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Minneapolis rocker Cindy Lawson is back and up to 'New Tricks'

After a decades-long hiatus, Cindy Lawson is back with a new record — "New Tricks" — and a fresh approach to creating and performing music.

Samantha Fischer

Paul Lundgren

Published: 12:36 PM CDT May 18, 2022
Updated: 12:56 PM CDT May 18, 2022

Mother's Day came and went for Cindy Lawson at Palmer's Bar this year, where she was not only surrounded by her children, but also her beloved local music family — members of which both new and old.

Lawson, a long-established and influential pioneer of the Twin Cities music scene, reveled in the delight that day by watching mother-daughter act Diane & Emy Miller.

"Seeing Diane, who's got this amazingly sweet voice...she could do everything," Lawson said. "I'm just thrilled to be around all these people."

After a decades-long hiatus, Lawson herself is back with a new record — "New Tricks" — and a fresh approach to creating and performing original music. 

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"I got close to being in a big band when I was up in New York, but it just didn't work out," Lawson said. "And it kind of colored how I lived my life for 30 years after."

Lawson's music career started to bloom in the mid- to late-'80s and early '90s — arguably one of the most pivotal times in local music memory and on the heels of the Minneapolis Sound-era — when local artists came together and played from bar to bar, riff by riff.

"You kind of felt like the sky's the limit," she said.

The Clams, Lawson's first band, started, in her words, "from ground zero," as the result of several ads taken out in Minneapolis' now-defunct weeklies, the City Pages and the Twin Cities Reader. Groups like legendary local femme figures Têtes Noires and The Blue Up? inspired Lawson to form her own corps of queens. According to Lawson, not long after the first ad appeared in January of 1985, drummer Karen Cusack answered the call, followed by guitar player Roxie Terry and finally, bassist Patty Jansen. 

"We went everywhere together. We used to joke that we were like one egg split four ways, you know? Just so close," she said.

The quartet's days between gigs were spent practicing in Karen's parent's basement, and then by bouncing around to different rehearsal spaces, which the group would oftentimes share with other artists.

"You know, with musicians, you end up sharing rehearsal spaces with a bunch of bands," she said. "Right now, I'm lucky enough — I've got a house, so I've got practice space....it's kind of become my social life." 

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