Colorado Blues PT 2 – 21st Century Award Winners and Future Legends

In my last post, Blues in Colorado – A Primer, I suggested that most of the blues bands that we see today are of the local garden variety – good enough to please the upper end of suburban GenZ and Boomers with their small kids and grandkids at parks and summer events, and local neighborhood bar and grills.

But that doesn’t really tell the whole story about the state of blues in the 21st century in Colorado and the award winners and future legends who have emerged, regardless of mainstream popularity.

The 21st century opens with Erica Brown emerging in the scene as the First Lady of Blues (Colorado Blues Society) and Denver’s Queen of the Blues (Altitude Network).

Between 1998 and 2008, the Erica Brown Band earned numerous awards, including; Best Blues Band (Westword Magazine) Best Underground Blues Band multiple times (Denver Post) and The Rocky Mountain News’ Best Of (Blues Category).

Among the many projects she appears on, Erica is featured on Big Head Blues ClubWay Down Inside: The Songs of Willie Dixon” (2016). She began appearing with Dan Treanor in 2008.

A Blues Foundation: Keeping the Blues Alive Award recipient, Dan Treanor is a Colorado original. Born and raised in Pueblo, Dan entered the blues world when he was sixteen, playing in the Steel City Blues Band.

In 2004, he got signed to the well respected independent blues label Northern Blues Music. Dan Treanor & Frankie Lee – African Wind (2004) was nominated Blues Album of the Year by the Independent Music Awards.  Dan has received three Independent Music Award nominations.

In 2013, Dan Treanor’s Afrosippi Band featuring Erica Brown took home 3rd Place Honors in the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis. In 2015 they released Born to Love the Blues, which also features Erica’s daughter MJ.

Lionel Young first appears on the scene in the early to mid 90s and is featured on Otis Taylor‘s 1997 debut When Negroes Walked the Earth.

It wouldn’t be until the 21st century, however, that the classically trained violinist comes to the attention of the blues world by making history at the International Blues Challenge (IBC), as the only artist to ever win twice, in the 2008 solo-duo competition and the 2011 band competition.

Cary Morin first showed up on stages in Fort Collins in the 1980s with his band the Atoll.

Now recognized as one of the nation’s leading acoustic blues artists, Cary has performed at renowned venues and festivals around the globe including the Kennedy Center, the Paris Jazz Festival and the Copenhagen Blues Festival to name a few.

Cary’s career in Colorado ranks among the most awarded. He’s been honored with the Fort Collins Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award (2014) and is a Telluride Blues and Brews Blues Champion (2019).

Cary has also earned Indigenous Music Awards for Best Blues CD for Cradle to the Grave (2017) and for When I Rise (2019) and an Independent Music Award for Best Blues CD for When I Rise.

Colorado Springs artist John-Alex Mason passed away at the age of 35, in October 2011, but not without leaving a lasting legacy as one of the state’s most celebrated bluesmen. In 2001 he won the Telluride Acoustic Blues Competition. He released five albums between 2000 and 2011.

The Informants / Kerry Pastine & the Crime Scene – Fronted by Kerry Pastine, the Informants fans voted the band as the winner of the Westword Music Award for Best Blues (2008-2010). Their album Crime Scene Queen won the International Blues Competition for Best Self-Produced CD of 2010.

Kerry and her husband Paul (guitar) spun off from the Informants to create the Crime Scene. They earned the 2019 Colorado Blues Society Members Choice Award for Band of the Year, Best Recording for City of Love, Best Female Vocalist, Best Songwriter and Best Live Moment for the City of Love CD release party.

With six albums to their credit since 2004, the modern electric blues inspired Mojomama has been a semi-finalist at the International Blues Challenge Memphis (2018, 2019) and won several awards from the Colorado Blues Society, including Best Self Produced CD and Favorite Female Vocalist (2015, 2018) and the Members Choice Awards for Best Band in 2019.

