Let It Go
This week we take another trip north to the mythic ice-covered nether regions of Minnesota, which I am told is more than some fictional place where wrestlers can be governors and Independent candidates can get votes but is in all actuality - get this - a state. The band is Sterling Waters and the mission is to save country music from the utter pits of commercial Hell in which the genre is gleefully skinny-dipping. A bluesy alt-country sound with a reasonable mix of the singer-songwriter folk of the 70s makes 'Let It Go' a memorable recording. 'Let It Go' is a step beyond the live recording and with it's opening 'Deep Inside' clearly illustrates the Kansas City blues influence. Link this with the clear country ballads of 'East Texas' and 'Million Dollar Show,' and the album might have the initial listener expecting the next Great Divide in Sterling Waters. But, fortunately, this is the kind of country Nashville will never succeed in producing; a heartfelt, lyric-conscious sound that makes you wonder how 'Goodbye Twenties, Hello Minivan' ever ended up on the radio, much less on record. But, how did this heartfelt sound come to be and what is it doing in the Midwest music scene? James Moors was kind enough to take a few moments to answer some of those questions. Rob: What's the connection to the Blue Moon? How does someone from Duluth end up playing in a little known venue in Hastings, Nebraska? James Moors: I had a friend that used to play at the Blue Moon who introduced me to Patti. We became friends and I always had a good time playing there, so I try to stop by whenever I come through. R: On 'Let It Go' you mention that the recording was a result of a grant from an arts endowment in Minnesota. This seems to be a creative way to keep independent, but what are the other sources of revenue that keep Sterling Waters flowing? J: Most of my income is from gigs and CDs. Consequently I end up playing 150 shows a year. Occasionally a grant comes up that I apply for if I think I got a shot at receiving it. There are a lot of great artists in the area and I am fortunate to have had that for that CD. R: Have you actively searched for a commercial deal? J: I don't really know exactly what steps you take. It seems that you spend a lot of money to do all the right things for people to notice you, and consequently you run out of money to do the next record. I just prefer to keep the money in the music. Commercial success would be great, but for me making a living from doing what I love is more important and meeting a lot of amazing people along the way. R: It seems to me that you have a strange combination of sound in Sterling Waters that is very different from the other stuff coming out of Minnesota right now. What influenced your sound? J: I would credit listening to a lot of singer-songwriters like Willie Porter and Lucinda Williams... Lucinda Williams is a big influence for me. I like a lot of Steve Earle and at the same time I am attracted to Finn Brothers who were in Crowded House. I'm kinda interested in their pop stylings and crossing that with writing songs about your life and seeing what's going on around you. There's this emotional and this rock essence to it as well. Who Should Listen: Toby Keith doesn't speak for everybody. There is country that isn't mindless, recycled garbage and Sterling Waters would do the avowed rock fan some good.