Sep 282012

Photo: Fairlight Hubbard

We have a busy weekend in store here in Denver–lots of great live music happening, with both local and touring acts–from new A&M Octone signees Churchill to indie-folk artist Mindy Smith, and others. Here are just a few of the more promising shows to see this weekend.


Local reggae act P-Nuckle is headlining tonight at Herman’s Hideaway, 1578 S. Broadway in Denver. Also appearing are Anxious, Something Underground, Birch Street and O.T.I.S. Tickets range from $10 General Admission to $120 VIP packages, available from Herman’s. Doors at 7:00 PM; music starts at 7:30. Ages 21+.


Denver folk-rock band Churchill¬†(recently signed to A&M Octone) are playing a two-night stint at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax in Denver. Sept. 29 was sold out, but Bluebird reportedly has released a few more tickets at press time. Opening acts for Saturday include You, Me & Apollo and JJ Matott and the Arctic; Sunday’s openers are Barcelona and Navy. Tickets are $10-$15 each, available through Bluebird Theater. Doors at 8:00 PM Saturday, 7:00 PM Sunday. Ages 16+.


Indie-roots band Dispatch is making a tour stop at 1stBank Center, 14450 Broomfield Lane in Broomfield. Opening the show is Good Old War. Tickets are $46 advance, $50 day of show, available from TicketHorse. Service fees may apply. Doors at 7:00 PM; show starts at 8:00. This is an all-ages show! (NOTE: Dispatch’s scheduled Sept. 28 show was rolled over into Sept. 29, and all tickets purchased for Sept. 28 will be honored.)


Local indie-rockers The Say So will be having a farewell show at The Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer in downtown Denver. Opening acts include Vetta Star, Viretta and Hear Me Out. Tickets are $8 advance, $10 day of show, available from Soda Jerk Presents. Doors at 7:00 PM. This is an all-ages show!


Americana singer/songwriter Mindy Smith (made famous by her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and hits “Come To Jesus” and “If I Didn’t Know Any Better”) will be making a tour stop at Swallow Hill’s Daniels Hall, 70 E. Yale in Denver. Opening the show is Peter Bradley Adams. Tickets are $22 advance, $24 day of show, available from Swallow Hill. Discount available for Swallow Hill Members. Show starts at 7:00 PM. This is an all-ages show!

Here’s a video of Mindy Smith’s latest single “Closer” to tide you over. Have a great weekend!

Jun 142012

I first mentioned husband-and-wife duo Glowing House about a year and a half ago, when I reviewed a record that was two years old back then. After a long wait, this Denver folk act has released their new album Days Run Out–and I can tell you, it was worth the wait.

I had the privilege of interviewing Jess Parsons and Steve Varney recently for an article on During that interview, they shared that they were originally two solo singer/songwriters who began joining each other on gigs, and the forming of Glowing House (and the marriage) seemed a natural evolution. Even so, they told me, their first album The Annual Demise of Every Aspen was essentially put together as a hodgepodge of songs each solo artist had brought to the table without much thought as to a collective band dynamic.

With Days Run Out, however, the merger is complete, so to speak. Not only is the overall sound of the album much more uniform, but the record shows exponential growth for both artists. They have arrived on a combination that is greater than the sum of its parts. Most of the record was recorded in an old church building, which only adds to its ambience.

Don’t look for a lot of “toe-tappers” here; the songs of Glowing House are more about reflection and thought and feeling. But there’s a raw beauty in their music that captured me the first time I heard them play, and their songs grow a little bit more on me every time I hear them. I was already familiar with most of the tunes on Days because I’m a frequent visitor to their live sets around Denver, but when I heard those opening harmonies on the first track “All That Matters,” I got chills.

Glowing House is currently streaming the new album for free on Bandcamp. (I’ve embedded a couple of my favorite tunes below.) If you like what you hear, pay the moolah and download this record. This is definitely a band worth hearing, and worth adding to your collection.

Apr 162012

It’s rather surprising that Dan Craig even has time these days to put out a new record. Besides being one of Denver’s premiere singer/songwriters, he’s also a med student, a husband, and recently a new father.

Actually, though, this gem of an EP, In Dust Bowls, already had the groundwork laid for it. According to Craig, this project (a collaboration with producer/engineer Jamie Mefford) was started and shelved several times over the past several years, and the current project has been basically complete for about a year. It just seemed that now was the right time to finish it up and release it.

In Dust Bowls is quite a digression from Dan Craig’s last project Alchemy (reviewed here)–a much more reflective, downtempo effort, with an atmospheric, almost dreamy quality to it (if acoustic folk can be thought of as “dreamy”, then this is what it sounds like). The six songs in progression tell a story of love lost, and found again, and for that reason the songs are best heard together in sequence, rather than individually.

I’ve given this record several spins now, and I like it more and more each time. Dan’s melodies are contagious, his lyricism creative and thought-provoking. In Dust Bowls has been a long time coming, but I for one am glad it is here.

Dan has permitted me to share the first track “Down My Legs” below. If you like it and want to hear more, the record is currently available as a download from Dan’s Bandcamp site, or from iTunes.

