Tag Archives: Ben Kyle

Oh, Minneapolis

What a crap week. It’s bad enough dealing with a pandemic and all the stress and worry that entails. Then police violence and the murder of George Floyd. Then tear gas and more violence and more death and Minneapolis burning. I don’t have the words.

(Speaking of words, people like to quote Martin Luther King Jr. about non-violence, but he also spoke about riots. Some context on those comments is especially helpful.)

Since I don’t have words, two songs come to mind this week.

Let the People Be Free

The first is a protest song by Jayanthi Kyle called “Hand in Hand.” It was written in 2014 and, because of course, the lyrics are still quite relevant:

The day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
But while my sister ain’t equal & my brother can’t breathe
Hand and hand with my family, we will fill these streets …

Mr. Policeman
I can’t breathe
Lay down your weapons and your badges and listen to me

Jayanthi is also in a chorus group called Give Get Sistet that’s pretty amazing. Nobody is doing performances right now, cuz pandemic, but they’d be an ideal group to bring in right now.

Oh, Minneapolis

The other song I thought of was Ben Kyle’s “Minneapolis.” The lyrics aren’t nearly as applicable, but the mournful “Oh, Minneapolis” captures about how it felt this morning to see images of the city smoldering.

O Minneapolis,
I saw you and Saint Paul kiss
Neath the moonlight in a Mississippi mist
Never saw a thing as beautiful as this
Oh Minneapolis

Rain down, purple rain (I wanna hear the sound)
I wanna feel the royal rain on me
I wanna feel the holy water running like a holy stream
I wanna be baptized in the city in the Mississippi

I Love the Shadowlands Record by Romantica and You Should Too

Shadowlands by RomanticaTwin Cities band Romantica has officially released their new album, Shadowlands, after a five-year hiatus and a one-year delay. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s worth the wait.

Last year the band crowd-funded their new project and recorded it in a barn south of the Twin Cities. One of the rewards was a  pre-Valentine’s Day show that I gushed about.

While the new album was done, and lucky backers like myself got copies, it never quite released publicly. Turns out the album landed a record deal and an official release, which happened last week. Now you can listen to the album on Spotify or Apple Music and buy a copy on iTunes or Amazon.

And you should buy a copy. It’s good. Continue reading I Love the Shadowlands Record by Romantica and You Should Too

Romantica Pre-Valentine’s Day

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, I took Abby to a barn 50 miles south of the Cities for a pre-release concert by Romantica. It was a little bit magic.

After being on hiatus for about five years, they crowd-funded their new album, Shadowlands. One of the rewards was this exclusive pre-release show in the barn where they recorded the album. I couldn’t resist.

I’ve been a fan of Romantica since long before their debut album turned me into a fawning fan boy. The new material is great: atmospheric and soulful, dripping with depth and beauty. I haven’t seen the band play in a long time (they have been on hiatus), so this was the first time I saw the addition of Jayanthi Kyle on backing vocals (yes, she’s frontman Ben Kyle’s sister-in-law). Wow. I love the depth she adds. (And bonus: I was already a fan of her work, I just didn’t know it. She wrote the Black Lives Matter protest song, “Hand in Hand.”)

The show started with the mournful/hopeful “Harder to Hear,” which resonates with the doubt, depression and yearning of this season. Here’s a poorly filmed snippet:

Another stand out track is “Here It Comes,” which Jayanthi described as her favorite. Talk about soulful and yearning. Ben said the song came to him on the last day of recording, a gift. “Cecil Ingram Conor” is another barn-burner, though I’m not sure my crummy video does it justice (Ben’s solo living room performance might be a better taste).

So many other good tracks, but that’s a start. (And the letterpress packaging design is beautiful. Worth getting a physical copy.)

Braving the Minnesota tundra to discover tender music with the woman I love is like a tonic for my soul.


Ben Kyle Living Room Show

I used to go to concerts all the time. It was mostly pre-marriage and definitely pre-kid. But these days it’s rare. I made it to the Five Iron Frenzy show a couple weeks ago and it was pretty odd to be in a club for a rock show.

Yeah, I’m old.

On Saturday night I went to another concert that was an entirely new experience. Ben Kyle, of Romantica fame, played a living room show in Arden Hills, Minn. I’ve heard about living room performances before—small, intimate shows in someone’s home. But I’ve never been able to make it to one before.

It’s the ideal atmosphere, especially for Ben’s introspective, acoustic, singer/songwriter style. He talks a lot, telling stories and introducing songs so you get the context. It’s an introduction to the music that, as you can imagine, works a lot better than just listening to an online stream of the new album.

Here’s a glimpse of the experience:

I couldn’t help telling the story of how I first rediscovered Ben’s music when Romantica’s first album came out. It was the kind of crowd of friends where everyone has a story like that.

