Ryan Bingham's 'American Love Song' Is Aptly Inspired by Life on the Road

By: Natalie Pulvino

“I’m just a person like everyone else who’s influenced by the world around him.”

Photo Credit: Donnie Hedden.

Photo Credit: Donnie Hedden.

Ryan Bingham, a renowned singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, got his “big break” by co-writing the theme song “The Weary Kind” for the 2009 acclaimed film ‘Crazy Heart.’ Now, he’s on tour across the U.S. performing his newest work, ‘American Love Song.’ We sat down with him this week to talk about the record, his songwriting process, and what his music means to him.

How does ‘American Love Song’ differ from your previous projects/records?

I’d say it’s a lot more on the blues side than my previous records. I definitely set out to make more of a blues record than anything.

What was your musical process for writing this album? Can you describe your emotional journey with it?

You know, I always tend to need a bit of solitude to write songs. I wrote some at home, some on the road, and some at a friend’s place in New Mexico out in the middle of nowhere. I need to find some place where I can get away from distractions. You know, I definitely draw off of all my experiences, kind of past and present- it’s all a part of it. If the songs aren’t making me feel something while I’m writing... I try to feel those emotions first, I think that’s pretty important.

Do you typically write lyrics first or instrumentals? Was that the case with this particular record?

Usually the music always comes first- yes definitely.

Can you describe your process for choosing lyrics to fit the instrumentals?

The music just really sets the tone for whatever emotion is going to come. There are definitely notes and chords that are lighter and darker than others, so the tempo and then the key of the song sets the tone for what’s to follow.

This album has a lot of political references and even touches on border politics. What, in your words, is this album truly about?

Well there’s a lot of layers to it, a lot of stuff that I’ve experienced growing up as a kid, moving around the country. A lot of it ties into social issues and what not. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a political album, but it’s consciously aware, which I try to do when I write. I’m just a person like everyone else who’s influenced by the world around him.

A lot of your music touches on your childhood and life experiences. What role would you say music has played in helping you get through hard times?

Writing songs has always been a kind of therapy for me. Sometimes things are difficult to express or talk about. Writing music and playing guitar has always been an outlet. Now, you find folks that you have common experiences with, and it’s gratifying to share that stuff with people and hear stories about how maybe a song helped someone get through something similar.

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Tying your new album ‘American Love Story’ in here, what did you portray through this album?

You know I think at the end of the day, the album is pretty layered, it’s very autobiographical, very personal, but it’s kind of my take on the world around me and how I’ve been influenced by current events. I’m not necessarily sure if that was the goal. I’m always going to write songs about things that I’ve experienced, and the past few years I’ve traveled around the country and met people, and now I’m telling stories about that and sharing experiences with people.

Do you have a song, written or not written by yourself, that you’d say you identify with the most?

I do, there’s a Bob Dylan song called a “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” that I heard when I was very young that I very much identified with. You don’t hear that kind of song on the radio.

What, in your mind, makes an album cohesive? How do you know when it’s complete?

I don’t know, sometimes it never does feel complete. I guess the narrative of the album, you kind of revolve around the center of that. You know the album is complete when you have 12-13 songs and you don’t want to take them off the record.

Who are you speaking to in ‘American Love Song’?

It’s really just anybody who wants to listen and enjoys the music. I try to take everybody into consideration when writing these songs, and everybody’s feelings and emotions are reflections of my own. If there’s some young kid in a small town looking for music that has a different message than they’re portraying in the pop commercial world, then maybe that’s a good thing.

You’ve won a number of awards, including a Grammy. After such an accomplishment, where do you hope to see your music career take you in the next few years?

Oh, you know, I just feel very lucky to have the opportunity to get out on the road and play for people. It’s never really been about winning awards or accomplishing a sense of, I don’t know…  my interpretation of success is being out here and being able to do it and people want to hear the songs. I feel like I’ve already ‘made it’ in so many ways, [that] I don’t know if it could get any better.

Catch Ryan Bingham at Denver’s Ogden Theatre this Tuesday, April 2nd. Grab tickets at this link.

Keep up with Ryan here.

-Natalie

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

Dragondeer Are Set To Be Colorado's Next Big Music Name

By: Meghan Hargaden

Dragondeer, a heavy blues American rock band from Denver, CO, is gathering quite a bit of esteem for their newest album, and first full length LP, If You Got The Blues. Sighted for their singularity and strangeness, this Denver band is doing something different, and has us all turning our heads and our hips.

They draw inspiration from all angles of the American sound including the soul and sincerity of the electric blues of Stevie Ray Vaughn, the modern-day dread of The Black Keys, a bit of pre-heavy metal influence from Black Sabbath, and the swamp rock of Creedence Clearwater Revival. These influences have helped Dragondeer claim a first-class seat on Jefferson’s airplane, as it takes off into the future of American rock music, and pays homage to all the artists that set the runway for this band to jet. The members of the band include Cole Rudy (electric guitar/lap steel/mandolin), Eric Halborg (lead vocals/harmonica/guitar), Carl Sorensen (drums), and Casey Sidwell (bass).

The album begins with the self-titled track, “If You Got the Blues,” setting the stage for the sincerity and soul that occurs throughout the journey of this production. A production, I might add, that couldn’t have happened without the help of accomplished producer Mark Howard, who has worked with legendary artists such as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, REM, Neil Young, Lucinda Williams, and Willie Nelson.

Dragondeer.

Dragondeer.

The album saunters us in with the ethereal notes of Eric Halborg’s voice merging magically with the harmonica, as it soars over the chortling cuts of low-end accompaniment in this psychedelic Americana ballad. “Don’t Go” pleads the song’s opening line, and from the moment the words first burst forth from his lips, the pure longing in his voice lends credence to the name of this track, and the entire project. The discordant harmonies of the chorus resolve into a melancholic, distorted fuzz, leaving us reminiscent of dusty guitars plucked by the firelight, and amplified by the neon lens of modern reality. The second chorus cuts with a solemn breakdown, drifting off into the chasm of our isolation. Both the lyrics and the voicing of the instrumentation echo our worst fear of being truly alone; listening to these tunesmiths, it’s as if our entire psyche has been cloaked in an iridescent haze of the weirder parts of the 1970s. A bold and beautiful love song, this first track stands as a testament to Dragondeer’s songwriting, musicianship, and purity. The band describes the track as a personal manifesto, with inspiration drawn from the belief in a shared human experience and a desire to connect with others.

The next track, “Amarillo Bump,” begins with the sustained sounds of Rudy’s electric guitar, leaving us suspended in time only to be saved by Halborg’s harmonica once again. We are then escorted into the thumping and driving kick of Carl Sorensen’s drum beat, which becomes the outboard motor for the entire track, propelling us into the murky waters of the 1950s and out into the swampy southern rock of the 70s. Like a bunch of Scottish teenagers out for a boating holiday on Loch Ness dropping acid before hearing thumps at the bottom of the boat, the electric guitar and harmonica attempt musical cries for aid, calling until their voices grow raspy, realizing that there is no help coming. And so, we lay back and accept our fate, letting the bass tones and percussive rhythms of writhing tentacles and electronica bring us deeper and deeper into the darkness.

The album continues with Halborg’s raw vocals, rambling harmonica solos, and groovy instrumentation that fuse all together into a unique genre of country funk and American rock. Like taking a long swamp ride along the rolling waves of the Florida everglades, brought up and turned on by the slow, isolating tracks like “Believe,” “Easy With Me,” and “When I See You,” and then brought back down into slow, isolating tracks like “Same Train,” “Let it Ride,” and “Part of the Flow.” This vacillating progression, capturing the beautiful desperation of blues music.

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Alone, If You Got The Blues stands as a declaration of the band’s genius, but their live performance brings an entirely alternate layer of talent, captivating the audience with their impressive improvisation, harmonizing harmonica, heavy metal mandolin, lap steel played untraditionally through delays, and a ripping rhythm section that can’t keep us from getting down and dancing.

You can see Dragondeer perform their new album live at The Grandoozy Festival this summer in Denver, CO on September 14th. The band is stoked to be coming back to their hometown to perform alongside a variety of internationally renowned artists of all different genres.

Be sure to follow Dragondeer on Spotify and iTunes and keep a look out for all of their other upcoming shows in Atlanta, Telluride, and right here in their hometown of Denver. You can buy tickets for Grandoozy here!

-Meghan

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

Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Resounded With Resistance Of Current Political Happenings

By: Riley Ann

Woody Guthrie would have rolled in his grave this weekend, not in disdain, but in delight had he heard the music at this year’s Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in the hills of Lyons, Colorado. In the spirit of Woody, along with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and so many others, the music of Folks Fest was charged with political messages, the call for solidarity, and the stand for social justice.

The crowd at Ramy Essam's set.

The crowd at Ramy Essam's set.

The festival opened with the Songwriter Showcase, and Heather Mae stole the show with two of her original songs truly about the times, one she introduced as, “my kind of love,” and for the other, she addressed the significance of what happened in Charlottesville. After winning, she shared on her music Facebook page, “I performed ‘Wanderer,’ my song about being queer. I performed ‘Stand Up,’ my song about fighting discrimination. I asked the audience to stand with me and join the cause.” And stand they did. She had the festival grounds filled with people standing and singing along, many with tear-filled eyes. You can watch her chilling music video for “Stand Up” here.

Heather Mae.

Heather Mae.

Heather Mae offered more insights into her performance, saying, “With everything that’s going on right now, what a waste it would be if I didn’t say something and use this opportunity to show that we can’t stay silent anymore. I chose my songs that weren’t necessarily the best for competition, but they were perfect for this platform. The mission I’m on right now is to make music that matters and that makes people think, and I feel like it was really heard, and that’s the most validation I’ve ever felt. It’s like the universe is saying, ‘Good job, kid, keep writing the music you’re writing’ and I feel a lot of gratitude for that.” With her winning performance, Heather Mae earned a one-hour slot on the main stage at next year’s Folks Festival. In the meantime, you can keep an eye on her tour schedule via her website.

Rhiannon Giddens.

Rhiannon Giddens.

