by Cori Hilsgen
Local musicians, Adam Hammer and Dave Cofell, recently held a listening party at the Local Blend to celebrate the release of their solo CDs.
Listeners were able to hear selections from Hammer’s “Broken Like You” and Cofell’s “No Substitute (For You)” solo CDs.
Hammer and Cofell, who were voted Best Original Music in the St. Cloud Times’ “Up Next’s Best of Central Minnesota” contests in 2011 and 2012, also had an official release concert at Pioneer Place on March 28.
“We thought it would be fun to premiere the CDs for our friends and fans at the venue where we co-host Open Mic Night and where some of these songs were born,” Hammer said.
Cofell and Hammer have been hosting Open Mic Night on Thursday nights at the Local Blend for a few years. It is usually well attended by both listeners and performers.
“We have a solid core of regulars, but usually each week there are at least one or two new performers,” Cofell said. “The age range of performers has been from a 6-year-old singer to 75-year-old guitarists.”
Hammer and Cofell usually open the evening and then leave it open to anyone who wants to walk on stage to be heard for 15 minutes. As part of Open Mic Night, they have a monthly songwriters’ challenge where they present a theme and give performers a month to write songs about the themes. It is done for fun to get creative juices flowing.
The first songwriters’ challenge was the category of “happy songs about death.” Cofell’s “Going to the Graveyard” is one of the songs on his CD that premiered at the Local Blend. Another songwriters’ challenge was the theme of “skinny dipping,” and Hammer’s “Underwater Love Song” premiered at the Local Blend. Still another of Hammer’s songs, “Cottonwood Waltz,” premiered from the “dancing songs” challenge. The songs will sound different on the CDs because they are played with full-band arrangements.
“We’ve worked to build it into a community of songwriters, performers and listeners where everyone checks their egos at the door and we all can have a good time,” Hammer said. “We continue to have a track record of bringing in new performers to join in on the fun with some of our regulars like Mr. 7:30 Doug McNally, Nathan Ness, Cathy Kongloth, Roger Fink and others.
Cofell said people perform all kinds of music on a wide variety of instruments at “Open Mic Night,” including guitar, fiddle, banjo, accordion, harmonica, nickleharp, piano and more. Poets and authors have also read excerpts of their work.
“All skill and experience levels are welcome,” Cofell said.
The Listening Party was free and open to the public. The official CD release concert was held on March 28 at Pioneer Place on Fifth in St. Cloud. An acoustic in-store performance will be held from 6-8 p.m. Saturday, April 7 at the Electric Fetus in St. Cloud.
Hammer has an extensive music background. He said his mother and her family were very musically gifted. Hammer started learning guitar and singing in his pre-teens and said most of his guitar skills are self-taught.
“This has allowed me to truly develop my own style that draws largely on aggressive finger picking and uncommon chord structures,” Hammer said.
Hammer has performed in everything from punk bands in high school to touring hard-rock bands to his solo acoustic work and folk groups. From his musical experience, he has developed his current style of “tattooed folk” music.
In 2002, Hammer spent about a year living and performing in Nashville. He and his wife, Kathi, now live in Sartell and have two children – Tierney, 8; and Elliott, 6.
Cofell grew up in the area and attended Kennedy Elementary, John XII Middle School and Apollo High School. He graduated from St. John’s University with a bachelor’s degree in 1988. Cofell lived in St. Joseph for 17 years before recently moving to St. Cloud.
Cofell started playing piano and violin when he was very young. He played the baritone ukulele at the age of 7 and soon began to play a full-size guitar. He plays the guitar, banjo, harmonica, bass, kazoo and other instruments.
During Cofell’s career, he has played solo, duo and trio folk ensembles, a polka band, country bands, blues bands, R & B, punk and other styles. During the last decade, he has come back to the folk and blues styles.
Hammer and Cofell have been able to combine their musical talents successfully.
“Dave and I work really well together,” Hammer said. “We are friends and we respect each other as talented musicians and business partners. We play about 75-100 shows a year touring throughout Minnesota and parts of the Midwest at mostly coffeehouses and small clubs. We also do a lot of music series for arts organizations and play some great theaters and listening rooms.”
“Things have really started to click since I teamed up with Adam a couple of years ago,” Cofell said. “We seem to compliment each other’s styles really well.”
“Say You Do,” on Hammer’s CD, features 10-year-old drummer, Bennett Velline. It is the first recording to feature Bennett’s work and the first recording to feature him with his father, Tommy Vee, playing on the same song. And that was a happy echo from the past because years ago, Tommy, the son of the famous rocker Bobby Vee, played on his father’s album for the first time.
Other band members at the release show included Tommy Vee, Kurt Rodman, Bennett Velline, Alex Schmitz backing Hammer and John Wilber, Randy Mickelberg, Jim Caron and Hammer backing Cofell.
CDs will be available for purchase at the Local Blend and Electric Fetus.