by Tim Van Schmidt
Waddie Mitchell and Don Edwards
Take a tip from Waddie Mitchell and Don Edwards. If you’re going to sing some cowboy songs and recite some buckaroo poetry, the best place to do that is in front of a live audience.
That’s partially what makes Mitchell and Edwards’ brand new album on Warner Western, “The Bard and the Balladeer,” such a warm and friendly recording. The 14-song (and poem) collection was taped live at the William Edrington Scott Theatre in Fort Worth, Texas last March and the reactions of the audience and the humorous between-song patter of the performers serves well to increase the depth of the presentation.
Of course, it also helps that poet Mitchell and singer-songwriter Edwards pull together a wide-ranging selection of material including original compositions such as Mitchell’s opening poem, “Commutin’,” and Edwards’ socially conscious song, “Hard Times Blues,” as well as songs and poems by Jack Thorp, Gail Gardner, Marty Robbins, Tom Paxton and many others.
What you get when you listen to the songs and poems on” The Bard and the Balladeer” is plenty of rich language and imagery- all western-oriented, of course. Along the way, you’ll meet colorful characters such as “Pert’ Near Perkins” and “Desert Pete” and hear tall tales about how three drunk cowboys wrestled with the devil, branded him and notched his ear, then tied knots in his tail. There’s also plenty of rough-hewn humor and wisdom.
But more, the album also reveals the more sensitive and romantic side of the cowboy life. In the poem-song pairing “Bad Half Hour/Annie Laurie,” a cowboy out on the range painfully remembers a heartbreak while another sings a sad, plaintive love song off in the distance. The majesty of a desert sunset and the wonder of nature fills another song and poem combination, “Commutin’/Ridin’,” which demonstrates clearly that there is way more to the cowboy soul than cows.
But despite the themes of simplicity, loneliness and introspection that dominate the material, “The Bard and the Balladeer” ultimately works because it’s being performed in front of a live audience. This is stuff meant to be shared with a group of people and when the audience joins in for a simple, but powerful version of “Home on the Range,” you want to sing along too.
No doubt there will also be some audience participation when Mitchell and Edwards appear at the “Faith of a Child- the Future of the West” concert scheduled for Thursday at the Paramount Theatre in Denver. In a benefit for two charity organizations, the NARHA and Futures for Children, Mitchell and Edwards will be joined on stage by a stellar cast of other Warner Western artists including Michael Martin Murphey, Bill Miller, the Sons of the San Joaquin and Red Steagall. But that’s not all the cowboy culture coming to the area. The Arvada Center for the Arts will also be hosting the 6thannual Cowboy Poetry Gathering January 12-15. The poets and musicians gathering at the Arvada Center will be from 11states performing material on such theme topics as western humor, women on the ranch, cowboys’ prayers, rodeo life and modern ranch life.
Hot Dates: Tim O’Brien and Jerry Douglas appear together at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver on Saturday. Lonnie Brooks will be at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Tuesday and at Linden’s on Wednesday. Steve Perry will be at the Paramount Theatre in Denver on January 17. Stevie Wonder will be at the Paramount on January 19 and Slayer will be at the Mammoth Events Center in Denver on January 30.
When Michelle Malone straps on her guitar, you’ve got to know what comes next.
That is, some tough rock and soul.
Malone is the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for Band de Soleil, a compact power trio that strips away pretention and delivers nothing but gritty, gutsy electric rock. On the band’s debut release on Daemon/hi-fi Records, “Redemption Dream,” the emphasis is on power and expression, not on fashion or glitz.
Of course, Malone, based in Atlanta, Ga., is no stranger to either the independent or major label rock music scene. With her band Drag the River, Malone recorded and released an album produced by Lenny Kaye, “Relentless,” for Arista Records. Her independently released collection of rare tracks and early acoustic recordings, “New Experience,” was named by Playboy magazine as one of their top 5 records of 1994.
But then Malone joined with drummer Danny Bigay and bassist Mike Snowden to form Band de Soleil and her sound was honed down into “Redemption Dream,” a scrappy album that mixes strength with confession, without compromise.
Band de Soleil has been regularly opening for bands such as Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Drivin’ and Cryin’ and the Indigo Girls, and they will be appearing at the Mountain Tap on Sunday.
Todd Snider: Another Atlanta singer-songwriter, Todd Snider, will be debuting in Colorado with three shows in the area this weekend. Snider and his band, The Nervous Wrecks, will be performing at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver today, at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Saturday, and at the Boulder Theater for a special appearance on the public radio program E-Town on Sunday.
Snider is quickly gaining a reputation for his tongue-in-cheek blend of folky country-rock based on his debut album on Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Records, “Songs For the Daily Planet.” The music rocks like Steve Earle but has the same lyrical resonance and acerbic wit as Bob Dylan.
But Snider is definitely writing about the world from a modern perspective on “Songs For the Daily Planet.” Opening song “My Generation (Part 2)” updates the frustrations of growing up by throwing in new influences like MTV, credit cards and fax machines. The unlisted track “Talkin’ Seattle Grunge Rock Blues” skewers the grunge lifestyle of the 1990’s with a song structure that dates back to Woody Guthrie.
What stands out on Snider’s 13-song collection is the bald honesty of his writing. This is partly thanks to the dues Snider has paid already to get to where he is now. In fact he credits his regular Thursday night gigs at a bar in Memphis called the Daily Planet with helping him develop material full of “down-home truth” specifically for the neighborly bar crowd. That’s why he named his first album after his favorite venue.
Snider will be appearing on E-Town with singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen. Keen’s latest release is “Gringo Honeymoon” on Sugar Hill Records and he will be at the Bluebird on Saturday.
Hot Dates: The 6th Annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering continues today through Sunday at the Arvada Center for the Arts. Steve Perry promotes his latest release on Columbia Records, “For the Love of Strange Medicine,” at the Paramount Theatre in Denver on Tuesday. Stevie Wonder will be at the Paramount on Thursday.
When guitarist Neil Haverstick takes the stage at the Sunset Nightclub on Saturday, he’ll be playing an upbeat, electric blues.
That’s because Haverstick has found the blues to be a strong dependable music over the many years he has been studying and playing it.
“There’s something about the emotional quality of (blues) that destroys me to this day,” Haverstick said recently by phone.
Haverstick has been playing blues since his days of hanging around in the blues clubs in St. Louis in the late 1960s.
But blues is only one of the diversity of genres that Haverstick plays regularly. He plays jazz. He plays acoustic folk. He plays with symphonies. He composes on a ground-breaking 19-tone guitar.
To him, musical genres are just languages that challenge the true musician’s skills and understanding.
“I really view it as speaking different languages. Like, if I’m talking about blues, I don’t say I can play blues well, I say I think I can speak that language,” Haverstick said. “It’s so much more than just the licks. You walk into a country bar and it’s a whole different vibe than going into an uptown jazz bar. You’ve got to walk in and blend in with the vibe.”
Haverstick’s work with a 19-tone guitar, however, is less about blending in than in making his own vibe. The guitar he uses was designed by Denver luthier John Starrett and, according to Haverstick, is the first step toward creating new music beyond the conventional 12-tone system virtually all Western music is based on.
“You’ve got Bach. You’ve got Bartok. You’ve got Jimi Hendrix. You’ve got some incredible music, but these twelve notes have really been used in so many combinations that it’s getting harder and harder to find fresh ways to use them,” he said.
Haverstick’s 19-tone guitar work is featured on his independently released album, “The Gate.” The 19-tone pieces are dissonant and strange to ears accustomed to 12-tone music, and when he plays them out live, they turn off some listeners while others get up and dance.
“I have lost a few gigs for playing them and there were a couple of places where I played and nobody said a word,” Haverstick said. “But every time we play this one song, “Birdwalk,” people get up and dance. So I turn to the band and ask, ‘if they’re dancing to it, how weird is it?'”
Lazy Bones: The new self-titled Lazy Bones CD is finally in and the band is celebrating with an album release party tonight at Tony’s. The new release serves both as a demo project and as a strong indication of where the band is headed. The first five tracks on “Lazy Bones” are new studio recordings that reveal a more hook-conscious writing style while maintaining the staple funky groove that has propelled the band for over five years now. Add in 9 bonus tracks recorded live in Fort Collins and you have a thick slice of prime Colorado funk.
Hot Dates: Last year’s show was one of the best concerts in the area and there’s no reason to expect that David Wilcox’s return to the Lincoln Center on Saturday will be any different. Expect good, gentle delivery full of humor and the power of real emotion.
Spencer Bohren will be at the Bar Bazaar on Saturday along with his latest album release, “Vintage Spencer Bohren.” Singer Celeste Krenz will be debuting her latest “country-tinged folk album, “Slow Burning Flame” at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver tonight and at the Sunset Nightclub on Thursday. Carla Sciaky will also be celebrating the release of her new album on Green Linnet Records, “Awakening,” at the Cameron Church in Denver on Saturday. Louisiana guitarist Sonny Landreth is currently on a coffee house tour to celebrate his new Zoo Entertainment release, “South of I-10,” and will be appearing at Buchanan’s Coffee House in Boulder on Tuesday. And the Chenille Sisters join Jimmy Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band at the Arvada Center for the Arts on Thursday.
One thing has successfully lead to another in the case of funky six-piece Fort Collins band Calamari Safari.
To begin with, the group won first place in a battle of the bands contest at Linden’s last November.
“We’re really glad we entered the contest because we shared the stage with a lot of really good musicians that night,” Calamari Safari bassist Jeff Edgar said recently. “The competition was really stiff and we didn’t think we would win.”
But win they did and besides a return gig to Linden’s and some guitar strings, the band was awarded ten hours of studio time at Eye in the Sky Recording in Laporte. Calamari Safari recently went in to claim their prize and have come out with not only four new recordings, but also a new respect for the recording process.
“It’s like making a baby, it’s magic,” vocalist Eric Jensen said about the experience.
The new recordings of songs like “Why Things Burn” and “Cereal” refines what Calamari Safari has been working on for three years already- a punchy music full of horns, rhythm and grooves.
“Groove is a main thing for us. Whether its funk or a slow, beautiful melody, it’s got to have a good groove,” Edgar said.
Calamari Safari’s groove music has not only taken them into the recording studio, but it has also got the band, also featuring Rob Wise on trombone, Jay Clannin on trumpet, Brad Connor on guitar and Tom Dean on drums, touring widely on the Front Range. While the band does have aspirations for bigger things, right now the main focus for Calamari Safari remains on just playing good music.
“We go to the gig to play the music. It’s just something that we have to do,” Jensen said.
Calamari Safari is planning on going back into the studio to track at least three more songs and are shooting for their debut CD release by June. Meanwhile, the band will be playing an all-ages show at the Ramskellar tonight.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo: When Paul Simon enlisted the help of the ten-man South African a cappela vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo for his groundbreaking “Graceland” album, he was not only trying to record the group’s unique sound, but he was also introducing a South African national treasure to the world. The group not only makes a soothing, inspiring and friendly music with the unique blend of their voices, but they also embody the traditions of the Zulu culture of South Africa. Of course, the group is still sharing their culture, but not just with pop music listeners, now. Their most recent release is a cultural project aimed at children titled “Gift of the Tortoise, A Musical Journey through Southern Africa.” The album is an imaginative adventure told by South African storyteller Geina Mhlophe as a wise, old tortoise. Ladysmith Black Mambazo provides the music for the journey along with South Africa’s legendary guitarist Johnny Clegg for a lively look at the rich and wondrous land of the Zulu people.”Gift of the Tortoise” is Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s first children’s recording project, released last year on Warner Brothers’ Music For Little People label, though the group has made several appearances on children’s television shows such as “Sesame Street.” But whether singing for kids or adults, the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo is always the same- full of life and an uplifting spiritual strength that lasts long after the record is over. That goes double for a Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert and that’s why the band’s upcoming appearance at the Boulder Theatre on Wednesday is cause for celebration.
Hot Dates: Rabbi Jack Gabriel and the Congregation Har Shalom Singers and Reverend David Williams and the Abyssinian Interdenominational Christian Church Choir will be presenting an uplifting evening of gospel, Hasidic, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and other American music in the special “Diversity in Harmony” show planned for the Lincoln Center on Saturday. Slayer will bring their mayhem to the Mammoth Events Center in Denver on Monday. Leon Russell is at the Little Bear in Evergreen on Wednesday and Amy Grant will be at McNichol’s Arena in Denver on Thursday.
The Making of the Northern Colorado Musicfest ’95
You would think that a music festival the size of the Northern Colorado Musicfest would be all about music. But before any of the music comes over the PA’s, before any guitars are strummed or basses plucked, it’s all about paper.
You should see it. At the meetings of the planning committee for this year’s Musicfest, the table invariably gets covered with paper- lists of venues, festival application forms, scrawled outlines of the events for four solid days of music in March. There are logo designs, contact lists and lots of notes because when you get to work on a project as exciting as our very own music festival, the ideas are quick to come.
Of course, it’s much more than just the paper. Add in the demo tapes and pictures the bands sent in and a lot of talk and you get the picture.
The Musicfest started on a couple of bar stools in Linden’s back in 1993 and has rapidly grown into a popular and important showcase for a diversity of Fort Collins talent. In fact, this has been recognized by the city itself. At last year’s opening reception for the festival, Fort Collins mayor Ann Azari called music “the soul of the community” and this year’s festival has been awarded a $2000 grant from the city’s Fort Fund Fund program. Business sponsors have also been stepping forward to offer their support as well.
City leaders and concerned businesses are not only saluting the music of our community with their interest in the Musicfest, but they are also supporting public radio in the process. The Northern Colorado Musicfest was designed not only to call attention to Fort Collins-area music, but also to benefit public radio station KCSU-FM. Since the station changed its programming format in 1992 to include contemporary music, KCSU has been tireless in its support of local music. What goes around, comes around and KCSU, as Fort Collins’ only public radio station, became the beneficiary of the proceeds from the festival.
The response from the musicians in our region has been tremendous. The Northern Colorado Musicfest has this year received applications from half again as many musicians as were presented in the two previous years. There doesn’t seem to be any bottom to the well of music right here in our own back yard!
That’s the reason for all the paper. When you’ve got an area that is as active in music as this one is, it takes a lot of lists and notes and plans just to keep track of it all.
And it takes a lot of energy. That’s why the Musicfest is being organized this year by a seven-person planning committee. The first two years were organized in a grass-roots fashion, with many people pitching in to somehow get the job done. Many of those people remain intimately involved in the project- original organizers Sid Cooperrider and Ken O’Hearn both are serving as members of the planning committee that also includes KCSU representatives Deni La Rue and Kellie Straub, both of whom have also been working on the festival from the very beginning.
New to the festival this year is concert promoter Steve Schmutzer, who is acting as festival director for Musicfest ’95. Schmutzer has been bringing in a wide variety of live music to Fort Collins with his company Profile Music and is bringing a new level of professionalism to the Northern Colorado Musicfest. Gayle Tyler, who has organized KCSU volunteers for the festival in years past, will be serving as assistant director this year to help Schmutzer with the tangle of bookings that occurs when you try to get this many musicians together for one cause.
The cause, however, turns out to be simple. What everyone is working so hard for is not to create an important music festival, not just to tout a very creative music scene and not to just make money for our own radio station. What it’s really all about is the love of music. Without the special thrills, emotions and release that music gives, there wouldn’t be any of what fills our town with good sounds- public radio, musicians. or places to play.
For Musicfest ’95- planned for March 2-5- the music itself is the bottom line- after you wade through all the paper, of course!
On a Winter’s Night
Warm and friendly.
That’s how the “On a Winter’s Night” tour has gotten in its six years on the road.
The tour began when singer-songwriter Christine Lavin pulled together a compilation of winter-related songs and then organized a tour to promote it and the new and exciting acoustic songwriting that was burgeoning in America. Early tours featured such songwriters as Lavin, David Wilcox and Julie Gold.
The tour has since solidified into a line-up that spotlights four of the preeminent talents in songwriting today- John Gorka and Patty Larkin, who have both been with the tour since the beginning, along with Cliff Eberhardt and Cheryl Wheeler. Since they have been touring together under the On a Winter’s Night flag for three years now, the four have become very close both personally and professionally.
“The whole group of us have all become very close friends. We even vacation together. In fact, we kind of look at this tour like one big Christmas vacation together because we all travel alone the rest of the year,” Eberhardt said recently by phone.
But more than just enjoying each other’s company on the road, the proximity of other active songwriters acts like a creative catalyst for Eberhardt and his compatriots when they get together for On a Winter’s Night.
“We end up sitting around playing new songs and trying out new ideas on each other practically on a daily basis,” Eberhardt said. “We have a lot of respect for each other- no one has to carry anyone else- and when we’re together, we just write more. It’s pretty inspirational.”
Eberhardt, who cut his musical teeth in bands along with Shawn Colvin and Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows in Carbondale, IL., uses his slice of the songwriting inspiration to make albums like his latest release, “Now You Are My Home,” on the Cachet Records label. The album features not only guest appearances by Gorka and Larkin, but also Nanci Griffith, as well as a good peek at Eberhardt’s love for pop music structures.
“This album is more acoustic than the first record, but it’s less story-oriented. It’s more on the pop side of things,” Eberhardt said.
Eberhardt has a new album “75% done” which he hopes to have out by June. Before he can get to that however, Eberhardt is on the road with On a Winter’s Night which stops at the Boulder Theater tonight and at the Lincoln Center on Sunday.
Tarika: A huge success in Britain and Europe, Tarika plays an original repertoire of folky Afropop which assimilates and adapts the traditional music, rhythms and distinctive vocal harmonies of the isolated tribes and regions of Madagascar. For this infectious, danceable hybrid, Tarika has modernized an array of traditional Malagasy instruments- bamboo zithers, small guitars, gourd dulcimers and flutes.
Tarika is the new shortened name of the band Tarika Sammy that received international critical acclaim and topped world music charts in the US, Japan and Europe with their first two albums. The band is now expanded to a five-member line-up and is fronted by sisters Hanitra and Noro as a folk group with the drive and intensity of a rock band. Their new album, “Bibiango” continues where Tarika Sammy left off with catchy melodies, buoyant grooves, tight harmonies, exotic instrumentation and an aural attack that has been described as “virtuoso traditional music with the energy of punk rock.”
Tarika will be at the Bluebird Theater in Denver tonight and at the Sunset Night Club on Saturday. Tickets for the Fort Collins show are $9 in advance and $11 at the door. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
Hot Dates: Make it a point to check out San Francisco-based band Jambay’s progressive and electric fusion music at Tony’s on Wednesday or at the Ale House on Thursday. Veteran folksinger Tom Paxton brings music from his latest release “Wearing the Time” to the Houston Fine Arts Center in Denver on Saturday. Ever-popular Band du Jour plays Linden’s on Thursday.
When Robbie O’Connell turns over a good melody, it’s like butter sliding off of a warm knife- smooth, fluid and full of emotion.
On his most recent release, 1993’s “Never Learned to Dance” on Green Linnet Records, O’Connell makes a gentle acoustic music with delicate harmonies and a vivid lyrical strength. It’s easy on the ear but remains thick with the experiences of a veteran Irish musician- drinking, thinking, traveling and singing.
O’Connell has done plenty of those things in a career that has produced not only successful solo work, but also plenty of music making with the Clancy Brothers, Mick Mahoney and Jimmy Keane, as well as the Green Fields of America. He was even seen by an estimated 500 million people worldwide on the telecast of a star-studded live tribute to Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden.
On his own, O’Connell’s original music is steeped in the traditions of songwriting, but with a contemporary freshness that keeps alive the zest for telling a good story or just expressing emotions plainly and proudly. There’s a beautiful roll to both the lyrics and the melodies on “Never Learned to Dance” and O’Connell’s songs swing easily from the imaginative and light to lonesome introspection, political and social concerns to romantic daydreaming all with the same gentle musical rendering that puts O’Connell at the top of his class.
O’Connell will be making a rare appearance in Fort Collins at the Sunset Night Club on Sunday. The Barbara Rose Trio will be opening.
