Des Moines, after all, is French for "The Monks" (or perhaps, "The Moines", if you ask a local). The city gets its name from the Des Moines River which flows through its downtown. In the 18th century, a group of Trappist monks built huts and used the mouth of the river for catching fish, which led French explorers to name it Le Riviere des Moines.
This interest in the origins of the state's rich history speaks to the local pride of The River Monks. This is a young group of locally-grown musicians who've found a pull to make their mark on their own city's musical landscape. With every grassroots performance, the band has gathered a loving fan base.
These performances are warm, humble and inviting. Delicate 5-part harmonies resonate over layers of guitar, ukulele, banjo and glockenspiel. Percussion crescendos into triumphant fits of passion and jubilant trumpeting, then instantaneously backs down to reveal an even deeper sensibility beneath.
I've had the pleasure of getting to know these artists a little bit better over the past few months and after seeing them play again last night, feel confident that they deserve to be heard beyond their home state. Which is great, because they are just about to embark on a month-long tour both South and West.
For details on where you can catch The River Monks on the road and to purchase music from their terrific debut album, Jovials, visit the band's Facebook page or Bandcamp page.
Listen below to samples of the songs, "Pelica" and "Fall Hard" by The River Monks: