SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Pure Prairie League, originally formed in southern Ohio in 1969, is proving that it's not too old to learn new tricks.
The band just added a new drummer in June, it's working on material for a new album and it just added new songs to its set for shows this summer, which include a stop at the free concert series on Fanny Hill July 26.
"We've been mixing it up all the way along the line. We decided to get out some old music, knock off the dust balls,"said bassist and vocalist Mike
Reilly of the songs from Pure Prairie League's first three albums that it decided to start playing again this summer.
"We always do the hits," Reilly said. "But we wanted to add some stuff in, so now our shows are getting longer."
Also new this summer is drummer Scott Thompson, who replaced Rick Schell on June 1.
Having new blood has an impact on the band, "because you've got a different type of a voice, so we've adjusted our blend," Reilly said. Reilly, Thompson and guitarist Donnie Lee Clark all sing vocals. "Also his drumming style ... is very powerful."
Schell left Pure Prairie League to pursue his solo career and dedicate more time to his real estate business. Reilly commented that many talented musicians have come through Pure Prairie League.
"This new guy is a killer. We don't ever want to take steps backward. Pure Prairie League has always been a band that attracts great players and singers. It's been a springboard for a lot of great people," he said, noting several former members including Country Hall of Famer Vince Gill. Reilly, who joined in 1972, and original pedal steel guitarist John David Call are the remaining veteran members of the band.
Pure Prairie League most recently released the album "All in Good Time" - aptly named, Reilly said, since it came out 24 years after the last one - in 2005, five years after the band re-formed.
"When we got back together in 2000 ... we had a back log of material we hadn't recorded," Reilly said. Many of those songs were written by founding member Craig Fuller. They decided to skip a record label and release it themselves, selling CDs at shows and through some smaller distributors.
Now the band is working on new material. What Reilly calls the more "muscular" style of the band's current members, including Thompson, is lending itself to a new sound. People think of Pure Prairie League as being more on the soft side, Reilly said.
"We're putting songs together outside the box of what people would expect from Pure Prairie League," Reilly said. "It's also current. It sounds like 2012."
The band will be ready to start testing those new songs out on the road soon and hopes to have a new album ready for release by Christmas. Reilly said there's no rush, though, at this point in the band's career.
"There's nothing left to prove," he said. "We just insist on doing it right."
Updating the band's sound isn't an attempt to gain a younger generation of followers though.
"People are still listening to us because their parents are making them," Reilly said. "We like our audience the way it is."