By Jennifer Von Ohlen
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Accompanying the familiar Saturday night sounds of glasses filling with beer and chairs scraping across the bar floor could be the bluesy-country-rock sometimes bluegrass-sounding tunes of the local band Cracklin’ Blue as it performs around the area.
“I feel like we have some kind of weird Minnesota sound,” stated Cracklin’ Blue bassist and vocalist Craig Millerbernd of Lester Prairie. “We’re all influenced by so many different things, it’s hard to say what we really are.”
The group formed about two years after acoustic guitarist Andrew Rosenquist of French Lake brought the five members together through a series of phone calls. The group also includes lead vocalist Jocelyn Ecker of Annandale, drummer and vocalist Greg Benson of Cokato, and lead guitarist and vocalist Matt Stanley of Dassel.
“It’s kinda neat [we all came together],” stated Millerbernd, “because we’ve all been playing for a lot of years in a lot of local bands around [the area],” such as the Crow River Band, and Cowboys in Sneakers.
What makes Cracklin’ Blue different for Ecker, however, is its sound.
“We do all the music I could have ever wanted to do,” she said. Benson and Millerbernd added that having a female voice and being able to create “strong” three-part harmonies are musical traits they don’t get to execute in their other groups.
While much of the group’s work has been cover songs, Cracklin’ Blue has also written a fair amount of its own songs, as it would eventually like to move away from the strictly cover-band label.
“The goal is to try to record some kind of album of about eight to 10 songs,” said Millerbernd, which could be achieved through Rosenquist’s connections within the music industry.
Rosenquist’s networking has also given Cracklin’ Blue “some pretty early opportunities” for such a young band. Some of the group’s favorite moments have been performing as the Gear Daddies’ opening act.
“I think anything we do with the Gear Daddies is always pretty exciting, just because they’re kind of Minnesota legends,” Millerbernd stated, adding that he had listened to their music “back in the day.”
“It was just neat, because they’re kind of the next level we’d like to be at,” he explained.
“And they’re really good people, too,” Benson added.
While achieving greater success is the pursuit, Cracklin’ Blue members said they “really like” playing for the area, and have received a lot of local support.
“[That] isn’t typical in most places,” Millerbernd commented. “I don’t think we would get that same kind of support [anywhere else].”
“There’s something special about this area,” he added. “It’s unique, the amount of talent that’s around and the amount of musicians.”
“I refer to it as my musical family,” Benson commented, “because that’s what it feels like. It’s been one of those blessings I’ve been fortunate to be a part of.”