Marni Pickens wasn't always the easy-going bluegrass picker she is today. "I'm a rocker chick," she says. "Even though I grew up in Colorado, I never listened to much country or bluegrass at all."
After moving from Colorado to New York City at eighteen years old, Pickens started playing bass in punk bands. In the twenty years she spent in the city before she moved back home, she played in a slew of projects and alongside legends like Joey Ramone and Ronnie Spector. It wasn't until she joined Giddyup Kitty that she began to really appreciate bluegrass.
"Once bluegrass gets into your system, it's there for good," says Pickens. "It's a genre for purists, to be sure. The form is definitive, but loose at the same time. It's like jazz for hillbillies."
Pickens met the other women who would be in Giddyup Kitty during a performance on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder in 2006. She was walking along the street when she saw their band, Sweet Liza Jane, performing. The music immediately spoke to her.
"They had a guy playing bass and I told them if they ever wanted a chick bass player who was pretty good and liked wearing mini-skirts, they should call me," says Pickens. "I heard from them the next day and have been playing with them ever since."
Nearly eight years after that lineup-securing meeting and a name change, Giddyup Kitty is set to release it's third album, Giddyup Kitty Rides Again, a mix of originals and covers that showcase what the band is all about: energy, musicianship and beautiful harmonies.
"Our voices blend really well," says Kerry Claxton, who shares lead vocal duties with Adrienne Yauk. "It's always fun to sing and do harmony stuff together. We always have a good time. Now we're just kind of keeping the train going."
For the new album, Claxton says the group has put together an eclectic mix of songs, including a few that speak directly to the band's Colorado roots. One tune, "Bridge To Heaven," is an instrumental Claxton wrote after a hike with her father she describes as "difficult but worthwhile" along the famous Bridge Of Heaven trail in Ouray.
"Sometimes songs, they come right out," says Claxton. "I was sitting around the house after the hike. It's unbelievable, the scenery you're seeing. I was playing the mandolin and that song just came out. I just think of that hike while I'm playing it."
Yauk, a former pig farmer from Windsor, also wrote a song called "Chores" about working on a farm, a very Colorado-centric topic.
"We're all Colorado natives," says Claxton. "I'm an outdoors lady. You know, hunting, hiking. Adrienne and I have written a lot of songs about Colorado...and we just love dressing up like cowgirls."
But the group is careful not to pigeonhole itself, and its look and sound can be deceiving. For although the band members are committed bluegrass devotees, their view on music is anything but myopic.
"The Kitties have never met a genre they didn't like," says Pickens. "We play Bill Monroe, Dolly Parton, The Stones and Lady Gaga. If a song speaks to us, we internalize and then Kittyize it. We play a ton of songs together and the ones we keep going back to are the ones we end up keeping. The songs choose us."
With everything from June Carter Cash's "Ring Of Fire" to the Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper" on the new record (Kittyized, of course), Rides Again draws from all the band members' musical backgrounds. But it's only a snapshot, according to Pickens, and not necessarily a sign up things to come.
"The new album reflects where we're at now," says Pickens. "We usually don't know exactly where we're at until we record everything and let it settle a bit. Then you listen back and you're like, 'right, I remember that person.' But like all bands, we're constantly changing."
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