The Pines/Meg Hutchinson; September 3, 2010; Amazing Grace Bakery, Duluth
Even if you know me, it would still seem a little crazy that I drove to Duluth to see the Pines. Yes, they are pretty awesome and I do adore them, but Duluth is nearly a 6 hour drive. It is much less crazy once you know that I was on my way to my sister’s house in Orr, Minnesota for the weekend, and Duluth is right on the way. She comes to Duluth frequently for work and never fails to get lost for hours on end, once even missing an entire meeting, so I have been conditioned to never get off the highway as we travel through the lakefront town. I found out I’ve been missing a lot. The Canal St area where Amazing Grace is located is absolutely charming. Cute little shops and appealing restaurants, anchored by several members of the Grandma’s chain, line the street just a block away from Lake Superior. The bakery itself is in the lower level of a building housing several other businesses and with no outside signage I was happy to find it just as the show started.
Fellow Red House Records artist Meg Hutchinson opened the show with a half hour set of standard folkie fare. She admitted herself that she fell into the female singer-songwriter stereotype when she started waxing rhapsodic about her dog. The song that stuck with me after her set was one that she wrote after reading an article about the patrolman who works the Golden Gate Bridge. The article stated that he had saved over 200 lives by dissuading would-be jumpers by asking them two simple questions, “how are you feeling?” and “what are your plans for tomorrow?” Those simple queries became the chorus of a very effective song, not to mention a story I’ll retell..
The Pines’ boys obviously adore her, which is quite a compliment. One half of the duo Benson Ramsey admitted that when he had gotten her recent CD from the Red House office he drove around listening to it on headphones despite the danger because he didn’t have a working CD player in his car. They joined her for a song during her set and then invited her up for the last song of their set. Unfortunately she missed out on most of that opportunity since she was out walking her dog, and had to join them half way through. Their set consisted of many of the songs off their most recent release, Tremolo, including my favorites “Heart and Bones,” and “Pray Tell “. They had recently played the Minnesota State Fair, which rumor has it has more food on sticks than anywhere else, and they still seemed a bit shell-shocked by it, especially by the existence of camel on a stick. But it did lead to an opportunity to play “At the Fair,” a lovely song I didn’t remember having heard before. Their first record is out of print which led to disappointment for several people who wanted to buy the CD with “Pale White Horse,” which happens to be the first song they recorded together.
The Amazing Grace’s coffeehouse atmosphere turned out to be the perfect place to hear their graceful folk, and the staff seemed pleased with the crowd that occupied every available chair. It would have been a great night even without the biggest, most delicious, roast beef sandwich ever, but that may be just what guarantees I visit Amazing Grace again.