Boxing Gandhis: They’re new, they’re hip and the Boxing Gandhis call themselves “alternative funk-rockers.” Whatever that means really doesn’t matter much. But what does matter is their self-titled debut release on Mesa Records that does funk like George Clinton but with the positive attitude of Jimmy Cliff. That formula is what has made the band a current smash on Triple A radio stations across the country. The Boxing Gandhis are an 8-member band from Los Angeles that pulls together a vast and diverse pool of talent to make a very active and uplifting music. On their 1994 release “Boxing Gandhis,” the grooves are deep, hot and jamming but in a warm and friendly way. On top of the layers of vocal scatting, honking horns and keyboards is a message of unity and clarity that has only the best intentions for the human race. The Boxing Gandhis make party music, but with a big heart. The Boxing Gandhis, lead by songwriter David Darling, who spent several years as a staff producer, writer and guitarist for Giorgio Moroder and others working on film and television scores, are currently on a small club tour that includes a show at the Old Town Ale House tonight and at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver on Saturday.
Hot Dates: Linden’s celebrates a lucky 13th anniversary on Saturday with an all-day event that begins at 11:30 am with the Walter Jenkins Soul Review and then runs into the night with sets by Gumbo, the Atoll, Windfall, Bob Hollister, Lazy Bones and Diana Castro and the Big Time. The club is encouraging Mardi Gras costumes, will be giving out party beads and will be hosting the “first ever Linden’s trivia contest.” Happy Birthday! Lowen and Navarro have added a few new tracks and augmented others on the recent reissue of their groundbreaking hit album “Walking on a Wire,” and will be at the Fox Theatre in Boulder tonight with special guest Shannon Worrell. Columbia Records are also reissuing Corrosion of Conformity’s “Technocracy” and “Blind” albums in time for the band’s current tour with Megadeth, which stops in at the Denver Coliseum on Monday. Beausoleil will be playing a special Valentine’s Day dance party at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Tuesday. And Simple Minds will be at the Ogden on Thursday.
When Australian Paul Taylor performs on the didjeridoo- a wooden wind instrument that can range from 3 feet to 9 feet long- he’s not just making strange rhythmic sounds. Taylor is also connecting the moment to the tribal past of the aboriginal people in the northern part of his homeland.
“It is essentially used to make a dance rhythm for the aboriginal tribal people. It accompanies their singing and dancing which is ceremonial, having to do with what they call the “Dream Time,” or their traditional creation stories,” Taylor said by phone from his home in Laramie, WY.
According to Taylor, the aboriginals take on the part of their ancestors, recreating stories that may stretch back tens of thousands of years. Participants, in essence, become their ancestors in the process, believing they must keep on singing and dancing or “the land will die.” Taylor came in contact with the instrument and the aboriginal culture while doing social work among the northern tribes of Australia. The more he learned, the more he wanted to know and since then the instrument and the customs of the people he sought to help, ended up helping him.
“It made me question everything I had grown up with. I spend as much time as I could with the tribal people and it has always been refreshing and revitalizing,” Taylor said.
This has lead to a “personal journey” that has taken Taylor all over the world, finally settling in America where the didjeridoo and the aboriginal stories Taylor tells affects his audiences in a very basic and primal way.
“The audience feels things. They feel it hitting them in the chest, often in the heart area,” Taylor said. “It touches people on a human level, from three-year-olds to university academics.”
Taylor finds a connection between the didjeridoo and the “om” sound made by Buddhist monks as well as the drone of the sitar and the Celtic bagpipes. He has also found a connection between his adopted instrument and those of the Native American cultures.
That’s what has produced a very unique recording which is being released by local record label Kiva. The recording, titled “Indian Flute Meets Didjeridoo,” mixes Taylor’s aboriginal sounds with the Northern Cheyenne flute playing and singing of Joe Fire Crow. The recording is mysterious and mesmerizing and an example of just how close native cultures can come, even when separated by thousands of miles and traditions.
“The stories the aboriginal people tell have a real basic truth to them and there’s a real similarity between them and the Native American cultures. The tribal cultures tend to be very human. When you put a Native American flute in with the didjeridoo, it just works. It’s truly world music,” Taylor said.
Taylor will be performing and celebrating the release of “Indian Flute Meets Didjeridoo” at the Bar Bazaar tonight along with local bluesman and Kiva operator Russ Hopkins.
Hot Dates: Super Duke recording artist Shannon Worrell with Lauren Hoffman and Kristin Asbury, will be joined by special local guest Keith Rosenhagen at the Mountain Tap tonight. Jules Shear joins the Barenaked Ladies at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Saturday. Pop craftsmen Dada will be at the Fox Theater in Boulder on Monday and Tuesday. John Bayley brings his upbeat one man reggae show to Linden’s on Wednesday and Dave Mason takes a break from his current gig with Fleetwood Mac to bring his solo band to Linden’s on Thursday.
There’s a little bit of a lot on Italian acoustic guitarist Peppino D’Agostino’s latest album, “Venus Over Venice,” on Mesa Records.
There’s classical solo guitar, light jazz fusion, vocal songs in both English and Italian, and a good helping of just plain folk guitar styles. While the mix may challenge D’Agostino’s listeners, the range of musical styles is right in line with the kinds of music his heart tells him to make.
“I like different styles of music and I try to blend them, “D’Agostino said recently from his home in San Francisco.”The album is not homogeneous. Like some albums are strictly rock and roll and it’s rock and roll from the beginning to the end. Here there’s an instrumental song, then there’s an Italian song, then an arrangement of “Walk Away Renee,” which is an old hit from the 1960’s, and there’s fusion. I’m sure that some people will criticize that, but you know, you have to do whatever your spirit is dictating you to do- that’s my philosophy.”
D’Agostino came to the United States about ten years ago with a lifetime of music in his blood. From early years in a musical family to trying out electric rock and roll in a band, D’Agostino followed his obsession with music to America, the home of such musical inspirations as Leo Kottke, Doc Watson and Chet Atkins. As it turned out, D’Agostino’s love for music became more than just his art, but also a very viable way to survive.
“When I first got here, I finished my money and I wanted to stay a little longer. So I supported myself by doing different things including playing on the streets in San Fransisco,” D’Agostino said. “A friend loaned me this amp and I played on the streets. It was fun. I met so many people and I made some money too.”
Since then, D’Agostino has become one of the premiere finger style guitarists in the country, cultivating a warm, yet buoyant playing style. His previous Mesa release, “Close to the Heart” was highly praised by critics and “Venus Over Venice” should provoke the same reaction. Perhaps it’s more the spirit of his music than the actual songs that attracts all the attention. D’Agostino admits that when everything is synched in right while he’s playing, the rest of the world falls away in a strong personal reverie.
“When you feel what you’re playing, in that moment, you can bring yourself back into the past, or into the future. When you play, some face may come back to mind, or some places. It’s like a time machine. In a way, it’s like smells. When you smell something, that particular smell has the power to bring you back to your childhood and music for me also does that,” D’Agostino said.
Whatever it is about D’Agostino’s music that attracts listeners, however, it has him plenty busy, playing major music festivals and touring concert halls all over the country. But to him, the music is much more than a way to make a living.
“I never consider this a job. I consider this a way of expressing myself and I’m lucky enough that I can make a living out of it,” D’Agostino said.
D’Agostino will be joining flamenco guitar master Rene Heredia at the Sunset Night Club tonight and at Foundation Hall in Greeley on Saturday.
Hot Dates: The Battlefield Band is at the Cameron Church in Denver tonight. Koto and Shaisen master Yoko Hiraoka-Cannon will be at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver, Sheryl Crow will be at the Paramount Theater and Tesla will be at the Mammoth Events Center, all on Saturday. Digable Planets come to the Ogden Theater in Denver and the Cult will be at the Paramount on Wednesday. Laurie Anderson will be at the Paramount on Thursday.
“At the Crossroads” – KCSU Radio Special
There’s a new CD compilation brewing of local alternative music featuring such bands as Mutant Sad Face. From convoluted art music complete with psychedelic excess to straight hard punk, Mutant Sad Face adds plenty to the CD project being called “Local Anesthetic,” and is making their debut Musicfest performance at the Ramskellar on the CSU campus on Saturday, March 4 along with Manonash, Exhumator and Mercyride. The “Local Anesthetic” project is being spearheaded by Auburn’s guitarist and vocalist Tedd Klovstad. Auburn is scheduled for Musicfest ’95, along with Ten Times Braver, at Avogadro’s Number on Thursday night, March 2.
-music Nil “Magic Carpet Ride”
Nil is also new to the Northern Colorado Musicfest and they blend a range of music styles from hard alternative to funk. Nil just completed work on a 7-song all-original recording titled “Big Bad Mack” and performed a well-received set at the 1994 New West Fest. Nil will join Armchair Martian and Logjam at Tony’s on Thursday March 2.
-music – guitar rhythm, or continuation of “Crossroads”????
This is Tim Van Schmidt bringing you a special one hour
look at the musicians and events of the Northern Colorado Musicfest ’95. The Musicfest is all a benefit for the current programming at Fort Collins public radio station KCSU and this is “At the Crossroads,” produced and sponsored by Kiva. Kiva’s brand new local music catalog will be available during Musicfest ’95 featuring new recordings by Paul Taylor and Black Whistle. Other Kiva releases are also still available including Jerry Palmer’s CD, “Blue Guitar.” You’re listening to “At the Crossroads” on KCSU.
music – Sterling Silver – cassette
Showcasing the variety and diversity of Fort Collins-area music has always been a major goal for the Northern Colorado Musicfest and this year’s festival features some new and exciting shows. Those include a very special family show at the Docks on Saturday March 4. This show is headlining Sterling Silver, made up of five teenage girls whose sweet blend of voices makes their country music a refreshing delight. Sterling Silver has opened for Garth Brooks, Tanya Tucker and Chris LeDoux up in Cheyenne and will be appearing for Musicfest ’95 with Laramie singer-songwriter Danno.
-music – Fingers – “Telegram”
No, your radio is not picking up two stations at once. The music you are listening to is by Fort Collins sound-art band Fingers. From random readings and duck calls to wailing electric clarinet and moody synthesizers, there is nothing else like a Fingers concert and the band has agreed to not only compose a whole new show just for Musicfest ’95, but also to perform it twice. Fingers will be presenting their “consensus-based, process-driven musical experiment” titled “Eleven Elevators” at the Bas Bleu Theater on Friday March 3at both 7:30 and 9:30 pm.
-music – Usual Suspects – From New Music from the West
Besides a family show and a special art performance, Musicfest ’95 is also highlighting a brand new jazz showcase. It’s the “FAC Jazz Session” at the Mountain Tap Tavern on Friday March 3. Four bands will be playing everything from the cool and smooth to electric fusion. Count in the Usual Suspects, the Bard Hoff Trio, Vertigo Company and the Oscar DeZoto Quartet on that one.
-music – Jerry Palmer – from Blue Guitar
On Sunday, March 5, the Northern Colorado Musicfest ’95 is proud to present an afternoon showcase with some of the best solo guitarists in the area. That includes guitarist Jerry Palmer whose latest album, “Blue Guitar,” offers everything from rolling melodies to percussive rhythms. Palmer has been a regular player in area venues and will be joined for the special “Guitar Gods” show at the Lincoln Center Mini-Theater by Christopher Kennison, Steve Waechter and Dave Beegle.
-music – Sloniker
Every year, the Northern Colorado Musicfest kicks things off with a free reception and this year Fort Collins keyboard mainstay and national-level recording artist Mark Sloniker will be joined by internationally touring trumpet master Hugh Ragin at the Sunset Night Club on Thursday March 2, followed by the vocal fusion music of Timeless. Other Musicfest ’95 highlights also include the “Keyboard Dream Concert” featuring Calvin Jones and Rifkin at the Lincoln Center Mini-Theater on Thursday March 2. On Friday March 3, national-level headliners Wind Machine bring their groundbreaking acoustic fusion music to the Vineyard with the Barbara Rose Trio opening. After that show, the Vineyard invites you to a free show in their “Out Back Theater” featuring Mercyride and You Call That Art?
-music – Creighton Holley – CD
Of course the Northern Colorado Musicfest wouldn’t be the same without having the final blast of music at one of Fort Collins’ oldest nightclubs, Linden’s. This year’s Sunday night show at Linden’s, on March 5, is even extra special featuring what’s being called the “All-Star Blues Extravaganza” with none other than rhythm and blues guitarist and Linden’s favorite Creighton Holley, welcoming such guests to the stage as Walt Jenkins, Max Wagner, Mark Van Ark and many more. But that’s not all because for the first time, the Northern Colorado Musicfest will be passing out ballots to everyone attending Musicfest shows, asking them to vote for their favorite musicians in the area. Musicfest organizers will collect the ballots and tally them and have the results ready to announce at the “All-Star Blues Extravaganza” at Linden’s. That’s just one more highlight to add to the list for Musicfest ’95.
-music – “Crossroads”
This is “At the Crossroads,” a special one hour program highlighting the musicians and events of the Northern Colorado Musicfest ’95. This is Tim Van Schmidt and “At the Crossroads” was produced and is being sponsored by Kiva whose forthcoming projects include John Magnie’s second “Parlor Sessions” album, Bob Hollister’s new CD project, and music by JT Tiersten, Andrew Bia, Christy Rasch and Indigenous. This is KCSU.
-music – Innocence – “Easy Access” cut
The Northern Colorado Musicfest is not just a music showcase but a celebration of our community. Fort Collins Mayor Ann Azari said that music was “the soul of the community” at last year’s opening reception for the Musicfest. The city in general recognizes that fact and this year has awarded the Northern Colorado Musicfest with a $2000grant through the Fort Fund program. The business community has also stepped forward to show its support with the New Belgium Brewing Company matching the Fort Fund grant to become the Musicfest’s first major business sponsor. That’s the kind of support that brings out so many of our friends and neighbors to play their music during this special event. That includes the folk rock band the Innocence, who will be making their second Musicfest appearance at the Starry Night Coffee Company on Friday March 3 along with the Better Half, Paul Levine, Elizabeth Hudetz and Shelle Anna.
-music – Calimari Safari – Easy Access
Now here are the facts: Musicfest ’94 tripled its gross ticket sales over Musicfest ’93. The Northern Colorado Musicfest has gone from 48 performers in 15 events in 1993 to58 performers in 22 events in 1994. In 1995, the Northern Colorado Musicfest is pleased to announce that Musicfest ’95has been expanded to include over 80 performers playing in 28events in 15 live music venues all over Fort Collins. What all these figures mean is that not only is the Musicfest a good idea- a very special way to bring our community together- but it’s growing by leaps and bounds. That makes room for young fresh bands like Calamari Safari, who will be bringing their hot, punchy funk sound to Avogadro’s Number on Friday March 3,along with Diatribe and Where’s the Bishop. There’s also room for bands like the Psychodelic Zombiez and Furious George and the Monster Groove, who will both be at the Old Town Ale House on Sunday, March 5. You can also count in the Howlers who will be playing their blistering blues at Tony’s on Friday March 3, along with Live Squid.
-music Windfall – 90.5
Many of the bands who are playing in Musicfest ’95 have been supporters of both the Musicfest and public radio for a long time. That includes singer-songwriter Randy Pfueffer and his band Windfall. Pfeuffer has often leant his soulful acoustic rock to aid KCSU and this year will be returning again to play the Bar Bazaar on Saturday March 4, along with the Dave Hollen Band and Doug and Deborah. The Jambo Drummers have also been generous with their time for the cause of public radio and they will be the featured band at Avogadro’s Number on Saturday March 4, offering poly-rhythms of the world and plenty of room to dance.
-music Bluegrass Patriots – “Maggie” or 90.5
What can Fort Collins premiere bluegrass band the Bluegrass Patriots tell you about music? The national recording and touring band might tell you that what it really takes to make music a part of your life is love. You have to love your music and then love giving to other people and maybe that’s why the Patriots make such sweet bluegrass. Maybe that’s why Fort Collins is jammed full with the sounds of music. The Bluegrass Patriots love their music and love public radio enough to headline an all-bluegrass show for the Musicfest for the third year in a row. They’ll be at Avogadro’s Number on Sunday, March 5 at 5 pm along with the T Band and Wind River. The rest of the music scene in Fort Collins seems to love their music as well and that’s why Musicfest ’95 has turned into the biggest single music event of the year in Northern Colorado. Even with impending changes looming on the horizon for public radio here in Fort Collins, the music will be playing strong and true. To keep that music strong and true, Musicfest ’95 invites all the musicians in the area to attend the very special Music Business Seminar on Saturday March 4 at 2 pm at the Bas Bleu Theater. The Seminar will feature presentations by area music professionals and a panel discussion about music business-related issues. This is just one more way that the Northern Colorado Musicfest is trying to help make music even better in our already very active city. But the most important way is to encourage our musicians to get out and play and for listeners to get out and soak up some of the best music in the country- the stuff that’s right here in our own back yard.
You have been listening to “At the Crossroads” a special one hour program highlighting the musicians and the events of the Northern Colorado Musicfest ’95. Musicfest ’95 is a benefit festival for Fort Collins public radio KCSU and is being sponsored this year by Beat News and Music, Fort Fund and the New Belgium Brewing Company. Steve Schmutzer is Musicfest ’95 Festival Director, assisted by Gayle Tyler. The Musicfest Planning this year included KCSU staff members Kellie Straub and Deni La Rue along with Beat representatives Sid Cooperrider and Ken O’Hearn. But Musicfest ’95 would not be possible without the music of the many artists playing in this year’s festival and the many music fans that keep the musicians busy. Thanks also goes to the many venues who will be hosting Musicfest ’95 events. This program was recorded and sponsored by Kiva, featuring recording and duplication services and the area’s only catalog of local music. For KCSU and Musicfest ’95, this is Tim Van Schmidt…at the crossroads.
Music Business Seminar – March 4, 1995
Practical Promotion: These are just ideas drawn from experience and not meant to be a formula–each and every situation is different–each promotion effort should be custom fit Most important- a succinct promotion pack–for getting gigs and for press or radio elements:
1- press release- just what is at hand, brand new information- why are you sending the pack, what’s up, recent accomplishments , tie into a concert event- most common, hit direct area, be specific in choices
2- biography- give interesting personal background- scuba diving, chess champ, etc. foreign travel, parents, siblings etc. obviously want to give full musical information- key here is to namedrop- opened for, awards, record sales, music festivals, producers, teachers, goals
3- black and white glossy- 8 X 10- avoid pictures that are already “screened”- check quality of picture, lousy picture might squash and article or make it so club owner can’t use it in an ad- building up an “image” means being seen, if your materials are cheap and inferior, it lessens your chances of exposure. Color pictures are only necessary down the road-only used for big features, in magazines- beginning musicians rarely get those opportunities
4- product- could be a demo tape- selection of originals and covers to show breadth of music, can just do snatches of music- if going through the trouble of making a demo, good idea to try to make a little more out of it and do an “album” or “EP”- not much more effort but might be used to sell if anyone loves your music, shows club owner you’re more serious-demo tapes will not work for articles- need to have something accomplished before can expect any real attention- might induce radio to play material
5- past coverage- use most current, or a few of best written pieces- have dates on them, look for publication prestige. random tips- go light on the cute stuff–don’t make fun of yourself or make excuses- if you’re not confident about your work, why should writers or club owners?–present a positive, upbeat image and have an attitude- have something constructive and/or interesting to say about yourself or don’t do it.—a full promotion pack gets attention and helps for maximum coverage, but doesn’t insure anything- think of the competition- other local acts, national acts- every music venue has somebody all the time- have no illusions- everybody is a drop in the bucket. Follow-up calls make a big difference- it demands a commitment and may push the decision in your favor, in general journalists plan 3-4 weeks in advance because of difficulty in scheduling interviews and juggling the constant glut of information.
—plan ahead!!!If doing an “album release party” make sure you have product in hand before even scheduling it, make sure gigs are confirmed- nothing discourages a writer more than to put time into a project and then have it wash out- writer probably won’t work with you again, let alone club owner or listeners You can do too much- too many calls, too much material-no need for every article or scrap of memorabilia, just a waste of time and money, too much material can be a waste, but a full kit on contact can also save you the time and money of having to provide further stuff later when sending to a newspaper, suggest addressing to “Arts and Entertainment Editor”- expect names to change, using just a mailing list with old or incomplete information backfires on you- either keep up, which is a big job or simplify- mailing list should be based on publication not on editor or writers
Collect your own articles and clippings- neither the writer or the editor are clipping services- they just don’t have time, by the time your article has been published, they are already working on other stuff Make yourself valuable- game of namedropping, is it cool or PC to cover you, why do you stick out, or find a way to stick out- do something to distinguish yourself- volunteer to do radio appearances- local music angle Don’t get discouraged- the seed you plant now may sprout at a later time- it is somewhat a game of frequency- the more they hear about you, the more important you seem in their minds and the easier it is to get publicity- it’s like this Musicfest- say it’s big and it becomes big- Kiva catalog look to the future- have material on computer so you can change it at a moment’s notice- be prepared to FAX material w/latest stuff…on-line accessibility of info- journalists can just call Most of all, love the music because that’s the root of it all
With a sweet blend of voices, Loveland country quintet Sterling Silver makes an energetic music that is both a pleasure and an inspiration. The five teenage girls apply easygoing rhythms to layers of vocals and come up with a friendly and infectious sound that has them playing fairs, rodeos and special appearances all over the region. But even more precise is their clarity on just why they’re playing music.
“Personally, I think it’s a way to express my feelings. But it’s also something I want to make into a career. It’s an inspiration,” Sterling Silver guitarist, mandolin player and fiddler Ashley Smith, 15, said recently. “Also, I just love to perform and it keeps me going just knowing that I’m making the people happy.”
Sterling Silver not only makes their audiences happy with their performances, but they also have the respect of other groups who mix originals with traditional material- like those at the Pikes Peak Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where Sterling Silver has performed on the main stage for three years running.
“They treat the girls like queens. They’ve watched them grow up and make progress and have featured them on stage with such artists as Don Edwards and Baxter Black,” Sterling Silver manager Nancy Smith said.
The roots of the band go back to a larger performing arts group that eventually was too cumbersome to meet the growing talents of Sterling Silver members Smith and bassist Kristen Aguilera, 16. So they split off and formed the group that was to become Sterling Silver. Since then, the band has performed at the Larimer County Fair, the Greeley Independence Stampede and Cheyenne Frontier Days, as well as at scores of regional concert series, including at the Lincoln Center. Sterling Silver is currently at work on their first full-length CD project at the Eye in the Sky recording studio in LaPorte, providing a brand new challenge to a band that is most comfortable on the stage.
“It’s a new experience singing in the studio. We’re not used to singing just to a mike, instead of into a mike in front of a lot of people. We’re used to being a stage band and performing,” Sterling Silver guitarist Brooke Boynton, 14, said.
Fortunately the band has the help of such people as music arranger and teacher Andy May and the CD, which will feature a mix of originals with tunes by the Everly Brothers and Patsy Cline, should be out in May.
That will be good news for the members of the Sterling Silver fan club, which just went international with members joining from England. Until then, Sterling Silver, which also features drummer TKOchoa, 15, and keyboardist Marinda Flom, 15, will be headlining a special family concert at the Docks for the Northern Colorado Musicfest ’95 on Saturday.
The event is a benefit for Fort Collins public radio station KCSU and will also feature Laramie singer-songwriter Danno. Sterling Silver will also be performing for the Full Moon Saloon’s Sunday Family Nights on April 30 and May 21 in Loveland and again at the Factory Outlet Mall on May 27-29.
Hot Dates: Fifteen-year-old Atlantic recording artist Brandy brings her chart-busting music to McNichols Arena on Tuesday, opening for Boyz II Men. One of Finland’s hottest folk groups, Varttina, will be bringing their vivacious harmonies and electrifying performing style to the Arvada Center for the Arts on Wednesday, the same night Matthew Sweet plays the Boulder Theater and Band de Soleil plays the Mountain Tap. The Arvada Center will also be presenting an evening of original contemporary chamber music on Thursday. The teachers at the Swallow Hill Music School will be presenting their annual concert- this year featuring Neil Haverstick, Carla Sciaky, Mary Stribling, and more- on Saturday.
It’s really not an insult when Scottish band Wolfstone is described as “a thistle up the kilt of Celtic music.”
What it means is that Wolfstone has managed to put a brand new energy into the folk rock of the British isles, mixing the soul of Celtic music traditions with the guts of no-nonsense rock.
On their most recent release, last year’s “Year of the Dog” album on Green Linnett Records, Wolfstone’s music ranges from instrumental tunes brimming over with fiddles and pipes to full, wide rock with socially-conscious lyrics. There’s the sad and introspective to smooth, glossy pop. The band mixes the ancient roots of traditional music and updates it with a contemporary viewpoint and crisp, modern production.
Wolfstone began in the late 1980’s as a professional dance band, playing for “ceilidhs,” or gatherings in both Scotland and Ireland that feature traditional dance. The chemistry was there to take the band much further and the group has become a hands-down favorite everywhere they go- all over England, Scotland, Ireland and the United States. They’ve won gold records in the U.K. and were a hit at last year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
For fans of passionate songwriting and rocking renditions of traditional jigs and reels, Wolfstone will be a breath of fresh air when they make their Front Range debut at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Sunday.
Marcia Ball: Honky-tonking blues has never been in better hands than in Texas piano queen Marcia Ball and no one else plays boogie woogie with so much style.
A lot of that has to do with Ball’s dual citizenship in the music world. Her roots are in the steamy mixture of music in Louisiana, but she has also been strongly identified with the Austin, Texas music scene. This kind of crossbreeding has produced a rolling piano style that benefits from a little vocal sass and a clear respect for the traditions of all kinds of music including blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll.
Ball records for Rounder Records and will be making a rare appearance in Fort Collins at Linden’s on Thursday as well as at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Friday, March 17, for the Boulder Blues Festival.
Great White: So does this sound like hard rock band Great White to you: lilting acoustic guitars, siren-like saxophones, weeping cellos, jazzy congas and judiciously applied symphonics? Well, you have to believe it because that’s exactly what the band has produced on their recent Zoo Entertainment release, “Sail Away.”
For “Sail Away,” Great White has veered off well-cruised courses and navigates new musical waters, running the stylistic gamut from simmering Cajun blues to folksy fireside ballads, R & B-inflected rock ‘n’ roll and righteous honky tonk, all with a spirit of inspired experimentalism. That’s good news for rock fans who have known Great White for its solid blues-based rock of the past and can now taste a little something new from a band they know will deliver.
Great White will be making a rare club appearance at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Tuesday.
Hot Dates: Scottish balladeer supreme, Jean Redpath will be appearing at the Cameron Church in Denver on Saturday. That show is being produced by the Swallow Hill Music Association, who will be hosting singer-songwriters Kevin Welch, Jimmy Lafave and Michael Fracasso at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver tonight. Shakedown Street will be at the Old Town Ale House and the King Cleveland Blues Band will be at the County Cork both tonight and tomorrow. Little Fish will be at Tony’s on Sunday and the Vertigo Company will be at Tony’s on Tuesday. Everything is at Linden’s on Wednesday and Rob and Don play the Mountain Tap on Thursday.
You get more than just clear, vibrant vocal harmonies and positive, upbeat songs when you dig into the music of Seattle acoustic duo Bananafish.
What you also get is a strong sense of purpose that not only produces an uplifting music, but also has the two musicians running their own thriving business. They are crafting a strong do-it-yourself career that keeps them touring and visiting radio stations all over the country.
“We wanted to be in control of what we could be in control of as long as we could be in control of it. Mostly, that just came from our music. We wanted to put out the music the way we wanted it out and all of it has just evolved from that,” Bananafish guitarist and songwriter Jay Pinto said recently in a conference call from the group’s offices in Seattle.
Pinto and percussionist partner Tom Kennedy had a strong foundation even before the pair began traveling the country with their energetic music. The two had honed their art and created an international fan base by playing regularly on the streets of Seattle at the famous Pike Place Market.
“We had a pretty big mailing list before we ever started going on the road because we play here at the Pike Market and n the summer it’s a huge tourist attraction. Our list was from all over, really, before we even started. We had mailing lists in all 50 states and in 12 countries, so that has been a big help,” Pinto said.
Not only did playing on the streets help build a national mailing list, it also taught Bananafish some valuable lessons about performing.
“Being on the street, everything is improvised, basically, as far as your communication with the audience because the same people aren’t seeing you every time. You’re not telling the same jokes and you’re not doing the same things. What it’s taught me is that every show is different and that basically nothing gets repeated,” Kennedy said.”I think it forces you to make contact in a different way than if you’re on stage behind a microphone,” Pinto said. “I think we learned as much by watching other performers who weren’t being successful as we did by performing ourselves because you have to look people in the eye and you have to kind of grab them from the get-go.”
While Bananafish has made their reputation as a lively performing duo, they have also been busy learning to make records that may- or may not- reflect their duo sound. On their latest album, “Tomorrow Never Knows” on Paget Records, there is certainly plenty of the stripped down acoustic pop sound that is Bananafish’s trademark, but there’s also more. The song “Freezin'” is a carefully produced piece of neo-psychedelia that is hard for the pair to reproduce onstage and for loyal older fans to accept.
“I think even on our next album, there’s going to be some growing pains involved with our fans, because whether you mean to or not, just by growing, you alienate certain people, “Kennedy said.
Growth means change and that’s what keeps Bananafish in the business.
“As long as we keep moving forward and grow as individuals, then I think we’re going to continue to do this. We both love doing what we do and I think we’re both in a fortunate position,” Pinto said.
Bananafish will be returning to the area for several performances including radio interviews on KUNC and KCSU and at Avogadro’s Number all on Monday. They will also be at the Ramskellar on the CSU campus on Friday March 24.
Hot Dates: Marcia Ball will be at the Fox Theatre in Boulder and John Stansfield and Heather McNeil will be presenting an evening of Celtic stories and ballads at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver tonight. North Carolina’s funky favorite sons Dag will be at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver on Saturday. John Mayall will be joined by Subdude John Magnie at the Fox on Thursday. The good news there is that Mayall has a brand new album out on Silvertone Records, called “Spinning Coin.” It’s houserocking blues with a tremendous new energy and should have Mayall fans back on their feet and asking for more.
Big Shows/Promoters in Fort Collins
There’s some particularly challenging days just ahead for live music lovers in the Fort Collins area.
While concert-goers are generally used to one or two national-level shows a year here, with some good nightclub appearances thrown in for good measure, four big acts- Tuck and Patti, Tracy Chapman, George Clinton and Nanci Griffith- are all on their way in the next week to test a market that has been attractive to promoters for years, but has traditionally been hard to get a firm grip on.
For instance, promoter Nona Gandelman of Boulder-based Maven Productions, has been staging shows in the Fort Collins area for over ten years. Still, she remains “very cautious” about bringing in national-level performers- like Tuck and Patti, scheduled for the Sunset Night Club on Saturday and Nanci Griffith, booked for the Lincoln Center on Wednesday.
“It’s a difficult town to get a good reading on,” Gandelman said recently about Fort Collins. “It’s large enough to get attention but you can never say what will go.”
“Fort Collins is its own little world and if I buy a show for Boulder or Denver, that doesn’t mean it will translate well up there.”
Over the years, Maven has been responsible for bringing such acts as Albert Collins, Iris Dement, Ferron and Michael Hedges to Fort Collins and Gandelman is encouraged by the growing number of venue choices in the area. Still, the area presents the promoter with a puzzling set of questions that affects the success of each show she books here.
“You have to look at the area because it’s a city of considerable size. But it also becomes a lifestyle question- do the people go out and listen to music? What kind of music do they like? How do the people use their money?” Gandelman said.
Bill Bass, head of Fey Concerts’ Small Acts division, also reports a “checkered history” in promoting shows in Fort Collins, although the company generally “makes more than we lose.” While Fey Concerts is active in promoting shows in several western states including arena shows in California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado, Bass concentrates on shows of 8,000 seats and less which includes all the company’s promotions in Fort Collins. Fey is bringing in Tracy Chapman to the Lincoln Center on Sunday and is co-producing the Nanci Griffith show at the Lincoln Center on Wednesday along with Maven.
As it turns out, Fort Collins can thank the Denver concert market for the opportunity to see some of the bigger acts.
“Denver is a major market. Everybody wants to play Denver because, among other things, it’s got a great rock and roll community,” Bass said. “Fort Collins is what we call an ‘ancillary market’ or a spin-off market.”
According to Bass, Fort Collins becomes an attractive area to book shows often because it fits in well with the routing purposes of the bands. In short, Denver attracts the acts and Fort Collins reaps some of the benefits.
Bass, who has been responsible for bringing such names as Bruce Cockburn, George Thorogood, Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley to the Fort Collins area, says quite simply that he comes back to Fort Collins “when we have a show that will sell tickets.” That includes an upcoming Aril 30 date with Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the Dave Matthews Band and the Boxing Gandhis at Moby Arena. Tickets for that show go on sale Monday through Ticketmaster outlets and on the CSU campus.
New to the promotion business in the area is the Fort Collins-based company High Country Concerts who have “big money on the line” for their show with George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars at the CSU Lory Student Center on Monday. Partners Aaron Setzer and Dan Dahlstrom have stepped out on the limb for their first big promotion in order to bring a new level of entertainment to town.
“We want to bring good music to Fort Collins and we also wanted it to be home-grown and promoted from here,” Setzer said recently.
High Country Concerts feels that “being close to here, with our ear to the ground” may help them to gain an edge in successfully promoting their shows. So far, the company’s Clinton show has produced a groundswell of positive response.
“People have been coming out of the woodwork to thank us for tackling this show. They keep telling us that they’re sick of driving to Boulder and Denver to see this kind of music,” Setzer said.
The Clinton show is acting as a crash course in big time promoting for the pair- which includes not only providing for an entourage of more than 35 people, but also providing “room temperature prune juice” for the star- and the success of this concert may affect the opportunities for more national-level music in the future.
“If all goes well, this will bode well for the future,” Dahlstrom said with a fresh and excited enthusiasm.
For guitarist Stuart Weber, Montana rivers are music. So are the mountains and valleys, the ranches and history of his home state. But there was once a time when Weber questioned the very source of his inspiration. It happened while he was studying with classical guitar master Christopher Parkening.
“I was seeing very hopeful playing in myself and that the guitar was going to do well for me,” Weber said recently by phone. “I figured right away that I was going to need some gimmick to make the press listen to me. I was always trying to downplay my roots in Montana and my way-out-in-the-boonies existence. I always tried to put a twist on things that I was a conservatory graduate or some prodigy. That just didn’t fit well with me. I didn’t know until I dropped that facade that everything I need for an entire lifetime of music is right here.”
Weber’s love for the natural splendor of Montana has since resulted in his most recent album, “Hired Man’s Dream” on Bridger Records. The collection is a musical journey along the wild rivers of his region rendered with a delicate and warm grace. Counterpointed to Weber’s original work is his faithful study of classical material- a love that had him put composing on hold while getting some technical experience under his belt.
“I shut the lid on my composition and I knew I did that. It was intentional. I really wanted to learn the classical repertoire and take on all these tools that these great classical players have before I went back to writing,” Weber said.
Weber’s classical playing, reflected in his 1990 release, “Evening in the Country,” not only serves to flesh out his set list but also gives him the technical challenge he needs to keep his “axe sharp.”
“I know if I don’t work on my technical skills, keep my hands in good shape and keep my chops up, I eliminate part of my palette when I go to write about the rivers and mountains, I’ve eliminated some colors I might want,” Weber said. “I continually run into that frontier of technique in my own description of this frontier here. I’m always pushing my envelope, discovering some great sound that can generate the excitement I can get from light on the water or shoots of snow on the cliffs.”
Weber’s attention to classical technique and his original compositions come together as a powerful expression that has this artist in awe of his instrument and willing to sink up to six hours a day into practicing it.
“I owe the guitar a great debt. It’s been a great instrument for me in my life and a wonderful outlet for my creativity. You don’t pay those kind of debts on two hours a day- you don’t even touch the interest on the debt,” Weber said.
Weber is currently at work on a new album of original music and will be at the Sunset Night Club with local guitar master Jerry Palmer on Wednesday.
Hot Dates: Called an “undiscovered blues master” by Colorado Music World, Denver singer and guitarist Johnny Long conjures up the delta blues with the authority of his teachers- namely Muddy Waters, Homesick James, Big Mama Thornton and more. A veteran of both the Chicago and St. Louis blues scenes, Long will be doing two shows at the Bas Bleu Theatre on Saturday. Nuevo bluegrass band Sugarbeet will be at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver on Saturday. Kirsty MacColl, whose latest release “Galore” on IRS Records embodies the best of the last fifteen years of her work plus two new tracks, will be at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Thursday.
You’ll get more than a showcase of Texas talent when singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa brings her “Border Tour” to the Boulder Theater on Saturday.
The tour, featuring Hinojosa, Santiago Jimenez, Jr, Butch Hancock and Don Walser, is being billed as “the Best of the Texas Troubadours” but is more like a reunion of blood relatives.
“Most of us have known each other off and on over the years and picked with each other in different little combinations and different gigs. Tish and Santiago have done some tours and Tish and I did a tour last fall and I sit in with Don every once in a while in Austin, so it’s a big, crazy, happy family,” Hancock said recently by phone from a tour stop in Portland, Oregon.
The Border Tour features a succinct cross-section of Texas music styles with Walser covering the more traditional kind of Texas songwriting, Jimenez offering conjunto, Hinojosa representing Tex-Mex crossover music and Hancock filling in as a skilled contemporary songwriter. But more than that, the Border Tour also allows each of the artists to reach out to new audiences, finding new strength in numbers.
“Each of us all have new albums out and we’re all wanting to get in front of people. On this kind of tour, this kind of variety allows us to book into larger places than each of us individually might not be able to do at this point and just get out and cross over a few lines of audiences, people who might not come to hear us otherwise. Somebody who might come to hear Tish but not come to hear me would get to hear me and maybe, theoretically, may want to come back and hear me again and the same thing would be true in hearing some of these other folks,” Hancock said.
Hancock’s most recent album is the brand new “Eats Away the Night,” on Sugar Hill Records, and is a gritty slice of songwriting that looks at both the outside world as well as the emotional worlds inside his characters for a world-wise music that finds the deep and powerful in everyday life.
As it turns out, Hancock’s songs rise naturally out of a life that counts music as only one of the many activities he busies himself with, but an important expression nonetheless.
“I have never thought of it in terms of even myself being a songwriter. I don’t sit down to write a song, it’s just part of what I do. Sometimes I write songs and sometimes I don’t. When I’m not writing songs, I don’t worry about whether I’m writing songs or not,” Hancock said.
“It’s just part of living. When I write a song, it’s not with the idea of who would record this or who do I get to sing this. It’s just that something is inside me that needs to come out.”
Hancock is based in Austin, Texas where he runs a gallery called “Lubbock-Or-Leave-It,” which serves more than one purpose.
“It’s kind of a crazy, hodge podge thing. We have a tape duplicating service we do for songwriters and bands around Austin. Then we have a little store-gallery up front and a performance space where we have exhibitions and performances and all kinds of things. It’s a pretty versatile space,” Hancock said.
When Hancock isn’t touring in the United States, Europe and beyond, or running Lubbock-Or-Leave-It, then he’s out rowing or guiding white water rafting trips on any one of many rivers in Texas, Arizona or New Mexico. In fact, Hancock counts rafting as his “favorite gig.”
“It’s a great challenge, good physical exercise and for mental stuff too. It’s great for the spirit….It’s like food, food for the soul,” Hancock said.
Hot Dates: Salsa, cumbia and merengue are on tap when Manuel Molina and his Sexteto play the Sunset Night Club tonight. Also tonight, the Arvada Center for the Arts hosts a special show titled “Culture Blend,” with storyteller and singer Pat Mendoza being joined by composer Tom June for a night of ethnic-influenced music. Throwing Muses will be at the Fox Theater in Boulder tonight as well. Extreme will be at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Thursday.
