Local Current Blog

Remembering Max Graham, singer and mandolinist in Minneapolis ‘jam grass’ band Kind Country

Kind Country at Radio Heartland, 2019. l-r: Chris Forsberg, Mike Hedding, Joe Sheehan, Max Graham, Brandon Johnson, Chris Wittrock. (Luke Taylor/MPR)

Today, Minneapolis band Kind Country shared the news that Max Graham — lead vocalist, mandolinist, and a co-songwriter in the group — has died.

“It is with deep regret and sorrow that we inform you that our dear brother, Max, has left this earthly home,” the group wrote in a statement on Facebook. “We are utterly devastated to lose someone who was such an integral part of our lives, both musically and as a friend.”

Kind Country, a rootsy group who describe their music as “jam grass,” were formed in 2012 with a goal of, according to their website, “creating live performances with high levels of improvisation and energy gathering with a goal of creating a moment of musical bliss that can be shared by audience members and band alike.”

The band’s social media feed quickly filled with messages of care and sorrow, along with musical memories from fans who saw the band at one of their many festival appearances and even at a wedding. Kind Country shared a fundraiser aimed at “providing stability” for Graham’s wife and three children. “We will be doing right by Max,” the fundraiser organizers wrote, “taking care of him, the same way he did for so many of us.”

Graham’s recorded legacy includes three Kind Country albums and one EP, including the band’s 2015 sophomore release Hwy 7, produced by Trampled By Turtles’ Ryan Young. In 2019 they recorded a session for Radio Heartland; on The Local Show this coming Sunday, March 7, host Andrea Swensson will rebroadcast that session along with comments in Max Graham’s memory from Radio Heartland’s Mike Pengra.

As Kind Country prepared to release their most recent album, 2019’s Hard Times, with a show in First Avenue’s Mainroom, Graham told Music in Minnesota about their musical alchemy.

“Whether we point ourselves in the direction of rock, folk, country, bluegrass, or funk, we try to smelt it all into one, cohesive sound,” said Graham, who in his younger years made music in genres ranging from metal to hip-hop. “Channeling older themes, melodically and lyrically, is a fine ambition for any songwriter, and I try to follow suit.”

Reviewing a Kind Country show at the Hook & Ladder, Will Lundberg wrote, “the Johnson Brothers traded furious guitar licks all night, Chris Witty and Joe Sheehan held down the thunderous low end, Chris Forsberg melted at least one face with his beautiful violin licks, and the one and only Max Graham kept you on your feet and dancing with his mandolin, harmonica, and undeniable charisma. By the time the second set rolled around the entire place was smiling.”