Black Hills duo Jami Lynn & Dylan James met on the street in the summer of 2012. Their fortuitous meeting not only revealed their shared love of folk, bluegrass, and jazz, but marked the beginning of an ambitious duo project harnessing Jami’s powerful vocals and Dylan’s first rate flat-picking skills. After a few weeks of working up material, they set their hearts on a full length album featuring songs written by each. Lynn’s vocal prowess, delicate finger picking, and West Virginia style claw-hammer banjo blend seamlessly with James’s ringing tenor, driving guitar, and old-time fiddling. Their diverse instrumentation as well as their unique arrangements of traditional American folk songs and jazz numbers set them on the edge of each genre. In their short time playing together, the two have shared the stage with Charlie Parr, Casey Driessen, and Chatham County Line. They anticipate releasing their first collaborative album in the spring of 2013.
Hailing from the Great Plains of northeastern South Dakota, singer/songwriter Jami Lynn began performing folk and bluegrass music at the age of thirteen. She attended the University of South Dakota majoring in vocal performance, studied briefly in Nashville at Tennessee State University, and released her first album Dreamer under Jami Lynn & The Aquila Band in 2008. Jami’s senior thesis at USD, “Early American Folk Music of the Upper Midwest,” inspired the recording of Sodbusters, her second full length album. Made of up of folk songs from South Dakota and the surrounding states and artfully crafted originals, Sodbusters received substantial attention from South Dakota Public Radio programs On Record, Dakota Midday, and Dakota Digest, and also caught the attention of international critics in France and the Netherlands. Lynn is a member of the South Dakota Artists in the Schools & Communities Program, and was recently featured in the Smithsonian’s Shared Harmonies program.
Self-taught flat picker and singer/songwriter Dylan James grew up in a small mining town in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota. Though his mother is a classically trained piano virtuoso, Dylan didn't take music seriously until his late teens, when he discovered the singing and picking of Doc Watson and fell in love. After a brief time of playing with the bluegrass band Six Mile Road, he started his own bluegrass band, The Fancy Creek Jumpers. The hard driving three-piece drew on the music of Django Reinhart and eastern European jazz, drawing rave reviews from music lovers across the Black Hills. Dylan's mastery of flat picking and gyspy jazz truly set him apart as an instrumentalist, insuring this relative new-comer to the folk scene will stick around.
Partnership Guides Jami Lynn's New Album
By Scott Hudson
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, SD
When it came time for Jami Lynn to pick a topic for her senior thesis, “Early American Folk Music of the Upper Midwest” seemed to be a perfect fit for a woman who had been penning tunes since the sixth grade.
There was one problem, though, and it was a major one: Nobody had previously bothered to document South Dakota’s folk music history.
“I had expected to compile other people’s work,” the 25-year-old folk/jazz/blues songwriter says, “and I wasn’t able to do that. I was going to compile songs from South Dakota, put them together, and maybe work some of them up and record them. That was my plan for the thesis, but it’s not what it turned into.”
Instead, Lynn had to start from scratch, “digging around in museums and archives and personal collections.” She had some help from Sioux Falls historian Dave Kemp, too. “We went digging for people who could tell me something or show me something like collections and old books that had little snippets of songs that were usable from that time period.”
In hindsight, Lynn now says that the extra work was beneficial to her growth as a songwriter.
“I’ve always had a pretty strong sense of place in my songwriting, and South Dakota has been my backdrop for most of my songs,” she says. “Slowly, all of the songs I was writing sounded like they fit right into the folk songs I was researching.”
Many of these new songs ended up forming the basis of 2011’s critically-acclaimed “Sodbusters,” surrounded by a handful of old tunes she had uncovered in her research. Mathew DeRiso from No Depression described the material as “equal parts Carter Family, Billie Holiday and Tin Pan Alley,” and critics from all over the world chimed in with similar compliments.
Two years later, Lynn is back with “Cluck and Croon,” her first collaboration with self-taught fingerpicking guitarist Dylan James. They’ll celebrate the album’s release with a show at Latitude 44 on Friday.
“We both have our strengths. Mine are vocals, and his are picking, and they’re both very prominent on this album on just about every song,” she says. “We both really push the other to improve, which is really awesome and something that you look for in a partnership.Question: You reportedly started writing songs at the age of 12. Did songwriting come easy?
Answer: It was just something that I always did for fun. I had friends that would do it with me. I wouldn’t say it was something that was really easy and would just come to me, but it wasn’t something that I had to work very hard at doing.
Q: Years later, songwriting is a major part of your profession. With that kind of pressure, is it still relatively easy to write songs?
A: It’s harder because there are so many other parts of music that I’m also doing. Being a small artist in South Dakota, I don’t have someone to do my booking or any of that. I’ve kind of been doing both sides of the business, so I don’t always make time to let there be space in my mind to do it. I’m not one of those people who sits down with the intention of writing. It’s usually just something that comes around when I’m doing something else, and I think over time I’ve left less space in my mind to do that.
Q: How did you meet Dylan James?
A: We met last June on the street in Rapid City. A mutual friend of ours had invited us both downtown to busk. I had never done that before. I went down, and Dylan was the only other person who showed up. I had heard his name from a lot of people, and was told I should check him out because he was an incredible picker. Dylan just really wowed me, and I invited him to play at my show that night. He came along, and just played the whole show with me without having heard any of it before. A week and a half later, we both messaged each other via different media. I think I Facebook-messaged him, and he emailed me at some odd hour of the morning, not knowing that the other was doing the same. We started playing together almost immediately after that.
Q: Talk about the recording of “Cluck and Croon” at the Historic Homestake Opera House in Lead.
A: We needed it to be quiet, so the hours we spent there tended to be either very early or very late. It was a great space, because an opera house has some cool vibes going on anyways.
Q: Was the entire album recorded there?
A: The last three songs were not recorded there. It was crunch time, and we really needed to finish it up. A good way to make you finish up an album is to plan a tour. We were stuck in Colorado for a week because we had a show on Monday and a show on Friday, so we ended up recording those last three songs live around one mic in my sister’s walk-in closet. It was so much fun, and those ended up being my favorite songs on the album.
