Navigating the multitude of live music options in our great state can be a daunting task. Need some help? We want to recommend these five acts, coming to the Front Range in late summer with new albums in tow.
Band of Horses
New Album: Why Are You Ok
The Dope: Throughout 12 years of creating music, Band of Horses has teetered its sound between atmospheric indie fireworks and take-it-easy 70s folk-rock. The new “Why Are You Ok,” the band’s first studio album in four years, finds a nice balance between the group’s different stylistic leanings. The opening two-song combo “Dull Times/The Moon” starts with a mellow stroll through Floydian space, while frontman Ben Bridwell reflects on mundane aspects of life as a family man, before taking off with chunky, distorted alt-rock chords in the latter tune. Domestic reflection continues in the catchy, effects-laced “In a Drawer,” which features backing vocals from J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. The band also finds bliss in the ethereal flow of its breakout single, “The Funeral” and in the gentle “Hag”; proof that even in a dad-rock headspace Bridwell and his crew can conjure their early glory.
Playing: August 11 at Mishawaka Amphitheatre, August 12 at the Fox Theatre and August 13 at the Ogden Theatre
David Grisman Sextet
New Album: David Grisman Sextet
The Dope: Back in 1976, mandolin icon Grisman recorded a ground-breaking, eponymous album with the David Grisman Quintet, producing an instrumental string band sound that blended bluegrass with jazz, Latin music and other genres from around the world. Four decades later, at age 71, Grisman is still playing his self-dubbed “Dawg Music,” a hybrid style that influentially broadened possibilities in the acoustic music landscape. Earlier this summer he released “David Grisman Sextet,” his first album of original material in 10 years. Grisman and company are still pushing boundaries and unearthing lost art forms with nimble-fingered string wizardry. Standouts on the new effort include the quiet tone poem “Newly Wedding,” a look back at vintage Gypsy Jazz, and “Slinky,” which dives headfirst into hard bop and funk. The playful “Dawg’s Bounce” is a sunny jug band romp that demonstrates Grisman can still have plenty of fun as he continues to deliver a first-class musical education.
Playing: August 12 at Chautauqua Auditorium
New Album: American Band
The Dope: The Truckers have certainly never been shy about social commentary. For the past 20 years the band’s primary songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have told vivid tales of Southern underdogs navigating rural pitfalls and cultural stereotypes that are hard to overcome. This fall, though, the band is getting overtly political with it latest studio album, “American Band,” which drops on September 30—about a month before we all go to the polls. The band used the phrase “protest music” in materials announcing the new album, as songs will directly address the country’s recent mass shootings and the unrest in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown. Lead single “Surrender Under Protest” points fingers at those who resisted removing the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina Statehouse after the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. Mixing politics and music isn’t for everyone, but the Truckers always deliver a raucous rock show.
Playing: August 20 at Red Rocks with Yonder Mountain String Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Chris Robinson Brotherhood
New Album: Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel
The Dope: It appears the Black Crowes are officially done. It’s time to move on. Chris Robinson certainly has. Earlier this summer he released his fourth studio album with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, now a seasoned crew of jam players, including guitar slinger Neal Casal, that Robinson first assembled back in 2010 to drench his bluesy vocals in extended psychedelic grooves. The new effort, “Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel,” runs through a range of roots-minded sounds, from the jangly country rocker “Ain’t It Hard But Fair” to the twangy Southern gospel of “California Hymn.” These guys like to stretch out on stage, so these songs and other new cuts will certainly find alternate dimensions on stage.
Playing: September 16 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Railroad Earth and Anders Osborne
New Album: Ouroboros
The Dope: In the spring LaMontagne released “Ouroboros,” a multi-dimensional folk-rock odyssey co-produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. The album is a heady ride with patient, retro-psychedelic rock swirling around the singer-singer’s soulful vocals. This summer, LaMontagne has been borrowing all of the Jacket boys, sans James, to recreate the album’s sounds in the live setting on a lengthy summer tour. If you hate concert spoilers stop reading here. If you want to know what to expect: The shows have featured LaMontagne starting solo and running through some of his old acoustic staples (“Trouble,” “Shelter”). Then the band comes out for a full run through “Ouroboros,” before continuing the electric assault. Chances are James will want his band back soon, so expect this tour to be a limited opportunity.
Playing: September 18 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre