by Tim Van Schmidt
Book One: Tales and Tradition
There’s something timeless about the blending of the human voice with the ring of acoustic instruments. It’s timeless enough to reach around the globe from Ireland and England to the foot of the Rocky Mountains to inspire the musicians of Colorado acoustic-based band Lalla Rookh. Lalla Rookh starts with traditional material from across the ocean- ballads, jigs and stories of romantic adventures- then adds a fresh and vital energy to music that invites passion and celebration. Their debut CD release, “Book One: Tales and Tradition,” introduces Lalla Rookh’s “Anglo-Celtic” music with rich vocal harmonies, crisp instrumental arrangements and a lot of heart.
Opening with Ashley Hutchings’ “A-Calling-On Song,” “Book One: Tales and Tradition” quickly establishes the high spirits of a quintet that has become a popular concert draw in their hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado and in the Rocky Mountain region. From the lively, full-band sound of the opening track through to the full-blooded, a cappella vocals of “My Johnny Was A Shoemaker,” Lalla Rookh demonstrates a warm love and understanding of a centuries-old folk music style. But by the time the group gets to “Matty Groves,” there’s no denying that Lalla Rookh is not afraid to stretch tradition to include some contemporary playing. Also including an original tune by mandolin player Paul Honeycutt, “The Wolfshead,” Lalla Rookh’s first effort puts a new and dramatic slant on music that comes from long ago and far away.
Lalla Roohk includes guitarist Charley Gannon, violinist Kay Williams, percussionist and bodhran player Mary Whalen, bassist Jim Abraham and Paul Honeycutt on mandolin and guitars. The group has established a reputation as an exciting live act at such events as the Scottish/Irish Highland Festival and the Denver Celtic Festival. With the release of “Book One: Tales and Traditions,” Lalla Rookh has also become a successful recording unit. “Book One: Tales and Tradition” is currently available at select CD outlets throughout Colorado. It is also being distributed by Hapi Skratch Records over the internet at http://www.hapiskratch.com.
Strong melodies, strong song arrangements and strong rhythmic hooks- Colorado-based band Bregstown has it all on their debut album release on Gruvy Guru/Hapi Skratch Records, “Welcome to Bregstown.” It’s an irresistible combination and it all goes to prove that no matter how much the musical times change, the sound that continues to work the best is a melody-driven pop rock that mixes power and passion into one shining package.
You don’t have to dig very deep into the music on “Welcome to Bregstown” to discover the best of what this 6-member band from Fort Collins, Colorado does. Just cue up track 2- “Change My Mind”- and hear singer Brian Gloster’s soulful vocals build dramatically to a rousing, resonating chorus. It all starts with a rolling bass groove and ends up with a celebration of multi-layered voices and melodies. Do you want to rock a little harder? Then cue up track 8- “Closer To The Sun”- perhaps the most stunning song on the album. Up front keyboards mix with a chunky guitar groove as the group starts at a simmer, but finally revs up into a full, flaming rock. All the while Gloster gives some world-wise advice about enjoying life before it’s gone. Lighter, but no less energetic is track 7- “The Love That Heals”- which features an upbeat combination of harmony vocals and infectious drum work.
Produced by Bregstown and Jason Livermore and recorded at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, “Welcome to Bregstown” is only part of the story, however. Bregstown, which also features Kevin Sullivan on vocals, keyboards and sax, Matt Gale and Matt Shields on guitars, vocals and percussion, Steve Orner on drums and Chris Sheafor on bass, along with Gloster on vocals and guitar, has also become a successful live attraction. They’ve been packing rooms all over their hometown and have also been touring regionally to bring their refreshing, powerful sound to new audiences. Live, Bregstown is everything that “Welcome to Bregstown” is, but more electric and more enthralling thanks to extra-tight playing and Gloster’s riveting stage presence. On CD and on stage, Bregstown delivers a music guaranteed to satisfy. Strong songs and strong chops- what more do you need?
Despite the fact that area band Crypto Star titled their debut album release on Fender Bender Music “Ska 101,” ska music is only just the beginning for this seven member showband. Sure, there’s plenty of that upbeat rhythm and energetic attitude that is associated with ska, but Crypto Star also lets other musical styles and influences flow freely through their original songs.
“We definitely want to explore other kinds of music. We don’t want anyone to think that we’re set in just one style,” Crypto Star guitarist and vocalist Zach Tschillard said. “We add swing, jazz, and hip hop- every music we can- to ska and we’re just scratching the surface.”
On “Ska 101,” the opening track, “All Together,” benefits from a quick blast of pumped up reggae. The tune “Pulling Me Apart” begins with ska but then adds some rock and even jazz twists. The title song lays hip hop vocals over the layers of horns and jangling guitar. “Big Night On” mixes ska and swing. There’s funk, some exploratory jamming and some other musical spices throughout an album that is as ambitious as it is fun.
The freeflow of musical ideas comes from the wide experience of the band members, many of whom hold music degrees, and the supportive atmosphere the group fosters when getting together to write and rehearse.
“We all collaborate on everything,” Tschillard said. “That’s what makes up our style.”
While some critics might take the group to task for its “impure” ska music, Tschillard insists that bringing different kinds of music together is very much the same as bringing different kinds of people together, which is part of what ska is all about.
“We are getting more and more into mixing musics together. It’s like mixing races, which was the whole idea behind ska,” he said.” “That’s why we’ve got the checkered design on the cover. It represents mixing white people with black.”
Crypto Star has been together for a little more than two years and in that time the group has developed not only a vigorous ska-based music, but also a riveting stage presence. While the full horn section blasts away and the drums kick into overdrive, vocalist Carson Riedel ducks and weaves around the stage, adding vocal punctuations and helping give their live show a madcap intensity that is hard to resist.
“We want people to think that we’re a band that sounds good on CD, but we also want them to know that hearing us live is even better,” Tschillard said. “We go out with the attitude that we are going to be entertaining every time we play. It’s like a big party for us and our fans are the most important thing. We want everyone to have a good time.”
That’s the kind of stuff that helped Crypto Star take first place in Scene Magazine’s recent Battle of the Bands at the Aggie Theater. Part of their prize for winning the event is their headlining gig at the Aggie on Wednesday. Along with second place winners, Fort Collins pop rock band Breggstown, Crypto Star will take the stage to prove that music from the northern Colorado region is very much alive and well. But more, they will also be proving that ska music is also very much alive and well at the end of the 1990’s. Not only is it alive, but it is also becoming more diverse and vibrant.
Fender Bender Music
Some critics say that ska is dead. But all you have to do is put on the debut release by exciting Colorado band Crypto Star, “Ska 101,” to prove that those critics have their heads stuck in the sand. It’s true- ska isn’t what it was 20 years ago, as some of those critics have said, and that’s because groups like Crypto Star have helped make it become so much more. For this seven-member unit, featuring a full horn section and a riveting stage presence, ska is not only that upbeat rhythm and energetic attitude, but also a music that easily includes other influences and styles. “Ska 101” not only means ska is alive and well, but it is also becoming more diverse and vibrant.
When you listen to “Ska 101,” you will discover that Crypto Star departs from basic ska music as much as they emulate it. The opening track, “All Together,” benefits from a quick blast of pumped up reggae. The tune “Pulling Me Apart” begins with ska but then adds some rock and even jazz twists. The title song, “Ska 101” lays hip hop vocals over the layers of horns and jangling guitar. “Big Night On” mixes ska and swing. There’s funk, some exploratory jamming and other musical spices throughout an album that is as ambitious musically as it is fun. Still, despite the progressive qualities of the arrangements, Crypto Star remains steadfast on the social values that have become associated with ska. The message of diversity is in the lyrics and reflected in the black and white checkerboard design on the album cover.
