As she wrapped up a set playing banjo and singing at a recent live show, Jami Lynn flashed a look that only a performer can fully understand: a big smile fueled by the applause of a happy audience.
And yet, there was a bashfulness to Lynn's response to the ovation she received after a gig at the Minneluzahan Senior Center earlier this month. Though among the busiest performers in the Black Hills, Lynn had never played at the venue before, so she said it was a real thrill for her to get that sort of reaction from the crowd.
"I think my favorite part of being a musician is playing in front of new crowds, it's just such a thrill," Lynn said in a backstage interview.
Lynn, 27, whose full name is Jami Lynn Buttke but whose stage name is Jami Lynn, said her first experience with music started when she was forced into taking piano lessons in second grade. She kept taking them up until eighth grade although it wasn't an ideal fit for her.
"I hated every minute of it," said Lynn, a native of Corona, S.D., a town of about 100 people north of Watertown who now lives in Spearfish.
However, she felt right at home when she picked up a guitar and starting singing the blues. With a little bit of prodding from her grandfather, Lynn took the plunge and started singing in public, and she began to really enjoy herself.
Lynn is now an experienced singer and songwriter who will release her second full-length solo album featuring a mix of folk and Americana songs next month. A release event is set for 7:30 p.m on Friday, April 10 at the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish.
The album, “Fall is a Good Time to Die,” is her fourth album overall and her second as a solo artist. The new album will feature 10 original tracks.
Advance ticket sales are $15 all seats, and $20 at the door. Tickets are available at the Matthews during business hours or by phone at 605-642-7973 or online at matthewsopera.com.
Lynn has said her music features story lines rooted in her Great Plains heritage. On her website, she describes songs from her album "sodbusters" like this"
"Inspired by stories of her ancestors trek from the East coast to the Dakota Territory, the title track of Sodbusters offers the perspective of Jami Lynn’s great-great grandmother, Lydia Huff. In addition to six original songs, the album features five folk songs from the South Dakota area. A lumbering ballad from the forests of Minnesota, a Norwegian lullaby, an Irish folk tune, and a cowboy ballad from the open range compliment her own artfully crafted folk songs."
Sian Young, executive director of the Matthews, said Jami brings a decidedly cultural approach to her songwriting.
"Jami is a born and bred South Dakota musician," said Young. "Her music draws on her deep connection with the landscape and culture of the Dakotas. Our audience will not be disappointed."
Although the inspiration for her lyrics comes from her experience growing up in South Dakota, Lynn's style is fairly unique for the region. She plays a fusion of jazz, country and what she described as "Appalachian style," which is folk style that is popular in parts of the country around the Appalachian Mountains, but which doesn't get much of an airing in South Dakota, she said.
Lynn attended the University of South Dakota where she majored in vocal performance and recorded her first album, "Dreamer," as Jami Lynn & The Aquila Band.
Almost immediately after her first album was released, Lynn spent a semester at Tennessee State University in Nashville to study commercial music, which is where she picked up and honed her clawhammer style, in which the thumb does not pick on the downbeat.
She returned to USD to finish up her degree, and began to produce more albums.
During the release tour, Lynn will be performing alongside bassist Andrew Reinartz, who has performed with the South Dakota Symphony since 2001; dobro player and Sioux Falls native Dalton Coffey; and flat-picker Dylan James, who collaborated with Lynn on their 2013 album “Cluck & Croon.”
"I'm so excited to bring Andrew and Dalton to the Black Hills" Lynn said. "Playing alongside them in such an acoustically impressive space as the Matthews Opera House will definitely be a highlight of the release tour."