On Horseshoe Lake

Chris Koza

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On Horseshoe Lake

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In the midwinter of 2020, Chris embarked on a writing retreat near Bearhead State Park in Northern Minnesota. At night, the subzero temperatures welcomed stars by the thousands and by day, the bright sunlight cut through frigid air and tall evergreens.

Each sunrise, Nellie and Arlo - two loyal schnauzers - nestled in close to help mitigate the chill creeping into the cabin as the fire from the previous night dwindled into coals. The cabin, set on a hill, faced Horseshoe Lake, and the vibrant hues of first light brought with it the promise of adventure, meditation, and music.

Chris sketched out ideas during morning walks on the Taconite Trail; gathered melodies while crossing the frozen lake to the unnamed island near the eastern shore; imagined textures while chopping firewood in the late afternoons; and found harmony under the later brilliance of the evening sky.

From the beginning, these songs were intended as a instrumental response to Horseshoe Lake: a soundtrack of place. Over the weeks to follow, as the world locked down amidst a deadly and frightening pandemic, Chris fleshed out arrangements for guitar, upright bass, violin, piano, and drums. As it was impossible to bring a band together to perform the music in the same space, each of the musicians had to record their performances remotely.

On Horseshoe Lake is composed and arranged by Chris Koza (guitars and vocals), and performed by Josh Misner (Jeremy Messersmith, Ondera) on violin and viola, John Munson (New Standards, Semisonic) on upright bass, Bryan Nichols (Dead Man Winter, Donna Grantis) on piano, and Alex Young (Michael Shynes, Fathom Lane) on drums and percussion. In addition to eleven instrumental compositions, the final song is a jolly sing-a-long in true campfire fashion; a song to sing when we can all gather again in-person at our favorite places. For the finale, On Horseshoe Lake, Justin Lansing (Okee Dokee Brothers) joins the band on banjo and a choir of nearly 40 singers, crowdsourced through an invitation on social media, contributed spirited vocals.

The album was mixed by Paul Marino and mastered by Tom Nunes. Accompanying the album is a book of poetry and writings by Chris. With scant exceptions all of the photography used in the album artwork and accompanying book is used with permission from the archives of Minnesota photographer Lucy Hawthorne.

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