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Tree Party's third album Iced Over: Thawing Minnesota's Local Lore is a year-long project of researching stories and local history in smaller communities across Minnesota.  Minnestoa State Arts Board 2013 Artist Initiative Grant recipient Joey Ford found his inspiration in small town museums and historical centers for this album, including songs about “Dorothy Molter: The Root Beer Lady,” “Wrinkle Meat: The 137 Year Old Man" and “Helmer Aakvik: The Old Man of the Inland Sea." Iced Over is a musical tribute to Minnesotans who have come before us and a celebration of their legacy.

Tree Party's first original album, self-titled and hot-iron branded, took on Western motifs and Midwest themes, while their following album evolved over a year collaborating with “The 7-Shot Symphony,” an epic, live cowboy show which was awarded a 2011 Ivey Award for Best Overall Production.

Tree Party shows it knows how to put its own spin on the desperate pain of early folk traditionals, creating a kind of dark, sparse rock ’n’ roll quality more reminiscent of Tom Waits or Nick Cave than Bill Monroe. ...winding a modern sensibility into it all, quickly jumping over the throw-off 'roots music' labels in favor of something different altogether.”  - A.V. Club (Minneapolis)

"[Ben Weaver] rasps dark, knotty ballads in the vein of Midwestern folk lodestars from Bob Dylan to Greg Brown." - Jim DeRogatis, Chicago Sun-Times 

"Young, retro barroom-blues/folk pickers Jack Klatt & the Cat Swingers aren't just influenced by some of the greats of Minneapolis' West Bank music scene, they're actually playing with some of them." - Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)



Helmer Aakvik- The Old Man and the Inland Sea

On November 26, 1958, Helmer Aakvik, a 63-year old commercial fisherman, spent 28 hours in the freezing cold on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  He set out in an effort to save his neighbor, Carl Hammer, who went off to check his nets before the arrival of a severe Nor’wester storm.  Helmer was forced to spend the night on the lake in his handmade 17-foot wooden skiff. By the time the coast guard arrived, he was found frozen to the oars and bottom of his boat.  Despite missing two of his toes due to frostbite, the old man refused to get into an ambulance until he ate an egg sandwich and drank a pint of coffee.  Although Helmer never found his neighbor, he was awarded the Carnegie Award for Heroism and is still revered by the many communities surrounding Hovland.  When asked if he prayed to God for help that long and cold night on the lake, he said, “No, there’s some things a man has to do for himself.”

Wrinkle Meat- The 137 Year Old Man

Wrinkle Meat (or John Smith, or Gaa-binagwiiyaas) was a Chippewa Indian of Cass Lake who is said to have lived to be at least 137 years old, dating his early years from the Leonid meteor shower of 1833.  At well over 100, he walked all over Minnesota with only a blanket for his bed.  He was so recognizable and well-liked that he could ride the train for free to Duluth, eat meals for free at logging camps and lodge in the nicest rooms at the finest hotels without charge--but he would never sleep in the bed, claiming it was too soft and fearing he would fall off.  Wrinkle Meat was welcomed wherever he went and was a friend to everyone.  He often sold portraits of himself to train passengers for 5 cents, giving them proof that they had met the oldest man on earth.

Dorothy Molter- The Root Beer Lady

Dorothy Molter was the last non-indigenous resident in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of Minnesota, living 15 miles (and five portages) from the nearest road on the border of the United States and Ontario, Canada.   Although educated in Chicago to be a nurse, Dorothy chose wilderness over civilization, living for 56 years on secluded Knife Lake, occasionally using her knowledge of medicine to help injured travelers.  Many knew her as The Root Beer Lady because of the nearly 12,000 bottles of homemade root beer she handed out to passing canoeists annually.  Dorothy died in 1986 at age 79, but her legacy lives on through the Dorothy Molter Museum in Ely, MN ( and her root beer continues to be distributed throughout Minnesota.

Byrl Sylvester- Plainview's Great War Hero

Before the United States sent troops to Europe in World War I, Plainview’s Byrl Sylvester volunteered for the French Ambulance Corp in 1917.  Throughout his year-long service overseas, he diligently wrote letters that were printed in the Plainview News, informing the public and exposing the reality of the Great War to thousands of rural Minnesotans.  The Plainview News described Byrl’s return: “As the train pulled into the station, the Plainview band rendered patriotic airs, while the throng of people surged forward to grasp his hand or even gain a glimpse of his familiar countenance.”

Charlie- A Lost Cartographer

Chris E. Herschberger checked in to the Calumet Inn in Pipestone, MN on February 14, 1944.  He was there on business, publishing a county atlas for Hixon Map Company. A  fire broke out in the Inn’s kitchen shortly after 9 pm.  Outside, all of the hotel’s guests were accounted for, except Mr. Herschberger, who was later found lying outside of room 308.  To this day, visitors claim that the spirit of “Charlie,” as they fondly call him, still haunts the hallways as an extended stay guest.

John Beargrease- The Fearless Mail Carrier

John Beargrease braved blizzards, wolves and treacherous ice to deliver the mail by dogsled between Two Harbors and Grand Marais during the last two decades of the 19th Century, before there were roads or rail to carry the mail.  Members of pioneer communities could mark his arrival by the sound of bells on his team of dogs as he slid into town.  For some families, this mail was their only communication to the outside world.  Today, there is a 411-mile dog sled race held annually to commemorate his bravery and service to the people of the North Shore.