Audiences Will Have No Trouble “Warming Up To” The Okee Dokee Brothers’ ‘Winterland’

Courtesy: Okee Dokee Music

Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing — aka The Okee Dokee Brothers — have, over the course of the past nine years, become one of the most well-known acts in the world of family music.  That is because the Minneapolis, MN-based duo’s music has managed to defy the barriers of the genre, both musically and lyrically, with the release of each of its past six albums.  The pair’s recently completed “adventure album” trilogy, which saw the longtime friends writing their albums while actually traveling the length of the Mississippi River, the Appalachian Trail and the Great Divide, certainly had to have helped the duo build its reputation and success, too.  Considering the success of those three albums and that of their predecessors, changing pace again for its latest effort, Winterland — which was officially released Oct. 19 via the pair’s own Okee Dokee Music – was a gamble.  That is because the duo’s “adventure albums’ showed the men at the peak of their career.  Listening through the 16-song, 45-minute record, it becomes clear that the album is a “lucky seven” for the guys.  That is proven in part through its musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The record’s lyrical themes are just as important to the record’s presentation as its musical arrangements, and will be discussed a little bit later.  The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Winterland. All things considered, they make the album a work to which listeners will have no problem warming up.

The Okee Dokee Brothers’ seventh full-length studio recording Winterland is a strong new offering from the veteran performers to which listeners will have no trouble warming up, and that also proved to be a “lucky” gamble for the longtime friends.  That is evidenced in part through the record’s musical arrangements. The arrangements, in large part, are familiar offerings from Mailander and Lansing, with their bluegrass and country leanings.  Though, there are some slight variations that change things up a bit throughout.  Case is point is the arrangement at the center of ‘Ice Fishin’ Shack.’  The pair’s familiar bluegrass-tinged sound is there at the arrangement’s base, however the addition of the baritone sax (or at least what sounds like a baritone sax), flute and washboard gives that bluegrass a new twist that the pair has tried very little if at all.  ‘Keep Me Warm,’ which immediately follows ‘Ice Fishin’ Shack’ adds in some zydeco influences, again changing things up yet again, and in the best way possible.  ‘Slumberjack,’ with its full-on a capella approach is largely unfamiliar territory for The Okee Dokee Brothers, too.  The approach here, with its vocal layering technique, goes a long way toward not only making the song one of the record’s best moments, but also one of the best examples of the Celtic roots of bluegrass and country.  The song comes in just short of two minutes, but is still a powerful moment in its own right.  ‘Ukelele in a Snowstorm’ takes listeners to the warm shores of Hawaii, changing things up yet again, and in turn keeping the record interesting musically.  ‘Snowpeople’ is yet another example of Mailander and Lansing switching things again in this record.  With its waltz time approach, tuba, trombone and subtle banjo lines, the song is anything but bluegrass or even country.  That argument is strengthened even more as a whistling “chorus” comes into play.  As if all of this is not enough example of the importance of the record’s musical arrangements, ‘Lazy Day’ can also be used to support that statement.  The arrangement is in itself a lazy sort of sound, yet is the perfect fit for the song.  It conjures thoughts of so many easy listening pieces that have ever been crafted, yet is actually enjoyable.  When this arrangement is considered along with the others discussed here, it becomes clear that Mailander and Lansing have gone to painstaking efforts to develop their sound even more this time out without alienating their more seasoned fan base.  Those efforts have paid off, giving listeners a good balance of the familiar and less familiar alike.  To that end, the record’s overall arrangements prove critical to the overall presentation of Winterland.  They, collectively, are only one of the most important elements that plays into the album’s whole.  The record’s lyrical themes are just as important to examine as its musical arrangements.

