By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
The vintage-style juke joint has already played a significant role in the Hi Beams' life: In 1999, the band released Live at the Skylark, a collection of covers culled from the realms of traditional country, Western swing and honky-tonk. On Halden Wofford & the Hi Beams, released this spring, the band pays dutiful homage to the same genres, this time showcasing the songwriting abilities of Wofford, guitarist Bret Billings and mandolinist/guitarist Kevin Yost. (Bassist Ben O'Conner, founder of the www.denverbarndance.com Web site, and drummer Justin Greville complete the roster.) Flecked with the warbling wail of pedal-steel guitars and played as tight as a drum, the recording is anchored around Wofford, who just might be one of the most likable personalities in Denver music.
Sunny-voiced and bespectacled, Wofford radiates an easy charm whether channeling Hank Williams or Bob Wills or simply being himself. And when he isn't manning the microphone, he reads to kids as part of his job at the Tattered Cover Book Store and is illustrating a children's book about the history of country music; the volume is due in 2005 from Little Brown publishing company. He's a cheery guy, all right, even if some of the high-lonesome tunes he delivers are doused with misery and malcontents.
"I have a deep, dark nasty side," he says, laughing. "Just ask my wife."
Later this year, Wofford plans to release a solo record; while it may not be dark or nasty, it will be a bit more introspective than his work with the Hi Beams. "It's moody," he says. "It's kind of traditional and a little more folky -- closer to avant-country. It's my Lou Reed and Iggy Pop record." -- Bond
NOMINATED IN SINGER/SONGWRITER
8 P.M., DAZZLE, WITH NINA STOREY
Meet Colorado's Ani DiFranco. Since establishing herself as a headliner during the '90s, talented singer/songwriter Wendy Woo has handled all of the marketing and promotional aspects that most musicians either ignore or foist upon others. "I do my booking," she notes, "and I know exactly what's going on with my business and how to pitch my price. I don't have a middleman. People call and deal directly with me."
Fortunately, Woo has grown adept at compartmentalizing, and when she's done with dollars-and-cents duties, she's able to focus on artistic concerns. Gonna Wear Red, a CD she issued in 2002, was the first disc she's made that she didn't engineer, "which was kind of nice," she admits. The album is representative of her work, she believes, in that "it's a mix of listening music and dance music. Each song represents a different emotion that goes from loss to sadness to rebirth to reliving." The high quality of the disc has been beneficial in more ways than one: "People really like it, so it's easy to sell."
Woo encounters potential customers all the time, since, by her estimate, she performs approximately 250 shows every year. She's grown successful enough to fly, rather than drive, to concerts that take her to jumbo communities, but she also appreciates the audiences in smaller burgs. "The big cities have so much music that you sometimes only get a little shot at playing," she says. "Whereas in the small towns, people want to hear you play for hours. You start pulling up songs you don't play all the time, which is great.
"I really like doing things for myself," she adds. "You get more done that way." -- Roberts
NOMINATED IN ECLECTIC
10:30 P.M., ACOMA CENTER
According to 16 Horsepower's David Eugene Edwards, Wovenhand, his solo project, wasn't launched out of creative frustration with his primary project. Bread and butter had a lot more to do with it.
"Jean-Yves [Tola] and Pascal [Humbert] have income outside of music," Edwards points out about two key Horsepower mates. "Jean-Yves and his wife have a horse farm where they raise jumping horses, and that keeps them quite busy -- and Pascal's wife is a teacher in Grand Junction. But I don't really have any other choice than to play, and when we decided to take a break because we'd been on the road too long, I had time on my hands."
Edwards made the most of it. "I kept writing and kept recording, and it turned into something I wasn't expecting," he says. In 2002, Glitterhouse, the imprint that issues 16 Horsepower platters in Europe, placed Edwards's creations on a CD dubbed Wovenhand, and he went on the road to support it. Today, Edwards gets plenty of help reproducing the Wovenhand sound from bassist Shane Trost, mandolinist/pump organist Daniel McMahon and drummer Ordy Garrison, who's also pounded the skins for Tarantella and Slim Cessna's Auto Club.
More recently, Wovenhand whipped up Blush, a CD already available in Europe that compiles music Edwards wrote for Ultima Vez, a Belgian dance company. The offering will eventually make its way to the States, joining Olden, a roundup of 16 Horsepower's earliest material that is presently earmarked for a September release on Jetset Records.
Hearing the Horsepower demos for the first time in ages was an odd experience for Edwards. "It was interesting how much my voice has changed, how much younger I sounded, and how much quicker we played everything," he says. "But I'm much happier now, and hopefully just better at what I do." -- Roberts