Tenth Mountain Division Blend Genres and Define "Ski Rock" on Debut Release, "Cracks in the Sky"

By: Eric Martin

TMD is going to make you love "ski rock".

As my friends and I stumbled out of the Boulder Theater adorned in all the green clothing we own and drunk on Irish car bombs, we headed in the direction of home. Or so we thought. It had been a successful enough St. Patrick’s Day. We all agreed, alarms already set and ready to wake us in a matter of hours, that home was the direction to go. But we didn’t make it far. Mere steps from the Theater, we were drawn elsewhere: the music was loud, the crowd was huge, and there was a buzz of energy in the air from more than just the alcohol.

We found ourselves stumbling into The Lazy Dog, and immediately, I noticed that I’d never seen the place so crowded. It was shoulder to shoulder; toes on toes. I couldn’t see the stage. I had no idea who was playing. It was rock music and the crowd was definitely into it. Was that a mandolin? I made my way closer to the stage.

Tenth Mountain Division.

Tenth Mountain Division.

The band was Boulder’s Tenth Mountain Division. And that was a mandolin. The eclectic mix of musicians onstage included MJ Ouimette, Campbell Thomas, Winston Huega, Connor Dunn, and Tyler Gwynn. I soon realized maybe this wasn’t “rock music” after all, because according to the band “well known amongst small groups of people”, this was “ski rock”. And it just so happened that I had walked into TMD’s ski rock album debut. Gnarly.

The release, Cracks in the Sky, features the 5-piece group on guitar, keyboards, mandolin, bass, and drums, as well as a handful of guest musicians on saxophones and banjos; oh my! The album starts a little slow paced, picks up early, and drives it home.

Much like the band itself, this release seems to effortlessly blend genres. At any moment, it drifts from String Cheese-inspired jams to Shakedown Street funk, to traditional bluegrass breakdowns to sax-heavy jazz beats, all without ever digressing too far from the true Hercules of this band’s repertoire: fun. “Storm of the Century” is the perfect example of this, a funky ballad beginning with a driving drum beat accompanied by a mellow, instantly catchy piano riff, joined in perfect harmony by funk-rock bass lines and high energy mandolin chops.

The track “Eskimo” sums up more than any other tune what “ski rock” is all about. It is probably the most improvisational song on the album, and features their now (kind of) famous catchphrase, “A man could go crazy in a search of snow”.

Though the energy found at their live shows seems a little lacking in the album, several songs, including “Drunk Man’s Blues” and “Camp Hale”, serve to keep live performance fans happy with the high energy TMD they’ve come to appreciate.

Cracks in the Sky closes out with its title track, a banjo/mandolin-heavy tune that once again perfectly blends and bends (genres that is). This album is definitely worth a listen, but even more so, get out there and catch these guys live! You can find their upcoming show dates here.

-Eric

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All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.