While the title of The Okee Dokee Brothers’ new LP is Winterland and some of its tracks are centered on winter, even those that are centered on the season are not entirely about the season.  Case in point is the song ‘Snowpeople,’ which uses, literally, snow men and snow women as the basis for a discussion on gender roles.  ‘Ice Fishin’ Shack’ centers on being out on a frozen lake, fishing in one of those tiny shacks.  On a deeper level, though, it’s a song about friendship.  ‘The Abominable Yeti’ takes the legend of the Yeti and uses it as the basis for a discussion on taking the time to try to see past preconceived notions.  It is really a good piece as it can especially apply in discussions about accepting people who look different from us.  Along with the winter-centered songs that are used for those deeper discussions, the album does in fact feature songs that are just about winter, such as the album’s opener, ‘Blanket of Snow,’ ‘Ukelele in a Snowstorm’ and ‘Slumberjack.’  There are also straight forward deep pieces to compliment all of this in the form of ‘Candles,’ ‘Great Grandmother Tree’ and ‘Howl.’  ‘Candles,’ simply put, is a takeoff of the standard ‘This Little Light of Mine.’  It centers on the metaphorical light in each person as it talks about not letting the light be blown out.  It truly is one of the album’s most powerful entries.  ‘Great Grandmother Tree’ focuses on the very tough discussion on the topic of the circle of life, yet it does so in such a tactful fashion.  ‘Howl’ is a much more upbeat song that centers simply on the reality that sometimes, a person just needs to get out their frustrations.  Again, it does it in an upbeat fashion that will put a smile on any listener’s face.  Between these songs, the songs which center directly on winter and those that use the season as the base for discussions on bigger topics, and of course the rest of the album’s additions, the whole of the album’s lyrical themes proves to be just as critical to the album’s presentation as its musical arrangements.  While both of these elements are key to the album’s whole, they are not its only important elements.  The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.


The sequencing of Winterland is so important to its presentation because the energy in the album’s songs plays just as much of a part in maintaining listeners’ engagement and entertainment as the record’s musical and lyrical content.  Without a stable balance of energies (as has been noted so many times in other reviews), that noted engagement and entertainment would be anything but assured.  Keeping that in mind, the album’s sequencing is its own positive.  The record starts off upbeat in its first two songs before pulling back a bit in the more laid back vibe of ‘Ice Fishin’ Shack.’  Once that song is done, the energy picks right back up again with ‘Keep Me Warm,’ and while it pulls back just a little bit from there, that pullback is not too much.  It stays up just enough to keep listeners’ toes tapping right up until Mailander and Lansing move into ‘Candles.’  From ‘Candles’ to ‘Howl,’ the albums energy gradually rises again, giving listeners even more to appreciate.  From there to the album’s end, the energy continues to rise and fall at all of the right points right to the record’s finale, ‘Signs of Spring,’ which is a wonderfully upbeat work about the connectivity of spring and winter.  It also uses that discussion as a bigger, heavier discussion on the connection of life and death.  Simply put, from start to end, the album’s energies are well-balanced throughout the album’s 45-minute run.  Considering this, along with the importance displayed in the album’s musical and lyrical content, the whole of Winterland proves to be a gamble that paid off for The Okee Dokee Brothers, and to which listeners will have no problem warming up.


The Okee Dokee Brothers’ seventh full-length studio recording Winterland isa gamble for the guys that clearly paid off. It is a record to which listeners will have no trouble warming up.  That is proven in part through the record’s musical arrangements, which go back to the duo’s past while also presenting more of its familiar bluegrass-infused sounds.  The lyrical themes exhibited throughout the album play a critical part to the album’s whole, too.  That is because of the diversity clearly exhibited in said themes.  The album’s sequencing ensures that listeners will be able to hear all of that for themselves without stopping at any given point in the album’s run.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of Winterland.  All things considered, they make the album a wise gamble from The Okee Dokee Brothers, and an album to which listeners will have no problem warming up.  More information on Winterland is available online now along with The Okee Dokee Brothers’ latest news and more at:
















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The Okee Dokee Brothers Get “Cool” On ‘Winterland’

Courtesy: Okee Dokee Music

The wait is almost over for The Okee Dokee Brothers’ new album.

The duo recently announced that it will release its fourth full-length studio recording Winterland on Oct. 5.  The 16-song record takes listeners from the change of seasons from autumn to spring that the whole family will enjoy while curling up together at the fireside.

Along with being a record for the whole family, the record also addresses the issue of climate change.  The record’s full track listing is noted below.

