Review: Tristan Scroggins' Digital Album "Fancy Boy"

By Kevin Slick

“Fancy Boy” was released on 8 March 2019 on the  Bandcamp  digital music distribution platform.

“Fancy Boy” was released on 8 March 2019 on the Bandcamp digital music distribution platform.


Tristan Scroggins has been working on the technique of crosspicking on mandolin. Anyone who follows this modern mando-master has seen videos of him in hotel rooms around the world picking out tunes in cascades of notes that tumble down like a waterfall, or ripple like river, depending on the listener’s favorite water-music metaphors. 

Scroggins has compiled five tracks and released them online under the title Fancy Boy and the EP is a gem. The arrangements are beautiful, with Tristan joined by Megan Lynch on fiddle, Adam Chowning on guitar and tasteful clawhammer banjo by Tyler Andal who also plays some fiddle as well. 

Cross picking has been primarily associated with Jesse McReynolds, though Colorado bluegrass fans know the work of Jordan Ramsey well. Tristan, who can burn up the fretboard with the best of them, opts for a more melodic and even stately approach to the tunes on this project.  

Home Sweet Home” in particular stands out for the devotion to melody and feel above speed. This has become one of my favorite recordings. The music is not rushed, not forced in anyway, it sounds effortless; a complete joy to listen to anytime. Click through now and listen, you’ll be glad you did.

Bonnie and the Clydes at the Audi Auditorium - 03/30/2019

Although not hardly, strictly bluegrass, Bonnie and the Clydes are a band well known in the front range and their music runs through Americana, Country, Western Swing and Bluegrass. Here they are playing a song named Cowboy Yodel at the Audi Auditorium in Broomfield.

This is the third in our 2019 series of Audi concerts - there will be two more this fall and they are all “must see” concerts, watch our website and facebook page for more information!

Mid-Winter Bluegrass, here we come!

Mid-Winter Bluegrass, here we come!

Yes, it is, once again, time for Ken Seaman’s much-anticipated Mid-Winter Bluegrass Festival, starting today, February 15, and running through Sunday the 17th at the beautiful, not-downtown Northglenn Ramada Plaza & Convention Center at I-25 & 120th Avenue, north of Denver. 

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CBMS Awards Rockygrass Academy Scholarship for 2019

As part of its mission to support and promote the bluegrass music scene and bluegrass aficionados and musicians across Colorado, every year the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society awards a scholarship that covers the cost of attending the ever-popular RockyGrass Academy held each summer in Lyons.

CBMS is pleased to announcement that this year we'll be sending Jennifer Archer to study bluegrass vocals at the Academy. Jen's essay described her work as an educator and performer. She is entering her sixth season of founding, establishing and nurturing a bilingual arts education school called Ascential Language & Arts School (ALAS), which was founded December 2012 in Ometepe, Nicaragua.

 

Jen has been a part of the local jam scene and worked to incorporate bluegrass into her work with schools both here and in Nicaragua so we're happy to help her on her bluegrass journey.

Here is her winning essay:

 

It is with hope, excitement and gratitude that I write you this application letter for a RockyGrass 2019 Scholarship.  I would like to be considered as a vocal student candidate, representing our diverse, creative and gifted Colorado community.  

In May 2010, I was invited to be a part of a concert series with my professional dance company called Ascential Dance Theatre Colorado (ADTC).  We were asked to collaborate, opening for Taarka during Elephant Revival’s CD release, with the GypsyGrass Fusion band, The Gristle Gals. At the time, I was heavily into creating World Fusion choreographic works using Celtic, Folk and African contemporary and traditional songs.  In the first concert in the series, we were partnered with a local, 5-piece band called Noodle Soup led by Adrian Bradford Alexander. That night was the first time I had ever seen BlueGrass music performed live. I was instantly enchanted. A few months later, and after mentioning how much I have always wanted to sing, I found myself in the studio with Mitchell Ryan rehearsing my very first vocal tune, “There Ain’t No Easy Way” by Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott (Real Time/2000).  As if the challenge were not daunting and intimidating enough, I continued on to play my very first, ten-song live show as a vocalist on New Year’s Day 2011 at The Skylark Lounge in Denver. Mitch has become a long-term artistic collaborator, and eventually my band mate, in BabyWood HatBox, Dust Stompers and El Huracan y Los Ojos. All of these projects are working regularly in Denver and Boulder, featuring our beloved BlueGrass influence in some form. 

I started attending open BlueGrass jams (Int/Adv) in 2011 and cut my teeth under the supervision, direction and subtle criticism of the Littleton pickers (Majestic Dental meetups, eventually manifesting into the Jake’s Jam).  While running two businesses and homeschooling my son Jeylin, I managed to quickly learn almost 100 songs in one year. Because I began working as a professional choreographer at age 12 in 1985, I have a unique gift for being able to swiftly memorize song structures.  In the short eight years I have been hustling my vocal/musical desires and skill set, I have had the privilege of playing songs on stage with the likes of The Sweet Lillies, Chris Thompson/Coral Creek, Bill McKay/True Blue Band, Tyler Grant/Grant Farm, Dust Stompers, Mountain Strange, The Gristle Gals, Dee Dee & the Shakers, Last Sheets on the Roll, Evolucion, El Huracan y Los Ojos and my own band BabyWood HatBox, to name a few.

I am a graduate of Florida State University (Interdisciplinary Social Science, 1997) and I am an arts anthropologist, researcher, lecturer, producer, writer, director and career educator with experience in developing programming specifically designed to suit the needs of any community that calls on my services. For most of my life and career, I have been known as a dancer, choreographer and school director.

Currently, I am entering my sixth season of founding, establishing and nurturing a bilingual arts education school called Ascential Language & Arts School (ALAS), which I founded in December 2012 on Ometepe, Nicaragua - a dual volcano island located in the middle of Lago Cocibola/Lake Nicaragua.  Even Mark Twain has visited and written about the island! Commencing with eleven Kindergarten students in the village of Merida, ALAS now serves over 250 students in six different villages annually. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the world and our classes are tuition-free to anyone who attends. Our students learn English and Spanish through Dance, Art, Music, Yoga, Martial and/or Theater. ALAS is the only program of its kind to ever operate on Ometepe and now features programs in the US. All of these blessings combined are beyond what I ever imagined for my life and work.

While building this dream, my family of three has lived without power, internet, running water, flooring, beds, cars and even a refrigerator in order to provide these vital services to our “Isleno” friends and family.  Local schools have now started offering us positions as full-time developers and collaborators, featuring specific focus on American arts traditions. Now embraced as members of the local community, our return is anticipated annually.  It is widely known that we represent the great state of Colorado and we are frequently referred to as “NicaRados.” Our next tour we plan to venture further into the process of building teacher housing intended to host our growing annual roster of Colorado and Florida guest professors.  

One of the most colorful truths about this experience is that my husband bought me a washboard for my birthday in 2012 and I ended up washing clothes on it for six months while living a half mile up a volcano! Living “off-grid” is not easy, but our family has highly developed survival and construction skills.  Because of our commitment to our school and lives on Ometepe, and the fact that we cannot yet legally work in Nicaragua, we have to be extremely vigilant about saving and raising money while in the United States. ALAS is a humbled, triple recipient of Burners Without Borders competitive grant award, this year receiving one of twenty four grants out of 340 global applicants.  All fundraising monies go toward ALAS construction projects.

My husband Jamey, our son Jeylin and I are focused and committed to continuing to enrich ourselves through artistic education experiences that we can bring back to our beloved Nicaraguan communities.  BlueGrass culture has enveloped us and we are hungry for a deeper understanding and study. There are only two professional bands on Ometepe and I am a guest artist (vocalist/percussion) in both of them, performing traditional and popular cover songs in both English and Spanish.  I am often asked to share my BlueGrass talents. These treasured opportunities have provided ALAS a vehicle to reach more families, students and potential venues for classes and performances. I am a native English speaker who chose to learn Spanish fluently in order to better serve my students in Nicaragua.  

I believe I am a strong candidate for a 2019 RockyGrass Scholarship because the unique, priceless training I will receive will be implemented into my diverse outreach, educational and professional performing opportunities. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Best indeed,
Jennifer Archer

 

My Top Ten Bluegrass Albums of 2018

After Pick, A Pow’r Pickin’ Column

By David Smith

1 - 3. Top Three, in no particular order:

Town MountainNew Freedom Blues
Bobby BrittAlaya
Songs From The Road BandRoad to Nowhere

That’s right, coming in at #1 in bluegrass for 2018 is a tie among three albums. I’m a huge fan of the ol’ five-disc CD changer and recently put these three in rotation (along with Tyler Childers’ 2017 release, Purgatory, and some ‘70s-era Marshall Tucker Band). I often had a hard time distinguishing one from the others. 