Q: Who needs a studio when you have a walk-in closet?
A: Absolutely. It serves the same purpose. The walls are padded with all of the clothes, and it’s pretty small. It did the job for us.
Lynn, James Celebrate New Album with Local Shows: Black Hills 2 Go
Deanna Darr, Rapid City Journal
Jami Lynn likes slower, emotional songs. Dylan James likes to play fast, exciting tunes.
When the two met last June on St. Joseph Street in Rapid City, they started playing together almost immediately, finding in each other a perfect musical complement. Now they have released “Cluck & Croon,” a new album of folk and jazz. They will celebrate with two album release shows on Friday and Saturday at the Dahl Arts Center.
“It is a fusion of traditional folk music and gypsy jazz, which came out of Paris in the 1920s,” said Lynn in a phone interview from North Carolina, where the two were on tour.
The album contains traditional folk tunes that have been “jazzed out,” including “In the Pines,” first made famous by Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly.
“We kind of added a jazz element to it and sped up the end and Dylan does his thing on guitar and I do a little bit of scatting. I’m proud of that one,” she said. “We did record one song by Fats Waller that people will recognize (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”). It’s a jazz tune and I play it on banjo. That was fun.”
The album also contains original songs written by Lynn and James. The two recorded much of it at the Historic Homestake Opera House in Lead.
“It didn’t turn out exactly like we imagined,” she said, noting that the opera house was still being remodeled and the acoustics were affected by the tin roof. “But we really like the sound that we got.”
Lynn, a native of Corona in northeastern South Dakota, and James, who grew up in Lead, met last summer when a friend invited them to busk on St. Joseph Street.
“We were the only two that showed up,” Lynn said. “So we met that night and he played my gig with me at Tally’s.”
They found that their styles meshed, and have been performing as a duo ever since.
“We both have the same interests in folk music and jazz, and Dylan’s strong point is guitar and I’m more of a vocalist,” Lynn said. “Our taste in songs is kind of opposite. I tend to pick out songs that are slower, and have more emotion in them. And Dylan likes to play really fast songs.”
But those differences have helped both of them grow, said James, a guitarist known for his flat picking.
“I feel like I’ve grown as a player,” he said. “I’ve learned to play quiet and slow, and I push her to play fast, more exciting music,” he said. “We meld really well. We both play instruments, we both sing, we both write. We can back each other up.”
Lynn and James, who has performed with Fancy Creek Jumpers and the Six Mile Road Band, have become known for their diverse instrumentation and their unique arrangements of traditional American folk songs and jazz numbers.
Besides the shared love of folk, bluegrass and jazz, they also have that South Dakota connection.
“For me, there’s a huge sense of place in my songwriting, always,” Lynn said. “The prairie, especially, and the history and the clash of white people moving in and the Indians being pushed farther and farther west; that’s always in my head.”
Lynn said she has seen another resurgence in folk music in the last 10 years.
“It seems to be an ebb and flow,” she said. “It’s exciting to me, because it’s always been my favorite kind of music.”
The duo’s album is available at iTunes and at cdbaby.com. They have been on tour in Ohio, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Rapid City based musicians Jami Lynn and Dylan James performed live in SDPB's Vermillion studio and discussed their new cd, "Cluck & Croon." Their concert schedule is keeping them busy into October.
Old Time Tin Pan Soul from The Black Hills
By Mat DiRiso, NoDepression.com
Traditional music has gained quite a following here in the Midwest. Traditional being a very loose term these days. Just about every old punk, hipster and indie rocker is going folk. Goatees turn to handle bar moustaches and civil war era beards, mohawked rebels turn die-hard dapper-Dans complete with vintage vests and clip on bow-ties. People are trading their amplifiers for mandolins, their snare drums for banjos and jumping on the Americana bandwagon with little better than mixed results. Maybe it's just me, but It seems like all these groups get thrown together, they record an album and it ends up sounding like Coldplay gone bluegrass. A hard reality I find sickening.
Thankfully, this is not the case with the Black Hills South Dakota duo Jami Lynn and Dylan James’s new album Cluck and Croon, my first introduction to Mr. James’s recorded works, though I am well familiar with Jami Lynn and her fantastic independent releases with the Aquilla Band (2008's Dreamer) as well as her more recent solo album "Sodbusters" - thankfully this release follows suit and does not disapoint.
First off, this album sounds pure. A purity that feels authentic as the songs our grandparents listened to on the radio as children with sometimes wild, sometimes sultry grooves well suited for any turn of the century basement jazz club, work farm picnic or rural speakeasy. Equal parts Carter Family, Billie Holiday and Tin Pan Alley with enough modern twists to thrill fans of old time Americana without alienating more discerning acoustic audiences. That's the charm of Cluck and Croon in it's entirety, which consists of Lynn and James on banjo and acoustic guitar with an occasional fiddle and upright bass thrown in here and there to round things out, though the album I feel would have been executed just as well with the two of them as they are. There's some strong talent at play here...impressive stuff.
In the proper old time stylings, this is not a "perfect" album, it is a rather a very natural one, which is indeed where all of it's strengths and weaknesses lay. Jami Lynn is a formidable and talented singer, her performances here far outshine Dylan James reedy and bucolic vocal stylings, but his energetic guitar work and adequate harmonies more than make up for his lackluster singing ability. I would dare say that anyone would be encouraged not to sing at all with Jami Lynn at the vocal helm - her voice is sweet enough to melt the hardest heart of stone one moment and powerful enough to cut down a circus strong man the next, so my hat is off to Mr. James for for having the guts to throw his hat into the ring here and being true to himself. That criticism aside, I feel they've put their fingers on the pulse of old timey music, defined it as they see fit while remaining true to themselves while doing it justice. No small feat in and of itself.
