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ISSUE 118 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/29/2005

Turtles sound tuneful

By Brenna Bray
Staff Writer

Friday, April 29, 2005

They’re not reptiles and they’re not a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll band. They’re Trampled By Turtles, and they’re sure to blow you away when they open for Nickel Creek at this year’s Lutefest Outdoor Music Festival on May 7.

This non-traditional bluegrass band hails from Duluth, Minn. They headlined at the Homegrown Music Festival in Duluth, and they have also opened for the Big Wu – a St. Olaf favorite – at the Cabooze Bar in Minneapolis.

The band released their first record, From A Ghost Town, in spring 2004 at Sacred Heart Studios in Duluth. Sacred Heart is the same studio in which Low, Haley Bonar and Crash Test Dummies made their humble beginnings.

Turtles recorded their second album, Blue Sky and the Devil, at Sacred Heart as well. They released the record in March.

The four-piece band includes guitar, mandolin, banjo and bass which “carefully harmonize with the lead vocal creating a dynamic and heartfelt sound,” according to the band’s biography on

Ripsaw News praises Dave Simonett’s “world-weary vocals, which belie the band’s young age.”

Erik Berry’s mandolin, Dave Carroll’s banjo and Tim Saxhaug’s bass bring Simonett’s vocals to life, and the group’s on-stage energy will help listeners feel the music.

“[The Turtles are] inspired as much by Nirvana as Bill Monroe,” says. Blue Sky and the Devil offers an eclectic mix of original, non-traditional bluegrass songs that beg no exception to this description.

The record begins with “I’m a Target Too,” a lively jig with a tune that will make you want to do-si-do, but with sage lyrics despite the Simonett’s warning that “empty wisdom and empty pockets are all I got for you.”

“Blue Sky and the Devil,” the album’s namesake, starts out like a lullaby and expresses the woes of leaving a lover.

But before your heart starts to sink from these hard lessons learned, “Dog on a Leash” – an entirely acoustic track – rekindles the simple pleasure of a playful puppy.

“The One to Save” is slow but lively – relaxed and reminiscent of a country campfire sing-a-long in some ways – while “Written on the Wall” starts out like a rainstorm. Its undertones remind one of a civil war-era spiritual.

“Jars at Home” stays lively but mellows out enough to mull over musings of the heart. “All the devils wait upon my back/and all I wish for babe is what I lack/no matter how I try, I seem to walk the line/and all the world is kept in jars at home,” the surreptitious lyrics muse.

My favorite track – “Dyin” – kicks up a hazy, chaotic air with fierce themes of fate and doom. Yet the lyrics are not as tragic as the instrumental prelude suggests.

The album wraps up appropriately with “Higher Calling” – a quick tune with insightful lyrics that tap into your heartstrings.

They’re deep-down folk like Willie Nelson, with heart-strung harmonies like Storyhill – a pair of folk-singing St. Olaf graduates

When I first listened to Turtles’ tunes – available in lo-fi for dialup and hi-fi for broadband at – I was reminded of a song that my dad used to play in the car on his way to work, Jeff Brooks’ “Minnesota Morning.”

Turtles masterfully capture Brooks’ appreciation for Minnesotan beauty and may stir up a yearning to go for a nature walk on St. Olaf’s cross-country trails while listening to a few iPod-uploaded Turtles tracks.

Turtles will be the perfect prelude to newgrass sensation Nickel Creek and the perfect compliment to a sunny St. Olaf May 7.

They’re sure to revive any listener’s “inner flower child.” If their performance at Lutefest earns them any new groupies, Trampled by Turtles can be caught again at Daisy Fest in Dundas, Minn. May 14.

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