On stage, Crypto Star is tight and controlled while teetering just on the edge of wild abandon. If it sounds like this band knows what it’s doing, you’re right. The group has a high percentage of music degrees among the players and they have been treating audiences in the Rocky Mountain region to their high energy music for more than two years. Crypto Star features Austin Hein on bass, Carson Riedel on vocals and percussion, Cliff Pfeifer on drums, Troy Thill on alto sax, Brian Mickiewicz on tenor sax, Zach Tschillard on guitar and vocals, and Wade Eisinger on trombone. Everybody writes in the band and everybody collaborates on a ska that delivers plenty.
Steven B. Eulberg Hark, the Glad Sound!
On award-winning Fort Collins dulcimer artist Steven B. Eulberg’s new instrumental album, inspiration comes from the beauty and simplicity of acoustic sounds applied to timeless sacred melodies. The collection “celebrates the longing and yearning of the season of Advent” with dignity, grace and innovative arrangements. This music makes the heart dance.
Switchback Thunder Road
Go ahead and pay your rock and roll dues with the music of Loveland band Switchback. With a fully flavored Western rock, Switchback applies passion and strength to original songs that pack plenty of punch. But Switchback adds in something extra- an impressive musical flexibility and diversity. Distinctive vocals and heavy guitars rule.
Pfeuffer & Solomon Where Do We Go From Here
Between seasoned Fort Collins songwriter Randy Pfeuffer’s distinctive voice and guitarist Jesse Solomon’s searing, upfront solo work, this album becomes a triumph of spirit. The songs celebrate clarity and sincerity and the music is crisp and clean thanks to excellent production work. Also featuring drummer Norris Jones and percussionist Larry Page.
Dave Beegle A Year Closer
Is there any kind of guitar style that Colorado super guitarist Dave Beegle can’t play? Add producing this excellent acoustic-based album of solo and band arrangements to his impressive resume. Here, every note is pure and polished and Beegle offers every mood of the acoustic guitar. Guest artists include Michael Olson, Ethan Mesple and Beth Quist.
Steve Murray Battles of Tomorrow
At the heart of the original music of Colorado songwriter Steve Murray is just that- heart. His rich, full-bodied voice expressively underscores the sincere nature of his songs. This is his second album release and retains all the robust qualities of his first album, “Relative Trouble,” by applying a strong voice to a personal sense of storytelling.
Paul Taylor Walkabout
For more than three years, Australian storyteller and didjeridoo master Paul Taylor has been traveling in America, sharing his homeland’s culture. He’s also picked up some powerful musical friends along the way. Taylor’s new album is a world music journey that fuses Australian, Native American, Indonesian and experimental music sounds. It’s all related by “the magic of play” and features top-notch production work by Russ Hopkins and Jerry Palmer. Special contributions are made by Native American vocalists Andrew and JR Bia as well as Fort Collins musicians Pamela Robinson, Marty Rein, Peter Knudson, Steve Amedee, Gregory Long, Lloyd Drust, Marc Sabatella and TVS & two fingers. Sure to become a cult classic.
TVS & two fingers Dreaming of the Pyramids
With a groundbreaking mix of spoken word and “sound art,” Fort Collins art troupe TVS & two fingers is creating their own artistic niche. This is their debut CD release, featuring fifty tracks and almost as many moods. Most of the album was recorded live in Fort Collins, Cheyenne and the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya. As one audience member once said, it’s like “emotional channel surfing.”
Steven B. Eulberg Holy Mountain
Does your spirit need a revival? The songs on this album by Fort Collins songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Steve Eulberg are direct, personal and aimed at building spiritual awareness and self-confidence. For audiences of all ages, the collection offers “the knowledge of God” with a simple, inspiring folk sound- although Eulberg isn’t afraid to also include a little rap music in a creative arrangement of Psalm 145.
