By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
The 10th annual Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival is rapidly approaching at just three weeks away. The much-anticipated event will take place June 5, 6 and 7 on Reservoir Hill in downtown Pagosa Springs.
A couple thousand folks per day from all around Colorado, New Mexico and beyond will gather to hear the likes of Noam Pikelny and Stuart Duncan, Irish super group Solas, Red Molly, Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, Mandolin Orange, Songs of the Fall, Front Country, Tim and Myles Thompson, Rebecca Frazier and Hit and Run, Trout Steak Revival, Monocle Band and this week’s featured bands: The Slocan Ramblers, Finnders and Youngberg, and Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen.
The Slocan Ramblers
The Slocan Ramblers are Canada’s young bluegrass band to watch. Rooted in the tradition, fearlessly creative, and possessing a bold, dynamic sound, the Slocan Ramblers have quickly become a leading light of Canada’s roots music scene, built on their reputation for memorable, energetic live shows and impeccable musicianship.
With their debut album “Shaking Down the Acorns” receiving wide acclaim (Sing Out! Magazine, Huffington Post, etc.), extensive national and international touring under their belt, and a sophomore release due out in the near future, this fearless four piece is sure to keep garnering attention far beyond the traditional bluegrass fan base.
FolkWest is honored to bring the fellows to Colorado for their first — but surely not last — series of western U.S. appearances. In addition to their stint teaching at the kids’ bluegrass camp, The Slocan Ramblers will play on the main stage at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, and again that same day on the late night stage, at 8:30 p.m.
Finnders and Youngberg
Arriving at the festival via a decidedly shorter journey is Colorado’s own Finnders and Youngberg. The band proudly swims in the deep currents of American music — classic bluegrass, tried-and-true honky tonk, country swing and skillfully spun folk tales.
While their sound evokes timelessness, it is a decidedly contemporary, well-traveled 21st century sensibility that informs their songwriting. Their tunes draw on the bumps, bruises and laugh lines earned when we find ourselves in the “bogs” of back roads, dive bars and long, lonesome nights.
In this stream, a vibrant cast of characters populates their latest full-length album, “FY5” — brave Rocky Mountain snowplow drivers, hard-living musicians, housewives, lovers, drifters, drinkers and dreamers. The album was enthusiastically embraced in their home state, coming in as the No. 1 bluegrass CD on Colorado radio for 2011, with the second most “spins” overall for the year.
Musicians with a palpable sense of place, the members of Finnders and Youngberg have all laid strong foundations as veterans of the vibrant Colorado Front Range acoustic music scene.
Two-time MerleFest songwriting competition winner in both the gospel and bluegrass categories, Iowa native Mike Finnders possesses an arresting and emotive stage presence. The principal songwriter and guitarist for Finnders and Youngberg, his finely honed storytelling forms the bulk of the band’s canon.
Erin Youngberg (“E”) provides a muscley bass and beautiful, world-wise vocals, while husband Aaron Youngberg (“AA”) plays a mean banjo and seductive pedal steel. Both were founding members of the Hit and Run Bluegrass Band, which won the RockyGrass band competition in 2002 and Telluride in 2003.
The group is rounded out by Rich Zimmerman on mandolin and Ryan Drickey on fiddle. Zimmerman was a founder of the innovative acoustic Boulder band Slipstream. Meanwhile Drickey’s chameleonic fiddling has earned him a RockyGrass fiddle competition win and marked him as a much sought-after session player for the likes of Matt Flinner and Michelle Shocked.
Together on stage, Finnders and Youngberg possess an undeniable chemistry and an energy that flows with might. Marked by an intimacy with the audience, their performances feature precision picking, soaring harmonies and joyful, energetic choreography centered around an old-school, single microphone setup. The emotional richness of their music resonates throughout their stage show.
Finnders and Youngberg will be in town the entire week before the festival as they return to head up the Pagosa Bluegrass Jam Camp. You can hear them on the main stage at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, and on the late night stage on Saturday, June 6, at 9:30 p.m.
Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen
Repeatedly tagged as one of the most exciting bands on the bluegrass scene, the 2015 Grammy-nominated group for Best Bluegrass Album and winner of the 2014 International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Instrumental Group of the Year Award, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen has earned a slew of accolades since joining forces in the Washington, D.C., area, a longtime breeding ground for some of the genre’s finest players.
Lead vocalist/mandolinist/fiddler Solivan and bassist Dan Booth have known one another since they were teens in Alaska; they’re joined by banjoist Mike Munford, winner of IBMA’s 2013 Banjo Player of The Year Award, and guitarist Chris Luquette, who won IBMA’s 2013 Instrumentalist of The Year Momentum Award.
Noted for individual virtuosity, well-executed interplay and close harmonies, they expertly deliver precise, intricate compositions without ever stepping on one another’s musical toes. And though they use traditional instruments, they refuse to be bound by tradition; they much prefer to travel wherever the music takes them.
The band is starting to tour more in the western U.S., with several major festival appearances in the summer of 2015 — including Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival, where you can catch their main stage set at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 7.
Material for this story was provided by the bands.
Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival is currently building an alternate volunteer list as backup for any late volunteer cancellations. If you’ll be around the weekend of June 5-7 and would like to put your name on the list, give Dan Appenzeller a call at 731-5582. If you carry out a volunteer shift, you will earn a three-day admission to the festival.
Additional festival information, including full schedules, how to purchase tickets and more, is available online at www.folkwest.com.