Track List

The Okee Dokee Brothers


  1. Blankets of Snow
  2. Welcome Home
  3. Ice Fishin’ Shack
  4. Keep Me Warm
  5. The Abominable Yeti
  6. You You You
  7. Candles
  8. Slumberjack
  9. Ukulele in a Snowstorm
  10. Howl
  11. Snowpeople
  12. Lazy Day
  13. North Country Dance Band
  14. Great Grandmother Tree
  15. New Year
  16. Signs of Spring

Ten percent of the album’s sales will go to benefit Askov Finlayson’s Keep The North Cold initiative.  The company works to fight climate change by supporting other initiatives that slow factors such as greenhouse gas emissions.

Ten percent of ticket sales at the pair’s Nov. 3 hometown show will also go to benefit the organization.  The group will also donate ten percent of ticket sales at its Nov. 4 Denver, Colorado show to Protect Our Winters, which also works to combat human-caused climate change.

More information on Winterland is available online now along with the Okee Dokee Brothers’ latest news and more at:






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Through The Woods Is Another Grand Musical Journey From The Okee Dokee Brothers

Courtesy:  Okee Dokee Music

Courtesy: Okee Dokee Music

The Okee Dokee Brothers are not technically brothers. But the duo (Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander) may as well be brothers after having spent as much time together as they did for their latest album Through The Woods and its predecessor Can You Canoe? Lansing and Mailander actually hiked the Appalachian Trail for Through The Woods, the duo’s second “adventure album” and fifth album overall. This after the men had already paddled their way down the Mississippi River together for their 2012 album Can You Canoe? All of that time together has led to some of the best music that The Okee Dokee Brothers have crafted to date in this new record. Through The Woods is an album that celebrates what North Carolina musician David Holt calls “Mountain Music” in his interview included in the bonus DVD included with the album. That DVD will be discussed at length later. The music itself is the key point of success to the album’s enjoyment. Anyone that is a fan of bluegrass and Appalachian music will thoroughly enjoy every song on this record. Also making the whole experience more enjoyable for audiences is the booklet included with the double-disc album. Together with the music and bonus DVD, it rounds out an album that has not only taken the top spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new children’s albums, but also the year’s best new albums overall.

The Okee Dokee Brothers’ second adventure album is also a double winner in the eyes (and ears) of this critic. It has currently taken the top spot on this critic’s list of both the year’s best new children’s albums and the year’s best new albums overall. What’s truly interesting about such status is that in listening to Through The Woods, audiences wouldn’t even think of The Okee Dokee Brothers to be children’s entertainers. That’s because the “mountain music” that makes up the album will appeal both to parents and children alike. It’s not just the standard children’s album. It really is a family album and an album for anyone that is a fan of Appalachian/mountain music (as guest musician David Holt calls it). Some of the songs included on the album are originals while others are more familiar such as the classic ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain.’ In other cases such as ‘Jamboree’ and ‘Fiddlestick Joe’, Lansing and Mailander took ‘Swing and turn Jamboree’ ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ and used them as the basis for their own semi-new pieces. If the songs themselves aren’t enough to entice listeners to check out this record, maybe the guest spots will help convince said audiences to give it a chance.

Through The Woods is a wonderful album not just for children but for adults, too. That’s first and foremost because of its music. It is clear that it isn’t aimed just at children. In the same vein, older audiences will recognize the likes of David Holt, Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, and Hubby Jenkins of the Carolina Chocolate Drops on this record. The inclusion of older musicians, music, and lyrical themes that are aimed more at general audiences than specifically at children goes even farther to prove just how enjoyable this record is for listeners of all ages. It serves to show that Lansing and Mailander are perhaps branching out of their niche realm without alienating the parents and children that they entertained early on. It’s even more reason to applaud this album.

