There is still plenty of time to hit up one of the many fine Colorado music festivals this summer. If you sign up to like the brand new Grass Roots Revival facebook page (www.facebook.com/grassrootsrevival) by August 22, you will be entered to win one of two pairs of three day passes to the 15th Annual Four Corners Folk Festival in beautiful Pagosa Springs, Colorado over Labor Day weekend (September 3-5).
This year’s lineup includes Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Bush, the Infamous Stringdusters, Crooked Still, Sarah Jarosz, and many other great performers. Each pair of these tickets would run you $210 if you purchased them at the door, so sign up now if you have a Facebook account!
Other upcoming festivals include the following:
August 14-15: Eighth Annual Manitou Springs Craft Lager Festival featuring craft brews from 25 different breweries along with music by Elephant Revival, Grass It Up, and others. This festival has been ranked among the top 10 beer festivals in the nation by USA Today.
August 20-22: Newhoma Music Festival, a first year festival in Florissant with an eclectic lineup of bluegrass, jazz, rock and roll, jamband and more from artists including Oakurst, Henhouse Prowlers, Grass It Up, and Grayson Capps & the Lost Cause Minstrels.
August 20-22: YarmonyGrass, back for another year at Rancho del Rio in Bond, the premier jamgrass festival in Colorado welcomes the return of Railroad Earth to be joined by Head for the Hills, Elephant Revival, the Nershi-Law Duo with Pete Seeger’s talented grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, and almost every member of the String Cheese Incident in one scide project or another.
August 21-22: Wet Mountain Western Jubilee, a celebration of cowboy culture with performances by Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell, http://www.sonsandbrothersband.com/ and Pueblo newcomers The Haunted Windchimes.
August 28-29: 12th Annual NedFest, nestled in the mountains above Boulder, promoter Michigan Mike has put together another exceptional roster of musicians that includes Cornmeal, Great American Taxi, Spring Creek, Elephant Revival, Hot Buttered Rum and other great jazz-fusion and rock acts.
You have no excuse to miss out on live music this summer — get out there and enjoy! The concert calendar is up to date, and remember that you can now listen to the Grass Roots Revival webcast here at www.rockymountainhighway.com.
Did you miss the Academy of Country Music awards a few weeks ago? No surprise — most of the nominees were pop singers hand-selected by industry insiders.
However, I was pleased to see that Randy Scruggs (one of Earl’s sons) earned the nod for Top Speciality Instrument Player of the Year and that Stuart Duncan took home honors as Top Fiddle Player of the Year. Maybe all hope is not lost for “country music.” Bizarre factoid — the ACM annually recognizes a Casino of the Year (Green Valley Ranch in Las Vegas has bragging rights this year).
I predict that the summer of 2010 will be remembered by music fans as the summer of Darrell Scott. His new 2-CD collection of all original music called A Crooked Road just came across my desk, and it is good.
Darrell plays every instrument on the album, which is out on his own label Full Light Records, and a particular standout track is “Colorado.” His tour schedule brings him to the Soiled Dove in Denver on June 5 with a stop the following day in Pagosa Springs for the fantastic Folk N Bluegrass Festival. Then Darrell joins fellow Americana stalwarts Buddy Miller and Patty Giffin as part of Robert Plant’s new project on Rounder Records, which was just acquired by the Concord Music Group. Yes, that Robert Plant. Plant and the Band of Joy kick off a United States tour in Nashville on July 13, but unfortunately the closest they will come to Colorado is the Sandia Casino Amphitheater in Albuquerque. The official release date for A Crooked Road is May 24 but you can download “Colorado” right now for free at http://www.darrellscott.com/colorado.