Later that evening, Rhiannon Giddens lit the stage on fire with her performance, ignited with the stories of despair, fury, and hope in her latest album Freedom Highway. She opened with a rock version of “Spanish Mary,” a tune she co-wrote with Bob Dylan that’s dripping in satire about imperialism in the name of the Catholic Church. She left the audience on the verge of tears with “At the Purchaser’s Option,” a song she wrote after finding a 19th-century ad about a 22-year-old slave woman’s baby for sale. She left listeners breathless with her tune “We Could Fly,” a song based on the African-American folktale about the people stolen from their homelands as slaves who lost their wings. Rhiannon is a force of nature onstage, and her music has earned its rankings as modern classics, songs that will be forever immortalized in the canon of folk music. You can hear more of her first-hand insights in her NPR interview here.

Ramy Essam.

Ramy Essam.

In the tradition of Sunday morning spiritual sets at Planet Bluegrass festivals, Ramy Essam, the unassuming singer/songwriter who became the voice of the Egyptian Revolution, opened the day with a riveting set. Though he sang mostly in his native Egyptian-Arabic dialect, he introduced his songs in English. The subject matter spanned from honoring the strength of women and girls who fought in the revolution, many of whom were jailed and tortured, to making fun of the police, an agency Ramy described as being corrupt and dangerous in Egypt, and many of his songs challenged tyrant leaders and their wrongdoings. Despite singing in a language very few attendees knew, people began joining his refrains by the end of almost every song. The crowd also sang along with his cover of John Lennon’s “I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier.” At one point, Ramy proclaimed to the audience, “Music is the most powerful peaceful weapon we have.” His set concluded with a chant-like refrain begging for peace “for just one day.” Instinctively, the audience sang along, linking arms as they stood together in unity.

Dave Rawlings.

Dave Rawlings.

While the main stage was filled with outstanding performances, spanning the high-energy acts like The Revivalists and Lake Street Dive, the introspective meditations of Elephant Revival and Gregory Alan Isakov, the down-home tunes of Dave Rawlings Machine, and everything in between, the through line of the festival resonated with resistance. Nearly every performer mentioned the need for solidarity, peace, acceptance, resistance, attention to social justice issues, or, in the lighthearted case of Korby Lenker, putting politics aside momentarily with family in “Let’s Just Have Supper.” In the spirit of the folk music tradition, this year’s Folks Festival was truly of and for the people.

Gregory Alan Isakov.

Gregory Alan Isakov.

You can stay tuned for next year’s Folks Festival lineup at the Planet Bluegrass website here. If it is anything like this year’s lineup, it’s one you won’t want to miss.

View our full photo gallery from Folks Fest 2017 here

-Riley

Find out more about Riley on her blog.

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

Folk Fights Back: Rachel Baiman Brings New Protest Songs Through Colorado

By: Riley Ann

Folk music is no stranger to politics, and Rachel Baiman isn’t afraid to make waves. Her new album Shame is getting accolades from NPR’s All Songs Considered, Paste Magazine, and The Bluegrass Situation, among others, and for good reason. The album is fierce, playful, even snarky, and it’s the perfect patchwork of the Americana tradition, spanning grooves reminiscent of Sam Bush (like the title track, “Shame,” and “Never Tire Of The Road”), to classic country fiddle (like “In The Space Of A Day”), to the Gillian Welch-esque melody of “Take A Stand,” all blended with her Old-time roots and modern voice. The album is available to stream and purchase in digital, CD, and vinyl formats on her Bandcamp.

She’s sharing her new batch of tunes on tour in Colorado this week. Aside from performing live on KGNU’s Kabaret show on Tuesday, August 8th, Rachel is playing the Starhouse concert series in Boulder along with local favorites Natalie Tate and Gabrielle Louise this Wednesday from 7:30PM-10PM (more information here). She’s also playing a show in Denver at Globe Hall on Thursday, August 10th with The Wind and the Wave, an indie-folk/alt-country band from Austin, Texas.

Similar to Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and so many other folk musicians that have walked this path, Rachel’s songs are steeped in the social commentary of the times. She said, “They originated from broader political issues, but with what’s happening in the world today, they get more and more specific in their meaning every day.”

Rachel Baiman.

Rachel Baiman.

Her politics don’t stop with her own music. She is one of the co-founders of Folk Fights Back, a non-profit organization that curates concerts around the world to raise money for local organizations working for social and political changes. Previous concerts have raised funds for environmental justice, immigrant and refugee rights, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and more. Rachel said, “It was really a way to channel our energy into things that are important to us. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like you’re making a difference, but we’ve raised thousands of dollars for local non-profits doing really important work, and it brings people together in a positive way. There’s so much power in our solidarity.” Learn more about setting up your own Folk Fights Back concert by visiting their website.

While this is Rachel’s first full-blown tour in Colorado, it certainly won’t be her last. However, it might be your last opportunity to see her in such an intimate space as the Starhouse. You can find more about that show and her other tour dates on her Facebook page and her website.

-Riley

Find out more about Riley on her blog.

All photos provided to BolderBeat by the artist. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Mitchel Evan & Co Bring Uplifting Americana to Denver's Larimer Lounge

By: Allan Tellis 

The Larimer Lounge is a venue that never has a shortage of talent, even on a Wednesday night. Last week brought out four distinctly talented bands that covered a vast array of styles, and although each band had a unique approach, overall they complemented each other, which made for one appetizing show.  

Morning Bear. Photo Credit: Joe Friend

Morning Bear. Photo Credit: Joe Friend

The first act, Morning Bear, performed with a very minimalist stage presence with singer/songwriter John Runnels on acoustic guitar and a guest sit-in playing a small keyboard with a drum pad. The duo had a powerful performance despite their low-key setup due Runnels’ strong vocals and a focus on deep-feeling, heavy indie folk music that kept the crowd captivated for their entire set.

Band of Lovers. Photo Credit:  Keating DiRisio

Band of Lovers. Photo Credit: Keating DiRisio

The following act, Band of Lovers, brought one more person onstage and a completely different energy, as they specialize in up-tempo, Americana chamber pop. Band of Lovers is a rarity in that they tour constantly throughout the country and have been doing so for four years now. They have found Denver to be a consistent refuge in their nomadic existence, even dedicating a downtempo, rhythmically infectious song aptly titled “Back to Colorado” to our great state. One particularly enjoyable aspect of the band was the percussion- the drummer was absolutely spectacular and awesome to watch. This trio recently released an album named American Tour, which is definitely worth listening to.  

Up next was Foxfeather, a full Americana ensemble whose blues-heavy jam style created a sultry and emotional listening experience. Although the band ventures from heavy blues to hard rock style solos, they stayed true to their Boulder roots with a heavy dose of Americana infused into every song. They are currently working on a new project, which has me intrigued on what’s next.

Mitchel Evan. 

Mitchel Evan. 

The final act of the night was the extremely talented Mitchel Evan and The Makeshift Band. Their performance was pleasantly easy to listen to and brought a diverse range of sounds, ranging from jam-heavy folk tunes to Bob Dylan-style acoustic guitar ballads. Evan even joked at one point, “This is the part where I make you all sad.” His deep watery vocals cascaded over The Makeshift Band, as the group executed songs diverging from grunge-influenced rock tracks to country-laced dance numbers that kept the crowd thoroughly engaged. All of their music at its core was uplifting, providing a ray of sunshine in a musical landscape that is becoming almost increasingly bleak in some ways. Mitchel Evan is currently working on a new record as well, and is touring the Southwest. Make sure to catch Evan on his next Colorado stop and give his newest music a listen below.

-Allan

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

Review: TMULE Releases New Alt-Folk Solo EP, 'Wordless Lullabies'

By: Norman Hittle

Singer and guitar player for the alt-country/rock band The Longest Day of the Year, TMULE is set to release his first solo EP since 2006 this month. The Ft. Collins, CO alt-folk/singer-songwriter will be releasing a folk-rock EP of four new songs called Wordless Lullabies, alongside his first book of poetry, Book of Dawn / I, the Iceberg.

TMULE.

TMULE.

Yet, alternative folk doesn’t sum up the full experience of this EP. With nods to Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison, TMULE's songs are soulful and heart-wrenching with their fingers reaching into blues and Americana. 

Raised in suburban Detroit with an alcoholic father, teenage TMULE would plug in his guitar and embrace the catharsis of singing his lungs out to “Release” by Pearl Jam. That feeling drew him to songwriting early in life. Worldless Lullabies and Book of Dawn / I, The Iceberg examine struggles through his father’s substance abuse, the weight of co-dependence, emotional abandonment, and the fortitude of love. The complications of growing up affected by alcoholism is a theme of many TMULE songs, but this package is the culmination of years of biographical writing; stories of hungry ghosts, fear, love and reconciliation to bring solace to those struggling in their own darkness, whatever it may be.

The EP’s dark aesthetic is the shining of a spotlight through his past while the poetry book explores the wide range of emotions surrounding dependence issues and it's complicated effect on personal relationships.

Check out TMULE's EP release show this Friday, May 26th at 730 PM at Downtown Artery in Fort Collins. Tickets here. TMule will also have a CD/Poetry Book release Tuesday, June 6th at 6PM at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe in Boulder.

'Wordless Lullabies' EP credits: Produced by Justin Roth of Fort Collins. Guest musicians Mark Lavengood (Lindsay Lou & the Flatbelly’s), Ben Zito and Dan Rickabus (The Crane Wives), and Paul Maley (Equally Challenged). Mastered by Ian Gorman of Kalamazoo’s La Luna Recording & Sound.

-Norman Hittle

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

PJ Harvey Brought Her Forceful Glory To Denver

By: Sierra Voss

A wild and unique force took hold of Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium this week. PJ Harvey and her 10-piece band put on a truly fierce performance for those that made it out to her show Tuesday night. PJ is friction: she is an uncomfortable feeling that pokes at you to engage with her music, and even more so, with her perception of the world around us. Like a human time bomb, you simply wait and watch to see what strange and fascinating things she will do next.

PJ Harvey.

PJ Harvey.

Tuesday night’s performance was everything. It was awkward, punctuated, solemn, powerful, creative and energizing. The show started as PJ Harvey and her 10 piece band walked out in a straight line, like a funeral march, as they took their places on stage. Harvey went almost unseen as she took a place amongst the horn section, playing her saxophone to start off the show. After the musical intro she stepped forward to the center mic and began the next song. Throughout the show she would flawlessly transition from singing, to howling on her sax, to fading back and becoming a part of the horn section between musical interludes and breaks.

Harvey’s songwriting is starkly different then most. Her lyrical phrases sound like she is reading from a book or report. Each song describing the topic at hand with facts, emotions, and opinions all intertwined. I couldn’t help but feel like Harvey was the audience's Alien Leader, dramatically describing to us the world she just visited. Her setlist included many songs from her new album, The Hope Six Demolition Project. They played “The Community Of Hope,” “The Wheel,” “The Ministry of Social Affairs,” “River Anacostia,” and “A Line in Sand,”as well as some old favorites like “Let England Shake,” “Down By The Water,” “The Words That Maketh Murder,” and “When Under Ether.” Harvey and her crew even played a surprise cover of “Highway 61” by Bob Dylan.

In a world full of musical and societal norms, PJ Harvey breaks free. Her recent Denver performance was a brief escape for everyone in the crowd. Check out my favorite song off PJ Harvey’s newest album below.

-Sierra

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

Review: Carry Me Ohio's 'Stonewall' Will Take You Back To Simpler Times

By: Trevor Ryan

When you think of Americana, you might conjure the classics like Bob Dylan, or Robert Earl Keen. Today, the genre has been reinvented by the indie scene, giving us artists with varied sounds in the genre including The Alabama Shakes, Iron and Wine, and Colorado’s Carry Me Ohio.

Fronted and founded by vocalist/guitarist Evan Crouch, Carry Me Ohio is leaving an obvious impression in the midst of the recent renovation of the genre. With classic rock and folk elements, the Boulder four-piece are achieving their own brand of Americana with gems like their 2010 debut Oak and Iron Bound, as well as their most recent record Stonewall.

From beginning to end, Stonewall is a concrete and very comfortable listen. Emotional at times, yes, but comfortable. It's easy to get lost in this record in self-reflection. But what really makes this release stand out is Carry Me Ohio's ability to take on several well-established genres and truly mesh them all together while letting them shine individually. Taking bits from obvious indie sounds, as well as newer country feels, the group also ties in a lot of rock influence. Yet, it doesn't feel over-produced to force these elements, but rather like what kind of fell into place with the album. If you really dive into Stonewall, it's a “take you back to warm, simpler times” type of listen with a very clever sound.

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It should be safe to assume that CMO, who are signed with Round Barn Recordings, have created high expectations for their fanbase as to what may come next. The world’s take on music these days is such a beautiful scene if you just listen to the right people, and Carry Me Ohio are definitely in my rotation after Stonewall.

Be sure to keep up with Carry Me Ohio on Facebook, and catch them on their official site for tour dates.

-Trevor

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

Chris Robinson Brotherhood Are Bringing The Love to Denver This Thursday

By: Will Baumgartner

A consciousness shift is happening around the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. A handful of years ago, the most common response to hearing the band name might have been, “Oh, you mean the guy from The Black Crowes?” But today when I say, “Chris Robinson Brotherhood is coming to The Ogden this Thursday, February 2nd, and of course I’ll be going to the show,” I’ve been met with responses like, “I love that band! Can I go with?” or “I’ve heard their shows are great, I should get tickets to that too.”

Yes you should. CRB, as they’re affectionately known by fans, consistently deliver rousing and inspiring performances rich with not only high-level musicianship and song-craft, but also a sense of family, belonging, and welcome with every show. This spirit of openness and warmth is reflected in the titles of their two nearly back-to-back 2016 releases, 'Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel' and its companion EP from the same recording sessions, 'If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home by Now.' Released on July 29th and November 4th of last year respectively, CRB painted a two-paneled picture of a group of musicians and songwriters who manage to be hard-grooving, thoughtful, and fun all at once using a varied palette of musical styles and influences. Who wouldn't want to be in on one of their concert experiences and feel like they’re a part of that family?

Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

CRB have been around since 2011, but the feel of their most current records, their first self-produced releases recorded on the side of Mount Tamalpais near San Francisco, are of a family that have grown together through extensive touring, collaborative songwriting, and endless conversations around meals cooked by band members. They visit record stores everywhere they go and stack their newly-purchased vinyl on their tour bus turntable every night. The group’s core: Chris Robinson on vocals and guitar, lead guitarist Neal Casal, and keyboardist Adam McDougal (who stepped over from The Black Crowes) have been together since the beginning, and are now all involved in the songwriting process. Drummer Tony Leone (Ollabelle) brings a touch of his jazz background to the grooves, and has also joined in on the songwriting, and bassist Jeff Hill holds it all together with a deeply soulful pocket.

Watch CRB play "Narcissus Soaking Wet" live:

The band’s latest recordings also show a group that has grown beyond its former identification as a Deadhead-type act into something richer and more difficult to pigeonhole into any simple genre classification. The cosmic funk of 'Anyway You Love...'’s opening track, “Narcissus Soaking Wet,” lets us know right away that the vistas have widened for CRB with echoes of Sly and The Family Stone and early Funkadelic wafting through the grooves. The lyrics, too, are far from simplistic, revealing a sociological awareness, an artful use of stream-of-consciousness imagery, and a sly humor that outstrips most jam-band lyrics by miles. Listening all the way through 'Anyway You Love' is a trip that takes you through a mid-60s-Dylan-esque time (think Highway 61 Revisited / Blonde On Blonde) with a stint into The Band-style Americana on “Ain’t It Hard But Fair,” more groovy and variegated scenery on “Give Us Back Our Eleven Days,” “Some Gardens Green,” “Leave My Guitar Alone,” and “Oak Apple Day,” (which is actually a song about CRB). The record then ends with the heartfelt, Gospel-soaked “California Hymn,” and as any good trip should always stop with near-religious feeling of wholeness and peace, this one certainly does.

If 'Anyway You Love' is an extended trek, 'If You Lived Here...' is a day trip into side roads and lesser-known destinations, some of them practically off the map. “New Cannonball Rag” has a swinging, rolling feel again reminiscent of some of The Band’s best stuff, “Roan County Banjo” goes from country-ish to almost discordant craziness at the end, and the jaunt continues through a few more changes in scenery to end on the gentle empathic kindness of “Sweet, Sweet Lullaby.”

Neal Casal. 

Neal Casal. 

In anticipation for this Thursday’s Ogden show, I recently got the chance to ask CRB guitarist Neal Casal some questions about the band, life on the road, and music in general. His answers shed more light on CRB’s latest sounds, and the inspirations behind their newest music:

It’s easy to see why the word “brotherhood” is part of your band name; there’s a clear feeling of love and community in your music. Do you feel that’s been growing the longer you’ve played together? 

The sense of community that The CRB promotes is definitely growing the longer we play together. We’re entering our seventh year as a band, and the seeds we planted back in 2011 are definitely showing flowers now, and it’s a nice thing to see. We have a great group of fan/friends/family across the country and we’re looking forward to another year of touring and visiting everyone. 

How do you feel that the in-studio writing process of 'Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel' affected the way the songs on the album turned out? 

It brought more immediacy to our process and applied some pressure to us, which turned out to be a good thing. Everyone hates deadlines but sometimes they can be good; they can force you to do things that maybe you wouldn’t have otherwise. 

I’d imagine that working with the relatively new rhythm section of Tony and Jeff has brought about some changes in the band’s overall feel. Has that felt like a pretty organic process? What do you think these guys have brought to CRB’s sound and vibe? 

Tony and Jeff have changed the sound of our band dramatically and brought so much musicality, fluidity, and versatility to our sound. I can’t say enough great things about these guys and how important they are to the sound, but also to the vibe of the band. With them, we can explore any kind of music we like, and there’s a sustainability to our future that we had never felt previously. 

I’ve seen some hopeful signs among the music community that people seem to be rediscovering a respect and appreciation for the album as an art form unto itself, and there’s definitely a feeling of intention in the way 'Anyway You Love' and 'If You Lived Here' are put together. Did the band spend a lot of time just looking at these releases as whole documents and shaping them accordingly, or was that more of a quick, intuitive thing? 

We’ve always approached records as complete documents because that’s how we grew up thinking of them, and that’s how we’ve always worked and always will work. There’s no rediscovering anything for us: this is our way of life.

I hear so many different possible influences in your playing that I’m not even going to bother speculating- so who have some of your biggest influences been on guitar? 

Malcolm Young, Magic Sam, Dickey Betts, Blind Owl Wilson, Robert Nighthawk, Mick Taylor, Ry Cooder, Clarence White, Nic Jones, Ollie Halsall, John Renbourn, Doc Watson, Scott Gorham, Julian Bream, Baden Powell, Leo Nocentelli, Randy RhoadsFreddie King, Mississippi John Hurt, Jim Hall, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and of course, the great Gabor Szabo.

On an average afternoon, or an evening off, what might be a handful of albums you’d be listening to? 

Incredible String Band - The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
Magic Sam - Black Magic 
Charlie Rich- The Essential Charlie Rich
Ronnie Lane - Anymore For Anymore
Cass McCombs - Mangy Love
Bobby Hutchinson - Components
Kacy And Clayton - Strange Country
Eddie Bo - Hook And Sling
Kimono My House - Sparks

CRB. Photo Credit: Stuart Levine

CRB. Photo Credit: Stuart Levine

Your songwriting relationship with Chris has clearly grown over the years. When you first joined, was it more of a thing where he brought in the songs and you just played leads, or have you worked together on songs since the beginning? 

We worked on songs together from day one and have always cultivated our writing partnership. He had some songs he’d written on his own and will always do that, but we really enjoy writing songs together and it’s a big part of our work flow. 

There’s a quote from Chris I read recently, “These are our services when we play our music.” I love that because it evokes a church-like atmosphere, and while I’ve never been “religious,” there’s an undeniable power in church services- a sense of people collectively reaching for some power bigger than themselves, and a joyousness in that collective effort. How does The CRB engage and work with the audience to get that feel?

