Old-timey Americana, red leather pants and newgrass

Old-timey Americana, red leather pants and newgrass

The '80s rise again at 8 p.m. Saturday when Loverboy plays the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio.

Chris Aaland - 05/16/2019

I’ve been fortunate to be a DJ and music writer since the late 1980s, when I was a college DJ at KDUR right on through my current role as on-air host and development director at KSUT. Along the way, I wrote for a couple of local newspapers and served a few local festivals and music boards. With each passing concert or newly released CD, my tastes change. I could sum up my life in three periods: Top 40 rocker in the ’80s; an Americana and alt-country junkie in the ’90s; and a bluegrass guy in recent decades. I’ve seen thousands of concerts and festivals, own tens of thousands of CDs and vinyl records, and am introduced to new artists on a daily basis. I lead a pretty charmed life, musically speaking.

This week’s local entertainment hits on all three eras of my musical upbringing, what with ’80s MTV darlings, ’90s NPR favorites and contemporary newgrassers all performing on local stages.

Iris DeMent quickly became one of America’s most treasured singer/songwriters when she burst onto the scene in 1992 with her debut record, “Infamous Angel.” An Arkansas native, DeMent was the youngest of 14 children who grew up singing in the Pentecostal church. Her music, as rootsy as Americana can get, is equally steeped in the gospel sounds of a church organ and the old-time country coming out of her mother’s radio. You might recognize her best-known songs from television: “Our Town” appeared in the closing scene for the final episode of “Northern Exposure” in 1995, while “Let the Mystery Be” became the musical theme for the opening credits of HBO’s “The Leftovers.” She has released just six albums during her career, the first three hitting the streets between 1992-96. Since, then, her output has been a bit more sporadic: a collection of traditional hymns in 2004, the excellent “Sing the Delta” record in 2012, and 2015’s “The Tackless Woods,” based upon and inspired by Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, translated into English and set to music. She’s also recorded A few well-chosen and highly regarded covers with the likes of John Prine, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Earle & the Del McCoury Band, all chosen with careful consideration.

Iris performs at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thurs., May 16) at the Community Concert Hall. She’ll also join me for a KSUT Session that will air at 3:06 this afternoon, which you can stream at ksut.org or set your FM dial to 90.1 and 89.3 across the county.

The ’80s rise again at 8 p.m. Saturday when Loverboy plays the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio. The five spandex-and-leather clad loveable boys from Calgary tore up American rock radio during that decade, unleashing such classics as “Hot Girls in Love,” “Lovin’ Every Minute of It” and “The Kid Is Hot Tonite.” They were MTV favorites and, as with most suburban teen-age boys of the time, favorites on my turntable. I can’t lie: I still own the first three albums on vinyl. Perhaps it was running the indoor mile inside the gymnasium each week while the gym teacher blared “Working for the Weekend” on the speakers. If I recall, it was 22 counterclockwise laps with Mike Reno’s vocals and Paul Dean’s guitar muted only by sneaker  squeaks on the hardwood floor.

I never did get to see Loverboy live. They lacked the street cred of Van Halen, AC/DC or Ozzy. Instead, they filled the same niche as Journey, REO Speedwagon, Night Ranger and Cheap Trick. They weren’t heavy metal, but they weren’t soft rock, either. Maybe that’s why the boys decorated their brown paper bag book covers with Van Halen and Kiss logos, while the girls etched Journey and REO into theirs. Loverboy formed in 1979 right around the time disco was dying, predating the overly primped second wave of hair metals bands like Poison, Winger and White Lion that stole away the power ballad forever. Strangely, I saw all three of the latter live.

The Jon Stickley Trio has become one of the Four Corners’ favorite groups, and they stop off at the Dolores River Brewery at 8 p.m. Sunday following a string of dates in New Mexico. Stickley, of course, first dropped onto our radar about 15 years ago as a member of the Broke Mountain 

Bluegrass Band, which launched the careers of Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon), Travis Book (Infamous Stringdusters) and Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass). While Stick’s trio hasn’t risen to the festival-headlining status of the other three, he’s forged a unique niche in instrumental-driven, new acoustic music that blends jazz, bluegrass and world music. His ace in the hole is fiddler extraordinaire Lyndsay Pruett, whose style ranges from classical and chamber to old-time and folk. Drummer Hunter Deacon joined the group a year ago.

The Animas City Theatre hosts the alternative rock/ska/reggae trio Pepper at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Formed in 1996 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, the trio of Kaleo Wassman (guitar, vocals), Bret Bollinger (bass, vocals) and Yesod Williams (drums) has toured with some huge names, including Burning Spear, Shaggy, Snoop Dogg and 311. The four-piece Tempe band, Katastro, opens the show.

Stillwater Music holds its ninth annual Party in the Park on Saturday in Buckley Park. This free event features Stillwater Music bands and Durango Arts Center performing arts groups, including Pop Capella, Steel Drum Band, Graphic IQ, Uke Bandits, Metrognomes, Hand Jive, Boom Sonic, Vox Harmonix, 32nd Street Collective and Super Bad. Music gets started at noon and wraps up around dinner time. Food will be available for purchase and there will also be an assortment of kids’ activities.

Elsewhere: Robby Overfield plays tonight’s Ska-B-Q, which starts at 5 p.m. at the World Headquarters in Bodo Park; Spark Madden spins at the Starlight from 9 ‘til close tonight for Plursday; and Six Dollar String Band brings old-time to the Starlight from 5-9 Friday, followed by DJ Hakan from 9 ‘til close; the Black Velvet Trio returns to the Derailed Pour House at 7 p.m. Friday; DJ Affex is back at the Starlight from 9 ‘til close Saturday; and DJ Hakan and Brap the Goat highlight a post-Taste of Durango party at the Starlight from 3-6 Sunday afternoon.

Everybody’s goin’ off the deep end? Email me at chrisa@gobrain storm.net.

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