Roots music — whether country, reggae, Americana, bluegrass or folk — holds massive appeal here in Colorado. We love music that boils songs down to something completely devoid of pretension. Throw traditional instruments into the arms of the musos, wind them up and let them go. As a result, we're blessed with some fantastic bands and artists, both old and new. Some play trad-folk, others meld the genre with country or jazz, indie or pop. Here are ten greats, in alphabetical order.
1. Judy Collins
Born in Seattle, maybe, but Judy Collins will forever be seen as a Coloradan after forging a solid career here. She certainly sees it that way: Collins still speaks excitedly about the mountains, Denver, Boulder and everything in between. At 76, she performs about 129 shows each year and shows no signs of slowing down. Since her A Maid of Constant Sorrow
album debuted in 1961, Collins has barely stopped working, with last year’s Silver Skies Blue
album with Ari Hest earning her a Grammy nomination. She’s a force of nature.
2. John Denver
He was born in Roswell, New Mexico, and he died in California, but damn, did John Denver love Colorado. He lived in Aspen for much of his life, and “Rocky Mountain High” remains one of his best-loved songs. He was more folk rock, or perhaps folk Americana than pure folk, but that’s okay. Any excuse to write about the man with Denver in his actual name is good with us. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is a classic jam, and the pop-punk version by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is a trip. It’s been twenty years since Denver died in his own aircraft at the age of 53, and he’ll be forever missed.
3. Elephant Revival
Metro Denver has no shortage of contemporary folk bands, but Elephant Revival is right up there among the best of them. The musicians' joy in the roots sound is overt, but there’s also a mournful, near-gothic vibe to their sound, too. Hailing from Nederland, the band's music is often described as transcendental folk, which kind of works, too. Whatever you want to call them, the act put out its fourth studio full-length album, Petals
, last year and proved that it’s still slaying — acoustically.
4. Josephine Foster
As a kid, Foster sang at weddings and funerals, proving early on that she can capture a mood. Now fourteen albums into her seventeen-year career, Foster has dabbled in psychedelic rock (with her band the Supposed on the All the Leaves Are Gone
album), and Spanish folk (with the albums Anda Jaleo
). She can do practically anything, and last year’s No More Lamps in the Morning
proved that she’s still on top of her game.
Courtesy of artist
There’s bluegrass in Masontown. And newgrass. Certainly some folk. They call it “eclectic Front Range acoustic music.” What we know is that this relatively new band is grabbing the bull by the horns and making some of the most exciting acoustic music heard around these parts in a while. The musicians come from classical and jazz backgrounds, so the influences are spread far and wide. Put it all together, and it meshes beautifully.
Read on for more of Colorado's best folk acts.