Something that struck me as I was listening to Cluck and Croon is that nothing on this album sounds manufactured or put-on. It's honest...and honesty is something sorely lacking in a often misunderstood and thriving musical genre. Lynn and James have injected a healthy dose of talent and romantiscm into their album, an album that is a must have for fans of primitive Americana, hot country jazz and old time string bands. Favorite tracks include "6 Black Bulls" and "Pride of the Prairie" - two songs that not only impressed the hell out of me but can be included as genre defining in our time. That said, pretty much every song on this release possess all of the necessary ingredients that make for repeated spins. I suspect we will hear more from this talented duo in the future and I for one am looking forward to it. I’m also pleased to hear they are currently on tour at this very moment, putting asses in the seats and spreading their infectious old time Black Hills sound- Let’s face it…We need them to. For the goodness sakes someone has to keep this music pure in this day and age...Thankfully Jami Lynn and Dylan James are doing just that.
By CHARLES MICHAEL RAY
South Dakota duo Jami Lynn and Dylan James are about to release their first CD together. “Cluck and Croon” is a mix of old bluegrass and folk with a strong undercurrent of jazz.
The album combines original songs and old standards. SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray has today’s Dakota Digest with a review of the new CD.
Jami Lynn, Dylan James, and Ryan Kickland's performance at the 2012 Dahl Fine Arts Center Americana Festival was broadcast in its entirety on South Dakota Public Broadcasting's "No Cover, No Minimum." Listen here.
by Tesla Rodriguez, Winona Daily News
Folk, jazz and blues singer Jami Lynn enchanted the crowd of about 100 while she sang a slow- paced song Saturday at the Boats and Bluegrass Festival. “When autumn leaves start to fall ... ” she sang, and her voice carried throughout the festival, reaching toward the Prairie Island campgrounds — which were completely booked. Most people sat cross-legged on the ground, swaying back and forth to the song’s relaxing beat. Others laid on blankets and soaked up the sun. Bright yellow, auburn and dark red leaves glided toward the ground and stage, riding a lightly blowing wind. Lynn’s song ended, the crowd applauded, and she and her partner began a high energy, quick-paced song, with Lynn playing the banjo and her partner on the fiddle. About 100 feet from the stage, 9-year-old Gavyn Pomeroy twirled a hula hoop around his arm. He had grabbed one of the many lying on the ground for people to play with. As he heard the new song, his twirl quickened. He jumped from one foot to the other, keeping time with the music until he lost his groove and dropped the hoop.
Thirty feet from Pomeroy,12-year-old Collin Meier tried his hand at circus work. The Wild Rumpus Circus set up an area where kids could test out different equipment. Meier, in gray socks, stepped onto a 12-foot stiff metal rope — his hands in the air to keep balance. At this point, he had walked the rope enough to do it by himself. Carefully he put his left foot in front of the other. Right foot. Left foot. At first he took it slow, not wanting to fall — although he was only 20 inches off the ground. Then he rushed, just barely making it to the end without falling. He smiled with satisfaction. Next was 2-year-old Silas Schell. After 10 minutes of watching others try the rope, he wanted a turn. Circus performer Jacob Mills picked Schell up and set him on the platform at the end of the rope. The rope’s height closely matched Schell’s.
Dressed in a white shirt with rolled up sleeves, baggy pants held up by suspenders, and bright red shoes, Mills took Schell’s hand. After explaining in a lively voice what was going to happen, Schell put both hands in the air, exposing his belly button underneath his long-sleeved green shirt. Schell’s wide eyes stared at the rope as he clumsily put one foot in front of the other, relying heavily on Mills to keep him balanced. “Very nice!” Mills said. “You are concentrating very well!” Only once did Schell fall — into Mills’ hands. Put back on the rope, Schell’s size 8 toddler shoes slowly found their way to the end and back.
All around the festival people laughed, intently listened to music, danced and leisurely ventured around the vendors’ tents, which were mostly full of tie-dyed T-shirts, patch-work clothes, light material dresses and loosely fit pants. Not a person in sight was without a smile.
Jami and Dylan perform in studio for the Argus Leader's Link Live in Sioux Falls. Listen here: http://livestre.am/45uVA
What kind of music do you play?
Folk, American, and Jazz
How long have you been performing?
Who is in the band?
I play solo these days!
Where/when is your next performance?
Today and Saturday, June 9, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tally’s Silver Spoon, Rapid City
What are some of your musical inspirations?
Someday, I'd love to play at the Winnipeg Folk Festival
What do you do to prepare for a concert?
Chug licorice tea.
If you could open a show for any performer, who would it be and why?
I would love to open for Charlie Parr. He's one of my favorite song writers of all time.
SDPB's Dakota Midday features and interview with Jami Lynn at the Adam's Research Center. Visit http://www.sdpb.org/newsite/shows.aspx?MediaID=60753&Parmtype=RADIO&ParmAccessLevel=sdpb-all to listen.
Shared Harmonies: An American Roots Music Project
-South Dakota Humanities Council
A picture is worth a thousand words; but according to cognitive scientist Thomas Fritz, “the same image can have different meanings across cultures. Music, however, may bridge the cultural divide.”
Deadwood History, Inc.’s project, “Shared Harmonies,” will bring 12 South Dakota students together - six American Indian and six non-American Indian - to learn about each culture’s musical traditions. As part of the sharing process, the twelve high school students will learn video and multimedia techniques and how to effectively conduct oral history interviews. The main objective is for all participants to gain an appreciation and greater understanding of American roots music.
Shared Harmonies is an extension of the “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” exhibit that is traveling around the state. The exhibit, which is currently in Sturgis, will be featured at the Adams Museum and House from Aug. 6 to Sept. 17.
In April 2012, an invitation will be sent to high school students across the state of South Dakota to apply to attend the Shared Harmonies one-week field school from July 9-13 at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center in Deadwood. Each student will receive an honorarium of $150. Families in the Lead-Deadwood community will provide housing for the week. The application deadline is April 30, 2012. Students will be notified by May 15, 2012.
On July 9-10, Black Hills State University professor Paul Kopco will teach the students video recording and multi-media capture techniques while Deadwood History Foundation director Mary Kopco teaches students how to conduct an oral history interview. Students will work as teams of two. On Wednesday July 11, the students will interview Kevin Locke, an awarding-winning Lakota and Anishinabe Hoop Dancer, Northern Plains’ flutist and traditional storyteller. The six teams will explore varying aspects of Northern Plains’ music and dance.