Carole & Teresa Lundgren Random Acts of Fiddling
As a musical duo, Fort Collins teenagers Carole and Teresa Lundgren play their violins with an ease and skill beyond their years. Also beyond their years is a choice of music that includes old time tunes, Scottish and Irish jigs, bluegrass standards and even a Ukrainian medley. The melodies are timeless and the Lundgrens approach each with style and passion. The young musicians’ album was produced by Steve Eulberg, who also adds instrumental back-up.
The Innocence Stone Flowers
With warm, sensuous vocals and songs about the passions and problems of everyday life, the Innocence build an intimate world all their own on this debut CD. Songwriters Kathleen and Billy Jones alternate lead singing duties while their original songs explore the deepness of human relationships and the work of living well in the world. The Innocence also features bassist Mark Foerster and percussionist Martin Poole.
The Atoll World Groove
The Atoll is one of Colorado’s most popular touring bands and they got that way by making music that is not only highly danceable, but also full of personal integrity. The universal theme to the Atoll’s songs is one of understanding, while the music fuses rock, reggae, folk and more. Stinging guitar, lush, soulful vocal harmonies and irresistible rhythms- they’re all on this seventeen track collection.
PJ Junior & Simply the Blues Blues and Grooves
Years ago, drummer Ron Plewacki was known in the Fort Collins area as the innovative percussionist of the Atoll. After moving to Europe, Plewacki became known as PJ Junior, the leader of a rough and ready blues band. The music on this CD features plenty of traditional blues, but with that ever-present Plewacki rhythmic twist. The album was recorded live in the studio and most certainly rocks the house.
Pamela Robinson The Exit
Fort Collins singer-songwriter Pamela Robinson not only has written some emotionally riveting songs for her debut CD release, but she has also created some innovative sound environments that make each piece breathe with a life all their own. This is not just another album release, but a full art project featuring photographic reproductions of sculpture by artist Amy Helm as well as highly personal, revealing music. Impassioned and inspiring.
Altanceceg Summoning the Soul
Two very different worlds meet in this fascinating collection of music. One world is that of Mongolian singing. The other world is the rarefied environment of the recording studio. Put together, under the direction of Fort Collins producer and musician Todd Cornell, the two create a mysterious and beautiful sound. Full of haunting melodies, the songs are traditional Mongolian folk tunes. The backing arrangements are both delicate and fragile while enhancing the primal warmth of the vocals. A musical journey well worth taking.
Gregory Long Padma Thunder
Beginning with a pulse-pounding rhythm piece, Fort Collins percussionist Gregory Long takes the opportunity of his debut CD release to offer up a diversified menu of music and stories. The sounds range from reggae, jazz and folk to a wide variety of world rhythms. The words touch on human relationships as well as the beauty and lessons of the natural world- all presented with a calm dignity and sincerity. The album features contributions by Jason Hollar, Pamela Robinson, Mark Sloniker, Ed Contreras and many others.
Black Whistle Singers Remembering Friends
This powerful collection of pow wow songs begins with a joke you probably won’t get unless you have listened to Montana singing group Black Whistle’s previous album. That recording ended with the statement that “Black Whistle has left the building.” This album begins with the announcement that “Black Whistle has re-entered the building.” But that’s as far as the joke goes. The rest of the CD explores the uplifting vocals and the primal pulsing drum beats of contemporary Native American music. This is not easy-listening music but passionate, deeply resonating expression from the Crow Nation.
Music and the mountains- it’s often a sweet combination- and that’s why Beaver Meadows Resort Lodge has announced it will be the host for the first annual Thunder Mountain Music Jam. For two days- September 4 and 5- Beaver Meadows will be presenting a wide assortment of bluegrass, rock and American roots music bands, all playing on a mountain stage facing the banks of the North Fork of the Poudre River.
