If you visit the Twin Cities on the Mississippi and want to meet kindred spirits, you’d do well to go to the Homestead Pickin’ Parlor. It’s located in a tiny 1950s strip mall in Richfield, an inner-ring suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Anyone behind the counter will tell you what’s doing in town. If you’re looking for Hindemith or hip-hop, you’re in the wrong store, but if it’s traditional music or its derivatives you’re after, you'll find a rich cache of old-time, folk, blues, bluegrass, and world music. You’re likely to run into local musicians who drop by for a new set of strings, a CD, a new harmonica, the latest finger pick. You’ll surely meet Marv and Dawn Menzel, the founders and proprietors, because they tend the store almost continuously, cheerfully answering questions or helping find obscure recordings in the bins. Without a sophisticated inventory system, they somehow know to the last CD or cassette just what they have in stock. After a trip to France, Liz felt nostalgic for music she’d heard as a child in Paris. Without much hope, she asked Dawn for musette music. “Sure,” said Dawn “Try the Café Accordion Orchestra.” It’s a local band that plays all sorts of European music. We’d never heard them, so she played a few cuts from the store copy of the CD, and we were sold. Try to get that kind of service at Music City. Dawn is also our early warning system for new arrivals on the old-time scene. By the time such groups as the Reeltime Travelers were first reviewed in the Old-Time Herald, we’d been appreciating their CDs for months. When Marv hears a group that excites him, he’ll rent a local school auditorium and hire them for a concert.
If you come by on a Saturday afternoon shopping for a guitar or banjo, you’ll find that your way to the instrument room is impeded by advanced bluegrass jammers showing off their licks. Check the schedule and find other jams, such as Cajun, flatpick guitar, or tenderfoot Bluegrass. Maybe you’re not ready to play in public yet. Try lessons instead. In rooms next door you can learn Dobro, fiddle, harmonica, finger-style guitar, and lots more. Pick the genre, and Homestead probably can probably provide you with a teacher who knows a lot about it.