Other notable new releases in the bumper crop that just arrived in time for airplay on the Grass Roots Revival for Festival Season include Things That Fly from The Infamous Stringdusters (Sugar Hill), Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch), a new collection of crazy covers called Thief from Keller Williams and the Keels (SCI Fidelity), a solo release called The Garden from former Wailin’ Jenny Ruth Moody and Storyhill’s Shade of the Trees (Red House), Crooked Still’s Some Strange Country (Signature Sounds), Merle Haggard’s I Am What I Am (Hag/Vanguard), Willie Nelson’s Country Music (Rounder), The Grascals with The Famous Lefty Flynn’s (Rounder), self-titled debuts from Summertown Road (Rounder) and Deep Fryed Acoustiblasters (Self), Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs with Medicine County (Transdreamer), Trampled By Turtles’ Palomino (Banjodad), Chely Wright’s Lifted Off the Ground (Vanguard), which was produced by Rodney Crowell, Black Prairie – Feast of the Hunters’ Moon (Sugar Hill), a re-issue of Roland White’s 1976 release I Wasn’t Born to Play Rock & Roll (Tompkins Square), Wes Weddell, By the Side of the Lake (Dusty Shadows Music, 2010), Anders Osborne’s American Patchwork (Alligator) and Mary-Chapin Carpenter’s The Age of Miracles (Zoe).
The Greencards (nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental), Great Lake Swimmers (nominated for a 2010 Juno award for best roots music album, Grant-Lee Phillips, Gregory Alan Isakov, the Grant Gordy Quartet (new guitarist of the David Grisman Quintet), Martha Scanlan (formerly of The Reeltime Travelers), Elephant Revival, and many more. It’s going to be a wonderful event and this year we have a tent to protect the audience from the rain and a new Friday night VIP event headlined by Grass It Up. Limited camping is available – make your reservations now and buy those tickets!
P.S. Looking ahead, next month New West recording artists Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans from Canada will bring their high energy alternative country music to Chico Basin Ranch for a benefit performance that is not to be missed. GO SEE LIVE MUSIC!
Don’t despair if you can’t travel to South by Southwest next month! During the first two weeks of March you can find an exciting roots concert almost every night, right here in the shadow of Pikes Peak.
I recommend that you start the musical odyssey with a double “paper” bill TONIGHT at Stargazers Theatre featuring local favorites Edith Makes A Paperchain and the Denver-based collective Paper Bird — seven guys and gals who, like Edith, combine indie folk strings and horns to create an exciting new sound.
The following night songwriter Sarah Siskind is set to appear at the Mountain Community Mennonite Church in Palmer Lake with hubby Travis Book of the Infamous Stringdusters, who was raised here locally. Bill Forman of the Indy reports that the concert is a charity fundraiser complete with pie and coffee.
Vince Herman – a founder of the influential jamgrass band Leftover Salmon – brings his new project Great American Taxi to the Black Sheep on Thursday March 4. In addition to celebrating the release of Taxi’s recording debut “Reckless Habits,” Vince & the boys are fresh off of a tour with Todd Snider that included stops in Denver, Boulder and Nashville.
On Friday March 5, you can opt to check out the Zac Brown Band – the recently-crowned “Best New Artist” from this year’s Grammys — at the World Arena, or for a less expensive evening wander over to Venue 515 in Manitou Springs for another Edith Makes A Paperchain show with rising folk star Cahalen Morrison.
The fun continues the following week with Ozomatli at the Black Sheep on March 9 and two notable events on March 12 — folk singer Joe Uveges plays the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, while multi-instrumentalist Tony Furtado performs at a special house concert with Trina Hamlin.
You can wrap up the first half of Musical March Madness at the Black Sheep on March 14 with Stockholm Syndrome, a Widespread Panic side project featuring the talents of bassist Dave Schools, Wally Ingram and Jerry Joseph, among others.
Finally, for the northern Colorado crowd or anyone willing to drive for tunes – Cracker plays “Unplugged” at Swallow Hill Daniels Hall on February 28, Bob Weir & Phil Lesh bring Furthur to Broomfield on March 5-6, and YMSB’s Jeff Austin invites some hippie friends to join him for two shows on March 12-13 in Denver and Boulder.
Go out and see live music! I’m back on the air this week with another edition of The Grass Roots Revival — catch it streaming live at 8:00 p.m. MST on www.krcc.org or as a webcast here within a few days after the live broadcast!
Sunday night marks the arrival of the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards
ceremony, an often pretentious and self-congratulatory spectacle during which the Recording Academy perennially hands out honors to the most flamboyant, good-looking, and/or best-selling musical insiders. Many are successful because they are “marketable” and not because of songwriting talent or instrumental ability; nowhere is this more evident than in the so-called “Country Music” categories. The formulaic songs of commercial country sensations like Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood bear little resemblance to the body of work produced by traditional country pioneers including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.
