Every year I look at what Colorado music is getting plays at stations around the state. I get feedback from music and program directors, and djs – along with others in the scene and YOU – to come up with what I think is the SOME of the best of the Colorado Playlist for the year.
2017 was a great year for the Colorado Playlist, finishing up 11 years on the air. Thanks to the network of incredible stations that broadcast the show statewide across some 23 FM frequencies… making it the MOST HEARD Colorado music show in Colorado radio history (see list of stations, frequencies and times ) and to our charter supporters – the Historic Mishawaka Amphitheatre and Oskar Blues, without whom this show would not be possible.
It is always my hope that you discover a new personal favorite from here at home. Over the years we’ve seen some incredible talent rise up out of our state. It seems like it happens every year now.
FAN POLL 2017 TOP 10
Our Fan Poll this year was wild. There were 120 titles to vote on this year, an increase of 40 titles from 2016. Fans of TiffanyChristopher and Pint & A Half aka Duke and Tami Sheppard waged a pretty fun battle to see who was going to rally. Pint & A Half’s fans came out on top.
An interesting takeaway was the number of bluegrass and folk inspired bands that rolled up into the TOP 10 of Fan Favs … 5 of the TOP 10 … enjoy.
01. Pint & A Half: Duke and Tami Sheppard – Boomtown Ghosts
02. Tiffany Christopher – Tremendous Heart
03. South to Cedars – Sunny State
04. The Lonesome Days – The Lonesome Days
05. Deep Pocket Thieves – Fate
06. That Damn Sasquatch – Sing My Song
07. Avenhart – Avenhart
08. Michael Morrow & The Culprits – Raucous
09. MLIMA – MLIMA
10. Grant Sabin and the Juke Joint Highball – Bourbon & Milk
BEST OF 2017
Francis and the Wolf “Call of the Wild” from Ladies & Gentlemen (2017) — Recommended if you like Springsteen or the late Tom Petty. Based out of the Boulder/Longmont area, this band broke on the scene in a big way leading up to Bolder Boulder last spring. Expect a new album out in 2018 – hopefully in time for the summer festival season.
Slow Caves “Glares” from Desert Minded (2016) They call themselves synth-punk. If they had come out in 1981 they would have been called New Wave. The band got signed to an indie deal with Cincinnati-based Old Flame Records, performed at Boise’s lauded, Treefort Festival and Austins’ SXSW, and released their Old Flame debut Desert Minded-EP on March 10, 2017.
My Blue Sky “Kick off Them Shoes” from My Blue Sky (2017) – I’m going to have to admit to a certain artistic bias here. MBS is known as the state’s #1 Allman Brothers tribute band. Gregg Allman‘s final album, Southern Blood is my pick for Album of the Year (outside of Colorado). The band backed the likes of the iconic blues artist Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie), as well as Joe Bonamassa, Tommy Castro, Dany Franchi, and Kara Grainger in 2017!
The Hustle Kings “For What It’s Worth (Again)” from Stand Up (Let Love Be Your Guide) (2017) – This song is a personal pick for BEST of 2017. This new version, that features the production and harmonica of Colorado award winning blues artist Dan Treanor is a testament to the idea of timelessness – a song as politically potent today as it was in 1968.
Grant Sabin & the Juke Joint Highball “Homesick” from Bourbon & Milk (2017) For Bourbon & Milk, Colorado Springs bluesman, a protege of the late John-Alex Mason, enlists the aid of Southern Colorado Americana/country-folk singer-songwriter Joe Johnson on rhythm guitar and Kevin Ott on drums to produce what is undoubtedly one of the best blues albums of 2017.
Cary Morin “Laid Back” from Cradle to the Grave (2017) Cradle to the Grave is the final episode in a string of acoustic folk-blues releases over the past several years by longtime Fort Collins music icon Cary Morin and one that has garnered him considerable praise across the country, as he spent what seems like most of the year on the road. Expect a FULL BAND (read: electric) record from Cary in 2018.