Romantica on the Current

You may remember my complete shock at recognizing Ben Kyle’s voice when I first heard Romantica. Their debut album, It’s Your Weakness That I Want, is pretty good and I’ve had the pleasure of reliving that shock when I hear their music on the radio (so far just the Current).

But the Current really likes them, and that’s pretty cool. Today the Current’s Song of the Day is “The National Side”. Plus they played live in the studio a few weeks back which you can hear online–and you can hear Mary Lucia tell Ben Kyle to “shut it” (when Ben tells her one of the judges of the International Songwriting Competition, which Romatica has won, was Tom Waits).

Romantica’s sophomore album, America, is now available. You can hear some of it on MySpace. Plus, they’ll be playing this Sunday at the Stone Arch Festival of the Arts. It’s free. It’s outside. I might just have to go (and hey, it’s Father’s Day, so I get to do what I want, right?).

Romantica. No Way.

2004_05_01 romantica.jpgThat’s what I said when the music started playing. The sound was amazing, better than I expected. But the vocals made my jaw drop. That sounds like Ben Kyle, doesn’t it? I know that guy!

Steve Knight mentioned going to see the band Romantica when he came to town, and his fawning over the band and the fact that you can listen to their CD online prompted me to head over to the site and check them out.

From the first word of the first song I knew I recognized that voice. Could that be Ben Kyle? But this sounds amazing. This sounds like a full-blown, record-signed, professional band. Not that I don’t think Ben’s capable of that, but when did that happen?

Maybe you need a little background to be as blown away as I am. I went to college with Ben Kyle. He was the cool artsy, musical guy from Ireland. He had dreadlocks and an Irish accent. He teamed up with Luke Jacobs and they played some amazing acoustic folk music. We had them on our radio show, Mission Control, multiple times. In fact, I’ve got a few tapes of those performances and have been in the process of transferring them to my computer. Abby and I went to several Ben & Luke performances at local coffee houses.

After college I didn’t hear much about Ben Kyle anymore. I did track him down for a story about playing Irish music in pubs for passageway.org. I went to a show in Dinkytown and filmed his performance for the article, and one song is available on the site.

After that I never heard much about Ben Kyle. Every now and then I’d remember those accoustic songs, pull out my Mission Control tapes and hear them again. Occasionally I’d Google “Ben Kyle,” wondering what he was up to. I never did find him.

I guess that’s why it’s such an amazing, drop-what-I’m-doing, fawn-like-a-fan-boy thing. I didn’t expect to hear Ben singing, see Ben and Luke’s names and pictures on the site. I always thought Ben and Luke should plunge headlong into the music biz. Maybe that’s just me wanting to hear more of the local music I loved, but I always thought they’d go far. And maybe they’re not far yet. They’re a local band on a local label, but they have an amazing CD and are being reviewed in City Pages. It’s a start.

Observations from a performance by Ben Kyle

He sings from his heart to a crowded room. The lyrics drift through air, intermingling with the cigarette smoke like ideas in the mind. The people sit wherever there’s room, on top of the fading pool table or right on the dirty tiled floor. Some of them are focused on the musician, their eyes attentively watching his every move. Others are staring at the tiles, letting the music wash over them. A guy sitting on the pool table flips through the books he just bought at the used bookshop next door. The singer closes his eyes and lets the words roll forth, letting them bounce off the ceiling, off the inattentive ears, off the mismatched ceiling lamps and into the soul of the few people there who were really listening.

Curse of the Introspective Introvert

It’s the curse of the introspective introvert. You crave attention, but don’t want anyone to know. You need someone to talk to, but have to hide the tears. Oh wait, men don’t cry. Never mind. It’s okay. It’s alright. Will something go away if you just ignore it? I don’t want to face the facts, but sooner or later something will have to be done. Unrequited love enjoys company, and now both of us are lost in this sea of confusion. Drowning to save, and saving to drown. What’s the answer Lord, I just don’t know. I scream and holler, ‘Why?” and the still night responds with the unbroken quiet. And so I stop thinking about it, and maybe it’ll go away. What do I want? I just don’t know. Is that even the right question to ask? Popular culture would laugh at me for even doubting. And it’s all too confusing in its deep, mysterious ways. Would someone please turn the light on?

“I have found that I will never have anything until I have nothing of me.” (“Soul of Letters” by Ben Kyle)

Soul of Letters

I have a boat in the western ocean, / I have a dream in the Irish sea. / I have found that I will never have anything until I have nothing of me.

I have light in the darkness, / I have a notion of eternity. / I have a friend his name is Jesus. / Oh I have life and I’m free. / And I’m comin’ around oh Lord, Lord I’m comin’ around. / Oh I’m coming around Lord I’m comin’ around.

(portions of a song by Ben Kyle called “Soul of Letters”)

[listen closer… look deeper… squint…]

Continue reading Soul of Letters