One of the oft-overlooked gems of the Grammys, however, is the category for “Best Country Instrumental Performance.” Since the pop country superstars seldom go to the trouble of producing instrumental music, they are mostly ineligible for consideration, leaving the door open for emerging artists who build on traditional foundations — The Greencards, Sarah Jarosz and Alison Brown. Although you aren’t likely to hear much about roots music during the tomorrow’s network television broadcast of the ceremony, here are my analyses and predictions for Best Country Instrumental Performance and three of the categories now grouped together under the “American Roots” heading.
My Prediction: Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
My Selection: Wilco – Wilco (the album)
For the first time in its history, the Academy will present an award for “Best Americana Album” of the year. My guess is that the Academy will reward one of its old guard – Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel, or Levon Helm (known for his ground-breaking work with The Band). These are all celebrated artists who have rightfully received critical acclaim for their accomplishments. Wilco is an interesting foil in this category, having previously earned a 2004 Grammy for “Best Alternative Album” for “A Ghost is Born.” Although I also truly enjoyed Levon Helm’s “Electric Dirt,” the follow up to the 2007 Grammy-winning Best Traditional Folk Album “Dirt Farmer,” I hope the Academy gives the nod to Wilco for keeping Americana exciting and fresh.
Best Bluegrass Album
My Prediction: Steve Martin – The Crow
My Selection: Rhonda Vincent – Destination: Life
Three of this year’s Bluegrass nominees already own phonograph statues. Jim Lauderdale has earned Best Bluegrass Album awards for his collaboration with Ralph Stanley in 2002 and for 2007’s “The Bluegrass Diaries.” Outstanding guitarist Bryan Sutton took home two awards for his work with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder and then one for Best Country Instrumental in 2006. I believe that sheer star power probably gives comedian Steve Martin an edge in this category – Martin picked up two Grammys for Best Comedy Recording in the 1970s and was also honored for his contribution to the Best Country Instrumental winner in 2001, an all-star Earl Scruggs recording of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” However, I’d reward one of the two nominees who don’t have a Grammy, either cowboy poet Michael Martin Murphey or multi-instrumentalist Rhonda Vincent. Rhonda gets my vote because I don’t want to jinx Michael’s Martin Murphey’s chance of winning Best Traditional Folk Album next year for the new release “Lone Cowboy — Live & Solo” that was produced here in Colorado Springs by the Western Jubilee Recording Company.
Best Contemporary Folk Album
My Prediction: Elvis Costello — Secret Profane & Sugarcane
My Selection: Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
There are mostly familiar faces in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category. Shawn Colvin received the award in 1990 for “Steady On” and later earned Record of the Year honors for “Sunny Came Home” in 1997. However, her latest live solo recording offers up little new material (a notable exception is a Talking Heads cover) — the album more or less recreates a previously released 1988 performance twenty years later. Steve Earle beat out the competition twice in the past decade in 2004 (“The Revolution Starts Now”) and 2007 (“Washington Square Serenade”), although in my opinion his collection of Townes Van Zandt covers does not rank among his best material. Although Tracy Chapman has four Grammys (including three during her debut in 1988), she has not won an award since a 1996 Grammy for Best Rock Song. Surprisingly, Elvis Costello has only one Grammy award on his resume, for a pop vocal collaboration with Burt Bacharach in 1998. If I was King the award would go to the incorrigible trailblazing indie newcomer Neko Case for shaking things up — “Middle Cyclone” is an innovative, inspired and literate modern take on folk music.
However, the best bet is that Elvis Costello will take the category with “Secret, Profane and Sugarcane,” both because of his lack of prior significant recognition and the involvement of golden touch producer T Bone Burnett, the soundtrack architect for “O Brother Where Art Thou” and the forthcoming Jeff Bridges movie “Crazy Heart.”