Human beings are made of music; it’s as ancient and innate in us as anything can be. So we’re just taking part in this time-honored ritual of invoking it, and stirring it in people. We’re just a reminder to let you know that’s it’s there inside, and needs to be related to. The muse is not something to be ignored, in anyone, ever. It needs expression in the form of dancing, singing, or just hanging out and listening and being a greater part of your community. So we’re just here to help that process along. 

Any special treats or surprises planned for this Thursday? Have have you guys ever played The Ogden before? 

We’ve never played The Ogden, so we’re really excited about that. Denver was one of the first cities that really took us in during our earlier years, so it’s always a special place for us. 

After you wrap up your current tour in New Orleans on March 31st, what’s next?

More touring throughout the year, and we’re releasing a new record later this year as well. Looking forward to it all!

CRB tour often and are well into their latest journey, so this Thursday is a great time to catch them live and join the party! They hit The Ogden Theater in Denver this Thursday, February 2nd (I’ll be there!), and continue on to The Center for the Arts in Crested Butte this weekend, The State Room in Salt Lake City next week, Sheridan Opera House in Telluride 2/10-2/11, and The Belly Up in Aspen on 02/12. Their tour will continue through New Mexico, Alabama, California, Nevada, and West Virginia, wrapping up at one of their favorite gatherings, Hogs For The Cause, in New Orleans on March 31st. Stay tuned because CRB are already recording a new album, and I, for one, can’t wait to hear it.  

-Will

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

An Evening with Paul Kimbiris & Other Singer/Songwriters at Denver's Walnut Room

By: Mirna Tufekcic

There are a lot of singer/songwriters. Let me rephrase that: there are a lot of singer/songwriters just within the radius of Boulder-Denver, Colorado.  

If  you’re not into the singer/songwriter thing, you can stop reading now. Otherwise, please continue:

Me, well, I have a visceral experience listening to singer/songwriters tell stories and pour their hearts out in black and blue. But, there’s a fine line demarcating a good singer/songwriter. Don’t worry! I’m not about to criticize or bash anyone. That line is for you to draw, depending on what you prefer; what makes your ears perk and your soul vibrate. As for me, I like to keep a wide periphery and experience the journey a musician or a band will take you on. So, naturally, two weekends ago when I went to The Walnut Room in Denver with singer/songwriter Paul Kimbiris to hear him and five other musicians play for an attentive audience, I was very pleased by the variety of sounds and experiences each artist brought onstage. The event, titled “Under the Radar: Singer/Songwriters You Should be Listening To,” was put together by HomeVibe, a production company specializing in high quality intimate shows that take on a living room feel.  And let me tell yah, that it did.    

Paul Kimbiris.

Paul Kimbiris.

I hitched a ride with Paul down to The Walnut Room, since we both live in Boulder, and used it as an opportunity to mine his brain for an inside scoop of a singer/songwriter. It wasn’t the easiest task.    

“I think about a lot of dark stuff,”  Paul said.

His last album The Dark Side of Pearl was released in 2014. It is dark; rather melancholy at times but definitely heartfelt. If you want to read a review on it, you can here, but you really should just listen to it and judge for yourself. The latest Kimbiris news is, however, that Paul has an upcoming EP to be released this spring/summer. And it’s going to be different than his last work.

“I don’t wanna be a downer. It feels good to make people dance.” he told me.

This EP will be more upbeat and rock and roll. Paul likened it to Bob Dylan’s song “Like a Rolling Stone,” saying, “it’s a lively tune with a rather dark message.” 

Life in the green room.

Life in the green room.

Immersed in conversation, Paul missed our exit off Hwy 36 that was to take us straight to the venue.  

“We’re actually going to Mexico. I know I told you we’d be going to see some music, but really, we’re just flying out to Mexico. You got your passport, right?” he joked. I wish.

Paul’s been living in Boulder for several years now. He is originally from Greece but grew up in Philly. He has a home in Greece, and he plans to take advantage of that this summer by flying there and playing some music.  

“I feel like I’m missing out on life. I keep saying I want to do this and that, but then I just sit around and watch it all pass by. I should do more. I think I will.”  

Paul mentions he’s also interested in setting up a tour, though he fears being on the road all by himself would send him too far down the rabbit hole. So, for now, Paul writes songs for TV shows and flies out to California to do the recordings, and that’s mainly how he gets his name out besides doing shows like the one at The Walnut Room.    

Jacob Russo.

Jacob Russo.

Once we arrived at the venue, we were greeted with friendly, excited faces. In the green room, the energy was chill and supportive as performers warmed up with guitars in hand. Shortly after our arrival the first artist was up.

Jacob Russo was a bit of a version of Gregory Alan Isakov. I don’t really know what that means. That’s just the vibe I got. You know, the one that takes you to secret fairy gardens of magic and sparks…

Andy Palmer.

Andy Palmer.

Andy Palmer followed with a strong, powerful presence. My favorite part about his performance was when he laid down his guitar, picked up two copper mugs (Moscow Mules, anyone?), and sang poetry as he banged them together. This guy is rad.   

Wes Cichosz closed the first set by wooing the crowd with his guitar skills, shredding the blues all over the place. He broke the pattern of the typical singer/songwriter by opening his set with fast-paced, finger-picking blues rock, which raised the vibe in the room a few notches. He is definitely a very talented artist, who also plays the sax.  

It was time for a set break, so I continued to chat with Paul. He was opening the second set. I asked him if he gets nervous before he has to go up. He shook his head no, but I wasn’t convinced. He kept pacing around and seemed a bit restless. So I asked him a few questions about his history as a musician.  

“I’ve been playing music for a long time. My first gigs were in college with a band I was the lead singer of. It was a great way to meet girls.”  

But, according to Paul, he’s only become good enough to do his solo thing over the past few years. He got his affirmation to roll solo when some fellow respected singer/songwriters invited him to jam and open up for their gigs after seeing him play one of his early shows at Boulder’s Shine.  

“I remember back when Shine first opened and I asked the managers to play a solo gig there, unsure if anyone was even going to listen. Then Gregory Isakov and friends showed up and liked my set enough to come up and tell me I got my pulse on something good.”  

When I asked him where he gets inspiration to write, he responded with, “So many things inspire me to want to write music. Some are just everyday scenes of life, you know, like when you see the sun and sky reflected on a steel casket at a funeral. Happy things like that.” His dry humor is quite endearing.

Paul & Nina.

Paul & Nina.

Paul was up. He captivated the audience, accompanied onstage by Nina Fronjian on the violin and as backup vocals. She’s toured with Gregory Alan Isakov as part of the Ghost Orchestra, and Paul met her at one of Gregory’s shows backstage awhile back. As I listened to Paul’s raspy voice with his old Martin guitar in hand, the image of The Old Guitarist from Picasso’s blue period came to mind. That was the vibe and the experience of Paul’s set at The Walnut Room.

Dave Tamkin came up next, painting beautiful imagery with his guitar, while his voice projected passion and honesty. He’s originally from Chicago, but these days he lives in Boulder and is quite a prolific artist. He brought Wes onstage for one of the songs to play the sax and it was lovely.     

Larry Nix, Denver’s recent import from Alabama, closed the evening with some pretty hardy country tunes. I think his intention was to transport you somewhere deep in the swamp lands of the South; he is quite the southern gentleman.    

Overall, “Under the Radar” was a well-curated event, though they should have featured female singer/songwriters too. Other than that, the experience was enjoyable and satiating. So humble readers, if you’re into singer/songwriters and want to delight in some local artists, then you should keep an eye out for these fellas playing around town. They’re totally worth your trip.

Paul’s next show is in Boulder at the Bohemian Biergarten on Friday, January 27th. Details here.

-Mirna

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

Colorado's Silent Bear Protests Dakota Access Pipeline Through Activism & New Song

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Close to a year ago we profiled local singer/songwriter Silent Bear, who started playing music at local coffee shops in the 90s, and eventually found himself writing songs with Pete Seeger. Known for his activism within the Native American community (though he himself is not of Native descent), Silent Bear has spent much of his career playing shows to benefit Native causes. So when the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.7 billion 1172-mile oil pipeline stretching from North Dakota to Illinois, allegedly threatened the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s land (including areas significant to their culture and history), Silent Bear was quick to attend local protests in support of the tribe.

Silent Bear.

Silent Bear.

But things didn’t stop there. Silent Bear quickly learned that the man behind the pipeline, Kelcy Warren of Energy Transfer Partners, also happens to own Music Road Records. MRR recently produced a Woody Guthrie tribute album, which featured none other than SB’s late friend and musical companion Pete Seeger. It was at this point that Silent Bear felt he could remain silent no more, and began speaking out about the pipeline:

“As a musician and feeling human being, I was highly insulted that the same man that seemingly has no regard for the health of our environment and our most precious resource, the sacred water of life, would have the audacity to exploit the names of and champion the music of men who would find his actions repulsive, such as Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne and Woody Guthrie.”

Jackson Browne, who has since donated all of his proceeds of the album to the tribes opposing the pipeline, made an official statement against MRR and Kelcy Warren stating, “I do not play for oil interests. I do not play for companies who defile nature, or companies who attack demonstrators with trained attack dogs and pepper spray. The list of companies I have denied the use of my music is long. I certainly would not have allowed my songs to be recorded by a record company whose owner's other business does what Energy Transfer Partners is allegedly doing- threatening the water supply and the sacred sites of indigenous people.”

Silent Bear was also inspired to make a statement, which led him to write the lyrics of his latest protest song, “The Dakota Access Pipeline Dirty River Blues (Kelcy’s Pipeline)”, which he dedicates to “the beautiful water protectors out in North Dakota and Standing Rock”. It’s written to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” and was filmed by Black SunCinema.

Watch Silent Bear’s music video for “The Dakota Access Pipeline Dirty River Blues (Kelcy’s Pipeline)”:

SB's newest song has some powerful lyrics in it, and he's hoping it makes it's way to Warren's ears. But above all, Silent Bear most hopes that this song will inspire people locally and beyond to come together for the people of Standing Rock, and for the good of the environment.

