Julie Johnson & The No-Accounts
THE NEW JULIE JOHNSON & THE NO-ACCOUNTS ALBUM, THE BANKS OF THE LITTLE AUPLAINE, IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT: CD BABY
Based in Minneapolis, Julie Johnson & The No-Accounts includes Julie Johnson on flute and bass flute, Doug Otto on vocals and guitar, and Drew Druckrey on guitar, resonator guitar, vocals, and mandolin. We each bring the influence of jazz, classical, and hymns to our versions of traditional songs. While we started out playing the Delta blues tunes and traditional Southern standards that drew us to roots music—artists like Leadbelly, Howlin Wolf, and Skip James—we’re now focusing more on roots music from our own region, the Upper Midwest, which has been largely untapped by contemporary roots bands. Along with originals, our set list includes a version of Leadbelly’s “In the Pines” influenced by music from Carmen; an arrangement for vocals, flute, mandolin, and bass clarinet of Bob Dylan’s little-known “Winterlude”; an old North Woods shanty boy (logging camp) song, “The Little Auplaine”; as well as polkas, waltzes, Métis jigs, and a pioneer hymn from The Laura Ingalls Wilder Songbook.
Our versions of these Minnesota tunes (written primarily by band founder Julie Johnson, but developed by all three members of the band) straddle a strange line between song and composition, popular and chamber music—sometimes we feel like a blues band in a dive bar, at others like we’re playing a Schubert song cycle. While our sound is filled with a lot of improvisation, our pieces also require precision—and we’ve learned not to be surprised when, even in the middle of a rowdy bar, we find ourselves playing to an audience who’s listening quietly.
We’re influenced by many artists, including Skip James, Gillian Welch, Astor Piazzolla, Patty Griffin, Bon Iver, Villa-Lobos, Bartok, and Robert Johnson. Like some of these artists, we’ve struggled to define what we’re trying to do—and recently found a quote to help us, from the novelist Thomas Mann. Mann’s protagonist, Hans Castorp, confined to a tuberculosis sanatorium, becomes obsessed with the place’s newly-acquired gramophone and collection of records, and makes these observations about some of the music he finds there; we find the aptest description we’ve found yet of our own music, in Hans’s definition of those pieces that “[fall] between the two categories” of “the lofty and conscious creation of individual artists” and “simple folk songs”:
“There was a long list of lieder, sung by piano accompaniment by famous prima donnas; some of these were the lofty and conscious creation of individual artists, others simple folk songs, still others fell between the two categories, in that they were products of an intellectual art, and at the same time sprang from all that was profoundest and most reverent in the feeling and genius of a people–artificial folk-songs, one might call them, if the word artificial need not be taken to cast a slur on the genuineness of their inspiration.”
– Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
The three of us share a connection to Augsburg College’s music program, with its musically diverse faculty, and we’ve been collaborating for several years. Formed in the summer of 2009, Julie Johnson & The No-Accounts have played at St. Paul’s History Theatre, The Black Dog Café, The Terminal Bar, MacPhail Center for Music, The Red Stag, The Fine Line Music Café, Lee’s Liquor Lounge, and other bars, clubs, and festivals. Julie Johnson has played with groups as varied as the Minnesota Chorale and the Texas blues singer Dede Priest, while Doug Otto (of Doug Otto & The Getaways) and Druckrey (of The Jason Dixon Line), both veterans of the Augsburg College Choir, have also played together in bands such as The North Country Bandits and Matt Pudas & Friends.
Johnson featured Otto and Druckrey on Arrest, her 2008 album of compositions based on folk and street music from around the world, which received praise from Rift Magazine, 3-Minute Egg, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the “Take Note” feature at Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine, which called Arrest “a fascinating experiment in using the flute to play such nonflute-like music as blues, jazz, flamenco, and folk.” Said Tammy Reese at Rift, “Johnson mixes contemporary and classical styles into a fine frenzy of idiosyncratic masterpieces …. a talent that is sure to become a greater artist than she already has become.”
In January 2010, Julie Johnson & The No-Accounts received word that out of 11,000 bands who applied, we made the standby list at the prestigious Austin, TX music festival South by Southwest, which took place in late March.
With help from a grant from The American Composers Forum, as well as a residency at the Lanesboro Arts Center, Julie Johnson continues to research historic Minnesota music—songs from the Iron Range mines, French Canadian voyageurs, Scandinavian churches, and Minnesota folk legends—in order to find and interpret the band’s own region’s melodic, rhythmic, and thematic folk tradition and history. Julie Johnson & The No-Accounts will premiere our first full recording of composition/songs based on Minnesota folk music at the Open Eye Figure Theatre in Minneapolis on April 1 & 2nd, 2011.
Read more about us and listen to some of our music at Julie Johnson & The No-Accounts