Jami Lynn

Dakota Duets

A musician’s attachment to their first real instrument is something a bit magical, much like Harry Potter being chosen by his wand. Finding my first beloved instrument took years, multiple guitars, and two banjos. To find the guitar that flat-picker Jake Jackson affectionately refers to as his “work horse,” took him a few days tooling around guitar shops on Colorado’s front range. “It was actually the first guitar that I played out of the whole trip,” Jake explained. “I probably played thirty guitars....and for whatever reason, that was just the one.”

Years of hard playing indoors and outdoors, a stint in the Lawrence County evidence locker following the guitar’s theft from his truck, and several major tune-ups still haven’t shaken his attachment to his instrument. But it wasn’t always about the guitar for Jake. In the second grade, the Black Hills Chamber Orchestra visited his school. After the performance, he went home and announced that he was going to play the violin. And play he did, first in the Rapid City Schools’ orchestra program and private fiddle lessons with local teacher Christina Seaborn; and later, in the bar scene in Rapid City and Tuesday night old-time jam sessions with members of the Black Hills Bluegrass Band among many others.

During those Tuesday night sessions, he moved from the fiddle to the banjo, and eventually settled into picking the guitar in the bluegrass style called flat-picking. “We didn’t play anything really fast, but we played all the traditional tunes...it’s kinda how you know someone’s got their old-time chops: if you walk into the room and say, ‘Hey, let’s play Sally Goodin,’ and they know how to do it.’”

In 1998, he met up with banjo player Trappor Masson, bassist Dave Curington, and mandolin player Dan Cross, which led to the formation of his Spearfish based band, Six Mile Road. Twenty years of playing together has refined their progressive bluegrass sound, and given Jackson an outlet for his songwriting.

While he’s not one to sit down and intentionally try to write a song, they seem to find him just the same. “If it doesn’t happen for eight months, then it just doesn’t happen…. (it’s) important to just let them come on in their own way.” For our Dakota Duets collaboration, Jake threw out his original song “Once in Awhile.” Like most of his songs, it was conceived and finished within thirty minutes. It showcases Jackson’s straightforward style of writing, easygoing tenor, and that workhorse of a guitar. I hope you enjoy!

Many of my fellow transplants to the Black Hills speak of an "aha" moment or experience that moves them to make this place home. For Mike Linderman, it was a little of both. A period of time spent in a friend's cabin in a deeply shaded canyon followed by a hike in much sunnier Wind Cave National Park is what spurred Mike's permanent move to Hot Springs. Since then, he has been a fixture of the singer/songwriter music scene in the Southern Hills.  

At the time I started playing music in front of audiences in SE South Dakota, I wouldn’t have crossed paths with Thomas Hentges. I would have been softly crooning over an acoustic guitar, tucked in the corner of a noisy coffee shop, whereas Thomas was likely screaming at the front of a rock band in one of the few remaining clubs in Sioux Falls in the early 2000s. Years before that, his first gig was four songs in front of the student body of Chester High School before it let out for Christmas break. “I got pulled out of the place by my ear by their principle because he thought I was using profanity on the stage. I assured him that a.) I wasn’t and b.) he needed to get his hands off of me,” Thomas explained with a laugh.


As someone who generally performs solo, I find collaborating with another musician to be transformative. I welcome this chance to ride shotgun while someone else takes the wheel. So I’m setting off on a new adventure--Dakota Duets. With help from a fellowship grant from the South Dakota Arts Council, and the audio/visual talents of my friends Andrew Reinartz and Dalton Coffey, I'm recording duets with some of my favorite musicians from every part of the state. Here, you’ll find the first installment. And if you haven’t yet heard of Paul Larson, you should.


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