Tucked on the corner of 40th and Bryant, among single family homes in the East Harriet neighborhood of Minneapolis, is a cozy music venue called The Warming House. Now two years old, the venue hosts both national and local acts, plus singer/songwriter nights, open mics and musician meetups. It’s where neighbors go to see music sans crowded bars and lousy parking. And it’s where Minneapolis-based Americana/folk singer John Louis chose to record his latest album, Live at The Warming House, Minneapolis, MN.
Louis, whose sound brings to mind John Prine, Patty Griffin, Kris Kristofferson and Lucinda Williams, found inspiration for his latest album from Townes Van Zandt’s The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas, which was released in 1977. Louis even mimicked Townes Van Zandt’s album cover (see here).
“I love the songs of Townes Van Zandt, and I listen incessantly to his live record ‘Live at The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas’,” said Louis. “I love how that album captured a snapshot of Townes doing what he loves, in his natural element.”
Louis recorded on a snowy Minnesota day in November of 2017, and released the album in April, 2018. The album includes 11 new songs, plus two live takes of songs from his 2015 release, Drift. It’s part familiar Louis, part new. It’s an album on love and loss, perspective on change, relationships and longing.
“The songs were inspired by my life, friends’ lives, my pondering, ups, downs, and observations of the past couple of years,” said Louis. “Some songs are about recent events, some about things that happened 20 years ago, and some about things I heard about or know about from lives I intersect with.”
Louis said he saw no better place than The Warming House to record the live album.
“I’ve always considered The Warming House to be a sister-venue to The Old Quarter of the 70s, even though I never saw The Old Quarter,” said Louis. “So when I started thinking of options for recording my latest songs, it didn’t take long for the idea of doing a live record from The Warming House to take a hold of me.”
Louis is a storyteller by nature, and his album asks an ear of its listeners. Live at The Warming House, Minneapolis, Minnesota is both gentle and intense. It welcomes listeners in, and gives them something to think about. And it seems Louis made a good choice for the live recording location. Recorded with just two mics and a live audience of approximately 45 people, the album is crisp and clear, with audience interaction and quick jokes interwoven between the 13 tracks.
With tracks “Ground” and “Head North”, fans of Louis’ will find comfort in his latest work. But with some of his songs, “Gone Too Far” and “Shut Down”, Louis shows us a new side. One that’s deeper, more raw and reflective.
“Sometimes I think I know what I’m writing about, and only after playing it for others do I realize it was about something completely different,” said Louis. “Songs are kind of mysterious that way.”
What’s next for Louis? A tour, for one, but maybe – another album. And not too far down the road.
“I’m working on putting together the next tour,” said Louis. “And I’m always writing, so another record relatively soon would not be surprising. But we’ll see.”