Episode 118: Rick Solem
Air date: 8.27.2014
Music is woven into the city of New Orleans in a way that should make every other city in the world envious. A stroll through the French Quarter is like being given a well-curated iPod stuck permanently on shuffle. But it isn’t just a big show for the tourists. Nearly every take on the human experience has passed through New Orleans, headed one way or another on the Mississippi River - a wide and muddy artery that makes up the heart of America - and it has all seeped into the lives and the songs of the Crescent City. Musician Rick Solem spent some of his formative years in Minnesota - at the very headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi - but he was brought to California when he was only three years old and missed his first chance to get caught in the current that was destined for New Orleans. He made his way through school, studied classical music and and started a career playing the piano. At some point, he met and jammed with the famed New Orleans pianist and cultural emissary, Dr. John, but still Solem missed the boat. At a session, when another musician heard that Solem had met a string of the New Orleans musical royalty over a period of years, he told Solem that it was a sign that he, too should learn the ways of the boogie-woogie Force. So Solem applied the diligence gleaned from playing years of classical music to learning the piano stylings of Dr. John, Professor Longhair and others who made New Orleans famous… and it paid off. Rick Solem’s swampy songs are fun and entertaining and his playing is downright virtuosic - and he makes it look easy.