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Area Voices: The Lost Forty

Randy Gosa (left) and Brian Miller in the KAXE studio

“I found an old newspaper article that said this guy, Michael Dean of Virginia, MN, sang all day into the wax cylinder recording machine and he had a great voice… and was like, “What!? The recording machine! Where are the recordings?”… The Library of Congress initially said they didn’t have anything, but then they said, “Oh there is this box, that’s not labeled very well.”… it turned out there were 45 songs in this unlabeled box down in their vault.” – Brian Miller, The Lost Forty

Brian Miller and Randy Gosa make up the musical group The Lost Forty.  Among their many notable musical accomplishments, they’ve revived Northwoods folk songs of the Great Lakes region and taken them on the road.  We caught up with them in Grand Rapids where they will be performing at the Reif Center tonight.  In this segment of Area Voices, we learn how Brian found his way to the bowels of the Library of Congress in pursuit of Northwoods folk songs, how the guys got into Irish music in the first place, and we even learn some fascinating Great Lakes history in the form of the song “Lost on the Lady Elgin.”

“So these recordings... they were made in northern Minnesota in 1924… Randy and I have sort of made a project around that…We kind of went back to that idea of the trees and the idea that when something is overlooked, sometimes it becomes more valuable. In some ways the music that we play is similar to those trees in the Lost Forty in that it was forgotten for a long time, and to bring it back to life is exciting.” – Brian Miller, The Lost Forty

Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. She returned for a second stint in 2016-23. She produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota.
Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.