Rogue Valley is an Americana band based in the Twin Cities where the blend of urban development and natural landscape converge along the shores of the Mississippi River. The band raced onto the local scene a little over a decade ago, with 4 full-length albums in a single year and in 2016 the band followed up with the anthemic, twangy surf-rock collection radiate/dissolve. However, since then it’s been mostly sporadic social media posts claiming “Coming Soon.”
Individually, the band members have all remained occupied: vocalist Linnea Mohn shares the stage with singer-songwriters Aby Wolf and Jonatha Brooke; drummer Luke Anderson and guitarist Peter Sieve have joined up with the Iowa-based Lissie, and bassist Cody McKinney continues to push boundaries with his compositions and collaborations. Since Rogue Valley’s last release, songwriter-vocalist Chris Koza has released three solo albums (Sleepwalkers part 1 & 2, and the instrumental On Horseshoe Lake) and last summer joined the late, legendary Gordon Lightfoot on a stretch of dates for what would become his final tour through the Midwest.
Now the hum of optimism surrounding new music is beginning its tangible crescendo. The first single from Rogue Valley’s upcoming set, titled “Twin Parallel,” will go live this Spring on June 2nd, with a new single to be released every three weeks until the album drops in-full later this Fall, on October 13th. The new album, titled Shell Game, is a nod to natural and created structures that both contain and obscure.
A cocoon yields a butterfly; a riverbed holds a story; a body houses a soul; a shell mirrors the meditative drone of an ocean crashing onto itself. For every journey, there are moments and minutiae in between as bright or dark as any greater narrative. Shell Game is a 20-song set which roams territory both familiar and which also furthers the idea of Americana and the Rogue Valley aesthetic.
Initial tracking for the album started pre-pandemic in December 2019 at The Terrarium in Minneapolis. With Jason Orris at the helm, and Chris hovering in the corner, Luke laid down drums for most of the songs over the course of two days. As the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns ensued, the band members turned to remote recording to accomplish their parts piecemeal. Keyboardist Joey Kantor, who was a part of Rogue Valley’s four-albums-in-a-year, turned in tracks over the summer, and by the end of 2020, the album seemed close to being completed, but instead of pushing through, Chris decided it was better to let the tracks rest and to come back later with a fresh perspective.
Over the course of 2021, Chris released the solo albums Sleepwalkers Part 2: The Rain Collector, and the instrumental On Horseshoe Lake. During this stretch, there were weeks where the focus would turn back to Rogue Valley, but it wasn’t until early 2022 when songwriter/producer Kevin Bowe was enlisted to mix the album that the final wave of songwriting, arranging, and overdubs were addressed.
Several of the songs feature performances from The Laurels String Quartet, cellist Dan Lawonn, multi-instrumentalist Jillian Rae, and banjo from Pete Hennig. Rogue Valley’s forthcoming album promises to be their most sonically rich and intricate, yet.