Folk duo sings songs of real-life heroism

Minneapolis musicians Curtis & Loretta to play Ridgefield’s Old Liberty Theater on Saturday

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter

Published:

 

If You Go

• What: Curtis & Loretta in concert.

• When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24.

• Where: Old Liberty Theater, 115 N. Main Ave., Ridgefield.

• Cost: $15.

• Information: 360-887-7260; oldlibertytheater.com; curtisandloretta.com

These folk songs are all true stories.

One is about a young fighter pilot in a plane that goes down behind enemy lines. Another is about a Florida woman who donates a kidney to a toddler she’s never met. Another is about a homeless orphan who was blocked for decades from learning the truth of his American Indian ancestry. And another is about an impoverished Somali refugee who came to America, became a nurse and now cares for patients at the Mayo Clinic.

The folk duo Curtis & Loretta, a married couple who hail from Minneapolis, will bring songs of everyday challenges and extraordinary heroism to Ridgefield’s Old Liberty Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Their new album is called “When There’s Good to Be Done,” and it features 12 songs of hope, courage and determination written by Loretta Simonet, who sings in an alto that’s been described as “almost operatic” and plays guitar, Celtic harp, celeste, mandolin, kazoo and shaker. Curtis Teague sings and plays guitar, mandolin, mandocello, clawhammer banjo, ukulele and harmonica.

The way Simonet met Teague is one of those magically unlikely connections: A recent college graduate in 1977, she was sitting on a beach in Santa Cruz, Calif., nervously strumming her guitar, getting ready for a variety show. A nearby Texas accent announced: “Hey, I play guitar!” and down sat Teague. Their voices meshed beautifully, they discovered, and the duo debuted at that night’s variety show.

They’ve been performing as Curtis & Loretta ever since, and have shared stages with folk-music royalty such as Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Holly Near and Claudia Schmidt. The duo wed in 1987.

They’ve released nine CDs and been named “Best Acoustic Performers of the Twin Cities” by the Minneapolis City Pages newspaper.

The new CD, “When There’s Good to Be Done,” is the culmination of a long-term songwriting project by Simonet, supported by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Simonet spent a year interviewing her subjects and composing songs about their travails and triumphs; her husband took photographs. Previous Curtis & Loretta albums have included similarly real and heart-tugging material: everything from heroism during the Holocaust to tending to a parent with Alzheimer’s.

But don’t let all that serious stuff scare you off. The duo likes to point out that they also sing hilarious songs about lutefisk, bugs, people who think they’re always right and harp players trying to sneak into heaven. People emerge from Curtis & Loretta shows with tears of laughter as well as poignancy on their cheeks.

You can hear samples of Curtis & Loretta’s new CD on their website. The title song is the one about Christy Hart Harding, the Florida woman who donated a kidney to a perfect stranger — a toddler in a distant city. Simonet asked Harding what moved her to do such a bold thing; Harding’s answer gave Simonet the chorus of her song and the name of the new album:

“If there’s good to be done you must do it. You can’t wait for someone else to get to it. I knew it was God’s plan to see me through it. How could I say no, when I could do it?”