Silent Bear and the late Pete Seeger. Photo Credit:  Skyhook Entertainment

Silent Bear and the late Pete Seeger. Photo Credit: Skyhook Entertainment

You can see SB perform this song, along with many other original tunes, this Wednesday October 5th at the St. Julien Hotel, at a Bob Dylan Tribute event at Gold Hill Inn on Sunday October 9th, and at License No. 1  Friday October 21st. Follow Silent Bear’s continued activism here, and check out these resources to help the Standing Rock people with their cause: lakotaway.org, Standingrock.org, and sacredstonecamp.org.

For a man dubbed Silent, SB is spreading one powerful message.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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

Blitzen Trapper Trapped My Heart

By: Sierra Voss

It was a sleepy Tuesday night in Boulder when Blitzen Trapper took the stage at The Fox Theatre. The Portland based group rolls five members deep, and were accompanied onstage by two flags repping their Oregon State stomping grounds. Blitzen Trapper has been crushing out music for the last fifteen years, with seven full-length albums under their belt. Their most recent release is a 10-track studio album titled, All Across This Land (2015). The group’s dynamic musical styling, insightful lyrical conquests, and laid back vibes are worth getting out of bed for, even on the sleepiest of weekday nights. So I did.

Blitzen Trapper's genre is definitely eclectic. The members of the band clearly have a deep love and profound respect for 70’s and 80’s classic rock. However, their songs also incorporate bluegrass, folk, soul, psychedelia and metal elements. All of these sounds are then umbrellaed by a feeling of Americana. Lead singer and guitarist Eric Earley put it best when he said: “We like to explore. And sometimes that’s not so easy for people to deal with. But we’re going to just keep on doing what we do.” And no one is complaining. It is this type of exploration, grounded in foundational classic artists like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Led Zeppelin that truly capture the hearts of Blitzen Trapper’s fans.

Watch the music video for Blitzen Trapper’s “Furr”:

One of the things I respect most about this band is their consistency in delivering an epic show, and Tuesday night’s performance was no exception. Blitzen Trapper is all about subtleties. You will fall in love with the small and quirky moments of their shows. Earley boyishly smiled and chuckled between songs while Erik Menteer (guitar/keyboard) fist bumped the sky after a ripping guitar solo. And Marty Marquis (guitar/keyboards/vocals/melodica) patted his chest close to the mic as a form of stripped-down percussion during the encore set, filling the quiet venue with a heartbeat during their cover of "Helplessly Hoping". It was my favorite moment of the show.

Blitzen Trapper at The Fox. Photo per the author.

Blitzen Trapper at The Fox. Photo per the author.

The band laid down some incredible covers throughout the night including “Cinnamon Girl”, “Knockin On Heavens Door”, and their newly recorded version of “I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow”. They played a wide sampling from their new release, including my two favorites: “Rock and Roll (Was Made For You)” and “Love Grow Cold”. Classic Blitzen Trapper songs were also featured in their set: “Black River Killer”, “Love The Way You Walk Away”, “Wild Mountain Nation”, “Not Your Lover”, “Sleepy Time In the Western World”, and there was a powerful audience sing-along to their most well-known song, “Furr”.

I highly recommend taking some time to follow the musical journey of Blitzen Trapper’s seven albums. It’s an impressive collection, to say the least. Oh, and do yourself a favor: don't miss their next show!

-Sierra

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

The Jeffrey Dallet Band: Colorado's Folk Troubadours of Yesteryear

By: Jura Daubenspeck

The Jeffrey Dallet Band are old and new all at once.

It’s always a delicious treat to discover music that transports you to another time period; the type of music that carries the feel of a past life, yet keeps you grounded in the present happenings of one’s everyday existence. Colorado’s music scene provides an excellent array of such artists, who break barriers and forge on with their own unique sounds. Denver’s very own The Jeffrey Dallet Band follows suit, making a name for themselves as the "folk troubadours of yesteryear".

The Jeffrey Dallet Band at Larimer Lounge.

The Jeffrey Dallet Band at Larimer Lounge.

The group, who classify themselves as “folk‘n’roll”, are in their early stages of bandhood, having just nailed down their current member makeup last February. Guitarist and lead singer Jeffrey Dallet was originally focused on solo work, writing music and playing local gigs around Colorado. He then joined forces with longtime friend Brian Long, who also plays guitar for TJDB. Producer Glenn Sawyer, of The Spot Studios, then introduced the duo to members Caroline Browning and Caroline Wright. Browning slays on the bass and percussion, while Wright brings a fresh folk feel with violin. And that is where the killer quad that is The Jeffrey Dallet Band stands today.

Jeffrey Dallet.

Jeffrey Dallet.

You’ll find yourself having similar nostalgic feelings listening to The Jeffrey Dallet Band as you would listening to artists such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, or the late Steve Young. Their music speaks of distant memories, of heartbreak, urban decay, politics, gentrification, and about how, in the words of Bob Dylan, "the times, they are a changin’." The relatability of their music is a bonus, but the easy-listening, lyrical folk-rock vibe that this group has is enough to hold your attention by itself.

TJBD has recorded two songs with the creative minds at The Spot Studios recently. The first tune, "Gypsy Jewel", has a haunting melody that, like the song’s subject matter, casts a spell on you with its violin and percussion, swaying in the minor key. But just when you think you’ve nailed down the band’s sound, the four-piece switches it up. "My Old Record Store" brings up the group’s tempo and gets playful with their social commentary, lyrically interweaving song and artist titles to tell a story. After the success of these tracks, The Jeffrey Dallet Band are already back in the studio working on their highly anticipated EP, which will be released in the coming months. Until then, you can check out their SoundCloud page to get a taste of some of the sounds you might expect from these talented folks.

Listen to "Gypsy Jewel":

This group of wandering troubadours are playing various intimate gigs throughout Colorado this summer, including Denver’s Underground Music Showcase (July 28-31). This will be the band’s first time playing at the festival, but Jeffrey Dallet’s sixth time returning to the eclectic rock fest. So get in early on the action and buy your tickets for UMS here! We will announce TJDB’s exact set time and location as its announce by UMS. And be sure to stay in touch with The Jeffrey Dallet Band on their website and Facebook pages! They’re a great band to add to your soundtrack for summer.

-Jura

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

Rare, Rough, & Revolutionary: Nederland's Nom de Guerres

By: Will Baumgartner

The band's French name is only half the story of Nederland-based Nom de Guerres' sound.

Nom De Guerres is one of the most interesting bands I’ve ever encountered. There is so much going on within their often deceptively simple-sounding music that any discerning and attentive listener quickly realizes they’ve got to dig deeper than the surface to get all of the gifts this group has to offer. The impossible-to-pigeonhole trio is the brainchild of Maus Nomdeguerre, an intelligent and eminently likeable guy well-known to local music lovers and the community in and around the quirky mountain town of Nederland. In an effort to get more insight into the band’s songs, and the man behind them, I recently grabbed Maus for a little chat, which turned out to be the most fascinating and instructive of any we’ve ever had:

I know the term nom de guerre means “an assumed name used by a soldier to mask his true identity”, but I’ve also seen definitions that apply it to fighting, writing, painting, or “a fictitious name used when a person performs a particular social role”. I’ve noticed the Guy Fawkes mask appears in a lot of the band’s artwork too. What’s the significance of all of this?

Nom de guerre is used in modern French to designate any form of an alias. In medieval times, it was a name assigned specifically for warfare in Arthurian romances. There’s a bit of an inside joke [for us] in the grammatical incorrectness in French with the band name. [Our artwork with] Guy Fawkes can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but he himself plotted to blow up the British parliament and was tortured as a result.

How, when, and where did Nom de Guerres become a group?

Nom de Guerres was formed from jamming at the Pioneer Inn open mic night in Nederland, which I hosted for three years. Eventually, I merged it with some players I was using from my fusion project and Nom de Guerres was born.

You’ve got a couple of great local players in this trio, including drummer Zach West and bassist Christopher Merz. What qualities make these guys perfect for your group?

Zach is probably the most consistent and versatile drummer I have worked with in Colorado, and possesses the ability to seamlessly transition between styles, something I need from a drummer. Chris really brings in the tone of the band; he’s definitely got that SoCal pre-grunge mentality when it comes to the bass, and can play a solid line or jam with a great rock-feel. He’s also a great singer, which has worked out well for expanding [our] harmony vocals.

You describe the band’s sound as “dirty folkabilly western swing”. Care to expound on that?

I am a jazz-trained musician, primarily on saxophone, in the Chicago tradition: essentially everything I do has the swing 8ths feel, but we reinterpret musicians from Willie Nelson to Leonard Cohen to GG Allin to Nirvana. I also spent a lot of time playing in the Midwest punk scene. We couldn’t come up with a genre that actually fits what we do, so we made up our own.

When you bring a song to the band, does it ever change as a result of the group’s interactions and ideas?

I wrote all of our originals, but I trust the musicians I work with to fill out their parts with a little direction; one or two bass lines Chris and I have sat down and written together. I also write all the chordal reinterpretations we do as covers, but things evolve in rehearsal and live performances. There’s a point when it sounds right to all of us and it just works. 

Maus Nomdeguerre.

Maus Nomdeguerre.

While you primarily sing and play guitar in the group, some of your great sax playing can be heard on NGD’s recordings. Do you ever play sax with the group in live performances?

Rarely. I usually rely on a fourth musician [for that]. I use a few horn players depending on who’s available: Paul Stadler, Prasanna Bishop, occasionally Jeremy Mohney- they’re all great saxophone players with different approaches and great ears. On the EP and on our work-in-progress pieces, I play all of the saxophone parts.

Have you ever considered expanding your current lineup by adding other full-time players?

Besides the sax players, I have used female vocalists, harmonica, trumpet, and lead guitar players. In an ideal world, Nom de Guerres would be a seven or eight-piece band.

What do you hope listeners will get from your music?

I hope people get a political and social message from it, as well as an artistic lyrical experience. I try to bring energy and passion to every show.

This Saturday, June 4th, you’re playing at the Pioneer Inn in Nederland. What can audiences expect at a Nom De Guerres show?

