While the late Prince represents the Minneapolis sound to millions of adults, two other Twin Cities musicians, the Okee Dokee Brothers, represent its flip side: a more pastoral and family-friendly Minneapolis sound. Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing, the lifelong friends behind the Okee Dokee Brothers, have celebrated the joys of the great outdoors, with a bluegrass twang, for the past five years.
Their first book, Can You Canoe? And Other Adventure Songs, illus. by Brandon Reese (Sterling, May), takes readers across the country, from the rolling hills of Appalachia to the Gulf Stream waters and the canyons of the West, introducing them to hungry bears, jumpin’ jamborees, and bullfrog operas. A CD containing 12 songs performed by the Okee Dokees accompanies the book.
Can You Canoe? was primarily inspired by the Okee Dokee Brothers’ 2012 CD/DVD of the same title, with music and video created while the two paddled down the Mississippi River the year before, from the headwaters in northern Minnesota to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Can You Canoe? won a Grammy that year for Best Children’s Album.
But the book was also inspired by a few other trips the duo documented in music and on video. Through the Woods, a 2014 CD/DVD release, celebrates a trek up the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, and their most recent CD/DVD, Saddle Up, is about the duo’s horse-packing trip along the Continental Divide. Saddle Up will be released tomorrow.
“We realized that the messages in our songs were striking a chord with a lot of families,” the Okee Dokees explained about their move from performing music to writing tall tales. “Childhood friendships, adventures big and small, and spending time in nature with your family help shape who we all become. Being able to put those ideas into a book was our lifelong ambition.”
The Okee Dokees insist that traveling around in the great outdoors is not only awe-inspiring, it has also prepared them well for the challenges of spending time inside McCormick Place—particularly when it comes to foraging for food and hiking long distances in search of wood and other products while carrying all of one’s earthly possessions on one’s back. All McCormick needs is some bullfrogs singing opera and a spot to build a campfire, and the Okee Dokee Brothers are set, they say.
The Okee Dokee Brothers are setting up camp at Sterling Publishing’s booth (841), today, 4–5 p.m., where they will sing, read, and sign copies of Do You Canoe?
This article appeared in the May 12, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.