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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Americana Guitarist and Songwriter, John Magnuson, Releases his Highly Anticipated Solo Album

Americana guitarist and songwriter John Magnuson releases his new highly anticipated solo album Barely Noticeable. Known largely for his work with The Carpetbaggers, the Minneapolis-based artist enjoyed some notoriety in the mid-to-late 90s when the band did three tours with Son Volt and shared the stage with such notables as Los Lobos, Alison Krauss and the Gear Daddies.

After the band disbanded in 2009, Magnuson started performing with his own trio, playing some under-the-radar shows, until he connected with country singer Becky Kapell, who introduced him to noted Twin Cities guitarist Paul Bergen (Erik Koskinen, Molly Maher, Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls). It turned out Bergen was a fan of The Carpetbaggers, as was engineer/producer Mark Stockert (Brian Setzer, Charlie Parr, Chastity Brown, The Waifs).

When meeting Magnuson in the parking lot after a show, he said “The Carpetbaggers? You were in the Carpetbaggers? I used to go see you guys at the Uptown Bar all the time!” A fast friendship was formed and Magnuson’s new project was born.

Recording at Stockert’s Underwood Recording Studio, Magnuson mined through songs he had written over 30 years, including some written with a friend and lyricist who he had recently reconnected with. Those lyrics led him to create songs that echoed what he used to write “before the scraggly, snappy Carpetbaggers hijacked my musical soul,” Magnuson laughs. Out of the 20 tunes he co-wrote with Justus Crumb, five are on this album, including his psychedelic, radio-friendly “A Bird That Doesn’t Sing” and his folk-flavored “As Do I”. Weaving these in with some older back catalog material, Magnuson moves easily through 60s-sounding nostalgia to classic country (“I Stand Corrected”) and contemporary Americana (“I Don’t Mind If I Do”).

Teaming up with Steve Murray (bass) and Peter Anderson (drums), Magnuson creates a tight rock band sound with the help of some other Twin Cities notables, including Becky Kapell, Paul Bergen and Son Volt’s Dave Boquist. “The process of recording the record was like graduate school to me,” Magnuson says. “And I loved every second of it.” That joy shines throughout the album, even when singing about hard times or broken hearts.

Although the introverted songwriter has often felt comfortable in the background quietly writing songs, Magnuson reemerges into the spotlight on this album, finally coming into his own as a solo artist and indeed getting the notice he deserves.

Barely Noticeable is the first of a 2-album set capturing songs written over the last 3 decades. Look for the second album next year, produced by Paul McFarland (Lolo’s Ghost, Run Westy Run).

The first single/video from the album to be releases is Did You Ever Really Go?

John says of the song " It was written a long time ago. When I first started listening — really listening — to late 50s/early 60s Country (which was The Carpetbaggers’ specialty), I was really impressed with the lyrics of a lot of the songs. “Mean Eyed Cat” by Johnny Cash, for example. The words are kind of surreal, but still masterfully rooted in traditional Country lingo. I wanted to try my hand at that kind of song. “Did You Ever Really Go?” is what I came up with. A few months ago, I started talking with Twin Cities artist Ilia Stockert about a possible video, and was intrigued by her stop-motion claymation idea for this one. 6,000 photos and many editing hours later…I think the video is super cool! I don’t know what I did to deserve such a first-class video for a song of mine, but I hope I keep doing it, whatever it is. Thank you, Ilia!"


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