On her most recent Matador/Atlantic Records release, “Whip-smart,” alternative popster Liz Phair makes music that balances a little something innocent with a little something twisted. The songs on “Whip-smart” are simple enough in structure and Phair’s understated vocal style is generally calm and soothing. But then add in some cutting edge production values and lyrics that widely range from the simplicity of adult nursery rhymes to stream of consciousness poetry and you’ve got Phair’s recipe for some challenging sounds.
This is pop rock and art music all at the same time.”Whip-smart,” of course, is the follow-up to Phair’s highly successful first album, “Exile In Guyville,” a collection of song-by-song responses to the Rolling Stones’ classic “Exile on Main Street.” That 1993 album beat out Nirvana, U2 and Pearl Jam for album of the year honors in the Village Voice poll of national critics and propelled Phair into the spotlight.
The new album shows that not only is Phair unafraid of going deeper into territory first explored by the Velvet Underground, but she also does it in her own strange way-which at times includes mixing in some pretty crude language with the sing-song flatness of some of her other wording. That juxtaposition also applies to the musical arrangements that might place toy-like acoustic instruments next to thick, distorted electric guitar. Phair, who cancelled her last tour due to the toll the rigors of the road took on her as a performer, will be making a rare solo electric appearance at the Ogden Theatre tonight.
Ice Cube: There’s no stopping a man like rapper Ice Cube, once you get him going. Take Cube’s latest Priority Records release, “Bootlegs and B-sides,” for instance. It’s a collection of rare tracks and remixes of classic Cube material that despite its rather disjointed make-up still stands as a powerful statement of the “gangsta” street lifestyle he has become a platinum-selling champion of since rising to prominence in the late 1980’s with the group N.W.A. Cube doesn’t just put out an easy product, but labors hard and long on it so that it will stand up to the tough and challenging standard of such albums as “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted,” “Death Certificate” and “The Predator.”
It’s all there on “Bootlegs and B-sides”- guns, jail, drugs and money set against a landscape of racism and abusive authority. Cube questions religion and social values while playing with some very funky beats. But not to rest on any of his laurels, Cube is now ready to unleash his latest project- a feature film written and starring the rapper in his first comedy film role. Titled “Friday,” the film also features music from an unprecedented gathering of the superstars of hip hop including not only Cube’s title song, but also work by Dr. Dre, Cypress Hill, Scarface, Mack 10, 2 Live Crew and many others. The official release date of the “Friday” soundtrack is April 11 with a special edition double vinyl version of the album coming out as well. Of course, that’s not all. Cube has also recently served as executive producer for Mack 10’s latest release. Mack 10,in turn, will be touring with Cube. They will be joined by Lord of Word at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Thursday for two shows. The 8 pm show is sold out while tickets still remain for the 11 pm performance.
Hot Dates: God Lives Underwater slams together wailing punk/metal guitar with the relentless throb of techno/rave beats and will be at the Ramskellar on the CSU campus on Saturday. That’s the same day rising Canadian folk star Garnet Rogers will be at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver. The Mkono Drummers will be at the Sunset Night Club on Wednesday. Other stuff to keep in mind: Fingers with Jerry Palmer at the Sunset on April 20, Hawkwind at the Fox Theatre on April 23, Joshua Redman at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver on April 28 and Critters Buggin’ at the Old Town Ale House on April 29.
This is Noise, a monthly column dedicated to just that-the sounds of jackhammer angels, guitar gutters, rhythm dogs and just plain folks. It’s the stuff we make when we want to make things clear. It’s love and money and stress and wine. Noise fills our world and we just can’t live without it. Noise is about the latest and the greatest on the Front Range- concert reviews, ticket alerts, album release stuff and pictures. Noise is just another way of saying that there’s plenty to do. Make some Noise.
Black Whistle: A thunder clap and the shrill cry of a hawk introduces the singing and drumming of Montana Native American music group Black Whistle on their Kiva Records debut release, “Keeping Tradition Alive.” Straddling the deep traditional culture of the Crow people and the spinning whirl of modern-day culture, the music of Black Whistle is not frivolous pop music.
“Our elders, our parents always tell us, when you are singing, you must sing from the heart. You sing for the people for their enjoyment and to help them in any way possible,” Black Whistle drumkeeper Darrin Old Coyote said recently by phone from his Montana home.
The primal power of the drum’s heartbeat underscores Black Whistle’s soaring vocals on “Keeping Tradition Alive.” This is pow wow music- for the dancers. If you leave out the dancing, you leave out a good half of a total package.
“The dancing is the heart of the pow wow circuit today. It’s like a horse and carriage thing that without the drums and the dancers, there’d be no pow wow,” Old Coyote said.
The fifteen members of Black Whistle travel widely throughout the United States and Canada sharing their strong and entrancing music with what has become a large extended family.
“The pow wow is a time of greeting old friends and making new friends along the way. It seems like a family as we travel around. There’s family all over now and we travel around and see each other and greet each other,” Old Coyote said.
Black Whistle’s album is the next step for a band that has been playing together for six years. It all got started when Old Coyote got bored one afternoon and decided to take up a stick and make-shift drum.
“I got a choke cherry stick and a cardboard box and started singing this song I learned,” Old Coyote said. “Then two or three of my cousins jumped in and they started using a discarded stop sign and the same choke cherry sticks with old socks taped to the end of them.”
From there Black Whistle developed the music that would tie them not only to the present, but also to both the past and the future.
“The old songs we sing, someone had to make those songs for them to be here with us today. Then we make songs for the ones that will be here in the future. We are a direct link to tradition and stretch from the past to the future,” Old Coyote said.
Afterword: So the Northern Colorado Musicfest ’95 has come and gone but sweet memories still linger:
On Thursday, March 2: funky Electric Swingset at the Mountain Tap, turning up the heat on a quick groove. Rifkin’s rolling keyboard drama at the Lincoln Center Mini Theater. Mark Van Ark doing “Greensleeves” in the haze at the Bar Bazaar. Logjam dominating the stage and scaring the customers at Tony’s- ears ringing in the late night air outside.
Friday, March 3: Wild and wacky art band Fingers pushing the performance envelope at the Bas Bleu Theatre. On the edge punchiness with Calamari Safari at Avo’s. Grooving long and strong with the Mkono Drummers at Bar Bazaar.
Saturday, March 4: Lloyd Drust’s unique acoustic stylings at the Starry Night. Exhumator’s raw power at the Ramskellar. Windfall’s class acoustic rock at the Bar Bazaar. Big Mouth’s electric celebration at the close of the night at Tony’s.
Sunday, March 5: Pamela Jones wailing on her horn with Kevin Jones at Java Plaza. Jerry Palmer mixing percussion and melody at the Mini Theater. Wind River’s uplifting bluegrass at Avo’s. The whole night show at the Mini Theater- Liz Barnez, Bob Hollister and the Moonlight Rhythm Band playing in a place they long deserve. Then hot, slapping blues with round robin solos between Creighton Holley, Hugh Ragin, Max Wagner and Walt Jenkins at Linden’s. Then, finally, the power and glory of the Psychodelic Zombiez at the Ale House.
All in all, I saw 42 performers in the four days of the Musicfest, and that was only half of the bands and other acts that were playing. Guess I’ll just have to run faster next year…
Moving on, Fort Collins had an excellent smattering of national-level talent recently. Texas boogie woogie queen Marcia Ball appeared at Linden’s on March 16 to roll both her Texas background and her New Orleans roots all up and down her keyboard while smacking its leg with her high-heeled shoe. Tuck Andress scampered all over his guitar while Patti Cathcart sang in her husky, velvety tones when Tuck and Patti brought their uplifting jazz pop to the Sunset Night Club on March 18.
On March 19, Tracy Chapman brought a full band to the Lincoln Center and turned out a set full of emotion and concern for the world, all the more underscored by Chapman’s friendly modesty. And, of course, winter was officially escorted out the door when George Clinton and the P-Fun All-Stars played the Lory Student Center Ballroom- and played and played and played. What more do you need than thirty minute songs full of screaming electricity, razor sharp horns, blasting raps and that P-Funk insanity? Nothing. Just more shows like it…
Things are moving fast for Denver singer-songwriter Sherri Jackson- and that’s why she’s trying to take it slow. Up until last September, Jackson had been working as a singer for popular Front Range club band Band du Jour. Then she split off to start a solo career that already has independent record companies handing her contracts and an audience calling for more.
“I just started writing songs in the last six months. When I started this, I thought I would be waitressing for two years or so before anything took off. But things are going pretty quick even though this is really, really new,” Jackson said recently by phone.
In just a short time, the classically-trained violinist has had to learn how to go from being a band member to a bandleader, learn a new instrument and how to deal with an audience that is now coming out to hear her original music.
“This has been like a crash course in music. I’m learning guitar and how to lead a band. I’m learning how to write songs and about rhythm and to have the musicianship to gel with a bass player and a drummer. I’m learning how to take violin solos and what to say to the audience from the stage,” Jackson said.
Jackson is also getting a course in the music business as well. Since she began her solo work, she has been presented with four contracts to record with both regional and out of state record companies. One company flew her out to Los Angeles to show her what they can do with her music in their studio. It’s exactly this kind of furious activity that has the singer taking the time to go to the library to check out books on the music industry and the legal language of the contracts.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research. It’s been a lot of fun-almost like going back to school,” Jackson said. “I’m approaching this with the attitude that it’s better to go slow and that I’ll be better off for it in the future.”
What the fuss is all about is a bright and energetic music that can go just about anywhere. On her 6-song demo tape, along with bassist Glenn Esparza and drummer Brian McCrae, Jackson not only plays some hip, upbeat and funky music with songs like “Maple Tree,” but also traditionally flavored stuff complete with salt-of-the-earth humor with an a capella tune titled “Rice and Beans.” “Liberation” is a celebratory march and “Close the Drapes” is an art song about a roommate who turns into a vampire. Each tune is fresh and lively and none of them are stuck in the same groove.
“I like different types of music and I hate being pigeonholed. I guess that comes out in the music. Also, I have an advantage being a woman performer because our emotions can be kind of extreme,” Jackson said. “What I’m most psyched about is that I was worried that people wouldn’t like my music because it comes from different influences. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
Plans for the Sherri Jackson Band include playing several music festivals around Colorado this spring and gigging at Linden’s on Wednesday.
Motherfolkers: If you’ve ever been to a Motherfolkers concert, you know what to expect- a showcase of some of the finest acoustic-based music you’ll find on the Front Range. The Motherfolkers are a group of ten women musicians who have been blending their many talents together for over 20 years in annual Front Range concerts that not only signal that spring is here, but also that both modern and traditional acoustic music rests in very good hands. If you’ve never been to a Motherfolkers concert, then the time is on Saturday when the Motherfolkers present their 22ndannual Fort Collins performance at the Lincoln Center. This year’s performers include Ellen Audley, Mary Stribling, Eileen Niehouse and Bonnie Carol. The group has released two albums, “Live at the Arvada Center” and “Confluence.”
Hot Dates: Zydeco from Colorado? It’s true with the Boulder-based Zukes of Zydeco. They’ll be playing traditional Cajun, zydeco and New Orleans’ style “second line” tunes atthe Bar Bazaar tonight. Clive Gregson will be at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver and Mike Watt brings his “ball-hog or tugboat?” tour to the Mercury Cafe on Saturday. Leo Kottke is at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Sunday and Monday, Siouxsie and theB anshees will be at the Paramount Theater in Denver on Monday, Belly is at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Wednesday, and Fingers is scheduled along with Jerry Palmer on Thursday at the Sunset Night Club.
For some, song lyrics are a decoration for either a great melody or a catchy rhythm.
Certainly Minnesota singer-songwriter Stuart Davis comes up with his share of both good melodies and rhythms, but his lyric writing goes way beyond being decoration.
On his 1994 Panacea Records release, “Self Untitled,” Davis presents material where it’s the thoughts that count. With a direct and honest writing style, Davis ranges the intellectual field in his songs from tongue-in-cheek cynicism to the deepest of introspection. From art to racism, Davis takes on difficult subjects and succeeds in not only getting his point across, but in making some riveting music as well.
“Self Untitled” opens with an acerbic look at addictions and dependencies, the song “Only Changing Drugs” tracing the development of a drug-binging teenager to an adult alcoholic equally addicted to cigarettes, coffee and treatment centers. Then Davis runs down a list of American cultural elements that include racism, terrorism, ego, art and billboards. He takes the time to dream about universal peace in the song “Universe Communion” and about spirituality in “House of Light.”
In his most penetrating moment, however, Davis brushes aside all the intelligent wordplay and digs deep into his soul for the final song on the album. The tune “You My Child” is both delicate and purposeful and muses over the hurt and tragedy of abortion. This is not a political statement or a moral judgment, but rather personal feelings, displayed with an honesty and clarity that is not very common in the world of pop music.
What Davis succeeds in doing is making a music that turns exhaustive analysis into crystal-clear poems about contemporary living. The music itself ranges from light rock to acoustic folk, but the lyrics stretch all the way from the churning world that surrounds us, full of its inconsistencies, difficulties and hypocrisies, to the tenderest part of the human heart. That’s what makes Davis’ music innovative- it’s art that looks reality in the face.
Royal Trux: There’s an expert for every kind of music and if you’re looking for some grungy blues rock that pays no lip service at all to convention, then try Royal Trux.
Described by Rolling Stone as “demigods of the lo-fi underground,” Royal Trux had a solid career of independent releases on such labels as Drag City Records and Sub Pop before jumping to Virgin Records to release their brand new “Thank You” album. This 10-song collection not only features the usual- garage punk songs performed with psychedelic excess- but also the addition of three new band members, bassist Dan Brown and drummers Chris Pyle and Rob Armstrong.
Of course, at the center stage of Royal Trux’s energetic, stripped down rock is the team of guitarist Neil Hagerty and vocalist Jennifer Herrema. “Thank You” matches Herrema’s growling wildcat expression with Hagerty’s piercing guitar bashing to come up with a primal, raw music that makes no excuses- take it or leave it.
The Virginia-based Trux will be at the Mercury Cafe in Denver on Saturday.
Hot Dates: Tonight, see Lou Rawls at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, Wolfgang Press at the Fox Theater in Boulder, and Diana Castro and the Big Time at Linden’s. Liz Masterson will be at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver on Saturday. Hawkwind brings their challenging art rock to the Fox on Sunday. The Golden Palominos are at the Ogden on Monday. Pop-punk band the Muffs celebrate the release of their new Reprise Records release “Blonder and Blonder” at the Ogden on Tuesday, opening for Veruca Salt. Also on Tuesday, see Sonny Landreth at the Fox and Slaughter at After the Gold Rush in Denver. All will be at the Fox on Wednesday. Sterling Silver brings their fresh and lively country music to the Sunset Night Club on Thursday, the same night the Psychodelic Zombiez rev up the Ale House with their sophisticated, in-your-face funk.
Dave Matthews Band
Sometimes, being in the role of the performing musician takes on a more special meaning when it comes to doing dates in places that have suffered from disaster.
In the case of the Dave Matthews Band, that special situation came just last Saturday when the five-man band from Charlottesville, Virginia played in Oklahoma City- a city still reeling from the bombing of a federal building just days before.
“I think it was on everybody’s minds, you know- a terrorist act, the biggest one to ever hit this country happening in this Midwest town. It’s kind of weird and I think it’s going to be weird for a while,” Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley said recently by phone. “I felt like here I am coming to play music and I really wanted to play well because I wanted to try to give something positive to these kids, maybe take their minds off of some of the stuff that’s going on there for a couple of hours…We played well and people had a great time and we were just glad we were able to put some positive energy out there.”
It’s little wonder that the music of the Dave Matthews Band could help uplift and inspire citizens of a city in crisis. On their recent RCA Records release, “Under the Table and Dreaming” the band creates a sound that is buoyant and powerful, musical genres blending as easily as the diverse playing styles of the band members. The music shifts and changes, never staying in any one place, or musical mood, for long. Of course, much of the band’s sound can be credited to vocalist and guitarist Dave Matthews’ solid songwriting, but the genre blending in the music can also be traced to the cross-pollinating music scene of Charlottesville.
“There’s just a lot of great jazz players and rock players and country, bluegrass and folk, and it’s a community where all these people know each other. All the jazz cats know the rock cats and the folk cats. It’s a combination like our band where we have people like Carter (Beauford) and Leroi (Moore)from jazz and me from rock and classical. These kinds of combinations appear pretty regularly in Charlottesville,” Tinsley said.
The Dave Matthews Band independently released their first album, “Remember Two Things” in 1993 and have since not only attracted a deal with RCA, but have also hit national television with appearances on the David Letterman show, Saturday Night Live and on MTV. They were also a featured band on last year’s HORDE tour. All this is a sure sign that the band has an excellent management team.
“We have a really together, organized, brilliant-like management staff and that’s been one of the big reasons why we’ve gotten to where we are. It’s just because we’ve had good people who’ve done a lot of the right moves,” Tinsley said.
The Dave Matthews Band will be joining Big Head Todd and the Monsters and the Boxing Gandhis for a sold-out show at Moby Arena on Sunday.
Traditional Jazz: Fans of the music of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Bix Beiderbecke will be happy to know that there are more people like you out there. In fact, some of them are currently active in forming a new area music group to be called the Northern Colorado Traditional Jazz Society. Jazz activist and organizer Bob Cooke is looking for other enthusiasts who appreciate the ragtime-influenced jazz sounds of turn-of-the-century New Orleans and has set the charter assembly for the new jazz society for Sunday at the Bar Bazaar.
Cooke and co-organizer Bob Jackson will also be using the jazz society event to introduce a new traditional jazz band to area listeners- the Poudre River Irregulars. The eight-piece band is made up of players from other major traditional jazz bands in the area such as the Platte River Jazz Band, the Queen City Jazz Band and the Grand Dominion Jazz band. The Northern Colorado Traditional Jazz Society is expected to include both players and listeners, will have a board of directors and regular meetings that will take place on the fourth Sunday of every month. The event on Sunday at the Bar Bazaar is scheduled from 2-6 pm. Tickets are $5 at the door.
Hot Dates: Joshua Redman is at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver tonight. Critters Buggin’ will be at the Ale House on Saturday. The Beastie Boys open the Red Rocks season on Monday and the Flaming Lips are at the Ogden Theatre in Denver on Tuesday.
Master English guitarist John Renbourn has dabbled with many different kinds of music- folk, jazz, country blues, ragtime, classical, Middle Eastern and pre-Renaissance music.
Ask him about Celtic music, however, and Renbourn shies away from a term that has been applied to the music he is currently making with poet, composer, story-teller and harpist Robin Williamson.
“I never heard the term ‘Celtic music’ until I came to America some years back. I don’t know the people that play the music even call it Celtic music,” Renbourn said recently by phone. “I started off playing this stuff and listening to it in pubs and clubs but without having any real name for it. It’s been classed as all kinds of things over the years. The term ‘roots music’ seemed to be preferred to ‘folk’ for a while and so on.”
The music at stake is the body of traditional folk songs and tunes that come from Brittany, Scotland, Ireland and England. The songs themselves may be hundreds of years old, but for musicians like Renbourn and Williamson, the music, no matter what it’s called, has a lonlasting resonance and power.
“For me, a lot of the old tunes generate a very strong feeling. It’s difficult to describe the actual feeling, but it’s a very powerful thing. It’s something that you’re drawn into and it’s a part of you,” Renbourn said.
Between Renbourn’s “folk-Baroque” guitar playing style and Williamson’s distinctive singing and harp playing, the pair successfully create a fresh take on traditional songs such as “The Curragh of Kildare” and “Matt Highland” on their recent collaborative album on Flying Fish Records, “Wheel of Fortune.”
But the music on this entertaining live album is not renewed just because of the enthusiasm of the two musicians. It has also taken some hard work to translate the material into modern musical terms.
“If you look at the songs analytically, in purely musical terms, they do things that quite a lot of later music doesn’t do. For me that’s an appeal. It’s a challenge because if you are to play these tunes on a modern instrument, you need to approach them in a way that isn’t commonly thought of. You can’t simply fit chords to a tune that came about before chords were used,” Renbourn said.
What’s lucky is the traditional tunes have survived the centuries not because they were recorded or written down, but because they were handed down, generation by generation.
“Folk memory is very long, it seems; much longer than people would have given it credit for. It seems that the tunes have simply passed along the line and, in some cases, change very little,” Renbourn said.
