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.

Recapping RockyGrass: The Changing Face of Bluegrass

By: Riley Ann

Festivarians flocked to the 45th annual RockyGrass Festival this past weekend at Planet Bluegrass, and it celebrated the evolution of bluegrass in all of its facets. In the era of the folk renaissance in America, the first RockyGrass was held in 1973 and featured first-generation bluegrassers like Bill Monroe (the “father of bluegrass”) and Lester Flatt in addition to acts like Country Gazette that were part of the budding newgrass movement. A lot has changed since 1973, when 3-day tickets were only $12 and Bill Monroe himself was involved in starting the first RockyGrass (more about the history here). And yet, in the spirit of blending first-generation traditional bluegrass alongside newgrass of the time, this year’s RockyGrass held true to their own tradition.

Sam Bush.

Sam Bush.

What is notable at this year’s festival was the striking number of young faces on stage. In fact, eldest of all the instrument contest winners is only 21 years old. And yet Sam Bush was only 21 when he took the stage with The Bluegrass Alliance for the very first RockyGrass in 1973, which is evidence of young blood continually being drawn into the scene and sustaining the tradition through the decades.

Odessa Settles.

Odessa Settles.

What is notably different about more recent Rockygrasses, especially this year’s, is the growing representation of women on stage. Friday’s lineup included Colorado native Bevin Foley of Trout Steak Revival, Laurie Lewis with her band including renowned fiddler Tatiana Hargreaves along with special guest and Colorado native Courtney Hartman of Della Mae. Saturday featured powerhouse band leaders Melody Walker (winner the 2016 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Vocalist Momentum Award) with her band Front Country (nominated by IBMA as 2017’s Emerging Artist of the Year award) and followed by Becky Buller (nominated by IBMA at 2017’s Fiddler of the Year and by The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America as 2017’s Songwriter of the Year award) as well as Odessa Settles performing with Jerry Douglas and Edgar Meyer. Sunday featured clawhammer banjoist Allison de Groot alongside Bruce Molsky in the Molsky Mountain Drifters as well as the all-female band and 2016 nominee for the IBMA Emerging Artist award Sister Sadie. Aside from the main stage, Denver-based Ginny Mules left the crowd roaring in a standing ovation during the band contest at the Wildflower Pavilion, and they won third place in the finals.

Tatiana Hargreaves with Laurie Lewis.

Tatiana Hargreaves with Laurie Lewis.

Although female representation is far from being equal, the bluegrass scene has come a long way despite its sexist reputation, like Alison Kraus being angrily told, “Girls can’t play bluegrass,” as she disclosed in the documentary High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music, one among countless other similar anecdotes of female bluegrass musicians in the book Pretty Good for a Girl.

Del McCoury.

Del McCoury.

While so many new faces are entering the scene, some have become iconic staples, and the return of Del McCoury, Sam Bush, and Peter Rowan along with newgrass favorites like The Infamous Stringdusters rounded out the festival to mix in the old with the new, giving something in the realm of bluegrass for everyone to enjoy.

The Infamous Stringdusters.

The Infamous Stringdusters.

Although this year’s RockyGrass has passed, you can still get your festival on for Folks Fest, which is happening in just a couple weeks from August 18th-20th. This year’s lineup includes Gregory Alan Isakov, Lake Street Dive, The Revivalists, Rhiannon Giddens (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops), The Wailin’ Jennys, Josh Ritter, Elephant Revival, Dave Rawlings Machine, and more. You can still get single-day and three-day tickets here.

View our full photo gallery from RockyGrass 2017 here.

-Riley

Find out more about Riley on her blog.

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival Announces Initial Lineup For 2017

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Last year, we brought you some exclusive coverage of Colorado’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival, both behind the scenes & in the crowd. John Prine, Dave Rawlings Machine, Emmylou Harris, Greensky Bluegrass, Houndmouth, and Leftover Salmon were some of last year’s standout performances, and Telluride’s famous fest has more magic up its sleeve for 2017.