Otis Taylor “Twelve String Mile” from Fantasizing About Being Black (2017) There’s not much I can say about Otis that hasn’t been said a gazillion times. He is a Colorado legacy artist, and one of the most prolific over the past twenty years. On his latest he continues to advance what he calls trance-blues – and continues to reflect on the trauma of being black – from the past to the present.
Flobots “Carousel” from No Enemies (2017) Flobots have never shied away from political activism and on No Enemies they espouse a world view that is as much about community as it is the issues that divide us. Stripped down to a much tighter rap-rock production, the album also features Denver’s gospel singers Spirit of Grace, and community youth group the 303 Choir.
Andy Palmer “Black Moses (Harriet Tubman)” from The Switch (2017) – Andy Palmer is a heavy weight who displays a subtle touch of austerity on his third full length – co-written with Amberly Chalberg. On The Switch Andy seems to reach to the past and folk icons like Woody Guthrie and Greenwich Village activist Dave Van Ronk, not in style, but in substance – as Andy continues to reflect on justice and injustice and calls up the spirit of Harriet Tubman among others.
Trout Steak Revival “Spirit” from Spirit to the Sea (2017) On their fourth release over the past eight years the Emmy Award winning and Westword Bluegrass Band of 2017 rips with articulate and virtuoso artistry, turning their bluegrass roots towards more mystical coloring, exemplified by the stunning album cover and songs like Spirit, with each of the five members taking a turn on vocals throughout the album.
The Railsplitters “Everyone She Meets” from Jump In (2017) The Railsplitters are destroying what it means to be bluegrass – investing themselves in directions that strangle the traditional and hug the inevitable evolution of the style. Vocalist Lauren Stovall is enticing, a siren encouraging us to “jump in” and be enveloped by instruments focused on where the style is leading us … far away from its origins.
Keith Oxman “A Vaunt Guard” from East of the Village (2017) – Due to its spontaneity I’ve always found jazz to best be enjoyed in an intimate setting in a small room with a good Malbec. On his ninth album for the Colorado based Capri Jazz, tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman directs a soulful organ based trio featuring Jeff Jenkins (B3) and Todd Reid (drums) … on a record where six of the ten tracks are first takes – a feat in itself.
Great American Taxi “We Can Run” from Dr. Feelgood’s Traveling Medicine Show (2017). Being a taxi, GAT has had one driver (Chad Staehly) and several passengers including original founding member Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon), Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth), Todd Snider and others. On this latest effort, produced by Tim Carbone, the lineup includes Coloradoan Arthur Lee Land on guitars and vocals.
Kyle Emerson “Post-Egomania” from Dorothy Alice (2017) Nostalgic retro-based music doesn’t always work. Too often it appears as a thin shadow of the core influences it’s drawn from. Exceptions in Colorado over the years have included the Apples In Stereo early albums shaped after Pet Sounds era Beach Boys. Enter Kyle Emerson who shows us the depths of the influences he draws on, without being mundane.
Petals of Spain “Daydream” from Daydream (2017) Petals of Spain has proven to be one of the most enigmatic outfits in our scene over the past several years. They have no website, only one review written about them since 2013 and they don’t seem to be an active live performance band – nonetheless they brought forth one of the most lushly produced and musically sophisticated pop records of 2017.
The Still Tide “High Wire” from Run Out EP (2017) The Still Tide put out one of my TOP 5 favorite releases of 2017, based on the number of times I put a song in the show, and the rotation of Colorado releases played in my convertible sports car as I cruised around the twists and turns in the mountains this past summer. Engineer/drummer Joe Richmond’s (Churchill, Tennis, Brent Cowles) rhythms and production along with Jacob Miller‘s guitar and Nate Meese’s consistent bass playing works in bringing out a luminous quality in multi-instrumentalist Anna Morsett‘s singing and songwriting.
