Robin & Linda Williams, Deeper Waters

A frequent guest on Garrison Keillor’s show, the Williamses practically have an official residence in Lake Wobegon (Keillor even came up with the organizing concept behind their last recording, Visions of Love). The Carolina couple cements another Minnesota connection with disc number seventeen, their first for Greg Brown’s local Red House imprint, and provides more of their stock-in-trade: sweet harmonic singing over layers of mountain-grown bluegrass. Though neither Keillor nor old pal Peter Ostroushko are around this time, there’s no shortage of familiar guests. Mary Chapin Carpenter and Sissy Spacek join in on vocals (or as the lyrics have it, on “croon and howl and yodel”) on Waters’ most immediately engaging number, “Old Plank Road,” while Iris Dement provides mournful backup on the melancholy “Leaving This Land.”

CD: Wynton Marsalis
The Magic Hour
Available March 9
Walking away, for now, from the 200-strong big band that he led through 2002’s All Rise, the great traditionalist of jazz returns with his first small-group recording in five years. Befitting an album that takes familial intimacy as its theme, Marsalis has gathered a quartet of musicians he’s known since they were teenagers. Bobby McFerrin and Diane Reeves stop by to take a turn at the mic on this otherwise mostly instrumental outing; the star, as it should be, is Marsalis’ own trumpet, though he’s generous about giving his proteges room to stretch out and explore. Magic Hour comes across as a disc that was a joy to create; small wonder it’s also a joy to hear.

Roy Wilkins, March 10
The recent flurry of interest in Bobby Z’s greatest studio work (see Straight Talk, page 21), shouldn’t let you forget his live show. Dylan’s late-nineties renaissance extended to the stage as well as the studio, and concerts over the past few years have approached the mark set by his incendiary 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue. (A sampling of that tour was released last year as Vol. 5 of the Bootleg Series discs; Vol. 6, his Halloween 1964 show, is due March 23). That said, pretty much any Dylan stage experience is worth the bucks, since few musicians reinvent his material as well or as often as the man himself.
Roy Wilkins; 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; (651) 726-8240;

CONCERTS: Cassandra Wilson
Rossi’s Blue Star Room, March 18
Since her father’s vitae includes playing bass for Sonny Boy Williamson and Ray Charles, no one would have blamed Cassandra Wilson if she’d gone to dental school and simply avoided the pressures and comparisons inherent in going into dad’s business (just ask Pete Rose, Jr. what the unhappy results can be). Luckily, Wilson picked up the cudgel and has become, since her 1985 debut, Songbook, arguably the finest jazz vocalist in the world. Persnickety critics have occasionally chastised her for picking inferior material, but anyone who can not only not fall on her face but also shine singing covers of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Hank Williams’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” deserves a medal with oak-leaf cluster. Her latest, Glamoured, came out last year to excellent reviews.
Rossi’s; 90 S. 9th St., Minneapolis; (612) 312-2828;

Guthrie Theater, March 29
Contrary to the spray-painted testimonials of East Greenwich Village graffiti artists, God is neither Mingus nor Bird, not even Coltrane. My vote goes to the Reverend Al Green, who for decades has explained it all to us in lyrics and music, crying out—whether in times of sensuous, heaven-sent good or heart-wrenching, heart-broken bad—“Lord, what have you done to us this time?” Admit it: How many have fallen in love to “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” tried to patch it all up to the subliminal strains of “Let’s Stay Together,” or bit the pillow to “Call Me (Come Back Home)”? At least as many as cried at the end of Old Yeller.
Guthrie; 725 Vineland Place, Minneapolis; (612) 377-2224;

