. It\'s very much a Minnesota folk album filled with quietly intense songs about the state\'s natural wonders as well as some of the folks who live here. Of particular note is the harrowing 'Cloquet, MN - 1918,' which imagines living through the infamous fire that destoyed much of Carlton County some 89 years ago today. " - Ross Raihala.