If you have a day ahead in your life with plans to be around the house, starting into a few beers in the early afternoon, as you work toward the backyard grill with friends stopping over – I couldn’t recommend this mix more. I’m sure there’s a five-disc changer at your local pawn shop, you should damn well already have Purgatory, and Marshall Tucker Band’s A New Life can be ordered at your nearest record store. 

And for a few words on each of these “tying-for-first” best bluegrass albums of 2018: I admit with no shame that Town Mountain has made my “Top 10” list every year that they’ve put out an album. The reason is quite simple: they’re the best. Ha. Please don’t take this as demeaning the fluid jams of the Infamous Stringdusters or the dark and truthful songwriting of Greensky Bluegrass or the rock of Leftover Salmon

I’d make a bet that the musicians of those groups would agree when it comes to life on the road, straight-ahead lonesome original songwriting with a heavy lean toward that honky-tonk early bluegrass sound, Town Mountain is the best. And that’s the sound I love. 

Bobby Britt. Photo by Libby Gamble.

Bobby Britt walks the line. He’s young and he’s seasoned. He’s old-time and he’s bluegrass. He’s technical and he’s natural. His album, Alaya pulls these juxtaposing forces together with each bowing note and lingering, melodic line. Additional treats on the album include Andrew Marlin on vocals, as well as Allison de Groot on clawhammer banjo (distinct and pronounced throughout the recordings). As fans of Mandolin Orange know, Marlin’s vocals are haunting, crying, yet laidback, while delivering a song as a story to hold on to and remember for its lessons to learn.   

With Charles Humphrey III leaving a steady gig to tour with his bluegrass brethren of Songs From The Road Band, they have become a road-warrior, live-in-concert version of what many have known only as an under-the-radar outlet for Charles’ original songwriting prowess. 

Even with the under-the-radar nomenclature, Songs From The Road Band has hardly been resting on the laurels of Charles’ success with the Steep Canyon Rangers, or sitting idle until his next muse might happen by – this is their fourth release, with the first dating back to 2006! Like previous releases, Road to Nowhere brings together the superb talents of Charles’ cowriters (Jim Lauderdale, Shawn Camp, Phil Barker) and musician friends from decades in bluegrass music (Andy Thorn, Robert Greer, Jon Stickley). 

Here we also find the common thread (fiddle string?) of our top three tying bluegrass albums of 2018: Bobby Britt.  

 

*Songs From The Road Band can be seen at the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, April 12-14. 

 

4. Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey

John Duffey is like the Rodney Dangerfield of bluegrass: “I don’t get no respect!” His stage presence was also more in line with Dangerfield than the polished acts of his day. But I loved it, and I was honored to see it, many times growing up in Northern Virginia in the shadow of the Birchmere

The respect I’ve always had for John Duffey is spreading, both through this exceptional collection of music, and an upcoming biography, coauthored by non other than Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene Duffey collaborator, Tom Gray

Epilogue is high on my list for a couple reasons: the nostalgia factor that I allude to, and the fact that the release is no “Greatest Hits” of catalog material. This is newly recorded bluegrass by the friends, musical partners and admirers of John Duffey – the best of the best – giving their epilogue to a late great. 

 

*Album contributors Sam Bush and Bela Fleck can be seen at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, June 22-24. 

 

5. Roland White and FriendsTribute to Kentucky Colonels 

Sometimes I wish I lived in Nashville just to happen into the Station Inn on random weeknights and hear Roland White pick and sing. While my observations are from afar, he seems to be like the house band there, performing often and with a rotating cast of band members and sit-ins, all anxious and honored to join the living legend in musical collaboration. 

And this sums up the release, one that should be called Roland White and Friends – Tribute to Roland White. While David Grier, Molly Tuttle and Billy Strings no doubt have brother Clarence channeled, in listening to the album every note sings out in honor of a true ambassador of the genre: Roland White. 

This release also deserves a shout out to another bluegrass ambassador, Jon Weisberger, who co-produced the release, plays bass, sings and helped gather many of today’s most standout musicians to contribute to this honest tribute. 

