Meadow Mountain, comprised of Summers Baker (guitar), Jack Dunlevie (mandolin), Ian Parker (violin/ viola), George Guthrie (banjo), and Wilson Luallen (bass) are a band in the true sense of the word: a whole larger than the sum of its parts. Their music plays to each members’ individual strengths, and the finished product is a style of music rooted in traditional, hard-driving bluegrass.
“In a world of constant string band evolution, Meadow Mountain has distinct ties to all the best elements of bluegrass, which really makes them stand out from their peers,” Pandolfi says of the band, “They combine that with really strong songwriting chops to create a unique sound that fans of acoustic music will surely gravitate toward.”
From start to finish, the album creates a synergy of old and new musical concepts. “Careless Heart”, the opening track, features a hard-driving, classic bluegrass sound, showcasing their deep connection to the traditions of the genre. Each song on the album shows the range of the group’s ability to bend tones and styles of bluegrass instruments to create something completely original. With songwriting skills on full display throughout, Meadow Mountain has created a sound entirely unique to them.
Drawing inspiration from bands like The Punch Brothers, Del McCoury, Bela Fleck, and Sam Bush, the band initially formed over a mutual love for traditional and progressive bluegrass music. After only a year of performing together, the group was hired for a stint as the house band aboard a Norwegian cruise ship. Thirty gigsin 30 days on board the ship allowed them to hone their skills, and served as a propellent for their ability to play to each other’s strengths. After returning home, their tightened sound positioned Meadow Mountain as one of the premier voices in Colorado bluegrass scene. In 2017, the band solidified their reputation in the bluegrass music, taking home 1st place in the prestigious RockyGrass band competition -- and in turn, securing a spot on the 2018 lineup where they were met with overwhelming approval.
Among the young band’s many accolades, Meadow Mountain has given a TED talk, performed at Greyfox Bluegrass’s Emerging Artist series, hosted Denver's only performance-oriented bluegrass jam, opened for Sam Bush, Del McCoury, and other titans of the genre, and are looking at a very exciting 2019.
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
After seven years, three albums, innumerable sold out shows, and countless beers, bluegrass mavericks Horseshoes & Hand Grenades appropriately consider themselves a “family” on a wild, wonderful, and often whacky roller coaster. The bond between the quintet—David C. Lynch [harmonica, accordion, spoons, vocals], Collin Mettelka [fiddle, mandolin, vocals], Russell Pedersen [banjo, fiddle, vocals], Adam Greuel [guitar, dobro, vocals], and Samual Odin [bass]—fuels their creativity and chemistry on stage and in the studio.
“Sometimes, it feels like we’re modern day cowboys on some kind of strange journey,” Adam affirms with a laugh. “We’re five friends who set out to do something we enjoy doing, meet interesting people, see old friends, and make some new buddies along the way. Because of that, everything happens organically.”
That’s been the case since these five musicians first met in Stevens Point, WI at college, joined forces, and hit the road post-graduation in 2013. They have ignited stages alongside everyone from Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Trampled By Turtles to Railroad Earth, Merle Haggard, and Marty Stuart in addition to appearances at festivals such as Delfest, High Sierra Music Festival, Blue Ox Music Festival, Northwest String Summit, John Hartford Memorial Festival, and many more. Their three albums—Another Round , This Old Town , and Middle Western —have spawned fan favorite hits, including “Get Down To It,” “Stuck On Your Mind,” and “Whiskey.”
In many ways, everything set the stage for the 2018 offering, The Ode.“It marks a point of growth,” explains Adam. “We’ve got the bluegrass burner type tunes we’re known for on there, but we’re experimenting with other elements. Little pieces of everybody are encapsulated in this record. For the first time, we were really conscious of allowing our respective musical curiosities into the fold. Sam drops in a jazz and classical feel. Dave brings that Zydeco, Cajun, and old school blues vibe. Collin turns up with this kinda pop folk energy, and Russell gives us the old-timey banjo feel. For me, I’m trying to play out my singer-songwriter curiosities. There are five songwriters in the band, and we’ve gotten better at harnessing our individual creativity and bringing it to the collective.”
The boys found the perfect place to bottle those signature spirits. They retreated to Cannon Falls, MN in order to live and record at Pachyderm Studios — where Nirvana recorded In Utero — for just a week. Joined by Trampled By Turtles frontman Dave Simonett in the producer’s chair, they tracked the eleven numbers that would comprise The Ode over the course of a marathon session.
“Pachyderm is in the middle of nowhere,” he elaborates. “We’re all outdoorsy people, so the setting was super comfortable. It contributed to the laidback approach. We had this awesome chemistry with Dave. It was by far the easiest recording project we’ve done. The whole experience was super positive and uplifting.”
