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
"With a nod to the past and a firm foot down on the gas toward the future, the 'Dusters... don't leave bluegrass behind; they're stretching it from within." - New York Times
"...these stellar bluegrass players are pushing the music forward." - David Dye/World Cafe
The Infamous Stringdusters rise to new heights on their ninth full-length record Rise Sun. For the album, the GRAMMY® Award-winning quintet—Andy Falco [guitar], Chris Pandolfi [banjo], Andy Hall [dobro], Jeremy Garrett [fiddle], and Travis Book [double bass]—expanded their signature sound by perfecting their seamless fusion of All-American-bluegrass and rock.
Once again sail into uncharted territory moored only by their expressive patchwork of All-American bluegrass threaded together with strands of rock, jazz, funk, country, old-time, and more.
As they approached this latest body of work, the group’s ambition matched their outsized creative curiosity.
“Rise Sun was sparked by the feeling of wanting something better for the world—more love, more awareness, and more compassion,” says Hall. “It’s a message of taking care of each other, our planet, and ourselves. We all shared this feeling as evidenced by the songs we brought to the project. It’s the feeling of a rising sun as opposed to a dark night. Sometimes a message of hope is less popular than one of despair, but it’s much-needed nevertheless.”
It’s also a message that 13 years, eight studio projects, and nearly 1,000 shows prepared the boys to properly present.
The Infamous Stringdusters stand out as the rare group who whose dynamic musicianship can be showcased with contemporary artists on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert one night and jamming on the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre alongside The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh the next.
Engendering a sense of impassioned fandom, they band have attracted a faithful audience that continues to grow. Moreover, their powerful music and performances paved the way for a GRAMMY® Award win in the category of “Best Bluegrass Album” for 2017’s Laws of Gravity.
When it came time to record what would become Rise Sun, they pushed themselves to evolve once more.
“Rise Sun is the latest chapter in the progression of our sound,” says Pandolfi. “It’s been a long arc that includes evolution on all fronts—writing, arranging, performing, and maybe most importantly, growing as humans who have more to say as the journey rolls on. New albums are the time when we write and introduce our strongest original material. On our last release Laws of Gravity, we really started to hit our stride with recording live in the studio. Rise Sun is another big step in that direction.”
For the first time, the band chose the song order before actually recording. Additionally, they maintained that order throughout the process, recording the songs in sequence which resulted in a natural flow. This choice, “gives it the feeling of a story as you listen down,” says Hall. It represented a moment of collective confidence.
“We self-produced the last album, so we felt validated in a sense that our instincts were sound,” adds Book. “We came into this one with some confidence. Any doubts about our band or our mission had dissipated. What remained was a deep sense of purpose and love.”
“The GRAMMY® put some high-octane gas in our tanks as well,” grins Garrett. “We also wanted to rise to the challenge of making a follow-up project worthy of what we had done in the past.”
The Infamous Stringdusters introduce the album with the handclap-driven gallop of the title track “Rise Sun.” High energy banjo powers an uplifting and undeniable refrain that immediately shines.
“It’s a hopeful anthem,” Book elaborates. “The sun is rising, and the light is overtaking the darkness. The idea for the melody, inspired by Southern gospel music, came to me driving out of the mountains into Georgia from my home in North Carolina. When we wrote it, I was feeling a deep sense of hope for humanity that the sun will rise again.”
Then, there’s the hummable instrumental “Cloud Valley,” which exudes a sci-fi spirit of wonder via sonic intricacy. “Science fiction can transport you to a place of deep imagination,” says Pandolfi. “We wanted to generate a soundscape for an imaginary mystical setting. It really came alive when we all got together.”
Everything culminates on a heartfelt send-off with “Truth and Love.” Its delicate musical backdrop transmits an important statement for The Infamous Stringdusters.
“I wrote that a few years ago and brought it back now, because I feel like the message has become more relevant today,” Falco states. “The world is polarized. Everything is so extreme, and partisan politics have become a culture war. The song is a reminder of what’s truly important in life—seek the truth, find your love, look up high, and aim above. Life is short, so keep your eye on what’s important while you’re here.”
In the end, that’s precisely what The Infamous Stringdusters do on Rise Sun as they boldly welcome yet another new day, new phase, and new chapter.
“We’re a brotherhood, but that family extends beyond the band even,” Falco leaves off. “Our music gives us an opportunity to bring some light in a world that can be dark sometimes.”