 

*Weisberger will be with his regular band, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, in neighboring Utah, June 1-2 at the Ogden Music Festival

 

6. FY5 – The Way These Things Go 

I once made the bold statement that FY5 are the Hot Rize for the modern-day generation of bluegrass fans. That statement was not meant to declare Hot Rize as a thing of the past (I hope all readers were able to take in one of their 40th Anniversary shows), but instead the statement is meant to compliment FY5 to the highest degree. 

The group have the interplay, songwriting, tone, humble stage presence and skill of that fabled quartet – along with a modern (dare I say rebellious?) streak that’s all their own.    

 

*FY5 will be at the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, April 12-14, as well as the Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival, June 7-9.

 

7. David Davis and the Warrior River BoysDidn’t He Ramble: Songs of Charlie Poole

Making the list due to my first love in bluegrass: the traditional, real deal, high lonesome sound. I place David Davis in a small group of players who truly bring forth traditional bluegrass in the modern day: Travers Chandler, Audie Blaylock, Danny Paisley, Junior Sisk, and with the passing of James King, that’s about it. And it doesn’t get much better than an old-time bluegrass musician covering the old-time songs of an old-time banjo player. 

 

*Good luck catching David Davis and the Warrior River Boys west of the Mississippi, but more information can be found at http://www.daviddavisandwrb.com.

 

8. Travelin’ McCourys – Self titled 

The Grateful Dead haven’t been covered this many times since Vassar sat in with Dead Grass. Though, like that late great fiddle master, the McCoury boys have reason to bring a Jerry Garcia favorite into the mix: they actually have history with the guy! And, unlike many, many Dead covers in the modern-day (unfortunately), they do these songs justice. On that note, the album is worth ten gold dollars for their nearly eight-minute cover of “Loser” alone. 

 

*The Travelin’ McCourys will be at the Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass Festival, June 7-9. Read Summers Baker’s concert review of The Travelin’ MCourys here.

 

9. Leftover SalmonSomething Higher

As previously stated, my first love in bluegrass is the traditional sound. But nowadays give me a smoky venue with cheep beer on tap, a kind stranger buying shots, friends gathering, a horizon of mountain peaks, snow in the forecast with accumulation just starting, a questionable place to stay for the night, my true love by my side, a Rockmount embroidered snap shirt, running into a dear friend I haven’t seen in years and Leftover Salmon on stage. 

 

*Leftover Salmon can be seen, heard, and felt at “Boogie on the Broadmoor” in Colorado Spring, March 22-24. 

 

10. HawktailUnless

I’ve never been a huge fan of instrumental, technically brilliant bluegrass (having always leaned more toward a grittier, vocal-driven style). But, every so often a recording comes out that shows me what I’ve been missing in not embracing this modern-day aspect of the genre. 

I realize that instrumental bluegrass albums have been released since the earliest days; I say “modern-day” because it seems like 10 years ago or so, a new movement came to bluegrass. I call it the, “Berklee Sound.” I’m referencing of course the hallowed halls of Boston’s Berklee School of Music, where young pickers have been graduating and bringing their flawless style to the national scene. 

With Hawktail you can hear the transition from the scholastic notes of the classroom, to the melodies, tone, and feeling that these hardworking musicians have learned in the school of life, on the road.    

 

*Although the band won’t be out west anytime soon, more information can be found at http://www.hawktailmusic.com

 

Concert Review: The Travelin’ McCourys with Pick & Howl and Scott Slay and the Rail

Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom December 15th, 2018

By Summers Baker

Paul Larson AND ANDREW gORDAN OF pICK & HOWL Photo by Scott Seifert

Paul Larson AND ANDREW gORDAN OF pICK & HOWL
Photo by Scott Seifert

 On December 15th, the Travelin’ McCourys made their second appearance at one of Denver’s premier live music venues, Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom—almost exactly one year after their first appearance there. They were joined this time around by a strong delegation of Colorado bluegrass musicians comprising the two bands Pick & Howl and Scott Slay & the Rail. Both opening bands brought their own piece of Colorado bluegrass to the room.

Pick & Howl brought the high energy we’ve all come to expect from the Colorado jamgrass scene. The highlight of their set was an original tune called “Roses by Her Bed,” a rock anthem stitched together with a catchy melodic hook played by the Dobro.

