Best Blues Recording 2001 | White AfricanOtis Taylor | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Otis Taylor is one of Colorado's many undiscovered treasures -- but if White African, an early release by NorthernBlues Music, a new Canadian blues imprint, receives the attention it deserves, he won't be undiscovered for long. The album isn't just the top blues recording by a local since...well...Taylor's last release; it's as good as any blues disc put out in the past year by anyone, anywhere.

Best Evidence of Life on the Alternative Scene

ILK @ Pirate

It's sad but true: Denver's alternative galleries have seen better days. Nevertheless, that little hole-in-the-wall ILK @ Pirate keeps chugging along. The small room is typically the site of wonderful shows, and the exhibiting artists, almost always the members of the two-venue ILK co-op that runs the place, usually give the space a complete facelift for each one. It's an ilk of a different kind, but it's a good one.
Thanks to the beneficence of former Boulderite Jello Biafra -- the onetime leader of the Dead Kennedys who created the Alternative Tentacles label -- Slim Cessna finally got the opportunity to display his eccentric take on country to a sizable audience beyond these parts. And he's made the most of it. Always Say Please and Thank You is frequently hilarious -- check out the timeless stomp "Last Song About Satan" -- but never at the expense of C&W verities.
Intimate solo-guitar improvisation filtered through casually chaotic sleight of hand (you know -- the induced vertigo from digital delays, ebos and assorted effects-laden gewgaws) is too easy a description for Mike O'Neill's impressive Scream of Consciousness. Scratch deeper and you'll discover methodically disarranged classical pieces, spiffy one-liners, and explorations into looped-based environments with all the distortion of a funhouse mirror. Amusingly titled cuts such as "Cupid's Gymnasium," "Shit-canned" and "Effing the Ineffable" hint toward prog-minded excursions -- something not entirely surprising given O'Neill's alumni status in Boulder's confounding quartet. Instrument Panel. Available through saxophonist Jack Wright's home page,, Scream covers all of the basic food groups and then some. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll scream.
Before she moved to Colorado, Donna Gershten ran a health club in Mexico -- and she put that experience to good use in Kissing the Virgin's Mouth. Her haunting, lyrical novel won not only raves from critics, but also the first $10,000 Bellwether Prize for Fiction, established by Barbara Kingsolver when the best-selling author was feeling flush and decided to do her bit to help out other authors. "This is the kind of book you inhale in one breath and can't forget afterward," Kingsolver says of Gershten's work. Mexico's loss is our gain.

Jim Hughes and Will Graveman's musical, ...And Now Miguel, examined an adolescent boy's agony in wondering whether anyone else understands what it's like to feel like an adult and be treated like a child. Thanks to Tony Garcia's astute direction, the joint production of Denver's El Centro Su Teatro and the Arvada Center successfully delivered that message to audiences of teens and preteens. Hushed silence greeted the leading character when he crooned, "Grownups can do whatever they want, but for me, life is different." And not a soul looked bored when Miguel offered the refrain "I can't express the feelings in my heart that come easily/ Being Miguel is not easy to be." It was a valuable reminder that plays can illustrate what parents and politicians sometimes can't.

Three words: atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. Sure, you might be able to get a bigger selection of fancy java drinks at Starbucks, but can you drink your skinny caramel macchiato with sprinkles in a locale imbued with such genuine art-deco flair? Arrive early at the Mayan Theatre, buy some tickets for the 4:30 show, and head up to the second floor, where you can drink your cuppa joe at a cozy, tucked-away table. The jolt of pre-movie caffeine is sure to keep your eyelids from drooping during even the most slow-moving French art flick.
What began as a creative outlet for multi-instrumentalist Dave Willey has turned into a real band -- and a unique one, at that. Carnival Detournement (Cuneiform) is a cornucopia of jazz, art rock and Eastern European folk music that's at once endlessly intriguing and unexpectedly accessible.
Randal Myler and Brockman Seawell's adaptation of onetime Boulder resident John Fanté's novella 1933 Was a Bad Year entranced from start to finish. That's mostly because Myler, who also directed 1933, staged the play with near-cinematic fluidity. He was aided by an ever-shifting backdrop of photographic montages: Vintage Boulder neighborhoods were suggested by contemporary snapshots that had been digitally sanitized to make each locale look as it did seventy years ago. The overall effect was largely one of an unbroken, almost symphonic backward glance -- peppered with bursts of hijinks -- at the forces that shaped a young man's destiny.

Bradford Lee Folk's voice is the musical equivalent of Rogaine, a hormone-rich wonder that raises the hair on the head, neck and everywhere else. One of many highlights in his stellar acoustic group, Open Road, Folk sings pre-country music with ache, anger and appreciation for his forebears. His ghostly, coal-dusted voice is high lonesome in the flesh.

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