With the rugged landscape of the Rocky Mountain foothills comes an unparalleled evolution in music. Bluegrass has swept through the hills and into the towns, echoing the twangs of banjos and mandolins alike. Colorado has guaranteed its place in the hearts of true bluegrass artists, including these three musicians who share with us how the front range has influenced the music they play today.
Andy Hall, The Infamous Stringdusters
Lover of bluegrass, the environment and tattoos, Andy Hall has seen the evolution of bluegrass take flight right before his eyes. Hall has been a member of the Grammy winning band, The Infamous Stringdusters, since their formation in 2005 and plays the dobro. You could describe them as a bluegrass driven, psychedelic jam rock with Southern soul with an air of freedom that is found right here in the front range.
“For some reason, there has always been a connection between the mountains and bluegrass music. I think people who seek authenticity gravitate toward both the outdoors and unpretentiousness real music. That makes the front range an active place for bluegrass and the weirdos that make it,” says Hall.
“There’s a feeling of freedom that comes from seeing those mountains every day, so here we are, gathered together in search of freedom and authentic experiences. It truly is a rich, diverse area for bluegrass and I’m surprised more people have noticed what’s happening out here musically.”
Andy Thorn, Leftover Salmon
Andy Thorn knew something clicked when he bought a banjo at a neighbor’s yard sale when he was twelve-years-old. Thorn has been a fan of Leftover Salmon since he was in high school, never thinking that he would someday be a part of the band. But in 2010, Thorn joined the band with his banjo and continued his pursuit of bluegrass from a different point of view.
“Growing up in North Carolina, traditional bluegrass was king. That being said, I love that I got to learn the roots of the music there with the old school pickers. But from the first time that I came out to Colorado to play, I sensed a freedom in the growing jam grass movement that wasn’t yet present down South.
You could play however you felt without getting judged for being too flashy, or not playing it like ‘Earl [Scruggs].’ This freedom has brought some of the best progressive bluegrass musicians in the world to live in the front range of Colorado. I’ve been here since 2008 and watching the scene explode since then has really been something,” says Thorn.
Paul Hoffman, Greensky Bluegrass
Paul Hoffman is one of two singer/songwriters and plays the mandolin in the band. Originally from Michigan, Hoffman moved to Colorado recently. Greensky Bluegrass is known as a progressive rock jam band with bluegrass instruments, and their music reflects acoustic bluegrass instrumentation and lyrical songs that lean heavily toward psychedelic rock.
“The Colorado front range is an awesome music community. A lot of cities have seen a specific type of music blossom and become their own, like Seattle grunge, Detroit R&B, Atlanta hip-hop, etc. But Denver seems to be a wealth of success and popularity for all types,” Hoffman says. “The progressive bluegrass movement might be bigger here than anywhere else, but we are all sort of from elsewhere, and all the other genres do so well in this city. It’s truly a live music mecca.”