The Meltdown edition

The Meltdown edition

Award-winning artist Becky Buller and her band are one of the many acts performing around town for this weekend's Bluegrass Meltdown.

Chris Aaland - 04/19/2018

Boy howdy! The 24th annual Durango Bluegrass Meltdown takes over downtown Friday through Sunday at six different venues, in what’s the unofficial start to festival season. Unless you’re a hardcore bluegrass aficionado, the names might not be familiar, but don’t let that scare you. This year’s lineup is perhaps the best in Meltdown history. Before we break down the talent this year, I’ll offer up some tips for both seasoned veterans and newbies alike.

Tip No. 1: The Henry Strater Theatre serves as Meltdown’s home base, but national, regional and local talent rotate from one stage to the next throughout each day. This is good to know, because there are only about 250 seats at the Hank, and they fill up as soon as the doors open. Bands play the Durango Arts Center all three days, and its seating doesn’t fill up nearly as quickly. The Wild Horse Saloon also hosts bands from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and from 11-4 Sunday. New this year is the addition of the Animas City Theatre from 11-5 Saturday. Past experience tells me these additional venues won’t be nearly as packed.

Tip No. 2: Don’t leave your seats when the local bands take the stage. You’ll thank me later when you’re sitting front and center for the headliners. Besides, it takes a herd of local pickers to form a music scene – something we’re fortunate to have here. The 17 local bands on the bill range from newcomers to seasoned veterans. Some of the hardest working groups in the Four Corners – Six Dollar String Band, StillHouse Junkies, Last Nickel and La La Bones, among others – circle this date on their calendars each year. The aforementioned groups all have CDs, play bars and benefits around our region regularly, and pull out all the stops for Meltdown. Plus, local “legacy” acts like the Bar D Wranglers, the Badly Bent, Lawn Chair Kings and the Blue Moon Ramblers, have been entertaining us for decades.

Tip No. 3: Check out the free show at the Powerhouse Science Center from 5-7 Friday night. StillHouse Junkies and the Colorado College Bluegrass Ensemble perform and there’s ample beer to get a jump start on your main stage buzz later in the evening.

Tip No. 4: Don’t miss Saturday night’s Super Jam. Members of the national, regional and local groups will cluster pluck from 7-9 at the Hank, meaning once-in-a-lifetime collaborations on bluegrass classics. Annie Savage, of Savage Heart, will serve as your host and tour guide.

Tip No. 5: Get your honky-tonk on at the Durango Arts Center from 7:30-10 Saturday night with the Western Centuries. This three-headed monster features three singer/songwriter/guitarists: Cahalen Morrison, Ethan Lawton and Jim Miller (best known as a co-founder of Donna the Buffalo). Western Centuries ain’t no grass: they’re rooted in vintage country, with smatterings of rock, R&B and Cajun. Electric guitars and drums will fill the room with a wall of sound.

Tip No. 6: Bring your dancing shoes to the Elk’s Lodge from 7:30-10 Saturday for the Old-Time Barn Dance featuring Six Dollar String Band. The Meltdown board opted not to book a national old-time group this year because Six Dollar has stolen the show in recent years. Rumor has it that one of the members of the Freight Hoppers rather bluntly told bassist Stephen Sellers that Six Dollar was the #@%$! Judas Priest of the old-time world. High praise, indeed, methinks.

Tip No. 7: Make it your mission to catch each of the following national and regional bands this weekend:

• Becky Buller Band (Friday & Saturday): In 2016, Becky won International Bluegrass Music Association awards as Best Vocalist and Best Fiddle Player, marking the first time ever that an individ-

ual has won Best Of awards for singing and picking in the same year. Her latest album, “Crepe Paper Heart,” is simply stunning. Her vocals are as pure as Alison Krauss,’ and the band plays some of the most genuine bluegrass around. Keep your eye on her ringer, banjo man Ned Luberecki, who is worthy of the main stage in his own right. Catch them live on the airwaves for a KSUT Session at 10:06 a.m. Friday. • Molly Tuttle (Saturday & Sunday): Molly is rapidly becoming an Americana treasure. She became the first woman ever to win the IBMA Guitarist of the Year award last fall. Local fans were introduced to her innovative, clawhammer guitar style at last year’s Pagosa Folk’n Bluegrass Festival. Molly’s debut album, 

“Rise,” showcases her talents as a singer and songwriter as well.

• Mile Twelve (Saturday & Sunday): This fresh, hard-driving young band walks the line between traditional bluegrass and original, new acoustic music. They met in Boston, where individual members studied and/or taught at Berklee College of Music. Their membership hails from all over the map – New England, New York, Virginia, South Carolina and New Zealand. I’ve become a huge fan of their debut record, “Onwards.”

• The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys (Friday & Saturday): If you like your bluegrass high and lonesome, served in a Dixie cup with a whiskey neat on a back porch, then this quartet hollers at you. They’ve been kicking grass in the Great Smoky Mountains for the past several years.

• James Reams & the Barnstormers (Saturday & Sunday): This is for fans of Old School bluegrass. Pupils should note that the Old School teaches the three E’s: edgy, emotional and excit-ng. Reams formed his Barnstormers in 1993, and they’ve been entertaining for nearly 25 years. Reams & Co. are Meltdown veterans, having last played here five years ago.

• Ginny Mules (Saturday & Sunday): This mostly female Denver quintet is one of the bands I’m most looking forward to. They add a bit of bluesy jam to their sound. Hear for yourself at their KSUT Session at 11:06 Friday morning.

• Jeff Scroggins & Colorado (Saturday & Sunday): It just wouldn’t be Meltdown without the award-winning banjo picker Jeff Scroggins, his mandolin wunderkind offspring Tristan and their Cash-styled vocalist Greg Blake.

• The Savage Hearts (Sunday): Annie Savage leads this regional supergroup formed on the Front Range. She guides them through a twin fiddle assault of bluegrass, western swing and honky tonk that would make Hank, Patsy and Johnny take notice.

It moans and whispers through the pines? Email me at chrisa@gobrainstorm.net.

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