During the evening, Locke and his ensemble of dancers and musicians will give a public performance at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Entertainment Center with the students recording the show. On Thursday, July 12, folk musician Jami Lynn will meet with the students and be interviewed about the European and African origins of folk music. Lynn will give a public performance at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center in the evening. On Friday, July 13, the students will work with Paul Kopco to do a rough edit of the video footage and to prepare a video to be shown on the Smithsonian’s website and in conjunction with the exhibit. Kopco will do the final editing.
The Shared Harmonies project is sponsored by the Adams Museum & House, Inc. with funding from the Smithsonian Institution’s Youth Access Grant, the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission and the South Dakota Humanities Council. “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music” is part of Museum on Main Street, a unique collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES), South Dakota Humanities Council and Adams Museum and House. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. New Harmonies curator Robert Santelli describes roots music as a term referring to music that has grown out of older folk traditions.
“Roots music is sacred and secular, rural and urban, acoustic and electric, simple and complex, old and new,” according to Santelli. “Performed by one musician or by an entire band, in concert halls and on back porches, roots music is America’s sound.”
“The foundations of American music lie in the religious yearnings of Native Americans, European settlers, and Africans brought to the colonies in bondage. Music has magic: it can express a distinct cultural identity while connecting across cultural lines. Among the three major cultures that populated North America in colonial times, people traded music as they traded guns, pelts, corn, and tobacco. The music that came out of this process is an expression of America’s diversity.”
Shared Harmonies is sponsored by Deadwood History, Inc., Smithsonian Institution and the South Dakota Humanities Council.
A decade or two back, it was said that in South Dakota heaven and hell share the same space. The landscape transforms from blissful prairies to deserted badlands; culminated at it's western most border with the majestic Black Hills. The land is rugged, often times more intimidating and beautiful than you can imagine. Interstate 90 is it's spiritual fault line, dividing prairie and desert sand. You'll feel as though paradise lay on one side of the black top, with apocalypse looming on the other. The same can be said about the music of singer-songwriter Jami Lynn- her angelic voice invokes images of yesteryear in rugged and refined hues. Jami has been making a name for herself in her native South Dakota for a few years now, however I'm very happy to say that she's become a badland flower in full bloom, touring an performing across the nation displaying an out of this world vocal ability and subtle songwriting that sneaks up on you like a wallflower slowly coming out of her shell in a Texas speakeasy. Anyone that’s familiar with her music will know I'm speaking the truth when I say this young lady is going places, and is destined to become a formidable force in modern American Roots music. Her albums "Dreamer" and "Sodbusters" show a primitive and progressive strength- combining collaborations with top notch musicians and a solo performance style that’s powerful yet disarming in it's approach and sound. In other words, she's good. Damned good! I caught Jami Lynn in the midst of traveling on this interview. Recently she's been performing all the way from Tennessee to her current home base in Rapid City, so I'm glad she took the time to do this. Pay attention folks...she's a rising star.
You've been branching out lately as a performer. I see you doing shows from your native South Dakota all the way to Nashville. Where are
you based currently?
About a year ago, I moved from the southeastern tip of South Dakota to Rapid City in the Black Hills. There's an incredibly supportive music community out here. It's a wonderful place to come home to!
Tell me a little about your most recent album "Sodbusters" - first off, what inspired the name?
The first settlers from the east who settled in the upper Midwest busted up the sod, built their houses out of it, and began farming on the prairie. They sort of christened themselves "sodbusters." I ran across the name when I was doing research for my undergraduate thesis on folk music from South Dakota and the surrounding states. I also dug up five of the eleven songs from the album during that research-- a Norwegian lullaby, a lumbering ballad, a cowboy ballad were among them. The rest of the album sort of fell around these songs. It was easy to write music when I was coming across such great material in my research.
The album features a mix of traditional/old timey influenced songs and originals pretty seamlessly. You've made a transition from primarily acoustic guitar and vocals to incorporating banjo and other instrumentation. Was it natural for you to write the music with an old-timey feel or did it take some study?
I think once I put myself in the mindset of the settler, the riverboat driver, the cattle driver, it just sort of came out in an old timey way. I was lucky to have Josh's musical eye when orchestrating the songs, though. He's definitely responsible for all of the songs contrasting, yet fitting together in the end.
I'm glad you mentioned multi-instrumentalist Josh Reick, a great talent! You both produced the album yourselves- where did you record it? What was it like putting it together?
We ended up passing sound equipment and tracks back and forth over the course of a few months. So it was in living rooms, offices, and bathrooms. It was frustrating at first, I'd always forget to unplug something, and then get interrupted in the middle of a track! But it was a great learned experience.
As a songwriter myself, I'm always curious as to what inspires you as a songwriter? What/Who are your biggest influences?
I think I'm most inspired by a sense of place. Next, probably history. I've also taken notes from Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah Harmer, Iowa City 's Dave Moore.
Your vocal prowess is impressive to say the least, and I've learned that that you're classically trained. Has your music education helped you as a performer and a songwriter? Is it hard to mesh both worlds?
Studying classical voice has probably taught me more than I'm willing to admit. It really helped me get over the notion that I needed to make my voice sound a certain "folky" way. I'm very glad of that. I probably would have burned it out a few years ago if I hadn't stopped working so hard to sing.
Okay- so back to touring and branching out; what has the audience response been to "Sodbusters" and your live performances?
Presenting this music to people has been awesome. The best part about performing is the stories I hear from people afterwards. The title track of Sodbusters is about my great-great grandmother Lydia, and her experience of trekking across the county in cover wagon and settling in Northeastern South Dakota. There are so many people in audiences that have a cool story about their ancestors settling. I feel really lucky to hear all these stories!
Who do you have performing with you these days?
Since I moved to Rapid City, I've been playing solo. But there are some talented musicians out in the hills, and I've had the pleasure of collaborating with a few of them. James Van Nuys, Bob Fahey, and Hank Harris to name a few.
Cool. Where do you see yourself headed as a songwriter? Are you working on any new material? Any plans for a new album in the near future?
I think my next album will be a bit darker I'm afraid. South Dakota is right on the edge of a changing Midwest with the oil boom in North Dakota. That sense of foreboding has definitely affected my writing. It will be a little while before I have it together though.
