15th Street Tavern

Folks love folk in Colorado

When people think of Colorado music, they almost immediately think of John Denver. Denver actually wasn’t from Coloradohe was born as Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. in Roswell, New Mexico. Still, Colorado was his favorite state, and his combination of acoustic music and pop was a big hit nationwide.Colorado’s association with folk music goes even further back, though. Bluegrass and traditional music has thrived in the state since the early 20th century, and the Colorado Bluegrass Music Society supports music in the area, hosts festivals and concerts, and has published a magazine in the past called Pow’r Pickin’. During fall 2010, the Grass at the Grange Concert Series is in full swing, with Dr. Harlan’s Amazing Bluegrass Tonic and the Blue Canyon Boys playing on November 6.Judy Collins, who started performing in 1959, graduated from the University of Colorado and played many shows in the state as she was just starting out. She played in genres as diverse as rock and roll, folk, and show tunes and reinvigorated the folk scene in the city.More recent artists have continued the Colorado tradition of melding genres into a unified whole. The Yonder Mountain String Band and Hit and Run both play modern bluegrass with a twist. YMSB is often considered “progressive bluegrass” or “newgrass,” and borrows a heavily from jam band musicjam fans account for a good portion of the band’s audience. Colorado is known for hosting festivals that cater to this distinctive sound, including NedFest, DelFest, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.One of the most influential scenes in Colorado in the last two decades has been Southern gothic, a brand of folk music that also incorporates elements of country, Southern gospel, and neofolk (which itself stems from industrial and experimental sounds). The first purveyors of the sound were 16 Horsepower. Now defunct, members still play in Woven Hand and Lilium. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Jay Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots are also considered prime examples of the sound.With all of this attention being lavished on folk and acoustic music in Colorado today, it’s hard to foresee what things will sound like in the next decade. The only sure thing is that Colorado folk, Americana, and bluegrass isn’t disappearing anytime soonand for fans, that’s certainly a good thing to know. Now go put on a John Denver record (I recommend Take Me to Tomorrow, his 1970 album) and rest easy, knowing that his influence still lives on.