The band Angel has a special thing going, melding a solid rock/country vibe and bringing together different backgrounds. - Eric Johnson/

Archived Story

This band has wings

Published 9:00am Sunday, December 23, 2012

Angel is taking its talent and soaring

It would be understandable to see Angel perform and come away with the impression the project is a vehicle for lead singer and band namesake Angel Anhalt.

The 24-year-old blond has the look of a Taylor Swift-type act with the vocals to back it up, but to come away with this train of thought is to do the band and Anhalt an injustice. Angel is not the individual at the head of the stage but the sum of its talented and experienced parts.

Angel, the band, began simply enough. Randy Barnette, who has 25 years experience both as a guitar player and songwriter including writing songs for Perry Music Group out of Nashville, was looking for a female vocalist to perform on a demo.

Enter Anhalt, who comes from a musical family in the Twin Cities. Her mother played in an 80s rock band. Anhalt started playing the music as well, but a move to Austin changed all that.

Anhalt moved to a more country/rock styling because, simply enough, there wasn’t much else.

“Moving down from Burnsville to Albert Lea changed my view of music,” Anhalt said of her emersion into the country sound. “That’s all there was.”

Anhalt actually shies away from comparisons to Taylor Swift, the country star sparking the genre with more of a pop sound. Instead Anhalt compares herself to Miranda Lambert and Jewel, strong vocalists writing strong lyrics.

“I like the words of their songs,” she said.

The recording from about nine months ago transitioned into Anhalt writing more songs and working with Barnette more, which included a trip to Nashville where they recorded three more songs.

“It was a real learning experience,” she said.

In a short amount of time they added a keyboard and bass player to the band which also included drummer Bruce Paine, but it wasn’t the line-up greeting audiences today. Both the keyboard player and bass player exited the band. While there was no replacement for the keyboard player the new bass player, Barry Roberts, joined on the fly. He was in the right place at the right time when Angel was about to perform without a bass player.

The band now has a foundation and a path and it’s looking to expand outside the Austin area.

Randy Barnette, from left, Bruce Paine, Angel Anhalt and Barry Roberts comprise Austin band Angel. Eric Johnson/

 Behind the music

In the grand scheme of things, Anhalt is fairly new to the world of performing music on stage, but her bandmates have no shortage of experience.

Besides Barnette’s 25-plus years, Paine adds more than 30 years playing music in 14 different bands and Roberts brings a near 20-year stage presence. It’s hard to ask for more than that when you’re a young singer/songwriter and it can take the pressure off, especially when you are the songwriter of the band.

“They’re her songs,” Barnette said. “She writes all the songs, brings them to us and we put it all together.”

Barnette, Paine and Roberts bring fairly diverse musical backgrounds that lead to the foundation of Angel. Barnette has made a career out of music including owning his own studio, RandyLand Studios and giving guitar lessons, both of which go along with his songwriting.

Paine found a fairly common way into playing drums starting with hearing a certain four-piece out of England.

“When I was a little kid all we had was the radio and in 1963 I heard The Beatles and that was it,” he said. “It was The Beatles that grabbed me.”

Citing legendary drummers as Led Zepplin’s drummer Jon Bonham and Rush’s Neil Peart as influences, Paine also dropped a fairly surprising name — Jay Osmond of the Osmond Brothers.

“That man could rock ‘n’ roll,” Paine said. “It’s amazing the list who liked to play with him.”

Roberts took a laid back approach starting with very simple reasoning.

“I started playing guitar to impress girls,” Roberts said with a knowing smile. “I never really got into the band thing.”

Roberts, who gained a feeling for the stage in high school through drama continued playing guitar until switching to the bass in later years and ultimately coming to play the part of Bobby Dahl in the local Poison cover band Poisoned.

The switch to playing in Angel provided a fresh approach and a new style.

“I found a whole different world,” he said. “It was another style for me and hopefully I can bring my experience to the band. It’s a challenge.”

For Anhalt it all lends even further to her own experience.

“I’ve never played in a band before,” she said. “I’m used to having just Randy with me. It’s so cool to hear a band play your songs.”

 Getting it right

The band isn’t going to deny the rough patches. Along the way there has been some hits and misses, as there is in most bands with new people are coming together, but there is a common, overarching theme to how the band works together.

“Everybody’s got input,” Barnette said. “That’s the way it has to be.”

The band isn’t rushing anything, choosing instead to take a route that focuses on getting it right the first time.

“You’ve got to slow down, make everything meld,” Barnette said. “Now you’re ready to go.”

“We want to get it done right. I refuse to go on stage and not be prepared and sound right.”

That pacing seems to be at home with everybody else even those who are used to faster way of playing music and it also lends itself to something different.

“Things have slowed,” Roberts said. “It’s nice to learn new songs. I can play Poison in my sleep.”

 Moving forward

Moving forward is not a quick transition.

“It’s a process,” Paine said. “One thing at a time. We would like to progress to where we can all sit down and write a song. That’s a goal.”

As they try to make a larger name from themselves in southeast Minnesota, the band has its eyes set on a the larger picture, whatever that may entail. Currently, the band is trying set up shows in the Twin Cities through contacts Roberts has while Barnette works to possibly expand even further.

But that’s a ways down the line. For now the band continues to work on getting its name out and creating a sharper sound it seems to be working. Slowly but surely, the band is getting more shows and more exposure, opening up an optimistic future.


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