Spring into Bluegrass at Steve’s

Aspen Times Staff
Aspen, CO Colorado
Denver acoustic quintet Oakhurst plays Sunday, March 25 at Steve's Guitars, closing the Spring into Bluegrass Festival. (Contributed photo)

CARBONDALE ” Pick up tips on picking, or just listen this weekend at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale.

Shop owner Steve Standiford has lined up a slate of touring musicians and local talent for a three-day Spring into Bluegrass festival that features both nightly performances and daytime workshops led by the musicians and singers who will grace the stage.

The concert series, Friday-Sunday, March 23-25, features headliners Stray Grass, Faces of Eve and Oakhurst.

“It seemed like there was a little need for a late winter, going-into-spring bluegrass event, because once summer starts, it explodes,” Standiford explained. “So, I thought it was a good time to get a little dose of bluegrass.”

The workshops, featuring instruction on clogging, singing and picking, cost $20 and are open to participants of all skill levels. The cover charge for the concerts is $15.

Standiford experienced the value of working with a pro last year, when he hosted a workshop with violinist Bobby Yang.

“To have this really direct contact with great players in a small setting is rare,” said Standiford, who hopes participants walk away with new techniques, behind-the-stage advice and inspiration.

“These folks are the professionals out there making a living ” maybe only a little bit of a living ” but they have wisdom and experience they can share,” he said. “Hopefully these workshops will give people a spark and inspiration to play. You can know the chords, but if you don’t have the spark, it doesn’t matter.”

The weekend opens with local musician/clogger Andrea Earley Coen, who has been playing fiddle and dancing for about 20 years. She will conduct the first workshop, in traditional Appalachian clogging, at 5 p.m. Friday.

Coen was first introduced to clogging in 1995, when she began playing fiddle for a dance troupe, the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers.

“I didn’t know what clogging was and I fell in love with it when I first saw it,” she said. “As soon as I joined the group (as a fiddler) I said, ‘I want to do that.'”

While traveling nationally and internationally with the group of roughly 16 dancers and musicians, Coen taught herself many of the steps and transitioned from musical accompaniment to full-time dancer.

Her workshop will cover the history of clogging, the origins of its name and its cultural influences, but most of the time, participants will be dancing ” learning basic steps and putting them together.

“It’s actually very simple,” Coen said. “I think people will be really surprised at how easily they can pick it up.”

Coen will then open the night of music with her husband ” singer/songwriter Matthew Coen ” a member of the California-based band Big Meadow Sky. The music starts at 8:30 p.m.

Following the Coens on stage will be Stray Grass, a Grand Junction band that has a spot on the bill for this year’s North Fork Bluegrass Festival in Paonia. The quartet includes Pete Langford on standup bass, Kerry Youngblood on the “guitjig,” Garry Tullio on mandolin and Guy Stephens on guitar.

Saturday brings a 1 p.m. band workshop with Stray Grass, with members offering tips on such topics as song selection, writing as a band, finding venues and defining one’s audience.

A vocal workshop with Faces of Eve starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, featuring tips on improving one’s vocal skills and basics like breathing technique.

The Faces of Eve are also the headline act for that evening’s concert, which starts at 8:30 p.m. with an opening set by a pair of local musicians ” Kory Krahl and Fred Jarman.

Faces of Eve features a trio of singers ” Celeste Krenz, Liz Barnez and Rebecca Folsom ” who can each claim accolades as solo artists.

Sunday brings Denver-based Oakhurst to the stage at 8:30 p.m. Locals may remember the group’s high-energy rock-bluegrass from its 2005 gig on Carbondale’s Mountain Fair main stage or the band’s last appearance at Steve’s.

“They bring their ‘city-billy’ attitude along with a deep appreciation of the music’s Appalachian roots,” Standiford said.

The group’s talented pickers will lead workshops in guitar, mandolin and banjo on Sunday afternoon ” “a good opportunity to pick up some new songs, licks, maintenance tips, touring skills and great stories about life on the road,” according to Standiford.

Oakhurt’s AP Hill leads a 1 p.m. workshop on acoustic guitar. All levels of players are welcome to learn basic rhythm techniques, chord groups and structure, picking tips and more, including approaches to songwriting and applying lyrics to chord groups. The session will be tailored to the skill level of the attendees.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Adam “Tarzano” Smith tailors a mandolin workshop to the participants, but expect basic chords and tips on jamming on traditional bluegrass tunes. He’ll touch on volume control, dymanics, tips for playing in a picking circle and how to add licks to a tune.

Oakhurst banjo player Zach Daniels heads up a 5 p.m. workshop, offering instruction on basic banjo rolls, chord shapes and how to “do some cool up-the-neck licks,” Standiford predicts. Picking out melody lines and instrument care will also be covered.

Steve’s is at 19 N. Fourth St. in downtown Carbondale. For more, go to