Of course, traditional folk music from the British Isles is not the whole story for this pair of musicians. Renbourn helped found the seminal British folk-rock band Pentangle before forming his own band and working in various other musical combinations including a stint with guitarist Stefan Grossman. Williamson was a co-founder of the Incredible String Band and also lead his own Merry Band as well as has done groundbreaking theater and literary work.
But when Williamson and Renbourn get together, as they are for a tour including a stop at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver on Saturday, it’s the roots folk music of their homeland that comes to them naturally.
“It’s been very easy working with Robin. There hasn’t been a lot of conscious decisions as to direction or type of music and that’s been a pleasure,” Renbourn said. “We both think we’ve been connected long enough with this kind of music- we’ve been exposed to it and have played certain amounts of it- that when we get together, that’s what happens.”
Hot Dates: The Eagles end their American reunion tour with a date at Mile High Stadium in Denver tonight. Also tonight, Del Amitri begins a two night stand at the Fox Theatre in Boulder with Atlantic Recording artist Melissa Ferrick opening. Slash’s Snakepit will be at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Saturday. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant bring what is expected to be the concert of the year to McNichols Arena in Denver on Monday, with Canadian band Tragically Hip opening. Meanwhile, Barry Manilow begins a two night stand at the Buell Auditorium in Denver on Monday. Queensryche brings their “Promised Land” tour to McNichols on Tuesday, along with special multi-media effects. KMFDM is at the Ogden and Jeff Buckley is at the Bluebird on Wednesday and the Melvins join White Zombie at the Mammoth Events Center on Thursday.
Jimmy Page plays local guitar
When legendary guitarist Jimmy Page takes the stage at McNichols Arena tonight, with old Led Zeppelin mate, vocalist Robert Plant, he’ll be holding a piece of Fort Collins in his hands.
Page is only one of a growing number of super-guitarists that own and play guitars outfitted with a special electronic tuning device designed and manufactured by a Fort Collins company, TransPerformance. Their DTS-1 Digital Tuning System has turned on the likes of Graham Nash, Joe Perry, Ronnie Montrose and Mark Slaughter. Jimmy Page was no exception, when he finally got around to watching one of the several videos of the DTS-1 that TransPerformance sent to him.
“His manager probably told him to watch the video so he could get us off his back,” DTS-1 inventor Neil Skinn said recently. “But when he finally saw the video, he said ‘I’ve got to have one.'”
Page flew Skinn to Lake Tahoe, Nev. in 1990 to make the deal for a DTS-1 guitar and a year later he was playing one. Page has since collected two more DTS-1 guitars and the results can be heard on Page and Plant’s recent reunion album, “No Quarter.” That’s a DTS-1 Page is playing on the album’s blockbuster track, “Kashmir.”
Skinn developed the DTS-1 along with partners Dr. Steve Freeland and Fred Skinn, dividing tasks such as the design of the hardware, software and the mechanical systems, as well as marketing and business planning. As TransPerformance, the group made the finals in Discovery magazine’s 1993 Technology Innovation Award along NASA, AT & T, IBM and McDonald-Douglas.
In May, 1994, Skinn was named among the “Top 100 Most Important People in Guitar” by Guitar World. Most recently, TransPerformance was featured in a special “Technology Spring 1995” section in the May 18 issue of Rolling Stone. DTS-1 enthusiasts such as Graham Nash and Collective Soul’s Ed Roland are quoted calling the device “provocative” and “fresh.”
TransPerformance is currently looking at deals with four major guitar manufacturers and the company is moving into a new facility this summer and begin full production.
“Our plans are to have a custom shop- like Fender-Gibson has- to address the specific needs of individuals, and to work as a research and development facility,” Skinn said.
The DTS-1 has Jimmy Page’s official endorsement now. TransPerformance has plans to expand the scope of their invention to other instrument groups including acoustic guitar, bass, harp and harpsichord. The Rolling Stones, the Eagles, Santana, Van Halen, Dave Mason and many more have heard the DTS-1 and orders are waiting. TransPerformance has also created an advisory board that includes artists such as Graham Nash, Sonny Landreth and Ronnie Montrose as well as respected industry figures such as leading guitar pick-up manufacturer Seymour Duncan. But what seems like overnight success is really years of hard work by three local inventors who had a vision that is changing the way guitarists make music.
“Big things don’t happen overnight,” Skinn said.
Watch for the DTS-1 in Page’s gold-top Les Paul on stage tonight at McNichols and listen to the new tunes Page has written on the guitar in Page and Plant’s follow-up to “No Quarter,” expected later this fall. The DTS-1 can also be seen in the upcoming video release of MTV’s “Unledded” program featuring Page and Plant’s “No Quarter” reunion.
For singer-songwriter Katy Moffat, country music comes easily and naturally.
In her travels in Canada and Europe, however, she finds varying degrees of understanding as to what country music really is. The Canadians, the Irish and the French all seem to get it, but Moffat has worked with some German musicians that had a much harder time.
“Local country bands in Germany, for example, or Switzerland, generally miss the point, in my view. For example, to them, a real country song is ‘Country Roads,’ that John Denver song. To them, that’s the bottom-line, real country music. It’s a funny thing. It’s wild,” Moffat said recently by phone.
On her latest release, “Hearts Gone Wild” on Watermelon Records, Moffat’s country music is full of both honesty and subtle nuance that turns introspection and dreams of romance into vivid, rich songs. From the hotels and highways of life on the road to the love after heartache, Moffat croons ballads, blues and band tunes that genuinely harkens back to her Texas roots.
“Hearts Gone Wild” was produced by Moffat and songwriting partner Tom Russell. While the two live a continent apart, they have formed a creative union that, since her 1989 release. “Walkin’ on the Moon,” continues to produce plenty of new songs whenever they can get together.
“We stopped counting the songs we’ve written together at thirty,” Moffat said. “We’re very rarely in each other’s company. I live in LA and he lives in Brooklyn. Our paths cross occasionally on the road and many times, when that has happened, we’ve actually started and, or finished songs. This is amazing to me because I am not, on my own, a prolific writer.”
In the case of “Hearts Gone Wild,’ Moffat and Russell have produced a collection of songs that explore the many hues of relationships and romance. This, however, was not the original idea for the album, but rather a function of the production process.
“We did not go into the studio with the intent to record four songs with the word ‘heart’ in the title. But once we were really going through the preproduction process and agreeing on which songs we were interested in cutting for this record, that’s when this theme began to emerge. It all comes from the songs. The character of an album will always be defined by the songs that comprise it,” Moffat said.
When it comes to hitting the road, what characterizes how Moffat’s music sounds from the stage depends on how she is traveling. She will be appearing as a solo acoustic act at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver tonight and at the Docks in Fort Collins on Saturday, but that is only one of the ways that Moffat tours the world.
“One thing that I enjoy so much about my touring is I do tend to tour in many different configurations,” she said. “In Canada, I have a mandolin player who goes out with me and I’ve had different bands in Canada. Just adding one other piece like that one mandolin player, for example, to my acoustic show really changes the scope of songs that I either feel that I can do or that I choose to do. A band alters it again completely. The point is that’s what I really like about it, mixing things up. I really like how different the sets can be and how different touring is in all these different situations.”
Fink/Marxer: Also at Swallow Hill and the Docks this weekend is children’s singer-songwriters Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer. The pair are promoting their current release on Rounder Records, “A Parent’s Home Companion.” The album takes a humorous look at the relationships between parents and children and attempts to bridge the generation gap with a lot of heart. Fink and Marxer have a knack for “boosting the self-esteem and confidence of young children while also engaging the parents in the fun.’ The pair will be at the Swallow Hill Music Hall on Saturday at 2 pm and at the Docks on Sunday at 4 pm along with special guest Andy May.
Hot Dates: Innovative Bulgarian pianist Mario Grigorov will be at the Sunset Night Club tonight. Nova Scotia’s country sensation the Rankin Family are at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver and New England folk hope Dar Williams is at the Sunset on Saturday. Country star Tim McGraw and Little Texas opens the Fiddlers Green season and the Black Crowes are at the Denver Auditorium on Sunday. The Bard Hoff trio is at the Mountain Tap on Tuesday and Loveland guitarist and songwriter Tim Wahler holds an album release party at the Sunset Night Club on Wednesday.
When keyboard player and accordionist John Magnie of the Subdudes gets off the road and comes home to Fort Collins, he doesn’t let his music slide.
In fact, for the last two years, Magnie has brought together a cadre of local musicians to play and record with while the Subdudes have been on break. That work has become what is known as the “parlor sessions,” a series of recordings made in Magnie’s living room and released locally on cassette.
The first parlor session was last year and ended up producing a tape featuring 9 songs and leading local musicians such as Jay Clear, Mark Heglund, Andre and Stevo Mouton, Jesse Solomon and more.
The second session was held this last January and has taken the first session’s free-for-all feel and honed it into a new 9 song collection set for release today. “Rhonda -Parlor Sessions II” takes up where the first tape left off and goes far beyond.
“The Subdudes are still my favorite group of musicians, especially to record with,” Magnie said recently. “Getting down with Fort Collins musicians is a way of finding an outlet for music I’ve worked on outside of the Subdudes.”
“Rhonda/Parlor Sessions II” is a showcase for music Magnie has collaborated on with other Fort Collins area songwriters such as Steve Strickland, Tim Cook and Don Cordes. The recordings then bring together musicians such as Subdudes band mate Steve Amedee, Liz Barnez, Walt Jenkins, Rob Solomon, Oscar De Zoto and many more. The tunes are fresh and lively and are the powerful result of a concentrated effort to put this music on tape.
“This is my dream kind of recording session,” Magnie said.”When you’ve only got three days, you’ve got to get it right there and then. It has an immediacy to it. When you do a big budget recording, it can get drawn out and you can lose some of the excitement of the music. But in this case, you have to get it done right on the spot.”
Highlights of the new song collection includes a Tom Waits-esque opening piece titled “Prerequiem” that combines gritty street poetry with the otherworldly drone of Australia musician Paul Taylor’s didgeridoo. Liz Barnez and music partner Pamela Robinson check in with a classic-sounding R & B tune, “Mind Slippin.'” Walt Jenkins adds some emotional soul on “That’s How It Is.” And a chorus of local musicians including Bob Hollister, Kevin Jones, Scott Allen, Steve Trismen and Marty Rein join together for an old-timey song celebration on the track “Gospel Songs.”
“Rhonda/Parlor Sessions II” was recorded by local recording ace Russ Hopkins, whose Kiva Recording studio has been involved in producing albums by such local artists as the Atoll, Bob Hollister, Jerry Palmer and Lazy Bones. For Hopkins, who also recorded the first “Parlor Sessions” release, doing a remote recording in Magnie’s living room presented a special set of challenges.
“Going out and recording live is challenging. It’s fun though because any kind of live situation puts limitations on the process,” Hopkins said. “In this case, it’s a small space and the acoustic properties aren’t the best. Then you have to get all the gear in there and then add in all the people. But the spirit of the music was very powerful and that transcends any technical difficulties.”
Hopkins has been responsible for releasing the Parlor Sessions to the local market on his own Kiva record label, but the recordings may well go beyond area ears as well.
“There may be some songs on there that some other singers might be interested in,” Magnie said.
Naturally, that may well include the Subdudes. Two of the songs from the first Parlor Sessions tape are among 16 tunes the band has recorded for a new album expected to be released in early 1996. To celebrate the release of “Rhonda/Parlor Sessions II,” Magnie will be joined by many of the principal musicians on the recording including Barnez and Robinson for a special show slated for tonight at the Mountain Tap. The concert is a benefit for the Public Radio for the Front Range group and the new album will be available for sale. Meanwhile, the Subdudes will be meeting in Colorado to do some supplemental songwriting for their new album and will be appearing at the Mishawaka Inn in the Poudre Canyon on May 29.
Parlor Sessions II
Microphones were hanging off the ceiling and a stack of black metal boxes were sprouting wires that spilled out over the floor, snaking across the room and then disappearing. A drum kit was hunched in the corner and other instruments were strewn all over the room. This wasn’t any swank recording studio. This was Subdude John Magnie’s living room and the occasion was the second “Parlor Sessions” recording. Musicians were coming in and out and the phone was ringing, but what was really happening was that voices were coming together in sweet wailing harmony and funky instruments were connecting with the funky grooves. This was real music Fort Collins style, music breathing heavy with style and freedom.
Microphones hung from the ceiling. Black boxes sprouted wires that snaked out across the room. Instruments lay haphazardly everywhere. You get the picture- a recording studio scene. But it’s not- it’s Subdude John Magnie’s living room and the cream of Fort Collins musicians were coming in as fast as they were going out. This is the second “Parlor Sessions” and the music is funky and tight. This is the real thing, what the ones with real heart do when their other gigs are played. It’s sweet wailing harmonies, crafty songwriting and much, much more…
Some music is meant to be in your face. Other music makes you think about the problems of the world. Other stuff only makes you think of your partner dancing wildly right in front of you.
The music on area composer Don Martineau’s impressive new album, “Bound in a Nutshell,” is none of those things. Instead, Martineau’s music is for the imagination-instrumental pieces that leave broad open spaces for the listener to indulge in a little creativity of their own.
“Bound in a Nutshell” features eleven original compositions, all performed by Martineau on an Ensoniq SQ1, along with keyboards and sequencer. From the heavy rhythms of the Bo Diddley meets Magma opening track “Raid of the Huns” to the classically grand finale “Prelude,” Martineau creates a music that is nearly cinematic in scope, offering one sound journey after the other. The recordings are richly layered with rhythms and melodies and provoke a special kind of daydreaming- personal and private.
Each tune on “Bound in a Nutshell” has its own flavor and mood- “Waterdancing” is soft and lulling while “The Escape” is kind of scary with its strange pulsing. “Untitled” is heavenly and atmospheric while “Calling” begins with some odd kind of white noise dance music.
What best displays the breadth and depth of Martineau’s work, however, is the “Invictus” suite, that moves from a deep, heavy breathing through industrial rock and Gothic brooding all the way to grandiose show music. This is like a whole movie in one composition, a piece designed for the imaginative listener, plenty of image and story without any words at all. From the outer limits of sound and moody ruminations to crystal clear crescendos and synthesized improvisation, Martineau has come up with a deep, reverie-rich music on “Bound in a Nutshell.” It’s for open minds.
Chet Atkins: With a light touch and jazzy chords, guitar legend Chet Atkins took the stage at the Lincoln Center on April 19 for the first of three sold out nights in this year’s continuing Showstopper Series. Atkins brought with him two other guitarists, a bassist and a drummer and a big bag of musical tricks to both entertain and delight the appreciative full house.
While tunes such as the classically delicate “Waltz for the Lonely” and the light and bouncy “Happy Again” displayed Atkins’ mastery of the guitar, that was only part of the story. Atkins also told jokes, played the fiddle and sang, offering a show that kept moving at a steady pace despite the star’s relaxed stage manner. From a patriotic medley to a finely executed Beatles medley, from the boogie woogie of the Grammy Award winning tune “Young Thing” to the downright goofiness of “I Still Write Your Name in the Snow,” Atkins kept things lively and active throughout his two short sets.
What made this concert a particular delight, however, wasn’t so much the material but how well Atkins’ band worked together to make music that despite plenty of complexity in the arrangements, the sound level never became loud or distorted. No instrument overpowered another. The order of the evening was “easy does it” and Atkins and band achieved that with class and style. It all looked so effortless, but perhaps these are the wages of a lifetime of playing music- eventually there aren’t band problems or lack of material, just music plain and simple.
PRFR: When KCSU-FM loses its public radio status because of a recent student vote, Fort Collins will lose its only public radio station. That’s what concerns the folks who have formed the Public Radio for the Front Range (PRFR) group. This group of public radio stalwarts is currently hard at work negotiating for a license and trying to get the necessary elements together to keep public radio on the air in our city.
In Fort Collins public radio has become an important outlet for local musicians and that’s why many are coming forward in the upcoming weeks to do benefit concerts for the PRFR. The first event will be at the Mountain Tap on Friday, May 12 when John Magnie will join Liz Barnez, Pamela Robinson and more for an evening of music. Then the Bas Bleu Theatre will be the site for several PRFR events including a May 25 date featuring singer-songwriter Julie Hoest (most recently seen with the Motherfolkers) with Laughing Hands bass player Tim Cross. That show will also feature a guest appearance by Motherfolker Ellen Audley. Bas Bleu will also host Andrew Holbrook on June 25 for the PRFR. Support local public radio and local music at the same time and see these shows!
May music: Here are highlights for upcoming concerts in May. On May 5, the Eagles end their American reunion tour at Mile High Stadium. “Baroque-folk” guitar master John Renbourn and Incredible String Band poet Robin Williamson make a rare appearance together at the Bluebird Theater in Denver on May 6, the same night Slash’s Snakepit slithers into the Ogden Theatre.
Page and Plant will be at McNichol’s Arena along with the Tragically Hip on May 8 while Queensryche plays McNichols on May 9.KMFDM is at the Ogden on May 10, Bulgarian pianist Mario Grigorov will be at the Sunset Night Club on Friday May 12.Dar Williams is at the Sunset on May 13, the Black Crowes at the Denver Auditorium on May 14. Big Head Todd and the Monsters play Red Rocks for two nights on May 18 and 19.Transition is at the Sunset on May 20 while the women have a night out on May 21- the Indigo Girls at Red Rocks and Melissa Etheridge at Fiddler’s Green. REM and Sonic Youth open a two night stand at Fiddler’s Green on May 24.
New releases: The Dead have a new release thanks to vault archivist Dick Latvala. It’s “Dick’s Picks, Volume Two,” featuring alternative versions of classic Dead stuff including a little bit slower “Dark Star” and “St, Stephen.” Epic Soundtrax has just released music from “500 Nations,” the CBS-TV documentary on the history of the Indian nations of North America. The music was composed by Peter Buffett who also wrote the music for the pivotal fire dance scene in the film “Dances With Wolves.”Legacy/Columbia has brought together 32 classic tracks-along with two new songs- for their two CD release “Mountain-Over the Top.” Yes, “Mississippi Queen” is on it and much, much more. The North Carolina- based quartet Firehouse has a new album, “3,” on Epic. This one has a more live-in-the-studio sound to it with scaled down production and a renewed energy and purpose.
There’s just some things that you can’t deny.
For singer-songwriter and guitarist Julie Hoest, one of those things is the clear yet gentle music she finds herself making. After playing off and on throughout her lifetime, Hoest is now approaching the fulfillment of a dream- a fulltime career as a musician.
“Ever since I was a kid, I secretly wanted to do it, but I never thought it would be much of a reality until now,” Hoest said recently by phone from her Boulder-area home.
Hoest has recently independently released her debut album, “At Daybreak” and is currently being featured as one of this month’s guests on Columbine Cablevision’s “Alley Tracks” program. Hoest recently appeared in Fort Collins with the Motherfolkers and is getting set for her first out of state tour. All of this is replacing work as a fourth grade teacher in Boulder. It’s also expanding the horizons of a musician that lived and played in Fort Collins for over ten years after moving to the area from Long Island for college.
“I have always considered myself a singer and a guitarist first and a songwriter second. The songwriting has come hard for me and it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve been able to branch out and write about things more outside my own experience. It’s made me feel like I don’t have to go through all that stuff just to write about it,” Hoest said.
“At Daybreak” is a very personal album, not only for the subjects of Hoest’s songs, but also in the stripped down acoustic sound that delicately underlays spare bass and percussion parts for a single voice and guitar. This is music plain and simple.
“The album is very unproduced and I wanted it to be that way on purpose. I feel like a lot of music these days covers up the real talent that is there. This way, people get a real clear idea of what I play,” Hoest said.
Hoest has recently been collaborating with bassist Tim Cross in a duo format and with percussionist Ed Conteras in a trio, but it was her recent guest appearance with the Motherfolkers that has tuned Hoest into playing with other musicians.
“The Motherfolkers have been around for a long time and they’re all wonderful singers, musicians and songwriters. They’re all fun to be around and they’re very dedicated. I have played solo for so long that it was a treat to get together with them and learn how to play with other people,” Hoest said.
While Hoest is looking forward to going on the road to establish a reputation and to stoke up radio airplay for her music, she shies away from the possibility that she will soon be approached by a record company- an inevitability predicted not only by friends but also by other artists such as David Wilcox.
“Attracting a record company is not really my focus now. In fact it’s kind of scary. If I did go with a company, it would have to be very special because above all I don’t want to lose control of my music,” Hoest said.
Hoest will be playing an acoustic concert at the Bas Bleu Theatre on Thursday, accompanied by Cross and special guest Ellen Audley of the Motherfolkers. The show will benefit the Public Radio for the Front Range group.
Hot Dates: An internationally-acclaimed trio of musicians, Transition specializes in a dynamic cross-cultural mix of Arabic, Turkish, Armenian, Persian and original Middle Eastern music. They’ll be at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver tonight and at the Sunset Night Club on Saturday.
Bas Bleu continues its “Blues at Bas Bleu” series with slide guitar master Michael “Hawkeye” Herman on Sunday. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Herman has performed at major blues and folk festivals and in concert all across the United States, Canada and Europe. And his song “The Great Flood of ’93” has been used on the sound tracks of two video documentaries on the recent Midwest disaster.
John Magnie will be giving an encore performance to celebrate the release of “Rhonda/Parlor Sessions II” at the Bar Bazaar tonight. Rising Christian country artist Michael James will also be in Fort Collins tonight at the Faith Evangelical Free Church. Steppenwolf will be at the Buffalo Rose in Golden on Saturday, Melissa Etheridge will be at Fiddler’s Green in Denver on Sunday and REM begins a two nightstand with Sonic Youth at Fiddler’s Green on Wednesday.
Introduction to Music Journalism, Part 3: Phone Interviews.
The essence of music writing is to get as close as possible to the music in words. That means that live interviews with the musician is essential to getting inside the songs and grooves. Most of that work is done by phone. The first job is getting in touch with the publicity contact for the artist. Concert promoters will gladly pass on the phone numbers they have, which may be a record company, a media service or a manager or road manager. Promoters, of course, are eager for advance news pieces to help sell tickets to their shows, so they are usually the best first resource.
Record companies tend to be the quickest and most efficient secondary contacts, not so much for the sake of an upcoming concert, but because they know that newspaper articles can turn into record sales. Personal managers and small production companies usually are the worst contacts, mostly because they have many other jobs going at the same time and reporter requests often get shuffled aside.
After securing a publicity contact, it then becomes necessary to wait for a return call while the contact sets up an interview time. For them, it’s a matter of contacting the artist directly or a manager, check their schedule and match a time with reporter deadline requirements. For the reporter, it’s a matter of patience. This time can be used to become familiar with the musician’s music and career. That’s when the artist’s promotion packet comes in handy- biographical material, previous press, discographies and band statements. Couple this material with the latest album project and the writer, looking for prominent points and information that stands out, can start compiling a list of subjects for conversation. Then the confirmation comes and the interview is on.
Most of the time, the reporter is instructed to call a hotel room at a certain time because most active musicians are often on tour. Or the phone number turns out to be the musician’s home. Some musicians prefer to do the calling so that becomes a game of waiting for a call that sometimes doesn’t come- thanks to miscommunications about timing, or wrong phone numbers, or just simply being blown off. Once on the phone, however, most musicians are ready to talk about their art and their career. Some are unprepared but many realize how much exposure in the press means to their livelihood and are willing to endure repetitious questions and marathon interviewing.
At this point, the writer should be prepared with subjects as well as the means to quote the artist accurately. Taking notes during an interview can be cumbersome and distracting, so this reporter has taken to recording every interview and then transcribing the quotes afterward. This can be arduous work later, but during the interview, it sets the writer free to listen to the musician and react to the flow of the conversation.
Given a solid starting place, the artist will often give clues to what is important to them as they speak and a good writer will spin questions off of those clues while keeping in mind prepared material. With the interview completed, then the real work begins-getting the quotes on paper. Transcribing the interview word for word can be drudgery, but yields several things. One is exact quotes and another is a chance to really consider what was said. Often, the more subtle points of the interview become clearer in this process.
After that, it’s a matter of reading back through the material and choosing quotes that somehow relate to each other. Interface those with facts from the promotion material and the actual article is ready to write- often with a deadline hanging heavily overhead. Fortunately the work pays off and thanks to a few minutes on the phone, there is plenty of stuff to work with.
Hot Dates: Ezra’s Poundcake is at the Mountain Tap tonight. Wind River is at Avo’s, Dar Williams is at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver and Spirit plays the Buffalo Rose in Golden on Saturday. Matt “Guitar” Murphy brings rhythm and blues to Linden’s and King Crimson is at the Paramount Theatre in Denver on Wednesday.
Young, raw and hungry. That’s what LA Guns co-founder and drummer Steve Riley saw in the power pairing of singer Chris Van Dahl and guitarist Johnny Crypt back when those two were playing together in Boneyard.
That’s why he and guitar partner Traci Guns picked the duo to kick the band into a whole new era of stretching hard rock to extremes.
“What we saw was what had been missing in our plans for the future of LA Guns,” Riley has said. “We wasted no time and invited them to join up with us.”
Starting in 1989, the old LA Guns- along with bassist Kelly Nickels- released one gold album after another, selling over 5 million records worldwide. Tours with AC/DC, Def Leppard, Kiss and Iron Maiden brought the band’s earlier, more pop-oriented sound to heavy metal fans all over the world.
The new LA Guns- with Van Dahl on vocals and Crypt taking over bass chores- is harder, tougher and leaner. And their new CMC Records release, “American Hardcore,” finds the band taking plenty of chances.
Not afraid to put hard funk right next to melodic ballads, the LA Guns have crafted a new music that broadens hard rock’s horizons while remaining true to its roots. Thick, chunky electric guitar is at the soul of the music, but then so is a spirit of experimentation.
“American Hardcore” is full of a bone rattling rock at the same time as spacey jams, sound effects and even strings. That makes for some challenging listening and proves that the LA Guns remain an influential force in the hard rock world. They’ll be at the Lucky Star in Lucerne on Wednesday.
LJ Booth: Wisconsin-based singer-songwriter LJ Booth was raised on the road, so it seems natural that he has built his career with extensive travel and hard work. Born in the Philippines, most of Booth’s childhood was split between India and Idaho, finally moving to Wisconsin in his mid-teens. When he left home, he hitchhiked extensively in America and in Europe.
Now, Booth travels nationwide playing folk clubs, festivalsand colleges, bringing with him the reputation of a “crack songwriter” and an entertaining performer. Booth loves telling stories and other performers, like Chuck Pyle and David Wilcox, love playing his songs. Booth, whose performances have been described as “hilarious, outrageous, inspirational,” will be at Avogadro’s Number tonight. Opening will be Virginia singer-songwriter Leslie Tucker. Tucker’s debut album, “In This Room,” features guest appearances by Tim O’Brien and Clive Gregson.
Pow Wow Benefit: The Poudre River Irregulars, Mark Sloniker and the Atoll will present a benefit show for the Northern Colorado Intertribal Pow Wow Association at the New York Cafe on Wednesday. Besides live music, the event will also feature an auction of beaded items, silver jewelry, bronze sculptures, blankets and more- all to raise money for the upcoming Spring Pow Wow set for the Northside Aztlan Center on April 19-20. The benefit starts at 7:30 pm with a $2 cover.
Hot Dates: Chicago performer, writer and teacher Michael Miles wants people to “throw down their briefcases and laptops and pick up banjos.” He’ll be presenting a four-scene musical portrait of the banjo called “The Magic Banjo” at the Swallow Hill Music Hall tonight.
Also tonight, “New Age” hypnotist and entertainer Robert Kennzington is at the Sunset Night Club, Lord of Word is at the Starlight, Paul Searles is at the Rocky Mountain Coffee Connection and Cris Williamson and Tret Fure celebrate the release of their recent collaboration album, “Between the Covers,” at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver.
On Saturday, Denver-based Native American duo, the Red Tail Chasing Hawks, will be at Swallow Hill and Boulder singer-songwriter Stewart Lewis will be at the Coffee Connection. Orange 9MM is at the Bluebird on Sunday. De La Soul is at the Fox and Morcheeba joins Fiona Apple at the Parmount Theatre in Denver on Monday.
Live in Legacy Park
There was one thing that organizers probably didn’t have in mind for the first annual New West Fest Live at Legacy Park concert on August 19: that is the reds, purples, oranges and pinks of a classic Colorado sunset.
While the Iguanas were playing their spicy mix of New Orleans bump, south of the border conjunto and just plain rock ‘n’ roll, the sky was alight with a natural lightshow that couldn’t have been on order.
Or maybe it was, because just about everything else about this courageous new event was well-organized. There were plenty of volunteers stationed around the concert site as well as in Martinez Park to help concertgoers get to the right place. There was plenty of vending options, from ice cream to soft drinks and beer, and the area that was cleared for the event was wide and open, the stage facing east so that the audience was treated to the fine colors of the sky.
Of course, the sunset was a bonus. What this event was all about was music and Live at Legacy Park provided plenty of that. Opening was the Hoax, a British blues band with plenty of energy and nerve. Then came the Iguanas. Texas guitar dude Chris Duarte then dominated the stage and left those attending breathless. And finally, the “Queen of the Blues,” Koko Taylor, revved up her band the Blues Machine for an unforgettable show of blues grace and power.
If there was a problem with the concert- other than the freeloading mosquitoes who saw the show more as a smorgasbord than an entertainment event- was that the audience turnout was low. Though the concert area was outfitted for thousands, it was more like hundreds that showed, giving the festival-type concert more of the feel of a big community picnic. For those attending, this wasn’t necessarily bad- there was plenty of room to move around and there was no waiting in the rest room lines. For those not attending, however, the problem was simply this: they missed the start of what will probably grow into Northern Colorado’s main summer live music event.
Given that the Live in Legacy Park event has already broken ground and with the addition of, perhaps, a more mainstream headliner, this concert will double or even triple its size next year. I’m sure that will be a relief to organizers who put a lot on the line for only marginal public response for the first year.
For those who did come out, Live at Legacy Park was a treat. Great blues and rock ‘n’ roll on a perfect summer night is a great combination, especially when it’s right here in our own city.
Los Lobos: So it was standing room only- quite literally- when Los Lobos came to Mishawaka on August 26. The cars were lined up and down the canyon and the bodies streamed into the riverside amphitheater at an unprecedented rate.
There was good reason for this. Los Lobos is one of American music’s true treasures, mixing rock ‘n’ roll, Mexican-American music and plenty more for an adventurous, yet totally honest sound. The crowd knew all about this and didn’t mind the lack of seats so much when the group finally hit the stage.
What Los Lobos delivered was perhaps the finest show in memory at Mishawaka. The band was concentrating on their electric instruments, playing selected tunes from the past, including “Evangeline,” “Will the Wolf Survive?”, and “Let’s Say Goodnight,” as well as a good healthy chunk of the band’s most recent studio album, “Kiko.” This made for both a powerful and artful presentation, one that rocked at the same time as slipped into the dreamy landscape of psychedelia.
Best of all, the band itself truly seemed to be enjoying itself- despite pleas for bug spray as these respected musicians found themselves being bombarded by moths. This made for an evening of entertainment, opened by Rob and Jesse Solomon’s new band, that will live long in memory.
Instinct. That’s the stuff that’s getting singer-songwriter Joan Osborne by in a music career that is just getting heated up. Instinct, that is, as well as a whole lot of belief in herself.
“You can ask people’s advice morning, noon and night, but you really have to be able to trust yourself in order to do anything in the arts,” Osborne said recently by phone. “When you’re writing songs, making a record and putting a band together, it’s like you’re building a house that you are going to have to live in. Someone else can come in and say ‘oh, you should do this’ or ‘you should do that,’ but ultimately you’re the one who’s got to live there. You really have to make sure you are comfortable with it and instinct definitely plays a big part of that.”
Osborne’s instincts have lead to her hot new major label debut album, “Relish” on Mercury/Blue Gorilla Records. The album throws blues and rock into the mix with gospel and Appalachian country and comes up with an energizing music that’s hip, raucous and artful all at the same time. Her instincts also have Osborne touring with Melissa Etheridge, and doing lots of interviews, photo shoots and videos to try to fulfill the critical acclaim that has already been mounting. Rolling Stone magazine recently called her “the next explosion waiting to happen” and the pace is hectic, but it hasn’t interfered with a top priority in her life.
“I’m having fun. For me, that’s everyone’s sacred duty in their life is to have some fun,” Osborne said. “It’s kind of physically draining doing all this stuff, but it’s not overwhelming me.”
Osborne is a native of Kentucky, but it took a move to New York City to propel her into a music career that saw two independent releases on her own Womanly Hips Music label before signing on to Mercury. In New York, she learned how to play a lot of blues thanks to a music scene that included other performers such as Chris Whitley and the Holmes Brothers.
“New York was where I first started singing in front of people,” Osborne said. “I discovered a whole rhythm and blues roots music community and I became involved, playing tons of gigs in little bars- four sets a night kind of thing in blues bars. That’s really where I got my thing together.”
In fact, it wasn’t until she got to New York that Osborne began to appreciative the rich country music roots of her home state of Kentucky. She has since found good use for that country heritage in the flavorings of the music on “Relish.”
“I was never a big fan of country music when I lived in Kentucky, but since then I have tried to really explore it, going back to where the roots of that sound come from and researching Appalachian hillbilly music and those kinds of vocal techniques,” Osborne said.
Despite the influences of roots blues and country music, Osborne makes a music that is fresh and lively, able to take sounds from the past and use them to make something new and all her own.
“I try to make the songs relevant to what’s happening today,” Osborne said. “It’s not an exercise in me living out a musical sound from fifty years ago, even though I appreciate that and really find it powerful and very inspiring. But I am making music that I’m hoping people will listen to today.”
Osborne recently appeared at Fiddler’s Green in Denver as opener for Melissa Etheridge and is returning to the area for a date at the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Sunday. Osborne will also be appearing with the Subdudes at the Mishawaka Inn in the Poudre Canyon on Monday.
Hot Dates: The Paladins are at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver and the Subdudes begin a two night stand at Herman’s Hideaway in Denver tonight. Lynyrd Skynyrd will join Charlie Daniels and the Smithereens for the Rock the Rockies show at Stapleton Airport on Sunday. Hot and tasty bluegrass band Wind River plays the Sunset night club and Sherri Jackson is at Linden’s on Wednesday.
When English bluegrass band Daily Planet brings their music to America for the first time this June, they are going to be careful. Even though the quartet features some of the best players from the English bluegrass scene, Daily Planet is aware that they will be playing in the birthplace of the music that has attracted them and brought them together.
“We are conscious and have thought a lot of not being a poor facsimile of what you already have in America. If we just tried to play straight bluegrass as we know it, I’m not sure you would be convinced,” Daily Planet banjo picker Leon Hunt said recently by phone from his home in Bath, England.
Instead of playing just bluegrass, then, Daily Planet also blends in Irish music, traditional English folk, as well as songs by contemporary songwriters such as Chistine Collister and John Hiatt. There’s also a “fair jazz influence” as well as some funk.
“Our acoustic guitars have wah wah on them to give you an idea of what I mean by ‘funky,'” Hunt said.
So far, Daily Planet’s fresh mixture of music has received rave reviews in England and the band has recently done sessions for both national radio and television. There are already record deals to consider, as well, even though the group hasn’t even been together for a year yet.
“It’s difficult to know if people like us because we’re just a new band, or whether the barriers are coming down for bluegrass-type music,” Hunt said.
According to Hunt, the bluegrass scene in England is “fairly small, but growing.” In less than ten years, the number of bluegrass festivals in England has tripled and there is now a national bluegrass association. Still, a small scene in England means players still have to travel extensively in order to get together. That’s one problem, however, that Daily Planet has overcome.
“We’re in a very unusual situation in that we’re all based in the same city. Most bluegrass players have to travel a lot, but with this band, we live in the same area and we’re all friends,” Hunt said.
Daily Planet, which also features Jason Titley on guitar and vocals, Jamie Matthews on harmonica, jaws harp and percussion, and Dominic Harrison on double bass, guitar and lead vocals, will be touring the United States this summer, including a stop at the Docks tonight. The band has plans to record their first CD and tour Europe in the fall.
Sterling Silver: The five teenagers who make up the country music outfit Sterling Silver are set to independently release their new album, “A Miner’s Dream.” The collection was produced and arranged by Andy May and recorded at Eye-in-the Sky Productions in Laporte, and features a guest appearance by Eric Levine. The music on “A Miner’s Dream” features the deeply blended harmonies and vocal interplay that is becoming Sterling Silver’s trademark.
“The band got to the point where they could put more time and work into recording and it has certainly paid off,” Sterling Silver manager Nancy Smith said recently.
Sterling Silver will be celebrating the release of “A Miner’s Dream” with a special show at the Sunset Night Club on Sunday with opener Tim Wahler. The show is scheduled to run from 6-9 pm and costs $4 for adults, $3 for students. Sterling Silver will also be playing at Foote Lagoon for the Loveland Police Fair on June 10 and will be appearing at the Greeley Independence Stampede on June 22, 26 and on July 1 and 4. They will also be featured on the regional acts stage at KYGO’s country concert at Fiddler’s Green on July 2.
Hot Dates: Dan Crary will be at the Cameron Church in Denver tonight. Fort Collins songwriter Kevin Jones will be joining Bob Tyler at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver on Saturday. The Mkono Orchestra, Joe Kissello, JD Dipaola and Liz Barnez will be at Mishawaka on Sunday as part of the weekend long Poudre River Festival. Also on Sunday is the Sunsplash World Tour ’95 featuring Buju Banton, Dennis Brown, the Wailing Souls and many more in Breckenridge, and Peter Frampton at the Ogden Theatre in Denver. Korn is at the Mercury Cafe in Denver on Monday, Jim Messina is at the Little Bear in Evergreen on Wednesday and Cormac McCarthy will be at Avogadro’s Number on Thursday.
Home is where the heart is for hit-producing writer, record producer and multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien. Though O’Brien has an international reputation thanks to years in the groundbreaking bluegrass band Hot Rize and as a solo act, O’Brien is resisting the urges to advance his career by moving elsewhere- like Nashville- in favor of maintaining a home for himself and his family in Colorado.
“Colorado keeps pulling me back home,” O’Brien said recently by phone. “There’s a constant barrage of career-oriented things going by you in Nashville, but coming home to Colorado, I get a broader spectrum of what life is about, with a family and just everyday living.”
O’Brien came to Colorado from his native West Virginia in 1974 and has stayed even after a milestone run with Hot Rize and writing not just one but three top ten songs for popular country singer Kathy Mattea. Add in several critically-lauded solo albums, recordings with his sister Mollie, plus a lot of first-class session work and you’ve got a career that almost demands that he go to Nashville, if not to live, then to visit and conduct business.
“In Nashville, you see people just on the street that you can politic with. You say ‘I’ve got a new song’ or ‘I hear that someone’s recording in a couple of months and they’re looking for songs.’ That kind of stuff helps a lot if people know that you’re around and you’re able to connect. It’s networking and I try to get there every couple of months to do a little bit of that,” O’Brien said.
Despite the intoxicating lure of the country music business, however, O’Brien continues to do “what’s right” for himself. That goes for his music as well.
“My own goal with songwriting is just to write something that means enough to me and that I like enough to sing it on a record and then for audiences- something that means something and can help me make my own presentation unique. But in Nashville, everyone’s writing to get a song cut,” O’Brien said. “That’s the kind of trap that you could fall in. If you’re too attuned and trying to imitate too much, it’s just not what anybody starts doing music for. I think most people want to do music because they want to express themselves in some way and they like to play music. But when you start thinking ‘I have to write a song that such and such can sing that won’t offend radio programmers’ you kind of end up chopping a lot of the good stuff off, you’re making pieces to go into a machine.”
