Country-pop singer-songwriter MJ Kroll does great things for a stage, especially with a band behind her. The woman is a born performer, a smart songwriter, and one of the more distinctive vocalists you’re apt to come across: hers is a wry, wizened quality, passion clear in her bright vocals. She ain’t all that hard on the eyes, neither. All told, the term “one-of-a-kind” definitely comes to mind.
Kroll rolled her live show into the Fine Line in downtown Minneapolis in February, accompanied by the Believers. That’s her on an angelic sounding, custom-made acoustic axe, arranging partner Benji Conklin on bass, backup singer Adena Brumer (prior to taking off for Atlanta, romantic bliss, and a new band) and Marc Partridge on lead guitar. If you came to have a good time, you were in the right place: Kroll and company played a lively, well-received set.
“Believe” opened things: driving, sparse, Kroll’s golden voice in damned good shape. Off her Resonate CD, the song is an anthem-like gem that hooks even when she does it all by herself. On the Fine Line stage, with electric instruments weighing in, the power just washed over you. There was also, from Wondering, the chugging groove and cutting wit of “Show On HBO,” a wise-cracking barn-burner Kroll wrote with Conklin and Tony Ortiz about getting TV exposure. It’s on Resonate, highly recommended for a wry chuckle or two. She also delivered a splendid cover of Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to My Window.” MJ Kroll is nothing if not gracious. The gig was Adena Brumer’s send-off party, so Kroll had Brumer close the night with a very effective rendition of the R&B standard “Black Velvet.”
Don’t be the least bit surprised if you run into MJ Kroll around the Twin Cities at this or that open mic. She loves to swing by and sit in at places like Plums and Minnesota Music Café to keep her chops sharp, and to tighten up new material. It’s a good chance to see a great talent up close and for free.
Next time she appears on a Twin Cities bill, do yourself a favor and be there. To find out where, you can look in her at mjkroll.com or facebook.com/mjrocknkroll. You don’t want be slow about it, though. She’s strongly considering blowing town in the near future for a broader market—likely, L.A. or Berkley, where she spent some time in March. Bottom line, it’d be a smart idea to catch up to MJ Kroll while the catchin’s good.