Dan Craig: “Down My Legs”

Dec 242011

Playing catch-up? Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Okay, okay. I know I said the Top Picks would be announced yesterday…sorry about that. It’s the holidays, and I do have ¬†a family. ‘Nuff said. :)

As I mentioned before, I’m listing some of my favorite Denver acts and songs for 2011. Up until now, pretty much all the songs on the list have been in random order, but to finish off the series, I’ve saved my three Top Picks for last–the songs that stood out even beyond the standouts.

I initially was going to do this series as a Top 10 from least to greatest, but decided to do it this way because I just had too many favorites to rank them in order. (On a Top 10 list, these three songs would have all tied for first place, leaving only a bottom seven…and that wouldn’t have worked.) :D

So without further delay…here are my Top Picks among the Denver Locals for 2011.

Stephanie Mabey: “Zombie Song”

A love song about zombies? On the Top Picks? You betchee. You’d think this song would just be a fun fluke, but it just happens to be the wittiest, hookiest, funniest, most clever, most funnest zombie song I have ever heard. Never mind the mixed metaphors about vampires in love–this song is just too cool. I actually had the opportunity to hear this song played for a panel of industry pros at the Durango Songwriter’s Expo, and watching the reaction of the group was almost as fun as the song itself. Stephanie Mabey’s full-length record isn’t due out until early January, but the single was released just in time for Halloween–happily making it eligible for the list.

Churchill: “Change”

Yes, for those who are paying attention, Churchill already has a song on this list. Churchill has had a really good year–releasing a solid debut CD, opening for DeVotchKa at The Ogden, and recently winning the KTCL Hometown for the Holidays competition with their new single “Change,” released just this month. Current, catchy, and just plain cool, this song is a whole other direction for Churchill, and a huge leap forward, in my opinion. After hearing this tune, I simply had to make room for it on the Top Picks.

Rachel James: ¬†“Not Giving Up”

From the moment I heard this song by pop/rock artist Rachel James, I knew it had to be at or near the top of my list. What can I say–I’m a sucker for a great hook, and this song has the strongest hook I’ve heard from Denver musicians all year. Anytime I hear it, I seriously find myself replaying it in my head for about 24 hours afterward–not in an irritating “Moves Like Jagger” kind of way, but in a really good way. It always makes me smile when I see musical artists move forward–and with this song, Rachel James has made me smile a lot.

Rachel James “Not Giving Up”

So there it is–my list of the Best of Denver Locals 2011. Kudos to the artists of the Denver music scene for all the great music, and for giving me so much to write about this year.

Happy Holidays to all.

Dec 212011

Take to the Oars. (Photo: Lucia de Giovanni)

Continuing our recap of some of the best music to come out of Denver this year…here are a couple more of my personal picks for this year’s standouts.

Take to the Oars: “Bar Talk”

After rocking Denver for several years under the moniker “Vonnegut,” indie-rockers Take to the Oars took a risk and lunged into uncharted waters in 2011 with a name change and a new album (reviewed here). I’ve seen these guys play a few times this year, and I’ve been particularly impressed with the passion behind their music, as well as their solid work ethic. After having their tunes in my shuffle for the better part of this year, this song is the one that stands out as the most memorable.

Take to the Oars: “Bar Talk”

Churchill: “Happy Sad”

I’ve made it no secret that I’ve had a serious blogger crush on Churchill since I first heard them play two years ago, and I’ve heard them do nothing but improve and grow since then. Their first full-length record Happy/Sad was released in February (read my review here), I’ve been enjoying tunes from it all year. I was all set to list their main single from the album, “Miles,” but at the last minute I went with the title track at the end of the record, because of the raw emotion in it. They definitely saved the best for last.

Churchill: “Happy Sad”

Still more great bands to come! Stay tuned…

Oct 092011

So before I tell you about singer/songwriter Stephanie Mabey, a bit of a disclaimer…

Just so you know, I’m a huge believer in crowdfunding projects and sites like Kickstarter, and I’m even down for throwing some money at them myself. But I’ve had some misgivings about promoting artists who are doing Kickstarter campaigns, simply because I am friends with some of these people, and I don’t want to create a conflict of interest or be accused of playing favorites with promising artists who are raising money for their projects–as in, “You promoted so-and-so’s project–why didn’t you support mine?” ¬†I just don’t want to go there.

And yet, this morning, I’m all like, “Well, if I am willing to promote someone’s record on this blog after it was made, how is it any different to promote it before it gets made?” So that made me think of it a little differently.

And then there’s the question: if we don’t do what we can for an artist whose music really ought to be released, perhaps it won’t be–and then where would we be?

The thing is, after hearing a couple of tracks from her upcoming record Waking Up Dreaming, I’m convinced that Stephanie Mabey’s music needs to get out there. She’s very current both in songwriting and in style, and her songs are engaging. The song below, “Zombie Song” (which Stephanie is currently giving away for free), currently has my vote for most entertaining song of the year. It’s inventive, funny, and extremely catchy–not to mention it’s a perfect song for October. :)

So don’t expect me to make a habit of this, but since I suppose it’s my prerogative to support a record “before the fact” or “after the fact”–I’m inviting my readers to participate in this particular campaign. At this moment, Stephanie needs to raise about $1400 in the next week to complete her record, or she basically has to start over with fundraising. So if you dig the track below, hop on over to her Kickstarter page and at least pre-order the record. If you want to do a little more, she’s offering plenty of cool incentives, as well. If we all do our part, “mabey” we can get it done.

