Sturgill, More Music and Songs From the Road

Sturgill, More Music and Songs From the Road

Legendary Jamaican reggae singer Big Youth headlines the More Music Festival, which takes place Sunday in Buckley Park.

Chris Aaland - 06/21/2018

For the 45th year in a row, the tribes will gather in Town Park for Telluride Bluegrass, the pinnacle of festival season. All the usual suspects will be on hand – jam bands like Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass and the Infamous Stringdusters, plus seasoned vets like the Del McCoury Band, Peter Rowan, Tim O’Brien and, of course, the King of Telluride, Sam Bush. This year’s bill also features a handful of newcomers, like string-breaking ace Billy Strings, known as the fastest picker in Nashville; the retro R&B & soul purveyors in St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and the new reigning champion of alternative country music, Sturgill Simpson.

I’ll be there for the 22nd year in a row. I always used to wonder back in the late ’90s when emcee Pastor Mustard would ask the crowd, who’s been to 10 Tellurides? 15? 20? Now I know how the old-timers felt back then. Friends have come and gone. Some lost interest; many moved away; still others died. Now I’m the scruffy graybeard in a crowd full of fit and energetic thirtysomethings.

I keep coming back for two reasons: First, the friends. Our Front-of-the-Line Gang, which sleeps out in line each night to fetch front row tarp space the next morning, started when Shelly and I put our sleeping bags next to a frenetic hippie named Scott Spencer. He and his wife, Sara, introduced us to Billy Bob & Peggy Sue Richard, a couple that is 20-some years older than us. Billy Bob had retired as a Canadian wildcatter and relocated to Telluride. We combined forces so that we could take turns sleeping in line. Two decades later, we’ve grown into one family.

The second reason is the ever-changing lineup. At first glance, the schedule is littered with some of the same names we’ve seen from the beginning: Sam, Jerry, Be?la, Tim, Edgar, Peter and Left-over. Others, like the Nickel Creek kids (Chris Thile, Sara & Sean Watkins), Yonder, Greensky and the Dusters, practically grew up in front of us. But it’s the new stuff, particularly rising stars like Simpson, that piques my interest. He first showed up on the scene with “High Top Mountain” in 2013. It was a traditional country affair, with his whiskey-smooth voice reminiscent of Waylon Jennings. Just 11 months later, he truly burst out with “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music,” a psychedelic country offering fueled by the single, “Turtles All the Way Down.” His third record, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” added a horn section and cemented his reputation as one of country’s new visionaries. This ain’t no bro country. It’s sophisticated stuff, transcending politics, spirituality and affairs of the heart.

Since its inception, Telluride has booked artists similar to Simpson. Recent years have seen Margo Price, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile and Zac Brown grace their stage. We old-timers caught Lyle Lovett, Guy Glark, John Hiatt, Steve Earle and Robert Earl Keen there. I’ve seen both Willie and Cash at Telluride Bluegrass. The sign over the stage, after all, has always said “Telluride Bluegrass & Country Music Festival.”

Bluegrass got you down? KSUT & Piedra Entertainment present the inaugural More Music Festival, an all-day reggae affair Sunday in Buckley Park. Legendary Jamaican reggae singers Big Youth and Robert Minot headline, along with a strong under-card that includes both national talent (Houston’s Idiginis and Denver’s Harry Mo) and local acts (Telluride’s Niceness, and our own Buster’s Ghost and Afrobeatniks, among others). There’s also morning yoga and drum circles. The whole shindig kicks off at 8:45 a.m., with music starting at 10. KSUT will sell Ska beers and Guy Drew wines and sangria to quench your thirst.

You don’t have to leave the area to catch bluegrass this week, as Songs From the Road Band plays a free show in Montezuma Park in Cortez from 5-8 p.m. tonight (Thurs., June 21) and a ticketed gig at the Balcony Backstage at 9:30 p.m. Friday. Songs From The Road Band is the brainchild of former Steep Canyon Rangers bassist Charley Humphrey, who left the Grammy-winning supergroup this past winter to focus full-time on SFTRB, which he’d previously recorded three albums of original material with.

The Community Concert Hall and Alpine Bank’s free Concerts @ The Park series continues with the instrumental jazz quintet Union Five from 5:30-7:30 p.m. tonight. Rumor has it that if the phrase “funkadelic acid trip New York” is repeated three times in front of the mirror, Union Five will appear in your living room to musically punch your lights out. What great fun! Erik Nordstrom of Lawn Chair Kings and Farmington Hill infamy is starting a monthly celebration of music and community that will rotate between Mancos Brewery and Fenceline Cidery that he’s calling Erik & Friends. The inaugural event takes place from 5-7 p.m. Sunday at Fenceline featuring Glenn Smith. “Glenn writes excellent folk songs and plays guitar, fiddle and banjo,” the Nord told me. “He will delight folks of all ages with his modern twist of traditional music.”

El Moro Spirits & Tavern hosts another CRAFT food and drink pairing from 6-8 p.m. tonight, with chefs partnering with Colterris Colorado Grand Valley wine and whiskey from Laws Whiskey House (Denver) and Peach Street Distillery (Palisade) for an epicurean adventure. The event features six stations, each with a creative El Moro food offering paired with wine or whiskey. The menu includes crispy glazed pork belly with peach and green chile compote paired with Colterris rose?; wild Alaskan salmon tartar with fennel tzatiki and fennel pollen teamed with Colterris white; sugar steak Wellington with Palisade cherry demi glaze and purple and green asparagus points served with Colterris red; blackberry and balsamic chicken lollipops alongside a Whiskey Smash featuring Laws whiskey; boudin fritters with anise pickled apples accompanied by a Laws whiskey Sazerac cocktail; and banana zeppoles with a rum caramel paired with a Peach St. Sour.

The best thing I’ve heard this week is the “Have Mercy EP” from psychedelic country singer Paul Cauthen. With a booming baritone similar to Johnny Cash, he tackles Trumpian politics in “Everybody’s Walkin’ This Land” to a Major Tom character resigning from his astronaut job to seek solace in a lonely bar in “Resignation.” It’s trippy fodder, for sure.n

You can’t keep your head in the sand? Email me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.

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