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Colorado Rising

Seeking new tunes in the new year? Be sure to check out these three up-and-coming bands that hail from the Centennial State.

Drunken Hearts

The Sound: This Front Range Americana quintet continues to evolve its roots-driven sound behind the hearty vocals of front man Andrew McConathy, whose powerfully limber pipes evoke those of Eddie Vedder with shades of Southern twang (McConathy is originally from Louisiana). Back in the fall, the band released “Wheels of the City,” a new album recorded at Denver’s Silo Sound Studios and produced by Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth. The album features a sturdy batch of pensive country-rock tunes accented by pedal steel fills and psychedelic electric riffs.

Top Tune: The new album’s title track is a soulful meditation on the country’s current state of social inequality and divisiveness, with McConathy making a plea for change as he sings: “Let’s build a bridge and not a wall/Something to bind us and not divide us all.”

Catch a Show: The band just finished a fall stretch opening for Yonder Mountain String Band, and while no home state 2020 dates are set yet, McConathy is the founder and host of the Yarmony Music Festival, which takes place in Rancho Del Rio in August—so it’s a good bet they will be there.


The Sound: Winners of the 2019 band competition at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Boulder-based Bowregard is quickly ascending as one of Colorado’s next great bluegrass bands. The fast-fingered quintet excels at hard-and-tight traditional arrangements led by the nimble chops of fiddler Colleen Heine and engaging original songwriting of guitarist Max Kabat.

Top Tune: With help from Nick Forster of Hot Rize, Bowregard is currently in the studio working on a debut album that’s supposed to be released in early 2020. As a preview last fall, the group released “The Henrys,” a high-paced, foot-stomping story song about an outlaw on the run.

Catch a Show: The band performs at the Public House in Crested Butte on January 4, the Midwinter Bluegrass Festival in Denver on February 15, and the Winter Wondergrass Festival in Steamboat Springs on February 22. With the band comp win, Bowregard will also be back at Telluride in June.


The Sound: Denver’s live electronica trio makes soaring, cinematic, dance-ready soundscapes that sound much larger than what should come from just three people. The group’s improv-heavy instrumentals elevate deep-pocket funk jams with heady guitar runs and bright, synth-led sonic crescendos. SunSquabi members often multi-task—with guitarist Kevin Donohue adding laptop effects and Josh Fairman switching between bass and keys—to create the dynamic sound that is resonating beyond Colorado, as the group is now headlining large clubs across the country.

Top Tune: “Fisher Cat,” from the band’s 2019 studio effort “Instinct,” cruises with an edgy space-rock groove and an assist from the String Cheese Incident’s Jason Hann. 

Catch a Show: The band will start the new year with a Colorado ski town tour that includes a two-night stand at the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride on January 3 and 4, along with stops at Old Town Pub in Steamboat Springs on January 17 and 18, Public House in Crested Butte on January 30 and Agave in Avon on January 31 and February 1.

Big Names Play it Again

Nathaniel Rateliff – Photo Courtesy Nathaniel Rateliff

Rateliff Returns to Folk Roots
Nathaniel Rateliff is returning to his roots as a folk singer. The Denver-based music hero gained widespread acclaim fronting his powerful soul outfit the Night Sweats, but prior to starting that band in 2015, he released three acoustic-based albums under his own name. Rateliff first cut his teeth as a troubadour as part of the local Denver open-mic scene, after moving to Colorado from Missouri when he was 19. In late November, he announced a cross-country solo trek called the And It’s Still Alright Tour that will support a still-untitled new album and feature Rateliff performing songs from his entire discography by himself and with a new backing band. The run is slated to culminate with a home-state show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on August 26.

The Black Crowes Are Back
Apparently Hell froze over. After seven years, the Black Crowes will reunite this summer to embark on a massive amphitheater tour that features the band performing its debut album “Shake Your Money Maker” in its entirety. Brothers Rich and Chris Robinson have seemingly put years of public feuding and well-documented acrimony behind them. They’re also setting aside the jam band leanings the band had adopted by the time it last performed in 2013. Instead, Chris Robinson has been quoted in recent interviews saying the band’s beloved tunes like “Jealous Again” will be delivered as they were conceived, with concise, hard-hitting rock arrangements. See them at Red Rocks on August 30. —J.F.

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