We will be debuting new songs all summer, as well as playing my social democratic song “Bernie’s Theme”. I will also be using a guitar with a body made entirely from cannabis.

Yikes! It might be worth it to some local stoners to come out just to hear you play that thing. So what’s on the horizon for the band? Any special plans for the coming year?

We have two recording projects in progress, one which will be primarily political songs, with a few covers, including a particularly heavy interpretation of “Masters of War”. The other record is called Hanging Songs, and is new originals written in the last year. We will be playing around Colorado most of the summer.

Check out Nom de Guerres’ show this Saturday in Ned, and keep up with their tour schedule and new releases here.

-Will

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

Dragondeer Wants To Get You Off at The Fox Theatre Tomorrow Night

Denver's Dragondeer.

Denver's Dragondeer.

We first saw Dragondeer at last year’s The Big Wonderful, and we really dug their swampy blues rock sound. They gave us a copy of their self-titled EP (which has been in heavy rotation since), went on to play the UMS, and most recently, the four-piece finished recording an album with Willie Nelson’s producer Mark Howard. Tomorrow night, the radical Denver band is bringing their talents and new music to the Fox Theatre stage in support of the Ben Miller Band, and we’ve got info on discounted tickets below, so get yours today! We’ll be there snapping photos, so come hang. And in the meantime, check out our chat with Dragondeer frontman Eric Halborg:

Dragondeer's Eric Halborg.

Dragondeer's Eric Halborg.

Thanks for talking with us Eric- it’s been minute since we’ve checked in with Dragondeer. Tell us what you guys have been up to lately.

We started the year finalizing mixes on our new record, which was recorded out in California with Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Anders Orbourn). We recorded it at a meditation retreat up in the hills overlooking Topanga Canyon; it was super remote. We had to take a 4x4 to even get to the location. We were all sleeping in the space where we were recording, and eating together, and smoking grass together… some magic happens when you’re locked in and focusing on creation that way, so we’re excited for people to hear what came of that. 

Watch Dragondeer’s live performance of their song “Broadway Avenue” with Jam in the Van:

That’s awesome! What are your plans for the rest of 2016?

We’re heading east of the Mississippi for our first time later this month, playing shows in Atlanta, North Carolina, and a new club in NYC called American Beauty. We’ll announce a festival we were invited to play on the West Coast in the next week or so, and we’ll be touring out that way around the time of that festival.

Sweet! Any other festival plans for 2016?

The UMS in Denver.

Listen to Dragondeer’s self-titled EP:

Another round at The UMS- righteous. So let’s chat about tomorrow night’s show- have you played with the Ben Miller Band before?

We haven’t, but they are rad. David Winegarden (Fox Theatre, Boulder Theater) asked us to play this one and thought it’d be a cool bill.

Have you played The Fox before?

We’ve played The Fox once. Also, I like to booze at the Sundowner, and our record is in their jukebox, so that’s kinda like playing there…

The good ol’ ‘downer. Cool- so what are you most stoked for about tomorrow night’s performance?

The Fox’s sound is killer onstage, and out front. When it sounds that good on stage, you can hear the nuance of the interplay between the members, and that’s the nectar… if the band is getting off, the crowd can too.

Can't wait guys.

Get off with Dragondeer tomorrow night and get your tickets here- use the code DRAGONDEER for a discounted service charge!

Keep up with Dragondeer on Facebook, and if you have friends in these cities, tell them to hit up these DD shows:

  • April 15 | Atlanta GA at New Belgium Brewery after party at 97 Estoria
  • April 16 | Charlotte NC at Double Door Inn w/ Jarekus Singleton
  • April 17 | Asheville NC at Wicked Weed Brewery
  • April 17 | Charlotte NC at Comet Grill Rock to A Cure Benefit
  • April 18 | New York NY at American Beauty
  • April 29 | Denver CO at Larimer Lounge w/ L.A. Witch and The Velveteers

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on twitter and instagram.

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

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See 04/08 & 04/09 + More

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Another weekend means another round of awesome local music. Check out our picks this week:

THE SIX

Today (Friday 04/08):

Gasoline Lollipops at Oskar Blues in Lyons 6PM-Close

Alt-country four-piece Gasoline Lollipops are well-known in these parts, and this weekend, the guys are playing Oskar Blues in Lyons. They’ve been called one of “Colorado’s Best”, and for good reason! Their performances are “high energy and heartfelt, like the American highway’s soundtrack. That’s something to grab a brew over. Start your weekend at this show!

Check out Gasoline Lollipops’ live performance of “White Trash”:

Residual Kid EP Release Party with Bud Bronson & the Good Timers and Slow Caves at the Hi-Dive in Denver 8PM-Close

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Austin’s noise punk/grunge trio Residual Kid are releasing their EP Salsa tonight at the Hi-Dive with special local guests Bud Bronson & the Good Timers and Slow Caves. We’ve got one word for this lineup: PARTY! This show is guaranteed to have stage dives, gnarly shredding, and more! Plus RK are giving away a copy of Salsa to the first hundred people that walk through the door. So get your tickets now and get there!

Watch Residual Kid’s promo video for the show:

The Zimmermans at Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Boulder 10PM-Close

We recently saw The Zimmermans at a private house show, and man were we impressed. This Boulder-based Bob Dylan tribute group brought mad character to songs all over the Dylan catalogue. Frontman Joshua Elioseff had everyone moving, while regular members, and special guests alike took the stage to showcase their musical talents. Tonight, the six-piece rocks the Conor’s stage, so drop in and dance!

Check out their cover of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”:

Tomorrow (Saturday 04/09):

Mawule Single Release Party featuring Miguel Dakota and the Differents, Jerney, DJ Zenas, & A Meazy at Club 156 in Boulder 730PM-Close

Denver’s R&B/pop artist Mawule is dropped his newest single this morning and he will be performing it live tomorrow as headliner at CU’s Club 156. His story and his music are super inspiring, so this is definitely a show worth checking out! Mawule’s got a ton of Denver talent on deck too- Miguel Dakota and the Differents will play a set, along with hip hop favorite Jerney, DJ Zenas, and A Meazy. This is a sick lineup you don’t want to miss; tickets at the door.

Hear Mawule’s debut single "Fall for Me":

The Burroughs with Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal at Moxi Theater in Greeley 8PM-Close

We just dropped a sweet review on Greeley’s soul act The Burroughs for their recent release of singles “You Are My Joy” and “1968”. Tonight, the nine-piece are celebrating their new music with a sweet hometown Moxi Theater show. Make the trek, or if you’re a resident, get your tickets here! It’s going to be a great night of soul with Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal sharing the stage. So get to it!

Listen to The Burroughs’ new singles:

The Fremonts at The No Name Bar in Boulder 10PM-Close

Americana storytellers Stephanie Dodd and Justin Badger will be making their return to The No Name Bar tomorrow night. This duo are not only talented, they’re hilarious. Just check out their blog for a taste. So get your music fix behind the big brown door with The Fremonts tomorrow! They’ve got new music for you, and they’re sure to keep you entertained. 

Peep The Fremonts’ track “Echo”:

PRESS

We now actively cover press at shows, and we do our best to promote those. Catch some of us at the Lost Lake and the Larimer doing press for these performances:

FRIDAY: Hi-Fi Gentry EP Release Party featuring Whiskey Autumn, VWLS, & Griffin at Lost Lake Lounge in Denver 8PM-Close

Hi-Fi Gentry are a five-piece indie outfit based in Denver. Tonight, they’re throwing a massive party at Lost Lake for the release of their newest EP, Film Noir. The group have already dropped a couple of singles from the EP, which we really dig, and you can hear one below. Boulder’s R&B pop/rock trio Whiskey Autumn will be sharing the stage, along with experimental psych group VWLS, and Griffin. You get a free copy of Film Noir with your ticket purchase; tickets at the door.

Listen to Hi-Fi Gentry’s new single “The Tide”:

SATURDAY: The Yawpers featuring Blackfoot Gypsies NOW AT Larimer Lounge in Denver 9PM-Close

UPDATE: This show was moved to the Larimer Lounge after publication. Tickets are available at the time of this update- get them here!

The Yawpers are back in town. Do we really need to say much more? The badass rock and roll trio from the D are playing double hometown shows this weekend, both with Blackfoot Gypsies, a Nashville band that we’ve literally followed for years and can’t wait to see live. We guarantee BFG’s performance will be kickin’, so get there early for their set! Saturday's show is at Larimer Lounge; Sunday’s daytime BBQ at Lost Lake will feature Boulder’s The Velveteers, the perfect complement to an already sick rock lineup. Get tickets for the Sunday show here.

Watch The Yawpers vid for "Doing It Right”:

BOULDER COUNTY FARMERS MARKET

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Boulder County Farmers Market is every Saturday from 10AM-2PM. We’re working closely with BCFM to promote the music at the market, and this week, Denver’s Zen Mustache will be under the red top tent. Stop by to hear their soulful funk tunes and grab some food. And don’t forget about one of our favorite treats… the iced coffee!

GREEN LIGHT RADIO

This week, our Sunday partnership with Green Light Radio and Streetside Productions will feature a track by Denver’s Open to the Hound in honor of their new music video and EP release for Way of the Critter! Rocky Flats was out of town last weekend, so he will play them tonight! Tune in to any of the Colorado Community Network Radio Stations here (95.3 or 95.5 Boulder) or stream Green Light between 9-10PM to catch their song “Liquid Lady”.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on twitter and instagram.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured.

KT Homes Plays BIFF This Friday + An Update on Her New Album, Her Artwork, & More

By: Hannah Oreskovich

KT Homes plays Boulder International Film Festival this weekend and so we needed a good 'ol fashioned catchup.

Local musician and artist KT Homes.

Local musician and artist KT Homes.

We first got in touch with local artist Katherine (KT) Homes when she played Denver’s RAW event last November. Back then we introduced her as one talented musician- she’s been referred to as as “the female version of Bob Dylan” and has opened for acts including Trampled by Turtles and Nathaniel Rateliff. But what we liked most was KT’s strong intent to “shed light on environmental and social issues” with her music. And after chatting with her, we learned a lot more about that intention, her upcoming album, and her artwork. Check it out:

So KT! We know you were in the Boxcar Daisies prior to your focus on a solo album. What’s that transition been like?

