Minnesota’s Are You There represents the collaboration between veteran singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman and David Hollander, creator/producer of the CBS TV series The Guardian and other movie and TV projects: It was only natural that what they produced can best be described as cinematic. Himmelman is no stranger to filmic pursuits; he and Hollander worked together in 2007 on the short-lived TNT series Heartland, and Himmelman got an Emmy nomination for scoring the CBS drama Judging Amy. But more important than this is the footprint of his initial solo albums; though Himmelman has spent much of past decade making children’s music, his early-’90s releases From Strength To Strength, Flown This Acid World and Skin felt like albums that aspired to be movies.
With Minnesota, he seems to be picking up where he left off, joined by a backing crew that includes Hollander on piano and former Honeydogs members Noah Levy and Jeff Victor. The key collaborators are his longtime backing vocalist Kristin Mooney and accomplished singer-songwriter Claire Holley, who take spotlight vocal turns on several tracks. “Deep Freeze” sets the tone at the start with bluesy atmospherics; the mood shifts from foreboding (“Death By Snakebite”) to desperate (“Call From The Road”) to reflective (“1000 Blackbirds Fall”) over the next dozen tracks until the anthemic “Send It Up” offers a cathartic endpoint. Immediate standouts such as the slow-burning “Hitchhiker” and the hard-charging “Ash & Chickenwire” could be singles, but they’re more significant for the way they sublimate themselves to the long-form framework.