Darker...I like that! In the meantime, how do people find more about and purchase your music? Where can they meet Jami Lynn?
You can learn more about Sodbusters and the folk research behind it at www.jamilynnmusic.com There are also links there on the music page to CD baby where you can purchase Sodbusters, and my first effort, Dreamer. Otherwise, mp3's are available just about anywhere you can buy mp3's: iTunes, Amazon, etc.
Jami Lynn's January 19th concert at the High Plains Western Heritage Center will be broadcast on Thursday, January 26th at 6:05pm on 145AM, and KYDT 103.1FM The Country Twins on Saturday, January 28th at 1:05pm. Tune in!
by Kaija Swisher, Black Hills Faces Magazine
Gabbing over a hot cup of tea surrounded by the smell of drying herbs and the sight of vintage décor, you might guess that one of Jami Lynn Buttke’s favorite places is the kitchen, and indeed, one of her favorite things to do is cook. However, the old fashioned upright radio in the living room hints at another of her passions: her ultimate dream of someday performing for Garrison Keilor. “I would love to be on Prairie Home Companion,” the bluegrass, folk, and acoustic musician, known as Jami Lynn, says. “I grew up listening to it.” Her music stand, along with her guitar and banjo, sit casually in the living room in front of an armchair with a cushion larger than the singer/songwriter herself. At age 24, with two full-length albums and gigs all across the Midwest, there’s nothing casual about Jami’s vocal and musical talents. Her music stand sits casually in the living room in front of an armchair with a cushion larger than the musician herself who plays the guitar and banjo. With two full-length albums and gigs around the Midwest already at age 24, there’s nothing casual about Jami’s vocal and musical talents. Although she fears that Keilor’s announcement of his coming retirement limits the amount of time she has to reach her goal of performing live on the popular NPR radio show, Jami continues to play as often as she can where she is.
Since moving to Rapid City in the spring, the young musician has become a regular on the list of “who’s who” in the area’s performance schedules. The petite young woman grew up with two older sisters on a farm in Corona, S.D. Though she says her family “knows good music when they hear it,” she didn’t grow up listening to a lot of music in her house. It was her grandfather who exposed her to the old-time country, folk and bluegrass music that Jami continues to perform today. Her grandfather would bring his young granddaughter to monthly jamborees around the area, and as she listened to the music and stories of those in attendance, a lifelong love of learning the history behind the songs was born. “A unique thing about me is that I’m very interested in the history and folklore of the music I play,” she said.
She started writing songs as a teenager, since she had always enjoyed writing poetry. She taught herself how to play the guitar in high school, as well, but it wasn’t until college that she considered trying to make it on her own as a musician. Jami calls her move into full-time performing a “slow progression.” As a freshman at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, she originally planned to double major in biology and music, but when the registrar asked which major she would like to list first, Jami said “music” without much thought. “There wasn’t room for anything else after that!” she said. She studied classical voice for the first two years of college, which taught her about breath support and music technique that she continues to use, though her singing style has changed. Jami also taught herself how to play the banjo during college. She holds and plucks it the same way she plays a guitar and describes it as her own style when seasoned banjo players ask her about it.
It was during her time at the University of South Dakota that Jami started playing at coffee shops, and eventually she did a semester exchange program at Tennessee State University in Nashville. There, she took commercial music courses and recorded her first album, “Dreamer,” released in 2008 under the name of Jami Lynn and the Aquila Band. She completed the semester shortly after the release of the album, and while she was grateful for the musical knowledge that she obtained in her time in Tennessee, she knew that there was another place she wanted to be. “I loved Nashville,” she said. “It was a really great experience, but it made me realize that I wanted to be home. I love the Midwest.” And the first person she lists as an influence is a musician who is able to play music and stay where he wants to live. “He made it work here in the Midwest,” Jami said of Dave Moore, a musician from Iowa. She described him as having a really easy acoustic blues style and played with him at a folk festival once. Though she doesn’t keep in constant contact, she considers him a mentor in her journey as a musician.
This theme of being aware of place is continual throughout Jami’s music. She wrote her undergraduate thesis, "Early American Folk Music of the Upper Midwest," about the folklore of music in South Dakota. The act of researching and compiling the music allowed her into a world where few people have traversed. “A lot of the songs I’m looking for, people still have,” she said, adding that the music isn’t written in books or stored in museums. Family members still have the songs written on the inside cover of books, or in journals, or simply imprinted in their memories from hearing their grandparents and parents pass the music along through the generations. “It’s opened a lot of doors for me,” she said of her interest in compiling music history. This academic side to her music has allowed Jami to play at various academic conferences and museum venues, including the National Music Museum in Vermillion, the Adams Museum in Deadwood and the Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, among others. While she hopes to go to graduate school someday, Jami decided that she wanted to try performing on her own before heading back to school. After graduating with a degree in music, she spent a year in Vermillion performing, enjoying the community and working on a second album. Jami loved getting to know the jewels around the southeast corner of the state, including the Missouri River and Clay County Park, but when her boyfriend, Ryan Griffith, a guitar major whom she met at USD, was moving to Rapid City for the completion of medical school, Jami also headed west. But changing the part of the state in which she lives hasn’t changed her music.
She recently released “Sodbusters” with Josh Rieck, of Sioux Falls, and much of the music comes from Northwestern South Dakota. The title track tells the story of her great-great-grandmother coming to the Midwest in a prairie schooner. The duo recorded the album themselves, passing sound equipment back and forth between their living rooms. “Folk music is one of those genres where you can cut corners and have it sound good,” she said. The album combines traditional ballads and Jami’s original works. “I write about characters and people I invent and places,” Jami said. “I think my music really gives you a strong sense of place rather than an emotional journey,” though emotion is certainly a part of the stories in the music. The title track begins, “My mind’s in a bucket, my book’s in a box, and not three months later, they both would be lost.”