The music and special guest appearances on the album’s songs collectively create a solid foundation for Through The Woods. That foundation having been established, Lansing and Mailander make their latest album even more enjoyable for audiences thanks to the inclusion of a bonus companion DVD that comes with the CD. The album’s bonus DVD documents the journey undertaken by Lansing and Mailander. Along the course of their trip, the men interview a number of individuals who share the history of Appalachian/Mountain Music in their given region. As noted previously, well-known North Carolina musician David Holt is one of those individuals. He makes the interesting statement that he prefers to call Appalachian music “Mountain Music.” That’s because as he puts it, it encompasses the music of every region along the Appalachian Trail. It makes sense. The other interviews featured through the pair’s journey are just as interesting as they come from ordinary people that live along the trail. Audiences will be able to relate to these average, every day figures. And because of that ability to relate, audiences will enjoy the presentation even more.

The documentary following the Okee Dokee Brothers included on the album’s bonus DVD is a wonderful addition to the disc. It’s not all that the bonus DVD offers audiences. The Okee Dokee Brothers sweeten the deal even more by including their album in its entirety on the DVD, too. So not only do listeners get to hear Through The Woods on CD, they also get to hear it on DVD. It makes the bonus DVD that much more of a true bonus and welcome companion to the album. It seals the deal for this album that justifiably deserves to be called the best children’s album of the year so far and the best new album overall so far this year.

The album and its companion DVD presented to audiences in this set go a long way toward making Through The Woods a wonderfully grand musical journey for audiences.  There is still one more aspect of the album that deserves to be noted that plays a positive role in the grand scheme of things.  That last aspect is the album’s companion booklet.  The booklet includes specific thoughts on each of the album’s songs from Lansing and Mailander and little doodles that accompany each one.  Their thoughts are both enlightening and entertaining.  They playfully comment about an 11-year old musician that in the liner notes for ‘Out Of Tune’, joking that he could eat his own body weight in banana pudding.  They actually interview the boy and his siblings in the companion DVD.  So audiences will get to hear from each of them, too.  It’s not all that audiences will get from the album’s liner notes.  Audiences will also be surprised to learn that one member of the Okee Dokee Brothers actually grew up learning how to play banjo thanks to instructional videos from North Carolina’s own David Holt.  These are but a pair of examples of what makes the liner notes to this album a rare treat.  And together with everything else mentioned, audiences will see more clearly than ever just why Through The Woods more than deserves to be on any critic’s annual “Best Of” lists.

Through The Woods will be available Tuesday, May 20th. The Okee Dokee Brothers are currently touring in support of the album. The duo is scheduled to perform live next Saturday, May 17th at Black Bear Crossings in St. Paul, Minnesota. That show is sold out. However, tickets are still available for the duo’s other upcoming shows. The Okee Dokee Brothers’ current tour schedule is available online at Audiences can also go to to keep up with all the latest news from The Okee Dokee Brothers. Fans can also follow the duo on Facebook at To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

The Okee Dokee Brothers Release Details For New Album

Courtesy:  Okee Dokee Music/Redeye

Courtesy: Okee Dokee Music/Redeye

Justin Lansing and Joe Mailander (a.k.a. The Okee Dokee Brothers) return this Summer with their brand new album.

Through The Woods, the duo’s second adventure album, will be released Tuesday, May 20th. It will be released in a special CD/DVD combo pack for SRP of $19.99. The album follows the duo’s journey along the Appalachian Trail and reflects the music that dominates the regions through which Lansing and Mailander crossed along their journey. It features guest appearances by some of the biggest names in  Americana and folk music including: Hubby Jenkins (Carolina Chocolate Drops), four-time Grammy award winner David Holt (Doc Watson/O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Rosie Newton, and two-time Grammy award winners Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.

The companion DVD that comes with Through The Woods includes a forty-minute film that documents Lansing and Mailander’s trek. It includes educational segments, bloopers from the duo’s trip, music videos, and interviews with local mountain musicians that the duo met along the course of its journey. All hiking, songwriting, and camping footage was filmed on location along the Appalachian Mountains. It features the music of David Holt, Elizabeth LaPrelle, and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker.

More information on Through The Woods and other Okee Dokee Brothers albums, along with tour news and more on The Okee Dokee Brothers is available online now at and Through The Woods can be pre-ordered now through the Okee Dokee Brothers’ official online store at and via Amazon at To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at