Oh, come on. You knew that pun was coming, didn’t you?

ADDENDUM NOVEMBER 1: Not only has Stephanie surpassed her Kickstarter goal, but she’s released a YouTube vid of The Zombie Song which is getting lots of views. Thought I’d stick it here as well:

Sep 062011

When Denver area artist Roniit (say “Ro-NEET”) sent me a link to her self-titled debut CD a few months ago, I was backlogged and told her it would be awhile before I got to it. However, when I did get a listen, I was pleasantly surprised. I put it on my ipod, and have always enjoyed when one of her songs comes up on shuffle.

And now, finally, I have a little time to tell you about it.

Roniit classifies her music as “dark pop,” and the term really fits, in my opinion. It’s electronic music laden with haunting arrangements, minor chords, lots of low tones, and Roniit’s pure-toned voice over the top of it all. Very strong production value for an indie artist, if you ask me–and the overall sound gives me the impression that I’m listening to the music in black-and-white. Not depressing, just a bit melancholy and haunting.

I’ve put in one of my favorite tracks for you to stream below. If you like what you hear, Roniit is currently offering her entire record as a name-your-own-price download from her Bandcamp site.

Roniit: “Now Or Never”

Jun 182011

Indie-rock band Achille Lauro has been a staple in the Denver music scene for several ¬†years, probably better known for their tongue-and-cheekness and their willingness to explore musically than for a particular sound. I (sort of) got to hear them play live once, and the live audio was so terrible, unfortunately (not their fault), that it wouldn’t have been fair to form an opinion of them one way or the other. The only thing I could pick up was that they were solid musicians and showed some sense of promise.

These days, Achille Lauro is continuing to experiment, this time by releasing new songs for their fans a few at a time as opposed to putting out a full-length. Their latest single, “Low Cha Cha,” has put to rest any doubts I might have had about the band’s musicality. Over ninety percent of this five-minute song is a repetition of two chords, but everything over the top of those two chords is nothing short of compelling for me. The vocals by frontman Matt Close are passionate, expressive, almost cinematic, perhaps similar to Brandon Flowers of The Killers in style, if not in tone. Instrumentation, production value–all of it is top-notch. ¬†If you haven’t heard Achille Lauro yet, they deserve a listen. So do it.

Achille Lauro: “Low Cha Cha”

May 152011

Many people might be more familiar with the name Boulder Acoustic Society than they are with the name Aaron Keim. That’s because Boulder Acoustic Society has been making a name for itself as a progressive band in the bluegrass/roots/neo-folk world over the past several years.

But Keim (who happens to be the founder of B.A.S.) goes by yet another moniker when he’s flying solo: The Quiet American. And as The Quiet American, he has just released his second solo project, aptly titled The Quiet American, Vol. II. And if you listen to the record, and know a little of his story, you’ll discover that Aaron Keim is an old soul putting a modern twist on folk.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect to Keim’s work is that he literally brings history to life in the way he tackles his music. First of all–he makes most of his own instruments. ¬†Secondly, the first installment of The Quiet American was initially recorded on a wax cylinder from the 1890’s (the new release uses more modern methods, but has a historic feel, nonetheless). And third–Keim isn’t afraid to weave traditional bluegrass tunes in with his original stuff. ¬†Vol. II has a healthy blend of both.

And yet, somehow in bringing the past to life, by weaving subtle modern indie-rock elements into his stuff, Keim breathes new life into the music–and what is old is new again. ¬†Pretty amazing, when you think about it.

But don’t take my word for it. ¬†Have a listen to the opening track below.

The Quiet American: “I Will Be the One”

Buy The Quiet American, Vol. II on iTunes:
The Quiet American, Vol. II - The Quiet American

Mar 232011

Singer/songwriter Tyler James is a bit of an anomaly. ¬†His bio says he grew up in the Pacific Northwest and in Iowa, and currently hails from Nashville. ¬†But spin his debut record It Took the Fire, and you’d swear he was from Memphis. ¬†And maybe from the 1970s.

Don’t misunderstand–James’ blue-eyed soul has a retro vibe, but it is not dated. ¬†It’s timeless. ¬†Tyler James has managed to draw from the old influences to breathe fresh life into some just plain good music. ¬†Not only are his songs well-crafted, but he delivers his vocals with that kind of smoky rasp that many kindred spirits can only dream about. ¬†And although his music will probably remind you of something you heard years ago, there’s something about it that is fresh and very much “today.” ¬†It’s a new spin on old soul. Don’t ask me how. ¬†Just enjoy it.

Here’s the video for “All I Got,” the opening track of the record. ¬†See what you think.

Buy It Took the Fire at iTunes:

It Took The Fire - Tyler James