You can't talk with Craig Finn without eventually coming across the subject of The Replacements. After all, Finn has valiantly carried the musical torch of Minnesota's Twin Cities—home of Paul Westerberg's iconic band—and its massively influential rock/punk scene for the last 20 years, first with his recently reunited group Lifter Puller and more famously as the intrepid frontman of The Hold Steady. "I saw [The Replacements] the first time when Tim came out," Finn says. "I got to see them about six or eight times maybe." The 44-year-old's penchant for barstool prose and narrative grit is a direct descendant of the sonic forefathers who helped put Minneapolis on the map in the 1980s—not only The Replacements, but also influential groups like Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum, and Suicide Commandos. And on his excellent sophomore solo set, Faith in the Future, Finn continues his evolution as one of this country's most important songwriters, moving in a more thematically refined direction without losing his razor-sharp lyrical sensibilities. Faith is a hopeful, haunting collection of songs that delve deep into the heart of maintaining relationships in the 21st century amidst the calamities of such events as 9/11 and the Colorado theater massacre.
"One of the things we really talked about for this record was trying to let the narrative come through," Finn explains. "Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp—those are the guys I just love, and listening to them helped me in turning these songs into stories. Especially given how normalized the concept of online dating is these days, the kinds of things on songs like 'Sarah, Calling from a Hotel' and 'Christine' are out there in the world and in my vision. It's like when people see the future, they don't want to be alone for it."
For Faith in the Future, Finn's first release on the Partisan Records imprint, the Brooklyn resident headed north to Woodstock—where he will be playing a hotly anticipated solo show at Bearsville Theater on October 14—at the request of the album's producer Josh Kaufmann. They trekked up the Thruway during the winter months of 2015 to lay down the tracks at engineer D. James Goodwin's inventive studio, The Isokon, joined by such renowned session players as multi-instrumentalist Stuart Bogie and acclaimed jam/jazz drummer Joe Russo (Furthur, Phil Lesh and Friends, Benevento-Russo Duo). For Finn, the serenity of his rural surroundings proved to be the key ingredient to the calm, melodic nature of this album, a natural extension of his equally luminous 2012 solo debut Clear Heart, Full Eyes.
"There's no separation rooms and there's no receptionist and there's no lounge," says Finn of The Isokon. "It's very homey, and there's a dog and a kitchen, and you just record in this big living room and the control room is in a bedroom. You really just feel like you are in someone's home. The first day we arrived, we got snowed in, which was fine as long as you had enough food and wine, which we did. We were snowed in and stocked up, so we were like, 'Let's just make some music.' It was a great way to set the tone of this record."
Craig Finn brings his one-of-a-kind sketches of endearingly imperfect Americana to Bearsville Theater on October 14—the first stop on his 2015 Faith in the Future tour. Bearsvilletheater.com