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Jennings bringing a taste of 'Minnesota'

Folk singer/songwriter Mason Jennings will take the stage at the Sheldon Theatre, Saturday Nov. 17.

As the Sheldon Theatre prepares for its holiday season, a sprinkle of Minnesota folk music at its finest glimmers in the lineup.

The young soulful folk singer/songwriter Mason Jennings takes the stage Saturday Nov. 17. Opening for Jennings is Minneapolis-based duo Fort Wilson Riot.

The concert presented by 89.3 The Current, Minnesota Music Coalition and Caravan Du Nord is a melting pot for all ages.

Jennings' music has become increasingly popular over the years gaining exposure through radio waves, concerts and continuous album releases. His latest creation dubbed "Minnesota" takes a look at a collage of love trying to survive the transition into being a grownup in a complex world.

"Love is the most important thing to me, my relationship with my wife and kids," Jennings said. "Music has always been as important as breathing to me. I have come to realize that to have it all, I have to take the long view when it comes to integrating all these parts of my life."

Increasingly, a sense of place and community has become important to him as well, he said.

"The album is called 'Minnesota' because it's a metaphor for an ever-changing landscape. More than any place I've ever been, things change so much here, even month to month. But even as things change, Minnesota is where my home is, where my center is."

He finds that his profession often takes him away from that center. Being on the road and finding the personal space to create while at home has caused him to examine how he balances his loves.

He generally writes from an intensely personal point of view, he explained, but Minnesota represents a step toward the light after the darkness of "Blood of Man," his last album.

Musically, Jennings paints from a more varied palette than ever with this album. For instance, piano is featured more prominently than any of his previous albums.

"The piano seemed to fit the emotional core of the album," he said. "I felt that it was important to begin and end the album with piano."

He played almost all of the instruments on the album, the one exception being "Well Of Love," a Perez Prado-esque number that features his friends in the Living Room, the side project of musician Jack Johnson and drummer/percussionist Adam Topol. Friend Jason Schwartzman adds additional piano and background vocals on "Raindrops."

Becoming Minnesotan

One might not guess, especially after his latest record release "Minnesota," that Jennings was born in Honolulu. After a move early in life to Pittsburgh, he began playing guitar and writing songs at age 13.

Later in life, Jennings took a chance to follow his dream and develop his budding talent by moving to Minneapolis -- a city he described as a growing playground for emerging artists.

Two week gigs would turn into monthlong shows and with his freshly formed band - the Mason Jennings Band. Albums started being produced, tours began sprouting into a national reach. That was over a decade ago.

In total, Jennings has 10 full-length album releases, over 60,000 "likes" on Facebook and a plethora of shows lined up throughout his acquired home state.

Project behind the show

The Caravan du Nord is the first project of The Minnesota Music Coalition. The tour is creating partnerships between independent musicians, who are not traditionally viewed as members of the fine arts community, and presenters, who are not generally experienced in presenting popular music.

At the same time the program will educate developing artists with workshops that fit the needs for each town.

The Caravan Du Nord tour is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, the Minnesota Arts Board, Summit Brewery and Clockwork Active Media Systems.

Tickets are $7.50 and available by calling the Sheldon's box office at 651-388-8700 and also online at www.sheldontheartre. org or tour.

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

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