Gregory Alan Isakov isn't a big talker. Live, he rolls through his sets with graceful efficiency and a minimum of banter. When he does speak, it's at such low levels that you're forced to lean in close to catch the gist of what he's saying. As soft-spoken as Isakov is, though, on stage he emanates a commanding intensity that often leaves listeners stunned and speechless. And off stage, he's not all that different.
On a peaceful Sunday afternoon in May, Isakov is kicking back in a plastic deck chair outside the Airstream trailer where he's been staying since he split with his girlfriend in February. The vintage mobile home is parked in the driveway of a quaint farm just off St. Vrain road in Niwot. As Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left plays quietly in the background, Isakov begins speaking in hushed tones that threaten to be drowned out by gentle wisps of an intermittent breeze and the squawking of chickens in a nearby coop. While such a pastoral scene is befitting of the rustic troubadour who's spent the better part of the past six years farming, Isakov has been a city slicker for most of his life.
He was born in the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, South Africa, and came of age during the latter days of Apartheid. As the political situation worsened, his folks decided to immigrate with their three sons to the United States in the mid-'80s. "I was scared about moving," Isakov admits now. "All I had known about America was what I saw on The Wizard of Oz. I thought there was going to be tornados everywhere."
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Tue., April 8, 8 p.m., 2008