Best Country Instrumental Performance
My Prediction: The Greencards, “The Crystal Merchant,” Fascination
My Selection: The Greencards, “The Crystal Merchant,” Fascination
And finally, even though the Academy could only come up with four nominees for Best Country Instrumental, they are great songs. Young bluegrass darling Sarah Jarosz garners her first nomination for the quirky “Mansinneedof” from her debut Sugar Hill release “Song Up In Her Head,” and banjoist Alison Brown is back again after winning this category in 2000 for her duet with maestro Bela Fleck. But my money is on The Greencards –Australian, English and Nashville influences combine to produce some of the most exciting bluegrass/Americana music available today. Their Sugar Hill release “Fascination” was #2 on the Grass Roots Revival charts in 2009. Although The Greencards’ “Mucky the Duck” from “Viridian” was nominated but failed to win the Best Country Instrumental last year, I am hoping the second time is the charm. And mark your calendar now – The Greencards will be headlining MeadowGrass in Black Forest this coming Memorial Day weekend – details to follow very soon.
As the year end approaches, it seems fitting that I make my first foray into the blogosphere. Rocky Mountain Highway is a collaboration between myself and the talented and good-looking Marty Harper, who deserves all credit and kudos for setting up the site and providing regular original content for your reading pleasure. I have been primarily responsible for maintaining the concert calendar and any errors in the information provided are mine alone. I am looking forward to 2010 and resolve to make regular postings here in the coming year. I may even have to quit my day job to allow more time to devote to my passion for roots music.
I have now been hosting The Grass Roots Revival on KRCC for slightly more than two years — the show debuted back on December 5, 2007. KRCC is a public radio station supported by The Colorado College and can be found at 91.5 FM on the radio dial in the Colorado Springs area and throughout southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, as well as streaming on-line at www.krcc.org. For those who may not be familiar with the show, each Wednesday night from 8-10 p.m. MST I aim to play an diverse and eclectic mix of “Americana” music that encompasses bluegrass, folk, alt-country and roots rock genres. I report my playlists to the Roots Music Report and to the on-line community at FolkDJ.org, and I am a member of the Americana Music Association. I am also helping to organize a festival called MeadowGrass at the La Foret Conference and Retreat Center in Black Forest, Colorado (www.meadowgrass.com). Look for an announcement about our headliners in early 2010.
During the past year I played songs from 534 different CDs on The Grass Roots Revival, and being the OCD type, I spent too much time counting the number of times each album was played in order to generate a list of the Top 100 CDs of 2009. In order to be eligible the CD must have been released during the calendar year 2009. The #1 CD on my list received eight spins on the Grass Roots Revival and the top 90 received at least three spins. Discs that received an identical number of spins were ordered at my discretion. I will be counting down the Top 25 on the December 30, 2009 edition of the Revival. Without further ado, then, I give you the official Grass Roots Revival Top 100 Americana/ Roots CDs list for 2009:
- Todd Snider, Excitement Plan (Yep Roc)
- The Greencards, Fascination (Sugar Hill)
- Avett Brothers, I and Love and You (American)
- Son Volt, American Central Dust (Rounder)
- Band of Heathens, One Foot in the Ether (BOH)
- Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses, Roadhouse Sun (Lost Highway)
- Wilco, Wilco (the album) (Nonesuch)
- Rhett Miller, Rhett Miller (Shout Factory)
- Yonder Mountain String Band, The Show (Frog Pad)
- Levon Helm, Electric Dirt (Vanguard)
- Putnam Smith, Goldrush (Itchy Sabot)
- Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles, The Stars Are Out (Sugar Hill)
- Buddy & Julie Miller, Written In Chalk (New West)
- Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (Epitaph)
- Sons and Brothers, Measure of a Man (Western Jubilee)