Jami said she wrote the song from the perspective of her great-great grandmother, and what it might have been like for her as a pioneer to South Dakota. Jami was staying with her grandparents in Texas during her senior year spring break, and as she told them about her research into the stories behind the songs of South Dakota, they revealed some of her own family stories. Her great-great-grandmother Lydia married very young and moved from Illinois to Summit, S.D., with her husband. The couple had a number of children, and her husband decided to go farther West, taking two of the children with him to Lemmon, S.D. The plan was to establish a home there and have the rest of the family join him, but after two years and the loss of both children, Jami says that he threw up his hands and returned to Summit. “I decided to write that song from her point of view,” she says of thinking about what her great-great-grandmother must have experienced. The result of her musings is “Sodbusters.”
Jami said that one of the most interesting connections she made after a performance involved a gentleman who had the same story of relatives traveling to the same part of South Dakota at the time her family members were. The stories were eerily similar, and though they found they aren’t related, Jami said the ability to share the story with an audience member in attendance at one of her performances was powerful. Having a lot of her music set in this part of the country allows for the chance that audience members have similar stories in their histories, but it doesn’t mean that the music can’t translate outside of the area. Jami takes her music out to share, like when she toured the Greater Midwest earlier in the spring and more recently this fall. Her first tour took her from Rapid City to Portland, Oregon, and she said that luckily, the chains she bought for her Monte Carlo never had to be utilized while driving over the mountain passes. She entertained audiences in Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and one stop in Portland, Oregon.
“The stars were aligning,” she said of how well the tour went. She traveled with a good friend from childhood, who coincidently was the person with whom Jami wrote her first song. They never had to stay in a hotel, as the people they met along the way insisted that they enjoy their hospitality. “We couch-surfed a couple of nights and stayed up all night playing Bananagrams!” she said of the experience. Each such assembly made her all the more excited for the next day, to see just what kind of interesting folks she would meet along the way. “I kept thinking that if I lived here, these people would be my friends,” she added. Jami enjoyed these connections, and she said that all musicians strive to find a link with listeners when they are playing. “You can feel it when it happens,” she said of the connection. “If you can make someone who’s digging into a steak turn around and listen to you, you’re doing pretty well.” And Jami seems to be doing pretty well. She already has a following of all ages that she consistently sees when she performs.
“There’s a market for what I’m doing here,” she said, adding that she is impressed with the Black Hills for how quickly the locale has embraced her. Her favorite part of performing is meeting the people and listening to what they have to say once they hear her perform. “I love it when people come up to me afterwards…who correct me on something…or when they bring up another song,” she said. “I’m always learning. The feedback afterwards is awesome.” While she’s playing, however, the musician isn’t thinking of anything in particular. She more often loses herself in the vocals. “It’s kind of like therapy,” she described it. She usually introduces the songs with the history behind them during a performance, in the hopes that each audience member will leave with a better understanding of themselves through those stories. “I don’t think people know that we have such a cool history,” she said.
Jami has also learned that change is inevitable. She said that she gets into a certain style of music as she continues to add to her repertoire, but she may find something else within a few months that catches her attention. Though this type of change may not work for an album, Jami has learned to embrace it. She gets excited when learning new music and says her favorite song is always the newest that she’s learned. She calls herself the “stereotypical unorganized artist” who usually forgets something and stresses about it before a performance, though it is usually nothing too important. “I’m getting better,” she said, laughing as she added that she’s never forgotten something like her guitar.
She also enjoys playing with other musicians and has had the chance to sit in or jam out with talent including Hank Harris, James Van Nuys, Kenny Putnam and others, and she has plans for other up and coming collaborations with area musicians. She recently performed for the first time with her boyfriend, Ryan, whom she described as a better guitar player than she and a “really great support in music.” The two put on a “pretty good show together,” and Jami said that she hopes to see more of that in the future. She can also see the addition of more jazz to her repertoire. One of her current goals is to learn jazz chords. She has a few residencies in the artist in schools program this year as well, where she will be working on music with students in schools around the area. “This next year will be very interesting—but I’m so excited,” she said.
And who knows what other excitements the year could bring? For South Dakota Public Broadcasting fans, they’ve recently heard different interviews of Jami coming over the waves, and there’s still hope that before he retires, Garrison Keilor will also discover the talent of one of the newest Black Hills faces that so many of her listeners already know. Whether Jami can pick up that performance on her upright radio in her living room is another story. But if you find yourself lucky enough to be there to hear it, make sure to request the mint tea
Folk singer and songwriter Jami Lynn Buttke will be the artist in residence at South Dakota Human Services Center (HSC) during the week of January 9-12, 2012. Buttke will conduct arts programming with patients from HSC’s various treatment units and will lead a Jam Session for patients. An avid performer of bluegrass and folk music, Buttke brings her exuberance and musical talent onto the stage and into her residencies. She explores South Dakota history through local folksong, games, and storytelling. Cowboy ballads and mining songs from western South Dakota, and lumbering tunes and frontier songs from Eastern South Dakota and Minnesota will teach residency participants the diverse history of settlers in the Midwest. Buttke is a recent graduate of The Universityof South Dakota, Vermillion. She has shared her talent and love of local folk history with audiences across the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. She has also released two full-length albums of folk songs and originals. Buttke’s residency is made possible through the Artists In Schools and Communities program of the South Dakota Arts Council. Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator Colleen Craig-Davis, CTRS, MA, is the local program director for HSC’s arts residencies.
Jami Lynn performs on the Argus Leader Link Live. http://www.argusleader.com/section/linklive
by Nathan Johnson, The Yankton Press & Dakotan
While preparing for her future, Jami Lynn Buttke had no idea she would become so fascinated by the past. When she was attaining her music degree in vocal performance at the University of South Dakota several years ago, Buttke realized she needed a thesis topic. Ultimately, she decided to focus upon the early American folk music of the Upper Midwest. “It’s opened so many doors for me,” Buttke said. “I had just thought I’d write a quick thesis, but it turned into an extended project and I ended up really loving it. I recorded an album that is a piece of my thesis. It really allowed my writing to take direction. When I was doing all that research, it was really inspiring.”
The album in question, “Sodbusters,” was self-released earlier this year under Buttke’s “Jami Lynn” moniker. After doing some touring to support the release, Buttke has been working on an organic vegetable farm outside of Rapid City this summer. However, she will make time to perform this weekend at the Clay County Fair in Vermillion and the Hay Country Jamboree in Gayville. “I really like getting back to Vermillion,” Buttke said. “I was there for five years of college and the year afterward. After your college friends move away, you really start to appreciate the community and the relationships there.”