Headlining the Thunder Mountain Music Jam will be nationally touring songwriter and band leader Laura Love as well as national recording bluegrass artists Front Range. Front Range plays on Saturday, September 4, along with Nederland bluegrass fusion band Runaway Truck Ramp, Fort Collins’ own internationally touring bluegrass unit the Bluegrass Patriots, and high energy Colorado rock band Canebrake Run. Love will be the featured act on Sunday, September 5, following performances by the Bixbys, Liz Barnez and the Tunesmiths. Also joining the roster on Sunday is the group formerly known as Magpie- featuring former subdudes John Magnie and Steve Amedee- now known as Coot, thanks to legal action taken by an East Coast band also named Magpie.
But more than music, the Thunder Mountain Music Jam will also be featuring artisan and craft booths and specialty foods. Beaver Meadows is located just outside Red Feather Lakes, “only 50 miles northwest of Fort Collins.” For ticket and accommodation information, call 800-462-5870. The event is sponsored by bristol Brewing Company of Colorado and the Phone Connection.
Drum contest: Who is the best drummer in northern Colorado? Find out when the Mishawaka Amphitheatre hosts the Pro/Am Drum Contest on Thursday, September 16. Drummers will each be allowed a 15-minute performance slot to demonstrate solid groove playing, originality and mastery of styles including rock, rap, Latin and jazz. Colorado Drum and Percussion will be providing the drum kit and participants are required to submit a five minute demo tape beforehand. The event is sponsored by Colorado Drum, Yamaha and Zildjian.
Meanwhile, while most summer music venues are beginning to think about closing down, Mishawaka continues to go strong this month. For example, last year Mishawaka hosted the Rocky Mountain Blues Festival and artists such as Tab Benoit blasted the blues all night long. Benoit is making a return trip to Mishawaka on September 19, along with Lewis and Floorwax and the Groovehounds. Other music coming up at Mishawaka in September includes bluegrass music legend Peter Rowan on September 2, the David Grisman Quintet on September 10-11, Firefall on September 12, Victor Wooten of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones on September 17, and Dead-music band Shakedown Street on September 24-26.
Guitar show: The sixth annual Rocky Mountain Guitar Show is set for September 11 and 12 for the National Western Complex in Denver. Guitarists can buy, sell or trade instruments at the event- in fact, musicians will get $1 off at the door if they bring in an instrument to trade or sell. But more than a sales event, the show will also feature a “live music expo”- after all what good are instruments if you don’t play them? Saturday, September 11 will spotlight the Flying Armadillo Wranglers, the Erica Brown Band, the Red Rock Roosters and Steve Crenshaw. Sunday, September 12 will feature Creighton Holley, the Hornbuckle Brothers, along with Sundance and Music in Blue.
John Sebastian: While many of his peers were creating over-the-edge electric music, or who were raving about politics, singer-songwriter John Sebastian and his group the Lovin’ Spoonful were making catchy pop tunes with memorable melodies and an uplifting attitude. The hits included “Summer in the City,” “Daydream” and “Do You Believe in Magic?” and Sebastian was one of the calming influences at the original Woodstock event in 1969, during a solo set celebrating birth and love. Since then, Sebastian has been known for the theme song for the television show “Welcome Back Kotter” and he has continued to tour, playing his gentle blend of folk and blues music. Sebastian will be making a rare area appearance at the Rialto Theater in Loveland on September 11.
Runaway Truck Ramp: Blending bluegrass, rock, swing, reggae, folk, pop and jazz, Colorado band Runaway Truck Ramp puts on a show that doesn’t stay in any one place for long. With strong lead and harmony vocals, as well as “hot pickin’,” Runaway Truck Ramp has established a reputation as being one of the most diverse Front Range bands on the map. The band was formed from several veteran Colorado area bands, including Doublestop, Rubber Spark and Frogpile, and has since shared the stage with such performers as Tim O’Brien, Leftover Salmon, Charles Sawtelle and the String Cheese Incident. Coming up, Runaway Truck Ramp will be at the Aggie Theater on Saturday, September 18.
