Down Lo jam into the stratosphere


Down Lo have carved out a serious name for themselves on the Twin Cities scene—and, for that matter, throughout the Midwest—playing raise-hell-‘til-the-cows-come-home blues-rock.

Indeed, it would not be out the way to think of this band as godchildren of the Grateful Dead. A diehard jam band, they firmly believe in laying down the hook, then taking off into the musical stratosphere, occasionally touching back down and then taking off again. For this, rapturously crowded houses love them to death. Small wonder: guitarist-singer Mark Grundhoefer, bassist Ryan Nielsen, drummer Mike Cini, and Will Nissen (on keys, sax, and vocals) straight-up take care of serious business.

Their first official album, Lead My Way, kills so tough the band should be indicted for murder in the first degree. (I begged, but they won’t let anyone review their first burn-the-house-down release, Live Spring 2005; perfectionists is like that.) “Take Care” thumps jazz-sweetened reggae. “Ain’t it a Shame” is nasty as dirty drawers. “Drankin’ Booze” tips the hat to that old barroom standard “Drinkin’ Wine” in fine fashion, putting a stone-cold hillbilly twist on things. This is one band you really can’t wait to see break it down on a stage. Most bands spend a lot of time and money getting their sound down on tape, and they’re lucky if they even come close to delivering as well in person. Well, Down Lo are the reverse, as “Texas Longhorn,” an extrapolated extravaganza, proves. These monsters are to be given all kinds of kudos for bringing the fire of their live performance into the studio intact.

The follow-up CD is In Our World (FSM), featuring L.A.-based rapper Deploi. “Wasted” hints at gospel music, as does “World War.” Let it not be said that Down Lo are scared to expand their horizons.

Who knows how long it will be until Down Lo throw down with their next disc? One thing’s for sure, though, there’s no need of wondering where they’ll next be appearing someplace live. These guys live to gig, so consult their agenda by doing the Google thing and typing in the band’s name. In the meanwhile, take this as a heads-up: Down Lo will be at the Bella Sol Festival in Harmony Park, performing May 23 through May 25.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.