Face Vocal Band “Back and Forth” from Big Time EP (2017) – When a band sells 7000 seats at Red Rocks on a Sunday (Aug 6), with no outside promotion, a day after performing a free festival event in the market – then proceeds to set a Red Rocks record for most albums sold by a single band at a single show – and THEN donates OVER $30,000 to Colorado public schools for music education – damned well straight they make my BEST of Colorado 2017. #micdrop
A.J. Fullerton “Oh, Frustration” from Kalamath (2017) At the 2017 Colorado Blues Society “Members’ Choice Awards” A.J. won an unprecedented 8 awards for: Best Guitarist – Best Solo/Duo – Best Band – Best Male Vocals – Best Slide Guitar – Best Songwriter – Best Acoustic Act – Best Local Recording (“Kalamath”) .. ADD Best of the Colorado Playlist 2017. A.J. is as much one of our top blues players as he is one of our most outstanding up and coming singer-songwriters.
Tiffany Christopher “Somewhere Behind the Sun” from Tremendous Heart (2017) #2 Fan Poll Favorite 2017 (see above)
Pint & A Half “Drive Drive Drive” from Boomtown Ghosts (2017) #1 Fan Poll Favorite 2017 (see above)
Brent Cowles “Lift Me Up (Leave Me Here)” from Cold Times (2017) I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to say I think Colorado Springs native Brent Cowles (pronounced Coals) is well on his way to being as much a household name among Colorado music fans as Nathaniel Rateliff or the Lumineers. Working with members of the Still Tide on his debut, and on stage, Brent got signed to Dine Alone Records, (Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat World) and came out with one of the most invigorating singalong releases of the year.
Gasoline Lollipops “Love is Free” from Resurrection (2016) Gasoline Lollipops has been one of the most celebrated and talked about up and coming bands in our region during 2017 – performing at Red Rocks, and embarking on their first European tour, while raising funds and recording and releasing a 2018 album in December (Soul Mine). Resurrection received copious spins at radio around the state – but no more than what they received thanks to stations like KRFC (Fort Collins) and 105.5 The Colorado Sound (NoCO).
Chris Daniels & the Kings “Sweet Memphis” from Blues With Horns, Vol. 1 (2017) Blues With Horns, Vol 1 is the third album by Chris Daniels (Colorado Music Hall of Fame) & the Kings featuring former Freddi Henchi Band founding member Freddi “Love” Gowdy. The album also features former Estes Park resident Sonny Landreth on slide guitar and John Magnie (Subdudes) on keyboards.
I’ve been playing Chris’ records on various radio stations in NoCO for as long as I can remember going back to the late 80s. This is, by far, the highest charting record of the band’s illustrious career since launching in the early 80s. National Contemporary Roots Music Report Top 50 Radio Singles Chart “Sweet Memphis” # 1 (October 14) …
Big Head Todd & The Monsters “Damaged One” from New World Arisin’ (2017) ALBUM OF THE YEAR – I’ve been a BHTM album fan since their self released 1989 “Another Mayberry.” Over the years the band has slipped around various styles, best evidenced by their blues releases as Big Head Blues Club, and albums like Black Beehive and Rocksteady where they toyed with reggae, pop and soul grooves.
If any of us were expecting more of the same from one of Colorado’s most legendary legacy bands we were in store for a HUGE surprise, as the band dove straight down to the depths of their loudest, most raucous rock album of their 30+ year career …an album they teased us with one single at a time for a year before dropping a ten ton load of Boulder rock on us all at once late in 2017 – good thing too cuz I don’t think we could have withstood the crush all at one time.
Garrett Sayers Trio “Diatribe” from Thinkbox (2017) Jazz means different things to different ears. In the case of the Garrett Sayers Trio, it’s a trip into funk, hip-hop and electronica with an overflowing abundance of intricate arrangements. The genre bending arrangements, sans any vocals, is at once as accessible as it is mind boggling – a delightful listen – especially late at night when deep thought and introspection is a desired exercise.