Matt Ray and Those Damn Horses / Blog

Our official story (part 2):

Over the last two years, we've assembled an impressive resume including two performances at Harvest Fest in Geneva MN, two performances at Boats and Bluegrass in Winona MN, two spots at the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival, two shows at the Northeast Folk Festival and one show at the Northeast Bluegrass Festival in Minneapolis, a show at the Pioneer Theater in Thief River Falls MN, a GREAT show at Weber's Deck in French Lake MN, a memorable show at Stagenorth in Bayfield WI, two appearances on KAXE radio in Grand Rapids MN including an hour long live fundraiser, two live performances on KUMD in Duluth, an appearance on WDSE Channel 8's show The Playlist with Karen Sunderman, a couple successful local benefits, and upwards of 100 bar gigs all over Minnesota and Wisconsin. In 2010 we spent a tremendous amount of time with Rich Mattson at his studio in Sparta MN recording an ambitious and well-received double album, and we've nearly sold out of the first printing of 500 copies. We also count among our ranks some of the founding members of the Iron Range Original Music Association, and we're still very active in that organization. We're currently looking forward to repeat performances at many of the above listed festivals along with shows at a number of new venues. When I look to the future of Matt Ray and Those Damn horses, I see tremendous potential for growth and improvement. We all seem to get just a little bit better and tighter each time we play, and our fan base is growing at a steady rate. We're also preparing to go back into the studio to begin work on our 2nd CD, and we're taking the steps that will allow us to start recording our live shows "for the archives" as well. As long as we're able to roll with the changes and as long as we maintain our collective sense of humor, we're truly an unstoppable force in acoustic music in Minnesota. It ain't called "ass shakin'" music for nuthin'. Come and see us the next time we're in your town...I PROMISE that you won't leave disappointed. Peace. Eric Krenz

Our offical story (part 1):

In the fall and winter of 2008, my band 4 Horse Johnson and I were writing "Minnesota-sounding" rock music and playing the bars in Northern Minnesota. We came across an interesting young college professor named Matt Ray who had developed a great solo acoustic act, and we invited him to play the opening hour at a number of our shows. He'd show up with his trademark scruff, whip out his banjo and acoustic guitar, and "knock it outta the park" with a huge variety of tunes taken from roots music, Americana, vaudeville, country blues, etc. He drew from a vast repertoire of material, and he performed with a confident grin. Due to my somewhat musically-cloistered upbringing on The Range, my first conscious encounters with tunes by Charlie Patton, John Hurt, The Mississippi Sheiks, and many others came as I sipped a beer with my band mates while Matt tore it up. Purely for the fun of drinking beer and jamming, Matt, Tim "Big Daddy" Miro, and I started to play together at my rural home in the spring and summer of 2009. Matt thoroughly schooled us in The History of Music in America, and we gradually developed a solid 4 hours worth of material. After a couple months, Matt sent me a text asking if I would "invite that Trapper fellar along" to a practice, and we played our first "real" show in the chalet at Giants Ridge in January of 2010 accompanied by Joey Flynn on washboard, and the lovely Ms. Ellen Thomes on fiddle. Like many other local musicians, the dominance of our scene by hard rock and heavy metal cover bands had blinded me to the idea that an audience in Northern Minnesota COULD be reached by strange old music they'd never heard, and in what continues to be a thrill to this day, I would often sit back in awe as folks totally rocked out to some obscure rag or fiddle tune. As our act improved, we added a drummer and multi-instrumentalist, and then Ellen and her fiddle had to move south, so we replaced her with Chief. Big Daddy had to bow out due to the pressures of his job (or he was cruelly booted from the band for no reason as he likes to tell it through a big smirk), and after brief tenures the drummer and multi-instrumentalist left as well. Ian Koivisto had been playing washtub bass with Matt for 3 years, so he happily joined the group, and Chief made an extended expedition to the south Pacific and was replaced by Flea. Our final change in membership came when brilliant multi-instrumentalist and UMD music student Kighle Olla showed up with his washboard, snare drum, and briefcase bass. The short version of all that would be, "The band is currently comprised of original members Matt Ray, Eric Krenz, "Trapper" Al Ranfranz, along with Ian Koivisto, Dave "Flea" Tech, and Kighle "Young Kyle" ("Big Bird") Ollah. As with nearly every band, we traveled a tumultuous road to get to where we are now. The act of juggling the schedules of 6 active, employed people (4 of whom are married with children) has been a constant challenge, and that has been further complicated because we all have music projects on the side. Keeping the band staffed with the right people and maintaining an upward climb in the face of changes in membership has also proved difficult. Additionally, we're all fairly experienced musicians with strong opinions about most subjects, so it's not unusual for the occasional "heated debate" to arise. Whether it takes the form of a barrage of angry text messages, a humorous threat issued over breakfast, or a kick to the shin on stage, we're very much like a proverbial band of brothers who are just a bit too close and too alike. Sleeping shoulder to shoulder on someone's living room floor or two to a bed in a cheap motel while on the road tends to have that effect on sensible folks.