It’s been an incredibly creative and overwhelming process. When Elli, the second half of Boxcar Daisies, and I played gigs we were both all in 100%. We came to the table and co-wrote songs, split the work of sending out our EP and setting up gigs, and so on. We were incredibly dedicated and I think that made us really successful, really quickly, in getting shows. It was also the only thing we really had to throw ourselves into. Now, I’m juggling two different jobs and trying to relaunch my music and art career at the same time and sometimes I wish I wasn’t solo. But working on a solo album has also been amazing! Going out on my own has forced me to make friends with myself and not rely on someone else to stand next to me in order to feel comfortable on stage. I only have to answer to myself for this [next] album. That is a challenge but also really rewarding.

Homes laying down a track. 

Homes laying down a track. 

That’s great! Give us the deets on your upcoming album- what studio are you working with? Do you have a producer? When are you planning its release?  

I was working with a wonderful studio, but it wasn’t quite the right fit. Since then, I’ve been waiting almost 6 months to hear back from someone I really want to work with. It looks like it’s going to happen, but I’m keeping it a secret until I’m actually sitting next to him recording. Lets just say it’s going to be brilliant if this talented and incredibly chill producer fully commits. My lips are sealed until it’s a done deal though!

Fair enough! So we know that activism is a big part of your songwriting and musical process- talk to us about how that started, why you have that drive, and what current events are inspiring you to take your position and express it through music.

Wow, where do I even start? I’m fascinated by other cultures- mostly the remote or the forgotten. The wisdom in their history and their connection with nature; the way they live in harmony with the natural world... I’ve seen things and heard stories that are straight out of a children’s fairytale, but are very rooted in their way of life.

While I was traveling through West Kalimantan working as a photojournalist with an incredible non-profit, my family members lost a child to gun violence. In that moment I wanted to do something much bigger than the path I was on. I had no idea how or what I would do, but the answers just kept showing up in my music and I knew I wanted to share these songs because they are so much bigger than myself. I’ve always believed that a song has the power to change people. It’s my way of feeling like I can help shift things by writing about these issues and possible solutions, and singing about them.  

What I have also found while I’ve traveled is that two things quickly connect me to the local people: music and being a woman. There are often language barriers, and they quickly show up, but as soon as I start singing or playing the guitar, it’s incredible how quickly these walls  evaporate. It doesn’t matter what I’m singing about. Music is the universal language. And being a woman, well, as soon as you get in the kitchen, or hold someone else’s baby you are immediately a part of someone’s family. The song, “Put Down Your Gun”, which the [new] album was almost named after, is about a war being fought in Afghanistan and a woman speaking to another woman about what that war means for her and her family. This conversation happens in the kitchen, while they are both bouncing babies and cooking for their families. Their conversation quickly turns into a dialog about disarming anger and to instead to really hear one another.  

I’ve also been incredibly passionate about the environment from a young age. I’m obsessed with plants and wildlife. I’m very committed to bringing awareness to environmental issues through art, music, and my non-profit work. I’m a big believer that the natural world provides most of the answers to some of our biggest problems. I think if we could just sit and feel and listen to the silence and songs of the natural world, we could know what to do to generate more love and steer away from hate. Fear and hate are created because we don’t understand something. Anger is generated from feeling unheard, unloved, and sad. Right now we see that with the overwhelming destruction of the natural world and I think that is a direct reflection of how we are treating ourselves and each other. This [next] album really focusses on sharing these thoughts.

Wow. Thanks for sharing your powerful motivations with us. That’s awesome. We also know you paint- any art that you’re currently working on?

I absolutely love to paint. It is my down time. I can get lost in the world of color for days. It’s quiet. Painting is peaceful and healing. It’s kind. I know that’s a funny word to use, but I use watercolor on wood and it is so fluid and beautiful; it’s those moments when I feel like everything is right in the world. Painting is also something I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember, so it’s never left me. It’s a great way to really see the world you are in. It’s so slow, and for me that’s a really good thing. This past year, I’ve created paintings for two organizations that are doing really incredible work: Project WOO and Health in Harmony. I love creating paintings to help fundraise and raise awareness for projects that I believe in.

One of KT's paintings. 

One of KT's paintings. 

Sweet. Beyond your 2016 release plans, what else will you be up to this year?  

The album is full-on for sure. At the start of the year, I was asked to sing on a children’s book, which I’m excited about! I’m also launching my own art website. My life is pretty fun. I feel like everytime I turn around something new comes crashing into it. But really, this year I want to focus on getting my music and my message out into the world to as many people as possible, so that will be my primary goal.

We can’t wait to hear more from you- thanks for sharing your message with us KT.

Check out the multi-talented KT Homes at her Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) performance this Friday. Details on more live shows, her current art projects, and more can be found on her website here.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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

The Weekend Six: Six Shows to See 01/15 & 01/16

By: Hannah Oreskovich

TGIF! We are soooo ready for the weekend. Here’s our six, Beaters:

Today (Friday, 01/15)

Amoramora with Natural Motives at The Armoury in Denver 9PM-Close

These two Boulder-based bands are hitting the D tomorrow night for a show at The Armoury. Amoramora want you to know that their set will be “original tunes mixed with bust-out covers; an eclectic mix of improvisational musical gumbo.” The trio is a funk/psych/roots/reggae mix that promises to “make you shake your groove thing”. And reggae rock group Natural Motives will be opening up the set to get you movin’! Plus live painting and visuals by Laura McGowan and Suncat. Go get down!

Listen to an Amoramora original, “Rafiki’s Expedition”:

Booster at The Lazy Dog in Boulder 10PM-Close

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Rocket fuel, aka the “high-energy funk fusion powerhouse” that is Boulder’s Booster will be lockin’ down The Lazy Dog this evening! Their improvisational jazz, funk, rock, and “everything in-between” is sure to keep you moving all night long. The four-piece, who are best known for their “no guitars” rule, have some big plans for 2016 so catch this Boulder show while you can!

Give their live performance of “Fepic Jam” a listen:

A Shadow of Jaguar at Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Boulder 10PM-Close

Boulder’s delta rock duo A Shadow of Jaguar have a show at Conor’s tonight that promises to “make you scrunch your face and nod your head”. Comprised of Brian Hubbert (also of Cold River City) and Andrew Oakley (also of Cold River City and BANDITS), this powerful duo will have Conor’s spinnin’. Though they’re Boulder-based, the two are so busy touring that they rarely have a local show. So drop in and catch ‘em while you can.

Watch the duo’s video for their single “Mama Needs The Bottle”:

Theogen at The No Name Bar in Boulder 10PM-Close

Denver’s Theogen describe themselves as a group of people dedicated to pushing the boundaries of the live psychedelic electronic music experience”. We’re really in the psych sort of mood tonight, so this show behind the big brown door sounds like a Friday night win. Come get weird.

Peep Theogen’s “Solar Hymn”:

Tomorrow (Saturday, 01/16)

Dragondeer with Toi Et Moi, Mark’s Midnight Carnival Show, and Jocelyn & Chris Arndt at Larimer Lounge in Denver 8PM-Close

Denver’s psych/blues four piece Dragondeer will be rockin’ Larimer Lounge tonight with a sweet lineup of friends. Their swampy cosmic sounds will close out the night after appearances by Denver’s French retro outfit Toi Et Moi, indie rock trio Mark’s Midnight Carnival Show (also of Denver), and the touring rock four-piece Jocelyn & Chris Arndt. Tickets are only $10 in advance; $13 at the door. Show’s 21+. Get ‘em here.

Watch Dragondeer play “Don’t That Feel Good” live:

The Zimmermans at Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub in Boulder 10PM-Close

If you like Bob Dylan, you should probably head over to Conor’s tomorrow night. The Zimmermans, Boulder’s favorite Bobby D cover band, will be rockin’ the stage. The group has been bringing BD’s sounds to Boulder and beyond for ten years now! Celebrate with them tonight at their show; it’s gonna be a good one.

Listen to their version of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowehere”:


PS: This week, our Sunday feature with Green Light Radio and Streetside Productions will feature a track by Boulder rock group Villain Baritone! We’ll bring you a full rundown on them and their Studio 700 Music Masquerade show with us next week, but in the meantime, tune in between 9-10PM to 95.5 in Boulder, or stream it live to hear their song “Vines” Sunday night!

That’s a lot of sweet options Boulder! We’ll see you out there!

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on Instagram and Twitter.

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

Ben Hanna Wants to Surf with You at The Fall Showcase This Friday.

By: Zach Dahmen

Behind the scenes of Ben Hanna.

Boulder-based musician Ben Hanna.

Boulder-based musician Ben Hanna.

It’s a cold and wet fall evening as I wait for BolderBeat’s Fall Showcase opener at a coffee shop on Pearl Street’s west end. I take a few more sips of coffee and in walks a mop of black curls with a five o’clock shadow. Ben Hanna sits down across from me and instantly, his deep voice becomes the prominent sound over a bustling coffeehouse. With little prompting Ben starts telling me his story, with little to no filter; much like his music. He has these basset hound eyes which, as he starts to tell me how he fell in love with music, draw me into his twenty minute answer.

Hanna grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan. As he describes it, the suburbs are more akin to Orange County, California than the inner city. Instead of the hard knocks attributed to growing up in Detroit, Hanna was afforded an adolescence steeped in whatever music he could get his hands on. The earliest parts of his musical journey had him taking huge pit stops with The Violent Femmes, Ryan Adams, Radiohead, and Nirvana, the latter being a big enough influence that he’s actually wearing one of their shirts under his bulky cardigan tonight. Starting with simple bar chords and punk rock at the age of 15, Hanna progressed into taking lessons and giving serious thought to being a musician: “I wanted to be a player. I had a vision of me sitting in as a session musician down the road.”

Tea Time.

Tea Time.

After high school, Hanna moved to Colorado for college. He tells me this part of his life was framed by the music of Townes Van Zandt, whom he lends credit to as a catalyst for finding his voice as a songwriter. An even more noticeable influence in his music is Lou Reed (watch Ben Hanna’s “High Society Scene” as a perfect example). And Ben does credit Lou for helping him find direction. He tells me, “Lou Reed and Bob Dylan, they didn’t have these panty-dropping singing voices, but they were getting the point across in a really effective and powerful way. And so I realized that is kind of the voice I have.”

