Some months ago, back when the weather still made sense, I caught David Daniels performing at a benefit for Jazzy J at the Barfly in Minneapolis. As I headed for the door, the host MJ Kroll had broken into this cut, “Believe,” and, on just an acoustic guitar, was weighing in strong. Solid melody, clear, ringing voice. Between that and her stage presence, the woman, in short order, raised three different kinds of hell. Made me want to stay around and hear more, but there was work to get written and turned in.
As things turned out, though, I caught up to Kroll’s discs, Wondering and Resonate. No two ways about it, singer-songwriters of her caliber are choice. Smooth music fueling passionate vocals, she, indeed, is sweet, liquid fire. The lyrics nail it, sensual and sardonic.
Take “Believe,” which she was in the middle of when I had to go. “It’s funny how roads get darker in the rain, all these turns are looking the same/ Life hangs in the balance and I swing on its pendulum, pendulum/ My instincts say take care of number one, but I think our time has come/ Don’t give up on me/ Don’t you give up on me/ Don’t you know that I believe, don’t give up on me.” Or the poignant, introspective gem “Pretty Girl,” with “Looking down, seeing the dark, how do I measure up, wear is the mark/ You see beneath my skin, do approve of this woman within/ Do you want me/ Who am I supposed to be/ All I ever wanted was to be your pretty girl/ I wanna be your pretty girl, your pretty girl.” Both are off Resonate.
I got the chance to catch MJ Kroll live and in immediate effect—again, it was her, her guitar and the microphone—at School of the Wise II in Chanhassen for an abbreviated set as she was hosting her regular songwriter’s showcase. Among her selections were “Believe” and “Show On HBO,” a wise, true piece of country-rocking work Kroll wrote with Benji Conklin and Tony Ortiz. You had to be there to believe the power she brought across that night.
Bottom line, put some MJ Kroll on the box, set back and let it roll over you. Can’t lose.
Disclaimer: I played on a bill at one of MJ Kroll’s School of the Wise II singer-songwriter showcases. Doesn’t change the fact that she’s got chops.