Ten of the Best Colorado Bluegrass Artists

The Cody Sisters are Denver's latest rising bluegrass act.
The Cody Sisters are Denver's latest rising bluegrass act. The Cody Sisters

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Turkeyfoot bluegrass is marked by solid songwriting and a sound that is, refreshingly, in the traditional vein of the genre. The group is a working example of the Denver bluegrass scene in operation. Mandolin player Jordan Brandenburg credits his time at various bluegrass picks around town as being the spark that helped ignite the band. The group recently placed in the band competition at RockyGrass and is itching to take its message to a wider audience.

Ragged Union

Ragged Union melds an authentically traditional sound with the dazzling virtuosity of some of the best pickers in the genre. The talented outfit includes bandleader Geoff Union, songwriter and bassist Benny "Burle" Galloway, fiddler Justin Hoffenberg, 2016 Winfield national mandolin champion Jordan Ramsey and banjoist Chris Elliott. The band has the ability to seamlessly shift styles from old-time waltz to prog-grass. "It can’t be Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers forever," explains Union. "All the new strains of bluegrass, such as the bands that come out of Colorado, help to breathe new life into the genre.”

The Railsplitters
Counting Boulder as their home base, the Railsplitters fall into the more progressive bluegrass camp. Unapologetically blending Appalachian influences with genres as far afield as samba and hip-hop, the group includes Lauren Stovall and her Emmylou Harris-esque vocals, Dusty Rider's intricate banjo work, Peter Sharpe's Brazilian and bluesy flare on the mandolin, Joe D'Esposito's New England and Italian-inspired fiddling, and Jean-Luc Davis on the double bass. The Railsplitters have won multiple awards, including first place in the RockyGrass Band Competition in 2013.

Wood Belly

Winners of the 2018 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Wood Belly was born when mandolin player Chris Weist met guitarist Craig Patterson and dobro player Chris Zink at RockyGrass in 2015. Within a year, they combined with banjoist Aaron McCloskey and bassist Taylor Shuck. With the group's recent Telluride win and debut release, which dropped this past May, the outfit staked its claim among artists capable of transporting traditional instrumentation to new ground.

The Cody Sisters
With uncanny talent and an impressive knack for capturing a variety of old-time and bluegrass styles, the Cody Sisters — fourteen-year-old Maddie and sixteen-year-old Megan — demonstrate skills way beyond their years. The girls, who are both students at the Denver School of the Arts, with the aid of their father Steve Cody on upright bass, are rapidly winning appreciative listeners in Colorado and around the world. They cite inspiration from artists including Sarah Jarosz, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
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Nick Hutchinson writes about music for Westword and enjoys playing his guitar when not on deadline.
Contact: Nick Hutchinson

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