That feeling courses through the upbeat bluegrass gallop of the first single and title track, “The Ode.” The ebullient and enigmatic anthem serves as something of a mantra for the group, “Sing the ode my friend!”
Elsewhere on the record, bluesy piano resounds through “Eat the Cake,” while rustic banjo reverberates during the anthemic “Foggy Halo.” A clever outlier, “Millennial Girl” veers towards self-aware pop with its sharp lyrics. Meanwhile, “Stay Awhile” redefines the breakup song.
“I was thinking about how you can split up with somebody for various reasons, but still be in love,” he elaborates. “You split up for each other—not because of each other. It’s about the impermanence of relationships and the permanence of love.”
Ultimately, the Horseshoes & Hand Grenades family grows stronger by the day. The Ode is proof.
“The best part of this has been building a community,” Adam leaves off. “In this day and age, it’s wise to look for things that bring people together rather than separate them. We’re creating an extended family to get through these times together. That’s the ‘Horseshoe Crew.’ Everything happens because of that bond.”
The infamous stringdusters
A band should never stop progressing.
Forward motion belies creativity and evolution. A staunch and unwavering commitment to progression is how an unassuming group of five friends can collectively become a GRAMMY® Award-winning force of nature. That’s exactly how it happened for The Infamous Stringdusters. Within thirteen years since their 2005 formation, the band—Travis Book [bass, vocals], Andy Falco [guitar, vocals], Jeremy Garrett [fiddle, vocals], Andy Hall [dobro, vocals], and Chris Pandolfi [banjo, vocals]— have consistently forged ahead, relentlessly exploring the musical possibilities of a “bluegrass ensemble” and breaking down boundaries in the process.
In a genre known for traditionalism, the ‘Dusters have consistently covered new ground, inspired fans, and redefined what a bluegrass band can be. 2018 represented a high watermark for the quintet as they took home a GRAMMY® Award in the category of “Best Bluegrass Album” for their 2017 release Laws of Gravity.
Even with such milestones, the members feel like they’re only getting started.
“I’m most inspired by the evolution of the music,” agrees Book. “The band is reaching new heights with our exploration and jamming. The repertoire is deep, and our crew is so entwined in the music and presentation of the show. It’s all come together in the last year or so.”
Hall adds, “Releasing three recorded projects this year has been artistically exciting. Mostly, the band has taken a huge leap forward in our live show with our improvisation blending from one song into the next. It’s made everything that much more fun.”
The motion includes a prolific output that rivals any act in music. In 2017 alone, they released three projects: Laws of Gravity, Laws of Gravity: Live, and Undercover Vol. 2 through Lumenhouse Recordings. Impressively, the band’s eighth full length record, Laws of Gravity, received a 2018 GRAMMY® Award nomination in the category of “Best Bluegrass Album”, bowed in the Top 10 of the Billboard Heatseekers Chart, and marked their third debut at #1 on the Bluegrass Albums Chart with Undercover Vol. 2 becoming their seventh Top 10 entry. Recognized by some of the top names in the game, they teamed up with Ryan Adams for performances of “Sweet Carolina” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and at Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and Newport Folk Festival. Phil Lesh also tapped them as his band for Phil and Friends at Lockn alongside members of Phish.
Another tenet of that progression, the second installment of the Undercover series exemplifies the exploration ethos, transforming various recognizable anthems into raw and rootsy gems. “Jessica” by The Allman Brothers Band, rollicks and rolls, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk maintains its dancefloor energy, and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” adopts newfound urgency. The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” undergoes a bluegrass makeover with galloping banjo and blistering solos.
Along the way, The Stringdusters have won three International Bluegrass Music Association Awards in 2007 for their debut record, Fork in the Road, in addition to snagging a nomination for “Instrumental Group of the Year” by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2010. Meanwhile, Things That Fly’s “Magic No. 9” garnered a 2011 GRAMMY® nod in the category of “Best Country Instrumental.”
The Infamous Stringdusters are grateful for the recognition, but they continue to move forward full speed ahead.
“I just hope that our music gives people a chance to feel free; free from the burdens of everyday life that we all have, free to just be themselves and be happy,” Falco leaves off.
“It's an amazing gift to play this music, to share this journey with these guys,” concludes Book. “I wouldn't trade it for anything, there's no other gig I'd rather have, no other place I’d rather be than in the moment making this music. This band, our organization and crew, we’re a family and I think I speak for everyone when I say I hope we can do this for years to come.”