Cliff divers, and rhythms & beers on the rio

Cliff divers, and rhythms & beers on the rio

Parsonsfield blends folk and rock with craft beers on Saturday at the inaugural Pine River Brewfest in Bayfield.

Chris Aaland - 08/02/2018

After a few relatively quiet weeks, festival season rears its rowdy head once again, with three offerings within an easy drive of Durango. I’m regretting the fact that I’ll miss all three. The whole clan packs into the Tundra for a trek across the state to a family reunion, of all things. My late mother’s sisters and cousins have organized an Aaland Family Reunion at the Fjellheim Lodge of the Sons of Norway in Colorado Springs on Saturday. With any luck, Otto and Rosie will be forced to digest lutefisk, pickled herring and lefse and waive the Norwegian flag while their Dad trades shots of aquavit with Dakota and Minnesota farmboys.

In all seriousness, the last several times I’ve seen my aunts, uncles and cousins have been at funerals – Grandma Aaland’s, Mom’s and my brother, Billy’s. Billy was far and away the youngest grandchild of John and Gladys Aaland, while I was the oldest by several years. The remaining five of us are spread out across Colorado, Texas and California. Without Grandma and Grandpa, the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings are no more, replaced by Facebook likes and the far-too-infrequent phone call.

The trek also gives me a chance to share some of my childhood with my kids. I’ll show them all the sights in Colorado Springs – the house where Grandpa Bill was raised, the hospital where I was born, etc. But what I’m really looking forward to is taking my kids to a veritable Denver landmark for lunch on Sunday. “South Park” fans rejoice! I’m talking about Casa Bonita. My sister’s first job was there, so we dropped by frequently. Yeah, the food sucks. Even back in the mid-’80s there was nothing special about it. But the mariachis, the cliff divers and Black Bart’s Cave! What more could a youngling want in a dining experience? The choice was staying at an overpriced motel in the Springs or driving up to Denver to stay at my sister’s house for free. I’ll miss Sunday services at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, where Otto and I were baptized, and a family pizza feast at the park because of our northern detour, but when I raise my flag for a second serving of sopapillas, it will all be worth it.

he trip means I’ll miss the Black Lillies as they’re welcomes back by KSUT and the Henry Strater Theatre at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thur. Aug. 2). Since forming a decade ago, Cruz Contreras' band has released four records chock full of his insights on life, love and the open road. Now a four-piece, rockin' honky-tonk machine, the Lillies are ready to release their first album since 2015. Regulars to the area, their shows typically sell out and are raucous dance affairs.

The family reunion also means we won’t have to draw straws over which festival we’ll attend this weekend.

The 42nd annual Telluride Jazz Festival takes place this weekend up in Town Park. Jazz has become perhaps my favorite of the major Telluride festivals, if for no other reason than a crowd size that’s usually a fraction of those at Bluegrass or Blues & Brews. It’s a casual affair where you come and go, place down your tarps and blankets with ease, and kick back and enjoy jazz, funk, blues and, most years, a host of New Orleans sounds. Lines at complimentary wine and bourbon tastings and even a free Sunday Bloody Mary bar are the only ones you’ll wait in.

This year, the musical lineup is stacked. Headliners include Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers; Irma Thomas Soul Queen of New Orleans; Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe; and Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band (yes, that Jaimoe from the Allman Brothers). Further down the lineup, you’ll find Turkuaz, GoGo Penguin and the Lao Tizer Quartet, among others. I’ve been digging on Lao Tizer for several months now, based on the strength of the keyboardist’s latest offering, “Songs From the Swinghouse.”

Across Wolf Creek Pass in South Fork, Rhythms on the Rio serves up a host of jamgrass bands and more on the banks of the Rio Grande. Guitar virtuoso Keller Williams teams up with the Hillbenders to present the PettyGrass tribute to Tom Petty. Salmonheads can rejoice over the stripped down trio of Leftover Salmon veterans Drew Emmitt, Vince Herman & Andy Thorn. The Jeff Austin Band and Dumpstaphunk are also among the top draws. Even the undercard is strong, with Halden Wofford & the Hi*Beams, Euforquestra, Grant Farm, the Giving Tree Band, the Wooks, and Wood & Wire all appearing. Local bands like Liver Down the River and Elder Grown will also appear.

Closer to home, Bottom Shelf Brewery and the Be Frank Foundation present the inaugural Pine River Brewfest from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday in Bayfield’s Eagle Park. Regional beers and spirits will be available, while the lineup features three up-and-coming Americana acts. All proceeds benefit the Be Frank Foundation, which provides music classes for students and families in the Bayfield area.

Headlining the shindig is Parsonsfield, a New England-based quintet that formed as an offshoot from the University of Connecticut’s folk music club. Blending folk, rock and rootsier genres, they’ve released two albums and a pair of EPs on Signature Sounds Records, one of the leading Americana labels around.

The River Arkansas hails from various locations in Colorado, including Boulder, Pueblo, Trinidad and Saguache. Mike Clark, who actually lived along the banks of the Arkansas River in Pueblo, wrote a collection of songs about heartbreak, love and escaping the clutches of day-to-day society in 2014. The band that recorded those songs the following spring became the River Arkansas, forging country, blues, folk and Americana into a unified sound.

Sam Morrow is a rising star in the Los Angeles country scene, thanks in large part to his album, “Concrete and Mud,” which is rooted in Texas twang, southern stomp and old school funky-tonk. He’s among a growing pack of West Coast artists like Sam Outlaw, Jaime Wyatt and Jade Jackson.

The best thing I’ve heard this week is “Lifted,” the seventh album from ambient indie rocker Israel Nash. Echoes of Steely Dan, Bowie, Wilco, and Iron and Wine permeate throughout this Texas native’s new record. Highlights are the lead singles, “Rolling On” and “SpiritFalls,” although the dozen songs weave together in a cohesive fashion much like U2’s “The Joshua Tree” or Neko Case’s “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.” It’s a lush soundscape populated by soulful lyrics and clever hooks. Nash is poised to join kindred spirits like Ryan Adams, Alejandro Escovedo and Jeff Tweedy atop the contemporary mountain of Americana voices.

As warrior sires have made her, wealth and fame increase? Email me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.

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