The acts I mentioned above represent only a handful of the many blues acts that have crossed the stages of Colorado, from the smallest pubs to the biggest festivals. Upcoming festivals include the Trinidaddio Blues Fest (Aug 22), and the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival (Sept 16-18).

Touring artists like Cary Morin and Lionel Young act as ambassadors of Colorado blues around the United States, and in other countries.

Erica Brown continues to play a major role in our blues scene today, as does Lionel Young who Erica has teamed up with in a new project called Blues Circus – that also features Erica’s daughter MJ along with John Magnie and Steve Amadee from Del Shamen that Erica participated in.

Time will tell when, where and how far the next group of blues artists in Colorado music history will rise up to claim their place – in Colorado Blues PT3 – Rising Stars and Future Promise.

To learn more about the blues in Colorado visit the Colorado Blues Society and Mile High Blues Society.

COLORADO BLUES – A PRIMER.

Let me start by saying that my girlfriend is a blues junkie and it is because of her that I’m writing about blues in Colorado. We recently went out to catch some local blues bands. I started writing a critique about what I saw on stage. She disapproved. I started over.

Blues is well over a hundred years old. Today, it’s like that old dog-eared novel that you pull out for comfort. You no longer really read it for the detail; instead you put it on for the feels, like a throw blanket on the coach that should have been discarded years ago but is too comfortable to let go.

And, artists keep chasing it – the feels – the groove – the “blues.”

Most of what passes for blues bands in Colorado today are backyard concert party bands playing in small bar and grills and, well, backyard parties and suburban centers and events attended by aging boomers and GenX parents, grandparents and pre-tween kids swingin’ on the grass.

Despite that outlook, there are some stellar blues players capable of capturing broader attention given the right set of circumstances: Some of whom are award winners playing to national and international audiences.

When it comes to blues in Colorado music history, some notable names and organizations come to mind.

Judy Roderick – A University of Colorado student, Judy signed with Columbia and Vanguard Records and released two albums; Ain’t Nothin’ but the Blues (1964) and Woman Blue (1965). She also founded and fronted 60,000,000 Buffalo, a Denver based funky blues-rock band that broke up after one album, Nevada Jukebox, in 1973.

Candy Givens emerged with the band Zephyr in 1969. Powered by the hard rock blues guitar of Tommy Bolin, Zephyr put out two well received blues-rock albums before pivoting stylistically in subsequent albums. Tommy Bolin and Zephyr were inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2019.

Although not strictly speaking a blues artist at the time, award winning finger style guitarist Mary Flower moved to Colorado in 1972 and became an instrumental part of Swallow Hill Music and the Blues Foundation’s Blues In the Schools program.

Mary moved to Oregon in 2004, and was the Blues Music Award nominee for Acoustic Artist of The Year in 2008.

Filling the void left by the demise of Zephyr in the early 80s, Big Head Todd and the Monsters embraced blues-rock beginning in the mid-80s. The band would go all in on the blues for two albums as Big Head Blues Club, “100 Years of Robert Johnson” (2011), and “Way Down Inside, the Songs of Willie Dixon” (2016).

Their version of John Lee Hooker‘s classic Boom Boom (Beautiful World, 1997) remains a staple of the band’s live shows today.

The most heavily awarded blues artist in the Colorado blues pantheon is multi-award winner and Colorado Music Hall of Fame inductee Otis Taylor.

In the seventies Otis performed alongside Candy Givens in Zephyr and in the Legendary 4Nikators, another popular Boulder band. Otis left music in 1977 and wouldn’t return until 1997 when he self-released the stunning blues-trance debut When Negroes Walked the Earth.

Otis’ 2008 album Recapturing the Banjo is remarkable, as much for who appears on it as how he reintroduces the banjo as an historical blues instrument.