More recently, Ben’s musical efforts have been shaped with difficult times and personal hardship. The end of a relationship left him unable to write a song for months. That struggle lead him to a different way of approaching music: Being present in each moment.

“It’s being cultivated even when I’m asleep or just observing things, and there is this thought that I am absorbing it like a musical sponge.”

The Street Light Type.

The Street Light Type.

Ben keeps a notebook of lyrics on his phone that he calls “my emotional well.” He shows it to me- there are lyrics, sayings, and musings- a collection that takes more than a few finger strokes to move through. As I glance through it, Hanna tells me he’s got somewhat of a “different sound” overall, especially within Boulder. Unfiltered but focused is what comes to mind as Ben describes his musical life; much like our interview.

That “different” quality was exactly what drew BolderBeat to ask Hanna to open The Fall Showcase. With Ben Hanna & The Knighthawks, Hanna’s sound is a fleshed out, full rock and roll experience, fitting nicely into the night’s lineup of Blvd. and Whiskey Autumn.

“I look at it as a wonderful opportunity to just kinda go surfing; play with the energy of the space and share a stage with different bands because we are all in subtle ways influencing each other. It’s going to be a really nice blend of sounds. People are in for a treat.” Hanna said of the upcoming show.

Sandboxin'.

Sandboxin'.

Beyond his Fall Showcase performance this Friday, Ben will be playing more live shows with the Knighthawks around the Front Range and beyond. Lately though his focus has been continued work on his new record. He’s been in the studio with Robbie Stiefel and Todd Adleman at The Mountain House Recording Studio in Nederland. Ben, admittedly ambitiously, tells me the new record is “a mix between Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker and The Violent Femmes self-titled.”

Come see the ambitious, unfiltered Ben Hanna & The Knighthawks THIS FRIDAY at The Fall Showcase. And let’s surf.

-Zach

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

Interviewer Zach Dahmen.

Interviewer Zach Dahmen.

Album Review: Paul Kimbiris' "The Dark Side of Pearl"

By: Pete Laffin

Paul Kimbiris' newest release is his best work yet. 

Ever wonder what Bob Dylan would sound like if he could sing?

First off, I entirely reject the notion that Bob Dylan actually can sing, or that he is an “interesting” or “unique” singer, as people like to say at parties. The man can’t sing.  What’s more, claiming he can only diminishes his genius. The genre known as “singer/songwriter” seemingly requires the capacity to perform two specific functions. And yet, Bob Dylan became the greatest ever without being able to do one of them. Consider Michael Jordan becoming the greatest basketball player without being able to dribble, or Churchill becoming the greatest orator with a stutter. This is what Bob Dylan somehow pulled off. There’s no need to make excuses for him. His accomplishment is otherworldly, akin to Beethoven composing the Ninth Symphony while deaf.

paul kimbiris.

paul kimbiris.

Another qualification: In no way am I equating Dylan to the subject of this review, Paul Kimbiris. Dylan didn’t just write some of the greatest songs you’ve ever heard, he wrote most of them. When a song plays in a bar or a coffee shop and someone asks “who wrote that?” the answer is usually Dylan. In hundreds of years, skeptics will question whether or not any human could be so prolific in a given craft, the same way they question Shakespeare: Was there an enslaved coterie of writers he stole from? Was Satan in on it?

But back to the initial question: What would Dylan sound like with a decent set of pipes? This writer’s contention is that it might sound a lot like Boulder’s own Paul Kimbiris, especially on his latest album, “The Dark Side of Pearl.” His vocals are rich and deep with a timbre that occasionally rattles the ground. And yet, he retains the frantic dips and leaps that define the Dylan aesthetic. His songwriting is pretty darn good, too.

The title track “The Dark Side of Pearl” is where my Dylan musings find their strongest foothold. On the iconic downtown strip of Boulder known as Pearl, one strata of society buys $900 table napkins from knick-knack shops, while another earns its keep juggling flaming swords, or slinging coffee, or washing dishes, or working retail, as Kimbiris himself did years ago. From behind a counter he watched the crowds march down the red brick walking mall with plump shopping bags and blissful expressions. This track is a whimsical meditation on those days. It’s not the biting social commentary familiar to Dylan fans, but simply one man’s recollection of a less-than-stellar sitch: “All your confidence has left you/And you feel no one respects you/A simple hello would make all the difference in the world,” he wails at the chorus with his Dylan-esque vocal abandon. The perky rhythm and melody stand in contrast to the subject of the piece, which provides a satisfying dissonance. The essence of this track is that of the proverbial madman laughing at the rain, and you’ll find yourself laughing and clapping along too.

“Heavy Things” is another tune colored with the markings of Dylan. “Heavy things always come down/Get used to it/Deal with it,” is the bluntly sung chorus, a modern echo to A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall.” Even more than on “The Dark Side of Pearl,” Kimbiris takes the vocal aesthetic of Dylan and infuses it with his own signature opulence. The instrumentation on this track is simply beautiful: the winding electric guitar notes in the deep background, the skillfully placed keyboard notes, and the resonant cello bows (played powerfully by Philip Parker of Denver’s Glowing House; also the record’s producer). The sound is more early-era alternative rock than it is folk, and the combination is damn cool. And more importantly, when he laments the heavier happenings of life, it rings with authority. The qualitative feel of the song is a great match for the message it hopes to convey. This song sounds like the hard-fought acceptance of life’s tragedies.

When Kimbiris first handed me the disc and I saw a track entitled “Sitting Home Alone with Your Guitar” I recoiled. Listening to artists talk about their art to other artists is something I’m just plain sick of. Having played stages for the past eighteen years, I’ve had my fill of listening to this kind of thing. (I’ve similarly been unable to attend a writer’s “talk” since grad school.) At this point it all just seems so (sorry, Mom, I can’t avoid the word)… masturbatory. And worse, the attempt to do so within a singular piece of art is loaded with landmines. It’s just so easy to come off trite or self-involved, or worse, miles off the mark. But after listening to the track dozens of times, I find myself experiencing two of life’s greatest feelings: being surprised, and being wrong. Kimbiris’ secret for pulling off the dreaded artist-explaining-art-in-a-piece-of-art is remaining a few feet off the ground throughout the piece, never committing to maxims, but sticking to abstractions. In this way, he is able to convey his experience without sounding preachy or clichéd. “When you’re sitting home alone with your guitar/The universe expanding, a union torn apart/Counting constellations from the rooftop of your car,” is the line recurring at the chorus, accented by some of the highest and truest vocal notes on the record. The description rings true: The art we make, we don’t really make, but access, from a place somewhere above our heads, and we pull it down and filter it through our souls. What’s more, the song itself is a clinic on quality songwriting. The airy and wispy vocal harmonies are a modern take on Simon and Garfunkel, but not as sleepy as what you might hear on a Fleet Foxes record. The cascading finger-picking gives a nod to the virtue of minimalism in acoustic music, and the nearly imperceptible shifts in volume dynamics keep it interesting till the end. The successful execution of this track is an accomplishment acoustic players from coast-to-coast would like to have under their belts.  

My highest expectation for the record was a song of Kimbiris’ I’ve been familiar with for some time. “Bring Out Your Dead” is a straight up modern folk classic. If you love soulful acoustic music and are a fan of Monty Python (and man, are there a lot of people who fit this description), this might be your favorite song ever. It’s also another track where my Dylan-on-steroids vocal comparison finds a home. While “Dark Side of Pearl” recalls early Dylan protest songs, “Bring Out Your Dead” is more of the 70s Dylan love jam variety. While Kimbiris dips and climbs the length of his range with startling immediacy, the timbre of his tenor sustains. The elegant melody derived from a chord progression familiar to every guitar novice (you can figure out most of these songs in a single sitting, I even covered one at a show last weekend), the bittersweet beat, the lyrics that raise more questions than they answer: It all adds up to some seriously satisfying song-smithing.

Which is why I have to sadly conclude this track an opportunity missed. The magic is in there somewhere, but you have to strain to hear it due to overproduction. There is simply too much going on in the instrumentation, and the elaborate harmonies seem unnecessary, especially if you’ve seen this video on YouTube. The production is too smart by half, and the vocals are sterile in comparison to what Kimbiris achieves elsewhere on the record. Word is he will be re-recording this track for an upcoming project, and I can’t wait to hear how it turns out anew.

the album art from "The Dark Side of Pearl".

the album art from "The Dark Side of Pearl".

I’ll end with the real gem of the album: “Home Soon.” This track more than any reflects modern rock sensibilities; it could stand out in any of Ryan Adams recent releases. It’s got an infectious hook at the bridge, but it doesn’t rely on endless repetition (think “Let Her Go” by Passenger). The vocals are revelatory in their scruffy authenticity and the instrumentation is pristine, yet soulful, especially at the transitions, which are aided by rich cello bows. Local luminary Gregory Alan Isakov aided Kimbiris in the studio on this one (he also has co-writing credit for the track). Kimbiris was emphatic on the following point in the run-up to this review: If you want to make a great record, find great musicians to help you pull it off. He raved about the contributions of Patrick Meese, Ben Gallagher, Jeb Bows, and Philip Parker, each accomplished music makers from various musical outfits.

Though I can’t go into each track in-depth due to space/time restrictions, that’s not to say they aren’t worth some deep listening. If you want to hear how a single major-to-minor note dip can alter the complexion of an entire composition, take a listen to “Mexico.” If you revel in being stabbed in the heart by a single lyric (“Don’t know what I’m going to do/There’s a light in the tunnel and I hope it’s you”) listen to the “Ballad of Alex and Victoria.” And so on. Just buy the record, if only to give me a good old-fashioned bullshit check. You’ll thank me for it.

And if you see Kimbiris’ name on a local lineup, get your ass to that show. (Hint: There's one this weekend.) It’s rare that any local scene should harbor such a talent. Chances are, he won’t be part of it for long.       

-Pete

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