If a Tree Falls in the Woods (Run to it)

Far be it for me to dis this year’s weed-referencing post-ingenue neo-country semi-newcomer—you know who I’m talking about. The one who came out of nowhere sort of, got 15 minutes of fame in Nashville, leap-frogging over the neo-Nekos to her benefit and/or chagrin, right? I’m talking about you Ashley Monroe (whose Like A Rose I prefer among the 2013 contenders, only not as much as the Pistol Annies’ Hell On Heels or even Monroe’s lost download-only Satisfied). I’m talking about you too Kasey Musgraves, get outta my yard. And lately Brandy Clark, who’s darker stories fall just short of her new peers but don’t dis the Randy Newman ref regardless.

These records have been the best part of my downhome 2013— I’m riding this year’s country trend like everyone else, although as with all things Nashville I’m distressed at how quickly a great idea becomes formula. And especially on Musgrave’s Same Trailer, Different Park and Clark’s 12 Stories I miss the grit and raunch of spiritual big sis Miranda Lambert, which leads me to wonder if Musgrave and Clark are folkies who happen to be in Nashville rather than true-redwhite&blue Music Row aficionados.

Nothing wrong with that of course, although folkies who’ve skirted Nashville like John Prine have had a lot more to say as outsiders than the Kris Kristoffersons who dove right in. But this line of thought and some fortuitous recent music-finding led me to resurrect another outsider folkie, this one who’s all but forgotten, that I’ve been enjoying a lot more lately.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mimi Schneider. (I’m waiting for the cheers. Waiting.) Well, it’s not your fault if you haven’t heard of her. Almost nobody has. Robert Christgau manages seven words in total for her among three recordings he notes (albeit with a star and one-two Pazz & Jop year-end citations to boot). Ensconced in Iowa, Schneider started out as the ringleader of the Stouthearted, who’s four-song EP from 1986 sounds miraculously like the Midwestern counterpart to both the Kingston Trio and early ‘80’s 45-rpm EPs by Oh-OK and the Cucumbers. On the Stouthearted 7”, Schneider serves up two (count ‘em) takes on perverted nostalgia, plus a faux Dylan LGBT ballad called “That Dang Farm” and “Your Footsteps”, which sounds custom-made for Loretta Lynn (there’s still time folks).

Schneider returned on her own in 1990 for the cassette-only The Extended Outlook followed soon after by her first, 10-song, still available CD release, Catasterpiece. Outlook is especially rewarding, ditching the glee of the Stouthearted for biting jabs that no Nashville girl would go near (“It’s your party you can cry if you want/Go ahead and hang yourself you won’t be alone”). The musical palette expands on this cassette’s six songs substantially—add a Rickenbacker to “Urban Friends” and it could be a lost REM classic.

I found a copy of the Stouthearted 7” along the way but searched for The Extended Outlook via Amazon and eBay for years and years to no avail. Recently, a convoluted chain of events led me to possible contact info for Mimi Schneider and, after taking a deep breath and hoping not to seem stalkerish, I sent a note asking about the cassette.

And got no response. But about a month later, a package arrived in the mail that contained one sealed copy of The Extended Outlook cassette, a three-song CD by Schneider from 2003 called I’m The Girl (which doesn’t show up anywhere on Google), and a card that said “Compliments of Indelible Records”, the label that released all of the Mimi Schneider recordings (and seemingly nothing by any other artist).

So, it’s a reasonable suspicion that Indelible Records is Mimi Schneider. If I’m The Girl is any guide, she continued (continues?) to grow as a writer: What I wouldn’t give for Miranda Lambert to cover “I’m The Girl” (or anybody take a swing at “I Know How You Feel (But I Can’t Do A Thing About It)”). And since nether the Stouthearted EP, The Extended Outlook cassette, nor the I’m The Girl CD seem to be commercially available anywhere, I hope Mimi won’t mind if I share them with you as well. Enjoy. http://goo.gl/38Ab0k