- Justin Townes Earle, Midnight at the Movies (Bloodshot)
- The Blue Canyon Boys, House Full of Sorrow (Self)
- Steve Martin, The Crow (40 Share Productions)
- Emmitt Nershi Band, New Country Blues (SCI Fidelity)
- Jorma Kaukonen, River of Time (Red House)
- Sara Watkins, Sara Watkins (Nonesuch)
- Assembly of Dust, Some Assembly Required (Rock Ridge Music)
- Cross Canadian Ragweed, Happiness & All The Other Things (Universal South)
- Palmer Divide, Shenandoah Train (Self)
- Slaid Cleaves, Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away (Music Road)
- Mark Olson & Gary Louris, Ready for the Flood (New West)
- Sarah Jarosz, Song Up In Her Head (Sugar Hill)
- Roseanne Cash, The List (Manhattan)
- Eilen Jewell, Sea of Tears (Signature Sounds)
- Blame Sally, Night of 1000 Stars (Blame Sally Opus)
- Rhythm Angels, Girls Like Us (High Horse)
- The Mitguards, Something True (Self)
- Nanci Griffith, The Loving Kind (Rounder)
- Cheryl Wheeler, Pointing at the Sun (Dias)
- The Gourds, Haymaker (Yep Roc)
- Charlie Robison, Beautiful Day (Dualtone)
- Steep Canyon Rangers, Deep in the Shade (Rebel)
- Corb Lund, Losin’ Lately Gambler (New West)
- Derek Trucks Band, Already Free (RCA Victor)
- Trampled By Turtles, Duluth (Banjodad)
- Lyle Lovett, Natural Forces (Lost Highway)
- BettySoo, Heat Sin Water Skin (Self)
- Steve Earle, Townes (New West)
- Spring Creek, Way Up On A Mountain (Rebel)
- Cracker, Sunrise in the land of Milk & Honey (429)
- Robert Earl Keen, The Rose Hotel (Lost Highway)
- Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women, Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women (Yep Roc)
- Bob Dylan, Together Through Life (Columbia)
- Cosy Sheridan, Eros (Wind River)
- Ben Bedford, Land of the Shadows (Hopeful Sky)
- Lisa Piccirillo, Momentum (The Co-op)
- Jeremy Garrett, I Am A Stranger (Sugar Hill)
- Gurf Morlix, Last Exit to Happyland (Rootball)
- The Pines, Tremolo (Red House)
- Works Progress Administration, W.P.A. (Red Distribution)
- Eliza Gilkyson, Beautiful World (Red House)
- Otis Gibbs, Grandpa Walked a Picketline (Wanamaker)
- Catie Curtis, Hello Stranger (Compass)
- Mark Stuart & the Bastard Sons, Bend in the Road (Texacali)
- Alison Brown, The Company You Keep (Compass)
- Dave Rawlings Machine, A Friend of a Friend (Acony)
- The Flatlanders, Hills and Valleys (New West)
- Joe Craven & Sam Bevan, Foakee (Blender Logic)
- Patterson Hood, Murdering Oscar & other love songs (Ruth St)
- Kendel Carson, Alright Dynamite (Trainwreck)
- Heather Masse, Bird Song (Red House)
- Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (Lightning Rod)
- The Jack Trades, Whiskey Well (Self)
- Rhonda Vincent, Destination Life (Rounder)
- Vienna Teng, Inland Territory (Zoe)
- Amy Speace, The Killer In Me (Wildflower)
- Don Edwards, Heaven on Horseback (Western Jubilee)
- Monsters of Folk, Monsters of Folk (Shangri-La)
- Liz Longley, Somewhere in the Middle (Self)
- John Fogerty, Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again (Verve)
- Elvis Costello, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (Hear Music)
- Alice Peacock, Love Remains (Peacock Music)
- Great Lake Swimmers, Lost Channels (Nettwerk)
- JJ Cale, Roll On (Rounder)
- Sweet Bitters, Sweet Bitters (Self)
- Stephanie Bettman, Get Close To Me (Self)
- David Wilcox, Open Hand (What Are Records)
- Dave Zobl, And So It Goes (Self)
- Guy Clark, Somedays the Song Writes You (Dualtone)
- Emith, 13 Seasons (Fogbound Child Music)
- Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, Swinging from the Chains of Love (True North)
- John Doe & the Sadies, Country Club (Yep Roc)
- Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Lonely Street (Rounder)
- Annie & Rod Capps, My Blue Garden (Yellow Room)
- Bearfoot, Doors and Windows (Compass)
- The O’s, We Are The O’s (Idol)
- Among the Oak & Ash, Among the Oak & Ash (Verve)
- Brandi Carlile, Give Up The Ghost (Columbia)
- Steve Brown & the Bailers, How Things Start (Self)
- Otis Taylor, Pentatonic Wars & Love Songs (Telarc)
- Vetiver, Tight Knit (Sub Pop)
- Harbor Collective, The Monday EP (Self)
- The Wailin’ Jennys, Live at muach Chunk Opera House (Red House)
- Ben Kweller, Changing Horses (ATO)
- Laura Love with Orville Johnson, The Sweeter the Juice (Octoroon Biography)