ART: Beauty, Honor, and Tradition: The Legacy of Plains Indian Shirts
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, through May 16
What sartorial item is more exclusive than haute couture, more status-laden than the perennially wait-listed Hermès Kelly bag? Why, the plains Indian shirt, of course: an animal-hide garment festooned with all manner of beading, colorful symbols and battle scenes, leather, horse- or human-hair fringe, and porcupine-quill embroidery. As stereotypically “Native” as a tomahawk or teepee, plains shirts were, in fact, a rare prize, crafted individually for top warriors in tribes from northern Texas to southern Alberta. Moreover, fashion-forward Native Americans couldn’t simply covet a neighbor’s shirt, save up items for barter, and get on a wait list (as with the Kelly bag): They had to earn these garments. Each shirt, therefore, isn’t merely decorative, but heavily symbolic, conveying distinctive battle exploits and other brave deeds of its wearer (try getting Hermès to customize a bag commemorating your climb up the corporate ladder). Dozens of extraordinary 19th-century examples, along with some contemporary interpretations, are on display in an exhibit curated by a father-and-son team from the MIA and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian.
MIA; 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis; (612) 870-3131;

ART: Air-Ride Equipped: New Paintings by Jim Zellinger
One on One Gallery, through April 3
Not content merely to be an ambitious new downtown art gallery, One on One doubles as a bicycle shop, and once a little remodeling is done it’ll triple as a coffee bar. Its second-ever exhibit features a painter with a similar bent toward combining art and transportation, New-York-by-way-of-Iowa’s Jim Zellinger. His boldly colored acrylics are all variations on a simple theme: Semi-trailers, sans rigs, as the sole image in some anonymous Midwestern parking lot, which is rendered as a bright sea of background color. Without resorting to aggressive abstraction, Zellinger still manages to extract a recognizable and compelling emotion from these flat, wheeled boxes. They seem almost lonely, perhaps abandoned by their human drivers. But he’s has also carefully pointed each toward something beyond the frame, as if they’re eager to get out on the road, for escape or maybe just fun. Makes you wish C.W. McCall was around to start a convoy.
One on One; 117 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis; (612) 371-9565;

RESTAURANTS: Coffee and Tea, Ltd.
2730 W. 43rd St. (612) 920-6344
Located 1,200 miles off the coast of west Africa, St. Helena is mostly known for exporting dead French Emperors, i.e. Napoleon Bonaparte, whose remains went back to France in 1840 after his death nineteen years earlier. The island’s second-most-famous export is its coffee, which the diminutive warmonger reportedly adored—and if you’re willing to shell out eighty bucks a pound, so should you. A rare shipment recently arrived at Jim Cone’s Coffee and Tea Ltd., and is on sale at both the south Minneapolis shop and its outpost in Sears at the Mall of America. Coffee aficionados carry on like wine critics about the “fruits” and other exotic flavors that can be pressed from St. Helena’s magic beans. Apparently it’s got something to do the island’s Yemeni Arabica tree stock, which claims a provenance unbroken for more than 250 years. We dropped by for a cup, and have to admit it was pretty darn good. Some of the price undoubtedly goes toward the story behind the beans. But hey, it’s a good one.

Pillsbury House Theatre
March 5-April 3
As would be expected from a theater that shares a building with the Powderhorn neighborhood community center, the Pillsbury House Theatre can always be counted on for politically engaged and socially responsible performances. The
area premiere of the great English surrealist Caryl Churchill’s Far Away is no exception. Timely and powerful, it is the story of a confused young girl in a world at war, struggling within the comfort and safety of home while others around her suffer in secrecy. With dreamlike dialogue, only four speaking parts, and a war that may seem more like Stanley Kubrick’s than George Bush’s, Far Away hits close to home in its fifty short minutes between start and finish.
Pillsbury House; 3501 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis; (612) 824-0708;

Playwrights’ Center
March 12–April 4
As our Chooka boots slog into winter’s home stretch, it’s good to be reminded that this too—the bottomless mud puddles, the salt stains, the never-ending blur of flurries—will pass. Pangea World Theater and The Playwrights’ Center help lift our spirits as they resurrect Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld who was often associated with fertility, the Nile, and the golden, glorious sun. Meena Natarajan’s new adaptation of the myth—in which Osiris is killed by his brother and revived by his wife, Isis, the goddess of nature—combines music, movement, poetry, and striking visuals to illuminate Isis’ journey as she avenges her husband’s death and restores the cycle of the seasons. After three long months of cabin fever, we can certainly sympathize with extreme violence in the name of getting a little bit of spring around here.
Playwrights’ Center; 2301 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis; (612) 822-0015;