Other than Otis Taylor, no other significant blues band or artist emerged during the 1990s. Recording was still too expensive for most locally based bands. Exceptions included the late Creighton Holley, Dan Treanor’s band Arclight, David Booker’s Alleygators and Boa and the Constrictors.

Baby boomers now in their mid-thirties to mid-fifties, who grew up on the blues-rock of the 1960s and wanted to escape the deluge of 80s hair-metal bands and 90s grunge, flocked to area bars to catch acts like the Creighton Holley Band, JD & the Love Bandits featuring the late trombonist JD Kelly, the Alleygators, Arclight and Boa and the Constrictors to name a few.

In 1995, under the leadership of David McIntyre, the Colorado Blues Society was formed and opened the door for national and regional blues bands at the growing list of blues specific venues and festivals.

However, it wouldn’t be until the beginning of the 21st century that the next group of blues artists would truly begin to emerge.

To learn more about blues in Colorado, there are two organizations that serve to preserve not only the legacy of blues in Colorado, but also advance it via educational programs: The Colorado Blues Society and the Mile High Blues Society. Please visit and support.

I’ll be back soon for The Blues in Colorado – Part II – the 21st Century

The Colorado Sound S8 EP21 May/June 2014

Sorry for the delay.  Incredibly stupid busy weekend.  And, I am not getting the News Notes & Spins done on time either.  Friday night was Taarka in Lyons.  Saturday night was Johnny O in Longmont.  Sunday was the Colorado Blues Challenge in Golden.  Tonight (Monday) it’s sitting down with Eddie Turner for an upcoming episode of “Offstage …Beyond the Music.”

Thursday night I’ll be in Fort Collins emceeing the Bohemian Nights Thursday Night Concert Series with Musketeer Gripweed.  FREE SHOW … ALL AGES …7PM downbeat.  Be there … gonna be a blast.

Congratulations to Eef & the Blues Express … winners of the 2014 Colorado Blues Challenge (band) and to Cary Morin for winning a 2nd year in a row.  Enjoy the video of Eef winning the prize.  I need to go get the Charts done.  CYA!

PLAYLIST S8 EP21

(D) Zephyr “Sail On” from Zephyr Deluxe Edition (2014)
Zephyr “Mad Dog” from Heartbeat (1982)
Dusty Drapes & the Dusters “Cielto Lindo” from The Red Album (1981)
String Cheese Incident “Can’t Wait Another Day” from Song In My Head (2014)
(D) Roo & the Howl “Give Me Time” from Me/We (2014)
Flobots “The Circle in the Square” from The Circle in the Square (2012)
Jeff Finlin “Walking On Air” from My Moby Dick (2013)
Ryan D White “We Are The Dreamers” from Something Brilliant Is About to Happen (2014)
Euforquestra “Solutions” from Fire (2014)
Musketeer Gripweed “Nine Pound Hammer” from Floods and Fires (2014)
Aakash Mittal Quartet “Density” from Thumbs Up (2013)
Big Head Todd & The Monsters “Smokestack Lighnin’” from Rocksteady (2010)
(N) Big Head Todd & The Monsters “I Get Smooth” from Black Beehive (2014)
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club “Viceroy Filter King” from Always Say Please and Thank You (2000)
(D) Gipsy Moon “Seven Seas” from Eventide (2013)
John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light “Same Scar” from Beautiful Empty (2011)
(N) OneRepublic “Love Runs Out” from Native (2013)
Big Gigantic “The Night Is Young (feat. Cherub)” from The Night Is Young (2014)
Churchill “The War Within” from War Within EP (2013)
The Swayback “Lost Lake Woods Club” from Double Four Time (2012)
Head for The Hills “Never Does” from Blue Ruin (2013)
Justin Roth “Rise” from Rise (2013)
Cassie Taylor “No Ring Blues” from Out Of My Mind (2013)
Jim Stranahan “Loco” from Free For All (2010)

The Colorado Sound – S7/EP04 Feb 2013

therealpickygrumpyoldgoatThank you for all the support that I really needed in my absence last week.  As is sometimes the case in life, baby alligators (rattlers if you prefer) jump up and grab ya by the balls and make you lay down for a few days.  LOL.  That said – it was a great week to kick back, reflect and listen to some new albums, which I’m actually doing right this moment in preparation for next week’s show.  If you’re not hip yet do check out The Whale & the Sea by Josh Dillard, and A Boy & His Kite by, well, A Boy & His Kite aka Dave Wilton.  Absolutely gorgeous albums, both.