Life at 2016 Telluride. Photo Credit:   Riley Ann

Life at 2016 Telluride. Photo Credit: Riley Ann

Today, initial lineup announcements were made for what will be the fest’s 44th year. Headliners include Sam Bush Band, Brandi Carlile, and Dierks Bentley with The Travelin’ McCourys. See the rest of the initial announcements on this year’s bill below, and get more info on the fest and tickets here.

Telluride Bluegrass 2017 Initial Lineup Announcement:

Sam Bush Band
Brandi Carlile
Dierks Bentley with The Travelin’ McCourys
Telluride House Band featuring Sam, Bela, Jerry, Edgar, Bryan & Stuart
Dispatch
Yonder Mountain String Band
Greensky Bluegrass
Bela Fleck & Chris Thile
Elephant Revival
Punch Brothers
Hot Rize
Peter Rowan
Jerry Douglas Band
Tim O’Brien
Chris Thile
Sarah Jarosz
The East Pointers
Fireball Mail

-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.

I Went to Telluride Bluegrass Festival & It Felt Like I Was In Narnia

By: Sierra Voss

Once upon a time there was a magical mountain town. This town was tucked way, way back into the San Juan Mountain range, surrounded on all sides by a box canyon, and scattered throughout it were cascading waterfalls. One day, the town decided to host a four day Bluegrass Festival. The festival would be made up of mouthwatering food stands, casual mountain-town vibes, and epic music lineups.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Magic Vibes.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Magic Vibes.

This town is Telluride, CO, and for the past 43 years, the magical story that is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival has been happening every summer in the land that often leaves festival-goers wondering whether they’re at a four-day music event, or whether they’ve been transported to the wonderful world C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.

Walking on Main Street. 

Walking on Main Street. 

One of the best parts about this festival is the diverse range of activities you can take part in throughout the day and night. Festival goers can break up the day by taking a dip in the beautiful river that runs near the fest, or start the morning off with a two mile hike to the famous Bridal Veil Falls. Not the outdoors type? No problem. You can still feel the magic of the place by taking a walk down Main Street and popping into all the fun mountain stores, bars, and restaurants.

Sun hats were key at TBF.

Sun hats were key at TBF.

Strolling through the festival grounds you’ll see people of all ages smiling, basking in the sun, and toe tappin’ to twangy guitar pickin’ tunes. And everyone has some sort of costume, whether it’s a group of girls adorned in badass sun hats or an eclectic gathering of people in Hawaiian shirts, overalls, or American flag everythang. Kids run around spraying people down with squirt guns, while adults head to purchase wine in sippy cups. All of these are part of the magical vibes that you will find at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Emmylou Harris.

Emmylou Harris.

And then there’s the music. Whoever locked down the lineup for this year’s fest was born to crush. Bluegrass legends like John Prine and Dave Rawlings Machine shared the stage with amazing newcomers like Houndmouth and The Oh Hellos. Every band involved in the fest brought a new energy to the stage as the lineup throughout the four days flowed flawlessly from traditional bluegrass, to folk rock, to Americana and indie rock.

Narnia. 

Narnia. 

Eighty-degree bluebird days quickly turned into fifty-degree moonlit nights. The first evening of the fest, David Rowling Machine kept it somewhat mellow with haunting traditional bluegrass melodies. The following night, Greensky Bluegrass ripped up the stage, mixing controlled bluegrass roots with new chaotic punk rock sounds. The third night was a straight jam sesh, brought by Leftover Salmon. And finally, to close out the fest, we watched an incredible collaboration of artists sharing the stage, including Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, Bryan Sutton, and Stuart Duncan. Other special performances of note include when Ryan Adams was backed by The Infamous Stringdusters, and when Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek joined John Prine for a beautiful duet.

Views on views. 

Views on views. 

All in all, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival was a mystical amalgamation of nature, amazing music, and good times spent with friends. So was it Narnia? They might just be one in the same…

-Sierra

All photos per Sam Skinner. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Tenth Mountain Division: Ski Rock for Your Summer

By: Hannah Oreskovich

Tenth Mountain Division dropped their debut album recently, and it's taking off like a skier on fresh powder.

