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Sounds of Colorado

Stewart Oksenhorn

Colorado will never be the center of the music world, praise the lord. But those who regularly take in the sounds typically identified with Colorado – good-natured funk, jamming rock, and acoustic styles from country-rock to all strains of bluegrass and newgrass – know that the state is blessed with loads of top talent.

Following are reviews of several recent CDs by Colorado and former Colorado acts showing the many sounds of the state. Tony Furtado Band “Tony Furtado Band” Produced by Cookie Marenco (Cojema Music) For years, the California-born, Colorado-living Tony Furtado has made his way toward the top rung of the acoustic music ladder. He played in the funk-grass band Sugarbeat, and became known for his solo “tweener” banjo sets between acts at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. When he began searching to broaden his sound, Furtado took up the slide acoustic guitar and mixed old-school folk blues in with bluegrass; in the Tony Furtado Band, Furtado brought in drums and electric guitar to go further into new territory.

If Furtado wasn’t quite on the top of the acoustic music world before, “Tony Furtado Band” puts him there. The disc is a wide-ranging one: Kelly Joe Phelps moans blues-style on three tracks, including the moody “False Hearted Lover” and a take on Bill Monroe’s “Molly and Tenbrooks.” Violinist Darol Anger and saxophonist Paul McCandless help take “Tyson’s Dream” into Flecktones country. Pipes, accordion, fiddle and a fleet of percussionists put a worldly spin on the traditional Irish tune “Oaktown Cili.” Furtado takes on vocals for a weary but hopeful take on Woody Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home.”

For all the guest players, exotic instruments and genre-jumping, “Tony Furtado Band” is guided by a clear vision. The sound is rooted in all the styles – Appalachian folk, Celtic, bluegrass, acoustic blues – that make up contemporary acoustic music. But Furtado is far from a traditionalist; he uses a very broad sensibility to combine all those styles and make them something new. On this CD, he nails it good.

The Tony Furtado Band is scheduled to play day one of Groovegrass, July 22 at Sunlight Mountain Resort. 3 Twins, “Trinkets” (Sleeping Elephant) True, deep vocal beauty is an element so often lost in modern rock music, submerged beneath screaming guitars, electronics and pretty-but-bland vocal showboating. There once was a time when rock ‘n’ roll consisted of three chords and maybe a short sax solo, and the band lived or died on its singing.

3 Twins, a Fort Collins band that features former subdudes John Magnie on keyboards and accordion and Steve Amedee on drums, seem on a mission to relive the days of Sam Cook and Fats Domino, when gospel music was a heavy influence on rock. The trio, rounded out by bassist Tim Cook, a.k.a. Mr. Rutherford, place three-part harmonies over and above all else on this debut CD. The emphasis on harmonizing means that none of the three can go off and show off how good a vocalist he is. Instead there is teamwork, which results in amazing soulfulness.

The guitar sounds are tasty but muted, solos short and to the point, rarely taking center stage. Almost every song – the country-swing “This Time,” the street corner rocker “I’m Trying,” the peppy “Julianne” – are about sweet and innocent romance, like most of the earliest rock ‘n’ roll. Not until the last track, “Wyoming Bound,” does “Trinkets” cut loose, with good loud solos by Magnie and guest guitarist Jay Clear.

And for the subdudes fans longing for another taste of the defunct band, check out the stomping, gospel-like “Look at the Day.”

3 Twins play Carbondale’s Performances in the Park series on July 11. David Holster, “Cultural Graffiti” Produced by David James Holster David Holster is best known as having been the main songwriter, as well as singer and guitarist, for the legendary Aspen band Starwood. The band imploded in the late ’70s after scoring a recording contract and putting out two albums on Columbia Records. Holster moved on to Los Angeles a few years ago, but is still making good music, as this new release shows.

Holster’s voice has a casual feel reminiscent of Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, casual but with a meaningful edge. Holster’s songs, nine of which are featured here, demand that edge. The chorus of “Overtime” promises that “we can work it out over time/somewhere down the line,” but the tale of cheating lovers and shoot-outs makes that promise very doubtful. “World of Hunger” allows for a glimmer of hope, but a hope that has to be found “in a world of hunger, in a losing game.” “Silver City Blues” is a neat folk blues, and Holster’s voice gives the tune a modern blues twist, but the expression of longing isn’t designed to lift you up. Neither are the chilling “Bitter Rose,” “Guilty” or the honky-tonk “The Deep End of the Bar.”

On “Cultural Graffiti,” Holster does a good job of conveying a dark, end-of-the-line loneliness – more of an L.A. album than an Aspen thing. The Dags, “One Lone Buffalo” Produced by The Dags with Jeanette Hill You can’t get closer to straight-up rock ‘n’ roll than what the Glenwood Springs-based trio The Dags achieve on “One Lone Buffalo,” their second CD of all-original tunes. And though the self-produced disc, recorded in lead singer-guitarist Dave Hill’s home studio, lacks the sonic depth of a label-backed album, when it comes to solid songwriting, gritty vocals and plain rock ‘n’ roll guts, “One Lone Buffalo” is hard to beat. For fans of the kind of intelligent rock made by John Hiatt or Tom Petty, this won’t disappoint.

“No One Ever Loved Me (Like You Do)” features Hill’s ragged-but-right voice over polished country-rock slide guitar and acoustic rhythms. “She’s Got the Blues” is a catchy finger-snapper that is made by the vocal chorus that closes it. “Play Another Love Song” is a rocking look at the seedy side of life on the road and in the clubs. All of them sound just a few production dollars short of being radio staples. Chupacabra, “plan b” Produced by Chupacabra (Bokonon Records) Mixing musical styles is a tough business. When it’s done right, it doesn’t seem like anything too difficult or different has been done; when it done lousily, it just sucks.

On “plan b,” six-piece Boulder-based band Chupacabra makes it sound easy and real good. Latin beats mix with reggae, funk meets jazz, rock goes African, and nothing’s forced. It just seems to happen like that. (Snap fingers.)

On “Kumbha Mela,” lead singer Cheryl Etu, who doubles on vibraphone, takes that soft, laid-back Brazilian and puts a bit of an American rock kick to it; guest trumpeter Robin Felix Martinez Galvez adds more South American flavor on his solo. The instrumental “Matus” quietly pulses with a mix of strings, horns and keys. Despite the many guest musicians on horns, vocals and percussions, “plan b” manages to convey that sense of wide-open space that makes samba music.

As the band sings on the softly funky “Invisible,” “this is an open door.” Step on in.


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