Other shows coming up at the Aggie include the Daryl Anger/Mike Marshall Band on September 3, Israel Vibration on September 8, the Derek Trucks Band on September 16, the Disco Biscuits on September 23, the Zen Tricksters on September 24 and the Jazz Mandolin Project on September 25.
More music: Singer-songwriter John Gorka brings his deep, soothing voice and well-crafted songs to Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder on September 3. Fans of adult contemporary music should mark their calendars for September 11 and 12, when Red Rocks will host an excellent bill featuring Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin, Bruce Hornsby and David Lindley. Also coming up is the Winter Park Jazz Festival, September 17-18 and Styx and the Doobie Brothers will be combining their talents at the Adams County Fair Grounds on September 18.
Cool jazz, brassy swing, smooth pop and slippery blues. These are the moods- and more- that move through the music of Colorado vocalist and songwriter Carol Frazier. The evidence is on a challenging, wide-ranging solo album, titled “Life’s A Ride,” and in the years of experience behind this ambitious and multi-talented artist.
“Life’s A Ride,” Frazier’s 1999 album release produced and co-written by Taylor Mesple, reveals a lot about a Colorado native who has dedicated her life to the performing arts. From soulful acoustic introspection to broad showpiece band numbers, “Life’s A Ride” takes the listener on a musical journey that shows just how far Frazier has traveled herself. It’s all based on jazz somehow, but Frazier also reaches out to touch the beauty of the ballad as well as the funky bump of the back-beat torchburner. The subjects of the songs are just as diverse: love, loss, stress, playfulness, spirituality, question and living life in general. None of this comes from a beginner’s point of view and Frazier handles it all with a gentle hand and a full heart.
Frazier’s career in entertainment has moved back and forth between seeking out expert training and seeking out audiences of all kinds. Throughout her years in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming, she has studied voice, dance, acting and modeling. Her ambitions have lead her to work in film, television and off-Broadway theatre- doing voice overs and acting for commercials, working on feature films such as “Lakota Woman” and “Starship Troopers,” and taking the stage as characters ranging from Mary Poppins to Martha Jefferson. Besides being a vocalist, Frazier has also learned to play both the piano and the viola. She has studied and performed everything from classical to country music and this helps her when she is teaching other aspiring artists. It has also given her the freedom to grow and change in many different directions. Her current love is for a seamless mixture of pop and jazz and she has been playing venues all over the northern Colorado region with a jazz trio.
As part of the fertile Colorado music scene, Frazier came into contact with the full roster of talented musicians who have helped turn “Life’s A Ride” into a recording triumph. These include producer, keyboardist and bandleader Taylor Mesple, who not only headed up the album’s production, but also co-wrote and arranged the music for Frazier’s finely crafted lyrics. Other Colorado musicians on the album include bassist Michael Olsen, guitarist Dave Beegle, sax master Nelson Rangell, and percussionist Steve Amedee, a former member of the band the subdudes, who helped co-write two pieces on the album and performed a vocal duet with Frazier. The album was recorded in several of the top studios in the Colorado Front Range region.
But there’s more to the story than just a career in entertainment. More than seeking stardom- or at least a steady night job- Frazier has always strived to connect with her audience on an emotional level. That goes for performances in the close confines of a tiny club to shows on the big stage, entertaining music lovers of all ages. Frazier reaches out and connects because she knows plenty about music and entertaining. But she also connects because her art is a reflection of the deep faith inside her. Frazier is a Christian artist who believes that while everyone she sings to may not be spiritual, they can be touched. For her, the highest calling of the artist is to communicate the depth of love and the joy of laughter in a way that moves the listener.
With all of that in mind, then let Frazier’s steamy, intimate song “Escape To Breathe” from “Life’s A Ride” wash over and soothe your soul. Let the upbeat, irresistible fun of “Holy Roller Swing” make your body yearn to dance. This is a musician who is not satisfied with only one sound and one approach. Rather, Frazier allows a lifetime of expression and experience to flow freely and honestly. The results are clear- an album of infectious music and an artist who fulfills her dreams with style.