In news this week:  Congratulations to all of the winners of the Colorado Blues Society’s 1st Annual Members Choice Awards, who were awarded the first ever Holley awards named after the late Creighton Holley a good friend to many of us locally and a blues guitarist and singer who graced local stages for a few decades before his passing last year … congratulations to

Erica Brown – Blues Singer Female
Austin Young and No Difference – Blues Band
Austin Young – Guitar
Austin Young and No Difference – Best Young Performer
Austin Young – Slide Guitar
Al Chesis – Blues Harp
Lionel Young – Blues Singer Male
Lionel Young – Violin
Lionel Young – Arranger
Otis Taylor – Best Songwriter
Jodie Woodward – Bass
Dan Treanor – Best Educator
Scotty Rivera – Drums
Kai Turner won Lifetime Membership in the Colorado Blues Society in honor of his involvement in the Colorado Blues scene for his  Strictly Blues radio show, as well as for all the MC’ing he’s done over the years at Festivals such as Blues From the Top, Mile High Blues Festival, and Blue Star Festival, and in honor of receiving his own Keeping Blues Alive award for radio in 2009.

Congratulations are again in order for the girls of SHEL – whose new video “The Man Who Was The Circus” – debuted on CMT.COM Jan 29.  And happy 25th birthday to Hannah Holbrook.  Are these the four most eligible bachelorettes in CO right now?  Hmmmm…..

PLAYLIST S7/EP04

Rick Roberts “In My Own Small Way” from Windmills / She is a Song (2010)
The Samples “Tom Joad” from Return to Earth (2001)
(D) Abi Robins “Let Me Explain” from Such A Mess (2013)

Tyler Ward “The Way We Are” from Hello. Love. Heartbreak (2012)
John McVey “The Gentleman Thief” from Unpredictable (2010)
(D) Kristi Stice “Forgiving The Road” from Forgiving The Road (2013)

Elephant Revival “Quill Pen Feather” from It’s Alive (2012)
Gromet “Empty Space” from Barren (2013)
Instant Empire “Keep Up!” from Keep Up! (2013)
Rob Drabkin “Little Steps” from Little Steps EP (2013)
(D) Joshua Novak “Informaniac” from Ephemeron (2013)

John Common “Moonlight” from Why Birds Fly (2007)
Jon Wirtz “Politico” from Tourist (2013)
Tommy Bolin “Wild Dogs” from Teaser (1975)
The Rainy Daze “That Acapulco Gold” from That Acapulco Gold (1967)
(D) P-Nuckle “The System” from The System (2013)
Flobots “The Rose and the Thistle” from The Circle in the Square (2012)
(D) Rachel & the Kings “I Know What You’re Made Of…” from Tonic (2013)
(D) Otis Taylor “Blue Rain in Africa” from My World Is Gone (2013)

Great American Taxi “One of These Days” from Reckless Habits (2010)
Palmer Divide “Whiskey Row” from Shenandoah Train (2009)
Churchill “Change” from Change EP (2012)
SHEL “On My Way” from SHEL (2012)
Fierce Bad Rabbit “Matter of Time” from Maestro & the Elephant (2013)
Zach Heckendorf “Traffic” from The Cool Down (2012)
Jeff Brinkman “Ordinary Day” from Strange (2012)
Keith Oxman “All Dudes” from Doing All Right (2009)

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