One of the best road trips you can do in the summer is head down along the Mississippi to Red Wing. From there, you can either head across the river to Wisconsin, where Highway 35 carries you south through some of the quaintest river towns this side of Twain. Or you can head west, into the countryside, which is where you may want to go today for Blues at the Barn, Red House Records’ day of folks, blues, bluegrass, and other acoustic music at the renowned Hobgoblin Music barn.
Red House, of course, is the venerable acoustic record label based in St. Paul that’s holding its own, despite the otherwise dismal fortunes of the music recording industry, attracting its share of the new hip acoustic acts that continue to sprout from the old-timey seeds planted by the Coen Brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou? And Hobgoblin, well, this is the story of the late 20th-century, or one story anyway, tucked into a quirky nutshell: the folk movement, back-to-the-land, hippies, and, finally, enterprise. The Red Wing branch of Hobgoblin, which began in England, incorporates Stoney End Harps, which has been making its own brand of folk instruments for more than 30 years, with roots in the West Bank folk scene of Minneapolis.
In any case, Hobgoblin/Stoney End is based in a colorful old barn just outside Red Wing, and the music today runs from 2 to 6 p.m. and features such acoustic stars as blues poet Ray Bonneville, Prairie Home Companion regular Dave Moore, indie-roots duo The Pines, and the Brass Kings’ Steve Kaul. And if that weren’t enough to make a road trip worthy, Red Wing is hosting its annual River City Days this weekend. Bean bag championships, anyone?