Ski Rock. That’s the sound Boulder’s Tenth Mountain Division have coined for themselves, and it fits. With rock, jam, and bluegrass influences, the five-piece have been picking up notable steam  in the local mountain scene and beyond. Just this spring, the band released their debut album, Cracks In The Sky, which quickly earned them critical acclaim, a summer tour, and a spot on Illinois’ Summer Camp Music Festival. Before this rockin’ crew hits the road, we decided to sit down with co-founder MJ Ouimette to get the full scoop on TMD’s formation, their record, and more! The boys play a hometown gig at The Lazy Dog tomorrow for Cinco de Mayo, which you should definitely check out. Read on:

Boulder's Tenth Mountain Division. 

Boulder's Tenth Mountain Division. 

So MJ- how did Tenth Mountain Division get started, and how long you have been playing together as a band?

Winston Heuga and I originally met in highschool in our hometown of Vail, CO. After practicing together for a year or so, and writing our first original tunes, we decided to legitimize our music from the ground up; from Winston’s Mom’s basement to the stage. We had the idea to perform as a bluegrass band, since our main influences included Sam Bush and Leftover Salmon. Eventually, we evolved into an electric adaptation of our prior selves, and our “ski rock” sound was fully realized at CU, where we met Connor Dunn, Tyler Gwynn and Campbell Thomas. In total, TMD has been a project for a year and a half.

Wow! That’s sweet that you guys were able to put out your debut album within essentially a year’s time. Where was Cracks in the Sky recorded? Did you work with a producer, and if so, who?

Cracks In the Sky was recorded at KMG Life Inc. Studios. The album is self produced, but has largely been successful thanks to our sound engineer Cameron Mannix. He worked with us tirelessly and off the clock to help us achieve what we desired. Mannix had actually been working with us for the year leading up to our recording process on projects, and because he had that knowledge of our sound coming in, his work really contributed to the authenticity of Cracks In The Sky.

Awesome. What’s behind the name of the album?

“Cracks In the Sky”, the album’s title track, is the first song Winston and I wrote together. For the most part, he wrote it and I helped arranged the music and the middle verse. But the title, in short, is the easiest explanation of everything we’ve done up to this point.

Cool. Talk to us about the other tracks on the album. How did you choose what to record?

The songs we decided on put on the album are mostly an amalgamation of the diverse talents in the group. Be it my own “Morning Drive” and “Fine Print”, Winston’s “By the Riverside” and “Matryoshka Mountains” or Campbell’s “Conspiracy”, there is a diverse yet coherent congruency from song to song that demonstrates both our varied backgrounds and influences, and the intersections between them all that make us Tenth Mountain Division.

Awesome. Does everyone in the band write?

Winston has written many of the basic outlines and lyrics for the group; he is a great lyricist. Although I have a few songs lyrically that I’ve written as well, the basic formula is Winston presenting a sketch that I solidify musically with arrangements. There is always constant interaction and influence between all of us in the band though.

Listen to TMD’s Cracks In The Sky:

LP versus EP is always a tough question. How did you guys decide on releasing a full length?

Ultimately, we decided that it’s far too common to release an EP as a first recording effort, and we had too much material that we wanted to exhibit. When I look at my biggest influences, I don’t think about their first EP, I think about their first album. We collectively wanted to create an all-encompassing piece of art rather than just a fraction of it.

Fair enough. What are Tenth Mountain Division’s plans for the summer?

“Eskimo”, one of my favorite tracks on the album, will have a music video that will be released in the very near future. Beyond that, we’re touring the Midwest and East Coast, along with our appearance at Summer Camp Music Festival.

We saw you were on that fest lineup- tell us more about that!

We won Summer Camp’s “On the Road” competition series at the Fox Theatre in January, which allowed us the opportunity to perform at the event. It is both humbling and exciting to have won the event and to perform among the heavy hitters of the vast and talented genre of “jam” music.

Make sure to catch Tenth Mountain Division jamming at The Lazy Dog tomorrow night! Join the Facebook event here. And keep with this talented ski rock outfit here.

-Hannah

Follow Hannah on twitter and instagram.

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