She graduated in the spring of 2010, and is currently working on a new album as time allows. “Next year, I’ll be transitioning back into full-time music, so I’m looking forward to that,” Buttke said. “In October and the spring, I’ll be doing a tour. I’m also on the South Dakota Arts Council’s Artists in Schools andCommunities roster for the first time. Early next year, I’ll have a few residencies around the state.”Her first record, 2008’s “Dreamer,” which was recorded with the Aquila Band, “rocked” in comparison to “Sodbusters” and was the result of a collaborative process with other artists, Buttke said. “Sodbusters” was recorded with Josh Rieck and is more reflective of Buttke’s individual tastes. It is very much a folk Americana album, she said. Six tunes on “Sodbusters” are originals, while the remaining five are folk songs Buttke came across while doing research for her thesis. “The Colorado Trail,” for example, was collected from a dying Montana cowboy in a Duluth, Minn., hospital. Buttke came across it in a 1934 book on American folk songs. “The Falling of the Pine” is a ballad found in a 1926 publication and isabout the days when square timber logging was popular in northern Minnesota. The title track of “Sodbusters” is an original song based upon Buttke’s family history. Buttke said her interest in music came before her interest in history. As a child growing up in Corona, she would accompany her grandfather when he went to music events. “I think the first time I got on a stage and sang was when I was 12 or 13,” she stated. “A lot of small communities in SouthDakota have the once a month old-time country music jamborees. It’s a pretty forgiving crowd, so it was kind of a perfect way for me to start. The first songs I performed on stage I still perform.”
Buttke studied classical voice music for a while at the University of South Dakota. “More or less, it was just to be in music,” she said. “I’m not that much into singing opera, but I enjoyed it a lot. It was a great experience for me, but it wasn’t exactly what Iwanted to do. I hadn’t established a genre. I didn’t realize how much I loved folk music until my junior year of college.” Among the influences Buttke cites are Hank Williams Sr., Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and the duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Jazz and blues also influence her music, she said. Buttke said there is no time line for releasing a new album. “I’m not sure where my next album isgoing, if it will be along the same lines as ‘Sodbusters’ or go in a different direction,” she stated. Buttke will perform at the Clay County Fair in Vermillion Friday during intermissions of the Fair Princess Contest from 2-4 p.m. She will also play at 6 p.m. during the free ice cream social. Additionally, Buttke will performalong with her recording partner Rieck at the Hay Country Jamboree in Gayville’s Gayville Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday. To learn more about Jami Lynn, visit
I know shamefully little about South Dakota, beyond recollections of a family trip when I was about four. And while I haven’t done too much to rectify the situation, other than scoping out google images of National Parks, I have had the pleasure of enjoying some new music from one of the state’s finest songwriters.
You may have heard Jami Lynn’s “Sweet Thing” as the opening cut of the latest 9B podcast. The song is also the first track on her new album Sodbusters, which she is self releasing. Lynn previously released an album (2008’s Dreamer) as Jami Lynn and the Aquila Band. She is accompanied on this “solo” album by her former bandmate Josh Rieck. Lynn’s voice shifts easily from indie rock croon to a full bodied gospel to a traditional folk storyteller, making each song unique, even when the arrangements, mostly banjo and guitar, are similar. The playing is good, and the spare instrumentation allows Lynn’s voice, along with Rieck’s harmonies, to carry the songs through. However, the haunting old-world acappella “The Falling of the Pine” is a standout track for me as is really lets her voice speak for itself. Her website identifies it as a song she discovered while researching her thesis on American folk music, and describes it as “a ballad from the time when “square timber logging” was popular during the Golden Age of Lumbering in northern Minnesota.” It conjures Frank Turner’s forays into old English folk music, and she clearly shares his interest and pride in the history of her music.
The album mellows a bit after the midway point, trading banjo licks for more guitar finger picking. Now, a few years ago, I’ll admit that I would have lost interest at this point. I wandered into Americana, like many punks who started looking for something new after turning 22, over a bottle of whiskey and memories of the stuff my dad listens to. It took some time time for me to understand where softer, more, eh, nuanced music fit into life. Now, however, the more music I hear, the more I come to appreciate musicians like Jami Lynn who don’t go trying to re-invent the wheel, but don’t settle for the same tired standards either. So even if the last quarter of the album is too soft for your taste, don’t drift off: the closer, “Don’t Let Her Love Go”, is another great vocal song, accompanied only by percussion, leaving you to walk away from the album with the tight harmonies in your head and a solid Americana album under your belt.
Check out Jami's interview and in studio performance of "Sweet Thing" and "Sodbusters"on SDPB's Dakota Midday from May 5th here.
Watch Jami Lynn and Josh Rick on the Argus Leader's Link Live online concert from March 25th. http://www.argusleader.com/section/linklive
SDPB's Matt Weezner talks with Jami Lynn about her new album, Sodbusters. Listen to her interview on On Record here.
South Dakota Public Broadcasting's Charles Michael Ray reviews Sodbusters. Listen here.
by Carl Anthony, 605 Magazine
When we love a song, we listen to it over and over again. It gets in our head and we sing it (often times horribly) as we cruise around on a Saturday. It's all right the people are staring in traffic, because at the moment, time stops and our emotions (both blissful and disheartening) present themselves in a heightened state. We are, in essence, standing at the center of our own personal stage.
