By Summers Baker
The two members of Hazel Hue are mountain boys. Alex Koukov (guitar/banjo) lives in Lyons, right at the confluence of the North and South St. Vrain Rivers. He stores his muddy mountain bike in his garage next to a pile of disassembled bike parts, and when he's not playing music on the weekends, he can be found somewhere on the Front Range with two wheels beneath him. Bridger Dunnagan, who plays fiddle and octave mandolin, lives in Denver. On warm nights in the spring and fall, he likes to sleep outside in his tent. Bridger has plans to move up to a small cabin in Eldora soon, and come September, he will be heating his home the old fashioned way.
When these two mountain spirits get together to share music, they call themselves Hazel Hue - a reference to a Townes Van Zandt song called “Loretta” (“…sparkling eyes of hazel hue”). They just released their first record last month at The Walnut Room to an attentive crowd of friends and family.
As with many records that come from Colorado, the seeds of the music were sown years before the group entered the studio to track the songs.
Alex and Bridger met in Bozeman, Montana, where they bonded over a love for fiddle music. They spent much of their time in college playing in a local band called The Hollowtops, and when that project ended, they decided to keep writing songs together. It was also around then that the idea of moving to Colorado surfaced.
“I moved to Colorado because I had come to RockyGrass and Telluride festivals in the summer, and began meeting people that way,” says Bridger. Alex was raised in Boulder, so the move to Colorado was a natural step for the two.
Both saw an opportunity to make their living playing music in the Colorado bluegrass scene, and it wasn't more than a few months after moving that they were playing regularly with various bluegrass projects around the Front Range. Through their first year in Colorado, they kept working on their songs while maintaining a busy gigging schedule.
They took their time working on the music, knowing that they wanted to eventually put a record out. “We sort of just waited until it felt right,” Bridger says.
And now, that music is out in the world in the form of a CD titled, “Tulip”. They brought the record to fruition with a successful Kickstarter campaign in late 2018 that raised just under $15,000, and they tracked it at the prestigious Swingfingers recording studio.
As with every record put out by Aaron Youngberg at Swingfingers, the rich instrument tones and bright vocals of the band are always on full sonic display.
There are songs on this record that I listened to for the first time while driving into the mountains, and they felt right in that space. I also know from experience that this record can be enjoyed while driving to one of the weeknight picks along the Front Range. For that venture, I recommend “Sick, Sad and Lonesome.” If you feel like gliding around the kitchen while you cook dinner, try “Elk River Blues,” the duo’s take on the traditional old-time tune.
There is no lack of places and feelings that warrant the playing of this record, but above all, I would recommend just sitting down and listening through. This record deserves that attention.
Hazel Hue’s “Tulip” is available on CD Baby as a complete album or as individual track downloads.