Scott Slay & the Rail brought the more traditional side of the genre to the crowd, though they made sure to bust out one of the most iconic newgrass tunes, “Same Old River,” which had the crowd singing along. As with any show at Cervantes, the energy was high.

When the Travelin’ McCourys walked on stage, they were poised and confident. Ronnie McCoury looked around the crowd with his relaxed eyes like a head chef at the best restaurant in town. His younger brother, Rob McCoury, tuned his banjo on stage, smiling. The crowd filled their beers and partook in their various pre-show rituals, and then the McCourys launched into their first tune, sung by their fiddle player, Jason Carter.

COdy Kilby and rONNIE mCcOURY  Photo by Scott Seifert

COdy Kilby and rONNIE mCcOURY
Photo by Scott Seifert

I always laugh when I hear the McCourys live, because it is just hard to believe that each of those musicians is THAT good. Solo after solo, song after song, they just kept ramping up the energy. Their guitarist, Cody Kilby, flatpicked a solo in the first song, and I nearly had to pick my jaw up off of the floor. The same went for every musician up there. For that hour and a half, the five best bluegrass musicians currently in Colorado were all on stage together at Cervantes. I found myself laughing at some point in every song.

And then, just in case we forgot, Ronnie reminded us as he introduced his fellow musicians that almost every band member was IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) royalty. Every Travelin’ McCoury but Kilby has been awarded Instrumentalist of The Year in his instrument category. Ronnie himself has been awarded mandolinist of the year eight times by IBMA.

Ronnie made the rounds, listing off each member’s pedigree with that same whimsical chuckle we’ve come to know from his father, Del. After each introduction, the introduced musician showed the crowd what Ronnie meant when he said, “They are one of the best in the business.”

coDY kILBY  Photo by Scott Seifert

coDY kILBY
Photo by Scott Seifert

He introduced their bass player, Alan Bartram, who led a tune off of their latest record called “Hardest Heart.” Alan commanded the slow-tempo song with power and clarity, and his voice was reminiscent of that high-lonesome sound brought to fruition by the first generation of bluegrass musicians. Alan was my favorite musician to watch up there.

The musical highlight of the night for me was when, right after a couple of raging traditional tunes, the band dropped into a moody rendition of Bruce Hornsby’s “White Wheeled Limousine,” sung by the fiddle player, Jason Carter. The song was a stark departure from the more traditional sounds that I have come to know from the Travelin’ McCourys. The song incorporated twisted, jazz-like melodies and clearly orchestrated material stacked up against emotional, open-ended jams.

The McCourys have developed a reputation as being among of the bastions of the traditional bluegrass style in the 21st century. Their albums are grounded in the traditional sounds, and they pay close attention to how that sound is articulated to their listeners. The solos they take are all nods of respect to the great musicians of the mid 20th century. In their music you can hear Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Kenny Baker, Tony Rice and a whole host of other musicians that are responsible for the music that we love today.

Rob McCoury Photo by Scott Seifert

Rob McCoury
Photo by Scott Seifert

I was initially surprised to hear that a traditional bluegrass band was bringing their music to Cervantes, which has a reputation for throwing shows that are anything but quiet. Why weren’t The Travelin’ McCourys playing all over Colorado to seated, quiet crowds? Why was I watching Rob McCoury rip through a Scruggs tune through a haze of smoke?

The answer, for me, came at a moment in the show when Rob was rounding the corner on his fourth time through a solo. The crowd was dancing and yelling, and as he rounded that corner and drove the energy up another notch, I saw a few people in front of me stop dancing. They just stared in awe at the sonic madness coming from that banjo.

Yes, The Traveling McCourys are a traditional bluegrass band, but they have found a home in other arenas. When it comes down to it, playing to a crowd of party people is just downright fun, and I could see it on each of their faces throughout the night as we all rode that beautiful wave together.

 

CBMS Announces 2019 "Bluegrass at The Audi" Concert Series

CBMS Announces 2019 "Bluegrass at The Audi" Concert Series

Nothing warms the heart like some hot bluegrass music during the cold winter months here in Colorado and the hottest music is coming your way in the best venue for live music on the Front Range, the Broomfield Auditorium.

The Colorado Bluegrass Music Society announces its 2019 line up of artists in this ever popular concert series.

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