Jayder Kalk strings a thread between three very different styles of music: opera, ska and the songs of Johnny Cash.
It’s an eclectic musical journey that’s taken Kalk around the world and back, singing and playing bass and guitar. He inadvertently rekindled a love for Johnny Cash some four years ago, and now he plays locally with the Church of Cash, a tribute band that’s been gathering a statewide following over the past three years.
Kalk cut his teeth early on verse, first as a five-year-old on his parents’ farm and later as an opera student at Minnesota State University-Moorhead.
He linked up with friends who were ska fans in 1995, forming 3 Minute Hero. Their local success (they won a Minnesota Music Award) propelled him into getting involved with ska-punkers Warsaw Poland Bros. and later touring internationally with Go Jimmy Go, a throwback island ska band based out of Honolulu.
But when you live “on an island, while only playing with a band that size, you can wear people out,” Kalk said. “I wanted to play all the time.”
So Kalk went solo, playing everything from new wave to rock and reggae.
“I noticed every time I played Cash, people lifted their heads,” Kalk said. “I started Church of Cash and became instantly successful with the guys coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan who hadn’t heard much American music [in a while].”
When Kalk moved back to Minnesota, he reformed Church of Cash, linking up with fiddler Crista Bohlman, bassist Dan Arlig, drummer Pete Boulger and guitarist Jonathon TeBeest.
Kalk has a deep voice that naturally lends itself to Cash songs, and the fiddle of Bohlman adds a nice twist to some of the classics.
“My old man was a big Johnny Cash fan; he’d always be singing it for me,” Kalk said. “When I started Church of Cash, I realized I already knew a lot of his songs.”
They have a repertoire of some 100 songs, but Kalk is quick to point out that a recent anthology of Cash music contained some 800 tracks and that sometimes aficionados come out to shows asking for “super-deep cuts” that leave Kalk and company baffled.
He’ll have to learn some more if he wants to reach his eventual goal of taking the group to a “Vegas-like level — dressing the part with a solid hour-and-a-half set.”
It’s an odd comment about the future from Kalk, who also goes on at length to express that he doesn’t try to emulate Cash. Trying or not, Kalk does the voice and music of Cash justice, revitalizing a legend’s canon with aplomb.
The Church of Cash plays at Lee’s Liquor Lounge on the first Thursday of every month, as well as brunch at Hell’s Kitchen on the first Saturday of every month.
For more info, go to churchofcashmusic.com.