Instead of making “disposable” Nashville music, O’Brien prefers to craft his own style. For O’Brien that means being rooted in bluegrass, but also adding good doses of country, Cajun and even acoustic rock. This is all evident on O’Brien’s brand new release on Sugar Hill Records, “Rock in My Shoe.” Produced by dobro master Jerry Douglas, the album takes an upbeat but gentle approach to a wide range of acoustic styles while remaining clearly distinct. For O’Brien, it doesn’t matter what kind of music it is as long as it remains grounded.
“I love the whole spectrum of music and all kinds of ways of doing it, but it seems like the more down on the ground it is, the better for the way I’m playing,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien will be celebrating the release of “Rock in My Shoe” with a special concert at the Bluebird Theater in Denver tonight featuring not only O’Brien, his sister and his band he O’Boys, but also Douglas, accordionist Dirk Powell and drummer Eugene Smith. The same line-up, sans Douglas and Smith, will also be performing in Old Town Square tomorrow as part of this year’s Concerts Under the Stars series. That show starts at 7 pm.
Call it a naked piano.
Or maybe it’s just a big guitar. To composer and performer Deborah Henson-Conant, however, the harp is much more. It’s a whole orchestra and a world of musical discovery that has her blazing a trail of innovative jazz music for an instrument that has traditionally been staid and sheltered. To do that, however, Henson-Conant had to listen to other instruments to learn what it was she wanted to do.
“I first started playing be bop and swing music on the harp and there were so few people who had come before me that I couldn’t listen to them and emulate them, I had to listen to guitar players and piano players and sax players and say, okay, how do I get that effect on this instrument. That’s how everything I do has been developed,” Henson-Conant said recently by phone from her offices in Boston.
Henson-Conant strums her harp, picks it and plucks it, mutes it with her leg or weaves paper between the strings to get a bright, rattling percussive sound. She experiments with her arrangements, and plays an upbeat jazz music brimming with humor, energy and imagery. She plays out solo and with a trio, tours extensively in Europe, and just recently performed a series of concerts with the Boston Pops.
“That came out of the blue- they called us. I guess the conductor heard me at a club here in Boston and he wanted to see what it would be like to put the two things together. I ended up writing the parts and then had an arranger come in and help me with it. It was just a phenomenal experience,” Henson-Conant said.
Playing with the 90-piece orchestra not only was a performing thrill for Henson-Conant, it also directly challenged her playing style.
“Working with the symphony, I had to play differently because I’m used to playing all the parts. I’m used to being the piccolo, the tuba, the bass and everything. What’s amazing is that the harp can actually do that,” she said.
Change, however, is not a problem for Henson-Conant who was attracted to her favorite music form- jazz- specifically for that very quality.
“Jazz is built to encompass change,” Henson-Conant said.”It is truly a living art form. I mean obviously classical music is alive because the players are alive and they’re still inventing the interpretation, but jazz is alive in the sense that it is constantly recreating itself.”
Henson-Conant’s latest release is a live album, “Just For You,” on Laika Records. The music on the album ranges from spicy jazz fusion to funky rock but is only part what it is she offers when she gets on stage.
“I love performing. I’m a musician, but I wouldn’t say that I’m even a musician primarily. I love the whole thing- to create a whole world and to create an event that night, with those people,” Henson-Conant said.
The drive to explore the contemporary possibilities of the harp not only creates new music, but also gives a clue to what’s inside this dynamic entertainer.
“By discovering how much more the harp can do, it’s almost like it helps me blossom as a human being because if this instrument that looks so limited can do all these phenomenal things, what does that say about me and what my limitations are?” Henson-Conant said.
Henson-Conant will be at the Sunset Night Club for a solo show on Saturday. On Sunday she will be appearing with pianist Steve Barta and then will be playing a solo show at the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver on Saturday June 23.
Hot Dates: The Swans are at the Ogden Theater in Denver and Michael Hedges is at Mishawaka tonight. Pops Staples and Keb’Mo’ will be at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder and the Rowan Brothers play the Swallow Hill Music Hall on Saturday. King Crimson is at the Ogden Theater in Denver and Spencer Bohren is at Mishawaka on Sunday. Pearl Jam and Bad Religion open a two night stand at Red Rocks on Monday and Seal and Des’ree will be at Red Rocks on Wednesday. The Armenian Little Singers will be at Chautauqua on Thursday.
Ticket Alert: Tickets go on sale today for Live’s August23 date at Red Rocks. Live has recently skyrocketed to success with the release of their second album, “Throwing Copper.” PJ Harvey and Veruca Salt open that show.
Some dreams aren’t meant to die. That’s what Fort Collins singer-songwriter Andrew Holbrook found out about his passion for music.
Holbrook had been active in music in college and had played bass in a 12-piece funk band in the 1970’s. He then gravitated to acoustic music and played in duos and trios and small bands until he hit a stretch of years Holbrook calls the “dream killer time.” This was when Holbrook learned just how important music was to him.
“The reality that’s inside of you isn’t going to go away and the reality for me was that music was a first love of mine and there was no point letting it die,” Holbrook said recently.
Deciding to “get serious and get after” music again prompted Holbrook to explore what was happening in Fort Collins music and he liked what he saw.
“I made it a point to check out what was going on in the local scene and found that people were generous and open. It was a real positive experience,” Holbrook said.
Holbrook found himself playing with the likes of drummer Oscar De Zoto, bassist Dave Dale and percussionist Erik Meyer as well as recording with guitarist and engineer Chris Kennison. This lead to the release of Holbrook’s recent album, “Round and Round,” for Kennison’s Seldom Fed Productions.
“Round and Round” is full of a smooth and personal music with roots in folk, blues and light rock. Ambitious song structures underscore swelling melodies and crisp sound gives extra punch to the musical drama of Holbrook’s original songs. Here, introspection gets turned into inspiration and the swirling whorl of human relationships and feelings becomes a bright and glossy acoustic music. Thanks to modern technology, “Round and Round” is a dream come true for Holbrook.
“When I was a kid, the process for making a record seemed way out there and out of reach. But now, with new technology, it’s possible to just do it. It’s exciting,” he said.
In fact, the “Round and Round” project, which debuted locally last January, has been so successful that Holbrook is already at work on a new album project he expects to release on CD by November. This is all keeping with the dreams that Holbrook could not let go of.
“Music is definitely a key aspect of my life and it comes directly from the heart,” he said.
Holbrook will be joined by Kennison and Judy and Kevin Cleaver for a special benefit show at the Bas Bleu Theatre on Sunday. The concert is titled “HI-FIber Mix: A Moving Musical Experience” and will benefit the Public Radio for the Front Range group.
Hot Dates: Do yourself a favor. If you’re interested in contemporary women’s music, then save Saturday night for a trip to Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder. If you do you’ll be rewarded by a show featuring two of America’s best women performers- Holly Near and Janis Ian. A nine time Grammy award nominee, Ian has had her songs recorded by the likes of Bette Midler, Roberta Flack and John Cougar Mellencamp and she has recently revived her music career with a new vigor that is not to be missed. Of course, Near blends soaring vocals with a charismatic stage presence and infectious warmth to become a performer with inexhaustible creativity, uncompromising candor and artistic excellence. This will be essential listening for fans of adult contemporary music. On Sunday, see John Tesh at the Paramount Theater in Denver and Michael DeGreve at the Mishawaka Inn. On Tuesday, the all-girl rock trio the Blue Up? will be at the Cactus Moon in Denver. The Blue Up? recently released their second album on Columbia records, “Spool Fork a Dish.” Nathan Cavaleri will be at Mishawaka on Thursday.
That wasn’t just a prop on Michael Stipe’s head when he took the stage at Fiddler’s Green on May 24 in a stocking cap- it was a cold night. But even though the temperature was only in the forties and the entire region was wrapped in rain clouds, REM still managed to light a fire and produce a memorable performance than ran the gamut from snarling post-punk ferocity to soulful reverie.
When the set actually ignited, it was the more pop-oriented songs- like “Finest Work Song” and “Get Up”- that clicked. Still, the band’s newer and darker songs, steeped in layers of loud guitars, provided a good counterpoint to the shinier tunes. The murkiness matched the weather as well as the opening set by Sonic Youth. Now, Michael Stipe is a strange kind of hero and it’s hard to tell if the guy is shy or cynical or both. Still, his thin, reedy voice cut right through the blare of the guitars and attimes reached toward a hearty kind of grandeur. Stipe seemed much more relaxed on stage than the band’s last trip to Denver back in 1989 and that helped make this REM tour triumphant. Despite some ragged set pacing, the band lived up to their reputation as both artists and pop stars- Dadaesque images projected on the screens behind the band with mirrors, while playing some of this era’s strangest hit songs.
Bonnie Raitt’s music isn’t a premiere brand of American pop for only one reason. Actually, there are a lot of reasons, like the expert synthesis of blues, soul, funk, folk, country and rock that has come to make her sound wide-ranging and free flowing.
To accomplish this, Raitt has developed a penchant for great songwriting, mixing originals with handpicked songs by others. She’s conscious of a catchy hook and a strong melody while keeping with lyrics that cut to the bone of basic human love and survival. Added to this is state of the art production work and smooth, clear song arrangements.
Raitt gathers great musicians to play, benefits from warm, sympathetic mixes and shows the musical savvy that has won her Grammy awards and has her at the top of her field. Raitt’s most recent album, last year’s “Longing in Their Hearts”, is a prime example of Raitt’s skill at weaving all of these things together. In fact, it’s got it all.
With a classic sense of pacing, “Longing in Their Hearts” moves with a grace and confidence that sets the funky beat of soul and blues tune “Love Sneakin’ Up on You” next to the country rock of the title song. Raitt gets close and intimate with “You”, then plays with an African-influenced backbeat on “Cool, Clear Water.” Her trademark slide guitar work fuels the simmering rock of “I Sho Do” while “Dimming of the Day” is so simple and introspective that it becomes nearly spiritual in nature.
The album was produced by Raitt and studio mastermind Don Was and features not only songs penned by Raitt, but also tunes by writers such as Richard Thompson and Paul Brady. Guest artists include Levon Helm, David Crosby, Benmont Tench, the Memphis Horns and Charlie Musselwhite. Put that together and you get a friendly blend of accompaniment for the warm appeal of Raitt’s vocals- smooth enough to polish off a nice blues bend while maintaining enough edge to make it funky.
Raitt sings about the trials of love and the business of staying alive and the music rolls from one place to the next without a hitch. This is a hearty survey of a lot of what makes American music tick all presented by a woman who has worked hard to become a true musical treasure. That’s the kind of stuff that last year garnered “Longing in Their Hearts” three Grammy awards- for Best Pop Album, Producer of the Year and Best Engineered Album.
All this means that Raitt’s upcoming two night stand at Red Rocks, starting on Wednesday, is a must-see event. But not only for just Raitt herself. Opening for Raitt at Red Rocks will be two other top notch musicians, Charles Brown and Ruth Brown. The former is a blues pianist who Raitt fans will recognize from opening her “Nick of Time” tour in 1990 with a classic, rolling piano style and steeped Texas music. The latter herself is a Grammy- and Tony- award winner whose career began in the 1940’s and continues today to critical acclaim. As a package, this show will be dynamite-with some of the best blues and pop music in America.
Hot Dates: KYGO’s Country 4th and Fireworks show with Mark Chestnut and Terry McBride and the Ride will be at Fiddler’s Green in Denver on Sunday. Also on Sunday, Ziggy Marley will be at Red Rocks and Collin Raye will be appearing at the Greeley Independence Stampede. Blues Traveler will be at Red Rocks and Martina McBride will be at the Independence Stampede on Tuesday. Amy Grant’s “House of Love” tour date scheduled for Red Rocks on July 16 has been postponed. During a routine opthalogical check-up, Grant was diagnosed as having a retinal detachment. In order to prevent further degeneration, Grant was operated on, pushing her date at Red Rocks to August 30.Tickets for the original date will be honored and there are new tickets still available. Michael W. Smith will be opening that show.
For composer, arranger, performer and bandleader Bateke, music is more than a good job- it’s a lifelong adventure.
“Music is a passport. You can go all over the world with your music,” Bateke said from a recent tour stop in Aspen. “This is what I’m doing. I have gone all over Africa with it and now I’m in America.”
Bateke’s journey began in Congo, Africa, where even as a young child, he was attracted to music. From taking a blast on his village’s ceremonial elephant tusk horn to playing a drum bought for him by his father, his early years created a strong impression that would end up guiding his life.
“I really work hard on it because throughout all of my childhood, my inspiration and all my love was in music,” Bateke said. “That is my life. If there is no music, I won’t live. I would go away from this world because this world is not joyful without music.”
The pursuit of music took him from learning flute and clarinet to the saxophone and eventually landed him featured spots with some of Africa’s leading musicians, including Tino Barozay, Bobby Bensen and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
It was while he was playing lead saxophone for Fela that Bateke learned the skills he would put to good use when he relocated to California in 1985.
“From Fela, I learned a lot about being capable of leading a band- of being very strong and to have one word, one decision, and to see that decision work before you drop it. I also learned how to arrange my music in the African way,” Bateke said.
In the United States, Bateke found that Americans were very receptive to his music and that lead to the formation of his current band, Bateke Bateke. Besides recording an independently released album of long, intoxicating grooves titled “Straight from Congo…” Bateke Bateke has also received rave reviews for show stopping performances such as their set at the One World Music Festival last year.
Even though far away from Congo, Bateke feels right at home in America.
“I feel like this is the place I was going to go. All my life I had always felt strongly about coming to America,” he said. Being in America, however, does not mean Bateke has forgotten his African roots. In fact, he carries them with him wherever he goes.
“Every time I play my show, I always see my grandfather, my people- my father and everybody- dancing among the crowd. That makes it really inspiring to keep going on,” Bateke said.
Though Bateke’s road stretches out far ahead of him, it has become his goal to leave a clear path back to where he came from.
“We’re asking everybody to come together here to build a strong bridge over the sea,” Bateke said. “It’s possible, but real difficult, but together we can do things that are impossible. I feel like with a good group of people holding themselves together, we can build a very strong bridge over the sea.”
Bateke Bateke will be performing for their first time in Fort Collins tonight at the Sunset Night Club, fresh from their encore performance at the One World Festival held last weekend in Taos, NM.
Hot Dates: The Freddie Henchi Band begins a two night stand at Linden’s, Queen Ida begins a two night stand at the Arvada Center for the Arts, and Neil Haverstick plays the Swallow Hill Music Hall in Denver tonight. Coolio is at the Fox Theatre in Boulder while Lazy Bones and Calamari Safari play a benefit for the Public Radio for the Front Range group at Avogadro’s Number on Sunday. The Phunk Junkees are at the Fox on Monday, the Allman Brothers and Rusted Root will be at Red Rocks on Wednesday, and Hot Tomatoes come to Old Town Square on Thursday
The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber concert scheduled for Tuesday at Fiddler’s Green has been cancelled. Refunds are available at point of purchase. The date for Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s encore performance at Fiddler’s Green has been changed to Saturday, September 30. Tickets go on sale on Monday for Bon Jovi’s date at Red Rocks on August 18.
When LA-rapper Coolio’s debut Tommy Boy album “It Takes a Thief” is on the box, a smooth, soul-drenched party music is what comes out.
That’s what marks the new music from the hip hop nation- raps about the realities of urban living supported by music that engages and hypnotizes rather than punches and confronts.
Coolio is a new breed of musician from Compton- as wise about the recording studio and production as he is about the street. And this is, no doubt, what landed him a slot on this summer’s Lollapalooza tour.
Coolio will be joining Doo Rag, Possum Dixon, Poster Children and Yo La Tengo on the second stage when the Lollapalooza brings their fifth annual tour to Fiddler’s Green in Denver on Saturday. Couple this with an adventurous main stage line-up featuring the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the Jesus Lizard, Beck, Sinead O’Connor, Pavement, Cypress Hill, Hole and Sonic Youth, and you have an engaging festival of new and progressive music.
What’s missing in this year’s Lollapalooza is the arena-filling star power that previous years boasted with such bands as Jane’s Addiction, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Smashing Pumpkins.
This, however, is what’s good about the 1995 Lollapalooza, which kicked off this summer’s cross-country trek at the Gorge in Washington state on July 4. Though none of the artists on the schedule- not even O’Connor- could fill Fiddler’s Green on their own, there is strength in numbers and the audiences for each of these diverse bands are bound to overlap: Sonic Youth fans will get to check out Coolio, Cypress Hill devotees can try on Yo La Tengo for size and so on.
This was originally why the Lollapalooza was created- to showcase the pacemakers of contemporary music- and this year the big money headliners are stepping aside to let the rest take over. That makes this Lollapalooza not less, but more.
Of course, the Lollapalooza is not just music. If the wealth of new and progressive bands is not enough, there is plenty to do at the Lollapalooza’s Mindfield. The Mindfield is the high-tech carnival that travels with the Lollapalooza, offering cutting edge amusements, information and the chance to taste a wide variety of art forms other than music.
This year’s Mindfield includes what is being called the “Mean Art Tent,” featuring light sculptures, interactive art, fine art, installations and even a “junkyard environment” for concert-goers to view. There will also be a Film Tent, screening animated, experimental, documentary and narrative short films, including clips from films by Yoko One and Federico Fellini as well as a world premiere film, “The Doom Generation,” by director Gregg Araki.
The Mindfield will also be hosting a third stage this year called the “Lab.” This new experiment opens up the Lollapalooza to a variety of expressions from each of the local communities the Lollapalooza visits this summer. The Lab will feature chefs serving their favorite recipes, dance troupes, martial arts displays, local poets, fashion shows and local bands. Other events include what is being called the “Gladiators of Disgust,” a competition featuring a spam-eating contest and bobbing for Baby Ruth bars in a toilet bowl.
Of course, one thing that hasn’t changed about the Lollapalooza is its interest in social issues and in helping charities. In the past, organizations such as the Rainforest Action Network, the Amazonia Foundation, Rock for Choice and the Feminist Majority have all benefited from Lollapalooza, which earmarks one dollar of every ticket sold for charity. This year, the festival has targeted organizations in the fields of homelessness, pediatric AIDS and the environment as recipients for charity funds. Lollapalooza has set the mark of distributing as much as $2 million in 1995.
Put together challenging music, art and social information and you have an excellent festival opportunity. In the wake of losing face as a traveling platform for the heavy-hitters, the Lollapalooza has become way more cool- Coolio, that is!
In order to find out what kind of music English guitar duo Acoustic Alchemy plays, it might be easier to define what it is they aren’t playing- like music stuck in only one particular genre.
“We’re not jazz. We’re not pop. We’re not rock. We’re not classical. We’re not flamenco. But what we are is a mixture of all those ingredients,” Acoustic Alchemy steel string guitarist Nick Webb said from a road stop in Monterrey, CA.
Webb and his partner, nylon string guitarist Greg Carmichael, create a slick and spicy instrumental fusion music that has them touring the world. Just back from a tour to the Far East- Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand- Acoustic Alchemy is now on a swing through the United States, introducing a new stage show to what turns out to be a growing number of fans.
“We’re having some of the fullest houses that we’ve ever had and we’ve got a great new band that we’ve broken in over the last year. It’s a four-piece, just Greg and I with bass and drums. There’s the space for the sensitive duo Acoustic Alchemy thing, and there’s space for some acoustic rock. It’s quite a punchy little set,” Webb said.
On their most recent release on GRP Records, “Against the Grain,” Acoustic Alchemy keeps things punchy by weaving together a variety of influences into one music. Jazz mixes with Spanish influences. Easy-flowing melodies share time with music driven by techno rhythms. There’s an easy swing here and then layers of swirling production work there. It’s diverse music, yet clearly unified by a musical vision that has created the best-selling back catalog on their record label.
“There’s an element to Acoustic Alchemy that’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades. But it’s bonded together by two musical things. One is the writing and the other one is the two guitars which have always been our voices,” Webb said.
On top of those basics, then, Acoustic Alchemy is willing to experiment. However, that does not mean their music has been easily accepted everywhere.
“One of the ironies is that we can’t even get arrested in our own country. We don’t sell much at all in England. After eight albums, we do better in Poland than we do in England,” Webb said.
The reason for the lack of support for the band in England may be more of a case of radio restriction rather than a comment on the quality of music the band plays.
