Michael Monroe: Simple Life
Fisherman’s Picnic (Grand Marais,MN)
Friday, August 4th Main Stage: 1:30 -3:00pm
Saturday, August 5th Main Stage: 2 - 3:30pm
Sunday, August 6th Main Stage: 12 - 1pm
A few weeks ago in Grand Marais Michael Monroe christened the brand new HarborPark. Nestled between the bay and downtown, the site frames the beauty and quaintness of this tourist stop. It also provides an excellent stage for performing live music, as was seen on this day. Michael Monroe was a perfect inaugural choice, and he will make for a great sight to see at this weekend’s annual Fisherman’s Picnic up there too.
Michael Monroe has been critically acclaimed and recently won a regional Emmy Award for his work on I Soaring On Mended Wings for Jason Davis’ The Road on KSTP TV. Michael Monroe also has released a CD, Simple Life that everyone can listen to. From light acoustic folk, to remakes of some classic tunes by Joni Mitchell and Cat Stevens, he has dexteriously captured an essence. One that mixes the north woods of Minnesota with the redwood flare of classic California guitar. Michael makes a statement with his song selection, even doing a remake of “Peace Train”. While the album begins with “Simple Life” the choosing of “Peace Train” reminds us all that life is not all simple.
Sometimes you hear music and just identify with what an artist is saying. This CD had a few thoughts brew up about what the north woods mean to those of us who were not born here. About seven years ago my parents bought a cabin on Pike Lake in Grand Marais touching the BWCA and Gunflint Trail. At the time when we first explored the nine acres it was the deep woods attached to a National Forest, untouched and so fresh. In the beginning we had a trailer up there to stay in, but eventually my father built a log cabin on the lake. There is a special draw for those of us born in the concrete jungle of Minneapolis to go to the woods. In Michael’s song “Simple Life” he captures that feeling that so many venture north to discover. He sings, “We built our house of logs in the woods – Built it ourselves because we could – When it was done we said it was good – We wanted to live the simple life. I gather wood right off our land – Split it for fire with my own hands – Haul my water from the spring when I can – All so we can live the simple life. I just couldn’t live in the city – way to many roads and not enough trees – I can only take it for a day or two then it’s back to the simple life.”
Most can identify with the felling of driving down to the cities when you have to. When you live there the freeway is like therapy to release anger. The hills on the East Side in Duluth can have the same effect in the winter, but you only need to drive a few miles out of town to breathe the air of freedom. For those of us from the Twin Cities the only refuge to nature down there are the green rivers, or windswept prairies filled with corn stalks and cattle. The woods is where the “Simple Life” lives, the escape is what the song captures. Michael continues in the song, “I was brought up on the edge of town – One foot on pavement one on ground – Crowded days at school spun my head around – So I’d hurry back to my simple life. I can’t seem to give up one or the other – The city’s my work the country’s my lover – So I’ll be between the two forever – As long as I can live my simple life…”
Some people just have to get out of town, their claustrophobic tightness must be expunged. What better place than the solitude of what lies north? Michael ends the song confirming and acknowledging that he knows the listener identifies with his words by singing, “So now I find my music in the woods – In between chores of water and wood. Then I pack my songs of strings on wood – To bring you a taste of the simple life.” After he tells us that he is living the life to mentor us all, he gives a final lesson and sings, “You know it’s all inside our heads – No matter what we do where we make our bed - As long as we are loving and we’re fed. Anyone can live the simple life, Everyone can live the simple life, I just want to live the simple life.”
The song made me think of my father, or the thousands of others who travel north to find the simple life. Sure it exsists all around us, but it seems to be easier to find when the freeway noise, police sirens, and TV digital surround sound ceases. A perfect trip to Fisherman’s Picnic would end by listening to this song while driving back home to whatever town you live in.
After that song Michael talks about what he learns from his simple life. On “As It Should Be” the music is deeper to reflect the meaning. He sings, “We could take a lesson from the trees – We could take direction from the breeze – We could take a moment to see – Everything is as it should be.” He closes his thought by saying, “And as the moon rises high – and casts the shadow of a leaf on my eye – I know I don’t have to try to understand the mystery in a sigh” The song has a Sealish like feel in the key of the song “Kiss From A Rose” that was popular a few years ago. Michael’s guitar playing resonates in his music, like in the song, “What I Needed Most”. It has a feel of Air Supply’s “Lost In Love”, but with a more countresque twang to it. He also plays the harmonica in that tune completing the piece.
Overall the entire album is packed with soft melodies to relax and listen to. When Michael plays live there is an inviting atmosphere to his stage presence. He also plays on David Seaton guitars which are unique in their own right. Travel north this weekend to Grand Marias and bask in Michael Monroe’s Simple Life. If you are lazy or your gas pump equilibrium has not settled and you just want to buy the CD and walk through Jay Cooke, go to www.michaelmonroe.info.