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The Clumsy Lovers try to seduce Aspenites tonight

Stewart Oksenhorn

Chris Jonat always envisioned himself as a rocker, growing up listening to classic rock bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

But fate has dealt Jonat an odd hand. When the bass player helped to form the Six Million Dollar Band some six years ago, he found himself surrounded by a very un-rock ‘n’ roll lineup that included a pair of bagpipers and an accordionist.

“So it was real Celtic,” said Jonat. “That was the obvious way to go with that instrumentation.”

Jonat stuck with the band, watching it go through a name change, to the Clumsy Lovers, and helping to move the band in a more rocking direction. As the bagpipers and accordionist took leave, the Clumsy Lovers picked up fiddler Andrea Lewis, and Jonat’s brother Cameron on drums, both of whom added more of a rock element to the sound. With Lewis on fiddle, Trevor Rogers playing mandolin as well as guitar, and Brad Gillard on banjo, and a repertoire that includes plenty of jigs and reels, the Clumsy Lovers still have a distinct Irish accent. But Jonat makes sure they still rock.

“We don’t want to be a folk act, or a Celtic act, or a bluegrass act,” said Jonat, who leads the Vancouver, B.C.-based Clumsy Lovers to their Aspen debut tonight at the Grottos. “We grew up with rock, and we want to be a rock band. We use the Celtic sounds to make us unique.”

The band’s songlist also goes a long way to making the Clumsy Lovers stand out from the pack. On their most recent album, “Live!” the band covers Bob Marley and “Orange Blossom Special,” and does a country swing version of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” With the Jonat brothers manning the rhythm section, it seems unlikely that any Clumsy Lovers show will be a sit-and-listen affair.

If there is any category of band Jonat aspires to, it is the newgrass-jam bands, represented best by a trio of Colorado-based acts – String Cheese Incident, the Tony Furtado Band, and Leftover Salmon. All base their style in string music and use at least some acoustic instruments, but also are easily able to extend a song with instrumental jams.

The Clumsy Lovers have been playing upwards of 200 shows per year, almost entirely in the Pacific Northwest and farther down the Pacific coastline. But they are on their second tour of Colorado, figuring Coloradans should make for a good audience for their kind of music.

“Every time you hear about a new bluegrass or newgrass band, it seems they’re from Colorado,” said Jonat. “It seems like there’s an endless supply.”


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