“Principally, there isn’t the radio exposure. We don’t have radio freedom,” Webb said.
“We have very good spoken word radio, very good political radio, some good pop radio, but we don’t have stuff that’s minority interest. Everything is top forty. There’s one jazz station in London but it’s not very good. We just haven’t got the radio network to get our kind of music out.”
Fortunately, Acoustic Alchemy’s music is getting out to the rest of the world. That allows the band to travel extensively and to collect the memories and influences that eventually become new music.
“A lot of the songs come from places from around the world where we’ve been influenced. It’s a bit of a geography map, sometimes,” Webb said.
“We don’t write on the road, so we distill everything when we get home. We rent a cottage or borrow a flat from somebody and just get away from everybody. We turn the phone off, get the tape machine out and start thinking about what we’ve been through and all the musical things we’ve heard. That’s when we start getting creative and we swap melodic ideas and rhythmic things; play around with different styles and see what we come up with. We tape everything and then listen back to it. We throw 90% away and then work on the 10%.”
That’s the process that has kept Webb and Carmichael on the creative edge of contemporary instrumental music for nearly ten years, a milestone that is being marked by an upcoming documentary on the band as well as a special retrospective album.
“The next album’s going to be a semi-live-in-the-studio sort of thing. It’s going to be a selection of our back catalog rerecorded and replayed by the current band as a celebration of ten years of Acoustic Alchemy because- it makes you feel old, doesn’t it?- we’re coming up to ten years of it and eight albums down the road,” Webb said.
Acoustic Alchemy will be making their debut performance in Fort Collins on Sunday, just before heading to Seattle to end their current American tour.
Music Journalist on the Front Range
This is what it’s like being a music journalist on the Front Range: lots of phone calls, lots of mail, and lots and lots of music.
The phone calls come from a variety of sources in the music industry.
Locally, the calls are from club owners and freelance promoters who always have “something special” just around the corner. The inexperienced ones will call only a day or two before their event and invariably will miss the deadline for this column. The more savvy ones will call weeks ahead of time which significantly increases their chances of getting some precious publicity for their event. The over-anxious ones will call even a couple of months in advance and risk getting lost in the shuffle. That is, unless they remember to place a follow-up call closer to the event.
But those are only about half of the phone calls. The others come from all over the country- primarily New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, but also from anywhere a band or musician might be based. Who’s on the other end could be a record company publicity person who is working like a telemarketer, calling every media possibility in each region a performer is touring in. Or it could be a representative from a private public relations agency hired by the artist’s management to do the same job, but with a much more personal and thorough touch.
Add in calls from regional promoters- from the Swallow Hill Music Association to Fey Concerts- who need a little extra push for certain events, and you have a phone that doesn’t seem to stop ringing.
That, however, is simply the direct approach at getting some music news in the newspaper. On top of the frequent phone calls is all the mail that comes- press releases on special events, regular concert schedules from clubs and professional promoters, and reams of promotional materials from the record companies and publicity agencies. There are current news teases, biographical sketches and exhaustive collections of past publicity. The packages include pictures of the artists and maybe some other stuff like stickers, lollipops and even condoms. Of course, everything is geared towards making each artist stand out in some way and every award, honor, record release and appearance with other famous people is painstakingly detailed.
What really tells the story of the musicians, however, is the music and the most valuable currency in the publicity game is a stack of CDs. Especially when a writer gets a reputation for covering musicians from many different genres, the music that arrives is widely diverse and somewhat mind-boggling- traditional acoustic, death metal, rap, pop, jazz, a capella, classic rock, alternative rock, rhythm and blues and much more.
All of these things get put together and then the writer is faced with a very difficult decision- which one of the dozens of performers coming through for that time period is going to be featured? When the information is going into a weekly column like this one, that decision is affected by what kind of music the musician plays, whether they are making new music or not, and whether they have been featured in the column in the past. The main rule of thumb is to keep things lively and active and to not favor any one kind of music over another. One week the story may be on a show in Fort Collins, the next week it may be about one in Boulder or Denver. The object is to turn readers on to the best and most interesting live music in the area for the next week.
If you think that is an easy decision to make, then just consider the choices that were available for just this next week’s worth of music on the Front Range:
Tonight- New Orleans’ spicy rock mainstays the Radiators are at the Mishawaka Inn and multi-platinum hip hop successes Naughty By Nature is at the Fox Theatre in Boulder.
Saturday- Fiddler’s Green hosts a New Orleans Festival featuring two stages with gospel music and local bands as well as Zachary Richard, Tab Benoit and Wayne Toups on the main stage. The Swallow Hill Music Association will be presenting a staggering array of traditional and acoustic music- including Fort Collins musicians such as Kevin Jones and Wind River- at their annual Folkathon in Denver. Eclectic rockers Sugar Ray play the Mercury Cafe in Denver.
Sunday- Pat Metheny is at Red Rocks, Jerry Jeff Walker is at Mishawaka and bluesman Michael “Hawkeye” Herman is at the Bas Bleu Theatre in a return engagement.
Tuesday- Herbie Hancock heads up the roster for a show by the “A Night on the Town All-Stars,” also featuring Gil Scott Heron, Lalah Hathaway, and Dan Siegel, at the Paramount Theater in Denver. Wednesday- Seventies super rockers Boston will be at Fiddler’s Green and post-punk art rocker Foetus will be at the Mercury Cafe in Denver.
Thursday- The Atoll plays Old Town Square and rhythm and blues legend Delbert McClinton will be making a rare local appearance at Mishawaka.
Now I ask you, which one would you write about?
Chris and Maggie
When Boulder-based acoustic music duo Chris DePinto and Maggie Simpson make music, their voices soar and swell, intimately weaving around each other while remaining distinct and clear.
But what sounds like hard work is really a matter of instinct and trust. When one person writes a song, they can count on the other to sing just the right back-up.
“When I come up with a new song and it’s time to put Chris’ backing vocals on it, I just sit back and say ‘go, sing whatever you want to sing’ and he’ll feel out whatever strikes him. The same goes for me. What I happen to hear in one of his songs and the way I happen to hear it will fallout of my mouth and Chris will pretty much just say ‘whatever you want to do, do it,'” Simpson said recently by phone.
That kind of instant musical communication is initially what brought the two musicians together when they were both checking into the lively music scene in Boston in 1990.
“Chris moved to Boston looking to put a band together and I had just graduated from theater school. We were both just getting into the open-mike circuit out there,” Simpson recalled. “A guy wanted to book me into a club and said I needed a tape. I was new at it and Chris had a small recording set-up, so this guy got me and Chris together. We started working on a tape and that was that.”
Simpson and DePinto moved to Boulder in 1991 and began working together as a duo. Their first tape-turned-CD, “Bend Without Breaking” became one of the fastest-selling area releases and won the two both critical acclaim and regional radio airplay. KBCO-FM included one of their songs, “Tell Me Is It Beautiful,” alongside artists such as Richard Thompson and Shawn Colvin, on their “Best of Studio C, Volume 3” CD released in 1993 and the pair won opening slots for a growing list of national performers including Dan Fogelberg, JJ Cale and Warren Zevon.
In the process, Simpson and DePinto started working with percussionist Ed Contreras, a Denver native and member of the polyethnic instrumental band, Laughing Hands. Contreras brought with him a whole new spectrum of textures that not only underscored DePinto and Simpson’s already hearty music, but also leant it a whole new musical dimension when the group set to recording their second CD release, “Bottomless Cup.”
“We bought a house in September and turned our basement into a studio. We spent most of the winter doing that CD down there and we’re really glad to have Ed on it. It changed the whole way we did it because he adds so much to our music,” Simpson said.
While “Bottomless Cup” offers some new twists to Simpson and DePinto’s music- like more production and deeper rhythms- the basics of their music remain the same. It’s intimate, honest, freeflowing and positive, applying strong vocal interplay to well-crafted original songs. It does what the best of contemporary acoustic music is supposed to do.
“Acoustic music has a very direct, intimate potential quality to just talk to people. It’s sort of like getting up and being able to say in a poetic language what it feels like to be alive in the world. People like to connect with one another about that,” Simpson said. “I hope that when we perform that it takes people both into themselves where things wake up and dance around a little bit and takes them somewhere else to think of other people having feelings that are similar to theirs.”
Chris and Maggie with Ed Contreras will be only part of an ambitious show slated for tonight at the Lincoln Center. Headlining will be guitar-violin duo Willie and Lobo, whose spicy instrumental music combines influences from around the globe for a seamless, smooth and moving sound. Also appearing will be area poet William Tremblay, reading from his work and accompanied by local traditional musician Eric Levine.
Hot Dates: Denver’s Lodo Music Festival at Union Station gets underway tonight with Delbert McClinton, Beausoleil, Sonny Landreth and Martha Reeves and the Vandells. On Saturday, Lodo features War, the Gap band, Robben Ford and the Subdudes. In all, 22 acts are scheduled.
Tonight, singers Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson are reunited in a full stage production of the inspiring rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Fiddler’s Green in Denver. On Saturday, Storyville will be at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Merl Saunders will be at Mishawaka, Karla Bonoff is at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder, and Everclear is at the Mercury Cafe in Denver. On Sunday, plan on spending a day in City Park with the Atoll, the Tim Corley Band, Bob Hollister, Five52Fern, Slick Machine and others to benefit the Public Radio for the Front Range group. Music starts at noon. Also on Sunday, Eric Burdon is at the Bluebird Theater in Denver and the Barenaked Ladies are at the Boulder Theater. Boyz II Men are at Fiddler’s on Tuesday and the Chieftains join Sarah McLachlan at Red Rocks on Thursday.
The world is many things to many people, but to banjo master and music innovator Bela Fleck there is definitely such a thing as an “acoustic planet.”
That’s a world where acoustic instruments are freed to make music in new ways and in new contexts and that’s the basis for Fleck’s brand new Warner Brothers records release, “Tales from the Acoustic Planet.”
Fleck has gone from being America’s premier bluegrass player to making groundbreaking electric music with his band the Flecktones. Now, with this solo production, Fleck returns to his acoustic roots to make a music that is less reliant on drama and muscle and more open to the sensitive beauty of his instrument.
“I like to get knocked over the head with things, but I also have this sort of romantic sensibility about playing the banjo,” Fleck said recently by phone from a tour stop in Milwaukee, Wisc. “I just love playing really beautiful, pretty things, so I write a lot of stuff like that. A lot of times it’s not appropriate for the Flecktones records…It’s not that I like one over the other, it’s just this reflects aside of the music that I like to play that doesn’t always get on the records.”
“Tales from the Acoustic Planet” is not an attempt by Fleck to get away from his band mates, bassist Victor Wooten and percussionist Future Man. In fact, the album began as a project that was simply going to include old bluegrass cohorts Sam Bush and Tony Rice, but would turn into a gathering of good friends that had to include the Flecktones.
“Originally this album was going to be almost a bluegrass record with Sam and Tony and all of those guys, but then as I got on into it, I thought why not introduce those bluegrass guys to the Flecktones, because they’ve never played together, and mix all these different friends from different worlds together. As the concept opened up, other people started dropping into the picture almost simultaneously,” Fleck said.
As the list of guest artists grew to include Chick Corea, Paul McCandless, Edgar Meyer, Branford Marsalis and Bruce Hornsby, the music on “Tales from the Acoustic Planet” became an exciting fusion of jazz, bluegrass, classical and experimental styles that makes listening truly an adventure. For Fleck, it became the chance to bring together the many elements of his wide ranging music making all in one place.
“I got to do more of the different things that I like to do playing music in this one record than I ever have, from playing bluegrass to playing jazz to playing music that’s classical sounding to playing stuff that you don’t know what it is,” he said.
“Tales from the Acoustic Planet” was self-produced by Fleck and as the project got rolling, he discovered several things about the musicians he was working with. One was that they wanted to do their best. Another was that they trusted his taste when it came to the final mix-down.
“People were committed to making it good,” Fleck said. “We didn’t do the normal thing where you play until you’ve got a take you like and then go fix it. We just kept playing until we felt like we had it somewhere and then we went on to the next song…They were willing to trust me and I think everybody was happy with what I used, trying to make everybody look like a star.”
For Fleck’s acoustic music fans, “Tales from the Acoustic Planet” is an artful bridge between Fleck’s work with the Flecktones and his bluegrass roots. These people will be pleased to know that bluegrass legend Sam Bush will be keeping this connection intact by joining Fleck and the Flecktones onstage for their appearance at the Lincoln Center on Thursday.
Fans of his Flecktones music can be assured that just because this album offers another side to Fleck’s music, doesn’t mean his relationship with his band mates isn’t secure.
“It’s a very blessed relationship,” Fleck said. “It’s very unusual. I can’t recall us having even a disagreement in the last year, the last few years. We just sort of get along and just keep trying to move it forward. We understand each other. Everybody has their own personal goals and the band just happens to be one of these unusual situations where what the group is doing enhances everybody’s individual goals and what each individual is doing enhances the group’s goals.”
New Fleck projects on the horizon include a solo project recorded with Chinese and Indian musicians, expected to be released by the end of the year, and a live Flecktones record expected next spring.
Bela Fleck has taken the banjo where no musician has taken it before.
In over twenty years of recording, Fleck has taken his chosen instrument from the jamming heart of bluegrass to the progressive fire of electric jazz fusion. He was a member of New Grass Revival before putting his own band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, together to challenge the boundaries of contemporary instrumental music.
With his latest recording project, Fleck returns to his acoustic roots to make a new music that combines the inventiveness of fusion music with the subtlety of the instruments themselves. His recent Warner Brothers Records release, “Tales From the Acoustic Planet,” turns ambitious acoustic compositions into a tantalizing hybrid of traditional, classical and contemporary styles.
This is music meant to feed the head and to provoke new thoughts about an old instrument.”Tales from the Acoustic Planet,” of course, also features the stalwart Flecktones rhythm section of Victor Lemonte Wooten and Future Man, but Fleck gets plenty of other help as well. First and foremost is jazz keyboardist Chick Corea, who Fleck counts as an important musical influence. Also add in saxman Branford Marsalis, pianist Bruce Hornsby and guitarist Tony Rice. Paul McCandless contributes oboe and is joined by bassist Edgar Meyer and dobroist Jerry Douglas to help create some of the album’s more touching moments. The presence of such a stellar array of guest artists, however, does not get in the way of the music.
In fact, “Tales from the Acoustic Planet” is a delicately rendered piece of work that gently explores new places for not just the banjo but for all the instruments to go. It’s jazzy, there’s dizzying improvisation, there’s plenty of energy and movement, but Fleck and his guests have created something new- a moving and inspiring piece of art, finely textured and quietly progressive.
To celebrate “Tales from the Acoustic Planet,’ Fleck and the Flecktones have already toured the Far East, traveling to Mongolia, China, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. The touring has also included stops in Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Canada and the band will also be playing dates all over the United States. That includes a show scheduled for the Lincoln Center on August 31.
For bluesman Tinsley Ellis, when it’s time to play the blues, it’s time to hit the highway.
“It kind of goes with the music,” Ellis said recently by phone from a tour stop in Virginia. “Ever since the blues began, people took it on the road. It’s not really stay-at-home music- unless your home is Chicago and then you can sort of stay around and play.”
Ellis lives in Atlanta, Georgia and he has found that he has to go far from home in order to find enthusiastic audiences anxious to hear the blues.
“I can’t think of a place in America where the blues are less popular than they are in the South,” Ellis said. “I think it’s been around for so long that people just sort of take it for granted. The farther we travel away from where the music came from, the better we do- places like Australia, Alaska and Europe.”
Though he finds that his music is appreciated in other countries and other continents, Ellis still finds audiences in places like Europe a little more reserved than the blues really demands.
“In Europe, there’s a certain thumb-to-chin introspection when it comes to the music. They don’t really want to party with it, they want to study it. So I really have to kind of snap them out of that mode,” he said.
That the blues is a music that defies clinical study is only a natural part of an expression that has its roots not in classical or academic art, but rather in the lives of workers and field hands.
“The greatest blues was made by people who did not set out to do anything other than entertain. They didn’t make a living at it. They didn’t want to get rich. They didn’t want to tour. They were laborers who had turned it into an art form,” Ellis said.
The blues came to Ellis strained through the work of the British Invasion groups of the 1960’s such as the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and the Animals. As he found out more about his favorite stars, he also found out about the real masters of the blues. That eventually lead to his first encounter with a real bluesman- B.B. King.
“A lot of the popularity of the blues came from the guitar magazines and others like Rolling Stone in the mid to late Sixties. I was reading these interviews with my favorite rock stars and one name that kept popping up was B.B. King,” Ellis said.
“I was about 14 years old and asked my dad to take me to this B.B. King show in Miami Beach…I sat right up in the front and just the raw emotion and power of the man’s guitar playing really struck me. That was my blues baptism.”
Since that time, Ellis has developed a music that fuses the blues with obvious rock and roll influences. This is very evident on Ellis’ most recent release on Alligator Records, “Storm Warning.” The album uses standard blues structures to push hard and heavy guitar playing way up front. This is what prompts Ellis to call himself “a rock and roller who plays the blues.”
“That gets me off the hook with the purists, the purists being those who scoff and say the blues is only one thing and have a narrow vision of music. I have a pretty broad definition of what blues is- if it feels bluesy, it’s blues. The blues to me can be anything from Robert Johnson right up to ZZ Top. By calling myself a blues rocker, it makes me appear less precocious in terms of the masters and not wanting to steal what they’ve worked their whole lives for. Rock and roll is my heritage and the blues is my song list,” Ellis said.
Ellis, who is scheduled for the final Concerts Under the Stars show in Old Town Square on Thursday, shares one other thing with the blues tradition. Instead of being a flash-in-the-pan rocker, Ellis expects to be an old bluesman.
“I want to be around,” he said. “I may not have a big MTV smash career or anything, but I’m going to have a really long career. That’s really important to me. I’ll be doing this probably, health permitting, 30 years from now.”
Hot Dates: The Innocence and Jerry Palmer will be at Avogadro’s Number on Saturday. Sponge is at the Ogden Theater in Denver on Sunday. Megadeth will be at Red Rocks on Monday and X will be at the Ogden on Tuesday.
For hundreds of thousands- even millions- of fans worldwide, the death of guitarist Jerry Garcia yesterday in California will not only mark the passing of a top-level musician, but also the passing of an era.
For over three decades, Garcia and his band mates in the Grateful Dead have been the patriarchs of a unique part of American culture that transcended the usual trappings of rock and roll entertainment into an area that can best be described as a way of life. For many, both young and old, the Grateful Dead represented more than just music, although their heady fusion of a wide range of American music styles- from blues, country and soul to an exploratory, jamming rock- is why the band initially gained attention.
To their fans, the group also was the focal point for a certain attitude of peaceful coexistence mixed with a healthy bit of personal hedonism. Understanding of this nebulous, yet widespread posture became the basis for a loose, yet very real community that spanned generations and political borders. For anyone who could understand the concept, each Grateful Dead concert was a chance to tune in to this strange culture that moved from city to city effortlessly. Their shows became a consistently comfortable place to go that existed apart from the usual hustle of contemporary living.
The Grateful Dead community eventually became codified as new generations became involved. Tie-dye clothing, freeform vending and an endless search for tickets became the standard at concerts to the point where the band itself acknowledged the problems that the numbers of their fans presented. Only recently, the Grateful Dead released a statement to their fans urging them to police their own activities after a number of gatecrashers sparked a clash with police and injuries among concert-goers.
At the center of all this was Garcia, whose wiry, piercing lead guitar work and fragile vocal style leant an unmistakable power to the band’s music. His presence alone was an essential ingredient to any Grateful Dead concert and Garcia maintained, however unintentionally and even unwillingly, a near-mystical status. Garcia was not the whole of the band, guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, and a succession of keyboard players including Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Keith Godchaux, Brent Mydland and Vince Welnick all equally responsible for the Grateful Dead’s musical creativity. However, he was a favored icon for the masses of fans.
News of Garcia’s death has no doubt sparked a million memories, all of which are both individual and shared among the fans. What one fan holds dear, upon examination, will be very similar to what another would also count as important. Such is the common understanding that the Grateful Dead fostered.
For this fan, the loss of Garcia gives pause to collect