And in a place so comfortable, we are still lost. . . lost in the melody as our memories (or fantasies) project themselves colorfully into reality. And herein rests the finest aspect about Jami Lynn as we are invited to her personal stage. Her latest album “Sodbusters,” possesses a feminine, yet thundering voice (best shown in The Falling of the Pine) bouncing all over this universal spectrum. Inside her music, one finds themselves immersed in a rugged, late 19th century world, misplaced amongst a tech age of social media, text messaging, and voice activated navigation. Lynn, a USD graduate, unfolds her work like an old text: Very, very carefully. And with overflowing grace and humility towards the conventional folk canvas, she has earned the right to paint it with her own modern streaks. Lynn’s dark flavor and non-traditional chord progression hammers against the grain of a less elegant lifestyle. Lynn reveals she stayed up late, hunting books (one from the 1920’s even) for Midwest folklore and stories from the late 1800’s. Some of the material she performs on “Sodbusters” is taken from the tattered hard covers she so diligently searched. And listening to selections she found in these books (The Lame Solider/Colorado Trail/The Falling of the Pine) who knows the last time it actually was sung? It was certainly never recorded. Was this sung by lumber jacks in Wisconsin? Or was it sung on the South Dakota plains? We are offered no real answer and therefore, our imaginations are allowed to run wild alongside Lynn as she entices us into a culture generations apart from our own.
Lynn also applies her pipes to original material on “Sodbusters.” Closing the frayed manuscripts of Midwest folklore, Lynn herself does the very thing her LP commands us to do. She launches herself into the album’s title track, an unrefined story of Lynn’s great, great grandmother; a proper English girl on the windswept, South Dakota prairie. With only passed down stories from family members, Lynn demonstrates a piece worthy for the unraveled folklore she just finished.
And as the closing notes fade away, we are reminded; “folk” is defined as the music of the lower and common class. Can we agree with this? No. See . . . after a glimpse into this world Lynn is so passionate about, this world Lynn has put such an inventive spin on, I’m neither common nor poor. Like Lynn’s great, great, Grandmother longing to find her identity in a new world, I don’t know how I feel just yet. I just know I’m neither one of those.
Read Jami Lynn's Q & A session with The Independent Local here.
by Sam Burrish, Sioux City Journal
Jami Lynn Buttke knows how to tell a story. She also knows how a story was told.For a branching-out performer about to tour her prairie songs amid a nationwide folk resurgence, that distinction is all the difference.Take the logging ballad “Falling of the Pine” off her new sophomore collaboration with bassist Josh Rieck. Not only is the song telling of regional history but also the spirit of traditional music in modern times.
Back when lumberjacks swung axes from Michigan to Minnesota and into Canada, the nightcap to a day’s work were camp songs and stories around the fire."These characters keep resurfacing," said Buttke, who lives in Vermillion, S.D., and graduated with a music degree in vocal performance from the University of South Dakota last May. "There were so many stories written about them because they were such a good skidder or they could chop four trees down in an hour, or something."While Paul Bunyon is likely just a character of lore, there are three or four other storied loggers who probably did live, she said. Her findings come after two years of researching museums, private collections and published compilations.
One folklorist she’s studied wrote that each night the men in some regional camps either had to sing a song or tell a story. They could sing an old song, but tell new stories only."After a while you regurgitate what you hear or put your own spin on it, embellishing it,” Buttke said. “That’s how the stories grew, and how songs were passed between people, and generations." The new "Sodbusters" release just has that one logging song. But its backstory is telling of the rich history Buttke distills from unlikely discoveries. The result is a testament to the tough, unvarnished face of prairie life.
Then how does a good story become myth? Her research hasn’t yet gone that deep. But that question was a popular exploration for folklorists, especially in the 1970s and is again resurging today, she said. "The more I discover, the more songs I come across, they’re just like gems. They aren’t out there. They aren’t recorded. Many of them haven’t been performed in 70 or 80 years – maybe. There’s that possibility that nobody’s touched it in that long. That’s what intrigues me."
As a two-piece with Rieck, the songs come off tight with vocal harmonies. And they showcase lean, nervy parts among guitar, banjo, mandolin and upright bass. Some are warm, others desolate. They come to the Sioux City Live Music Club on Friday."We’re not straight up bluegrass or indie folk, but we do have a folk sound for this area," Buttke said last year before her Sioux City debut. She frequented jamborees with her grandfather while growing up in South Dakota’s northeastern Glacial Lakes region. “It has evolved to be tighter and more interwoven with this part of the county.”
In 2008, she released a nine-track debut, "Dreamer," as Jami Lynn and the Aquila Band. That effort included bassist Rieck and Matt and Sean McFarland, who are members of Sioux Falls acoustic folk rock group Snakebeard Jackson. In the next few weeks, she’ll play area shows in Omaha, Sutherland, Neb., and then, like pioneers before her, head to destinations out west.
Read more: http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/blogs/heard_mentality/jami-lynn-s-sodbusters-distills-unlikely-gems/article_44b0422b-8fe3-5879-a2d2-6a48b2473601.html#ixzz1kLsjyDBz
Rapid City, SD
Rapid City, SD
Tellico Plains, TN
Rapid City, SD
Rapid City, SD
Rapid City, SD
Sioux Falls, SD
Rapid City, SD
Rapid City, SD
Rapid City, SD
530 6th Street, Rapid City, SD
530 6th Street, Rapid City, SD
Rapid City, SD
Rapid City, SD
with Justin Yapp
Sioux City, SD
Burlap Wolf King's EP Release, with the Union Grove Pickers, and Jami Lynn & Dylan James
Sioux Falls, SD
with Luke Callen
Fort Collins, CO
Rapid City, SD
Rapid City, SD
Rapid City, SD
The Black Hills Bluegrass presents their annual MUMPS- March Unplugged Music Performance Sunday.
Rapid City, SD
Synagog of the Black Hills Wavy Benefit
Dinner Music: 7:30pm
with Pleasure Horse
with Catfish Stevenson
Chapel Hill, NC
Tellico Plains, TN This is a private concert. If you would like to attend, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Knoxville, Tennessee Live radio show! Details: http://www.wdvx.com/programs/blueplate.html
Waterloo, IA with The Comfort Kings
Des Moines, IA Sound Rover series with KaylaMarie Thompson!
Carrol, IA $10 suggested donation
Lincoln, NE Cluck and Croon CD release conert!
Vermillion, SD Cluck and Croon CD release concert!
Rapid City, SD
Cluck & Croon Album Release with John Craigie!
Rapid City, SD
Cluck & Croon Album Release with James Van Nuys and Bob Fahey!
Sioux Falls, SD
Cluck & Croon Album Release!
Spearfish, SD Cluck and Croon CD release party with Jake Jackson! tickets: $10
$5 members, $7 non-members at door