Originally from La Crosse, Wisconsin, folk singer-songwriter, Chella Negro, relocated to Colorado in August of 2000. Though spending the majority of the past decade living in Denver has certainly informed her songs with a spirit that can only be lifted from the ubiquitous concrete and glass of the city, the soul of a life spent growing up in a midwestern town remains the heartbeat of the music. The seemingly mutually exclusive elements of country heart and urban savvy fuse seamlessly into a collection of songs that is at once unique and comfortingly familiar. Reflected in her singing simultaneously are the pain of heartbreak, the joy and wonder of life, and the wisdom gained from experiencing both. Chella faithfully carries the torch of singer-songwriter folk music past and current. The addition of Dave Pinto on Pedal Steel, Melanie Karnopp on Drums and Joey Coloroso on Bass fill out the instrumentation and bring a decidedly Americana sound to the songs.
Chimney Choir's new album, (compass), is music played on banjo, fiddle, guitar, and piano and sung in three part harmony. It is layered with electronic drones, field recordings, and conversational rhythms played on junk percussion. The songs were born on the road - it was sketched out, improvised, jammed, performed, scrapped, and reinvented over months of touring in the US, Germany, Holland, and Belgium. They were hashed out around campfires in between gigs, sung in the van during long stretches of driving, and tested in front of a new audience every night.
When the recording process started, the band wanted to capture a unique sonic character. The drums were tracked in an historic 1920's theater, they sang in a makeshift vocal booth in an urban carriage house, and retreated to the mountains for the finishing touches. They incorporated field recordings from Belgian train stations, Kris picked back up her childhood fiddle, and a new dimension was layered with the bass of Tom Plassmeyer. Their vision of bringing together acoustic and electronic sounds was developed while mixing with co-producer Jeremy Averitt (Princess Music, Clouds and Mountains.
(compass) was released over four months in a series of semi-theatrical performances at Leon Gallery in Denver, CO. Each monthly performance investigated a cardinal direction in hope to 'find the compass.' The performances were inspired by minimalist Fringe theater, where production was suggested or even imaginary. The shows experimented with sound collage, storytelling, puppetry, dance, and ritual. They lit candles, burned incense, and painted their faces. "We're establishing dreamlike environments where the audience can't really tell the show from reality after a certain point." Rynhart said of the performances. The final episode took place on June 23rd with the full release of (compass). The album was 'found' during a mock game show within a show at an antique warehouse near Denver's Valverde neighborhood, built on an old farm site that was once known for producing the world's best celery.
Comparisons have been as far flung as Harry Nilson, The Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens, Incredible String Band, Kurt Weill, and David Bowie. The band is currently working on a multi-media performance art show centered around the discovery of an inter-dimensional communication device. There are also plans to release an acoustic folk album and rumors of a collaboration with Wonderbound, the experimental ballet company based in Denver. One thing is for certain - Chimney Choir squints into the future because it is so bright.
"Denver-based Chimney Choir is more than just a group of talented multi-instrumentalists looking to evoke an old-timey sound. They are an artistic oddity; a unique homemade collage of sound. Yes, they have the usual roots laced deep in the soil of Americana and folk, though, the character of their melodic folk sound hinges largely on a skillful balancing of freaky vocal interplay with computer synths, traditional acoustics and kitchen sink percussion. Original, catchy and ripe with a strangely warm and welcoming aesthetic"
- Flagstaff LIVE (March, 2013)
Kevin Larkin - mandolin, samples, percussion, harmonica, accordion, synth, vocals
Kris Drickey - banjo, keyboards, guitar, violin, percussion, vocals
David Rynhart - guitar, flute, piano, percussion, vocals
Carl Sorensen - shakers, bottles, cans, random metal objects
Tom Plassmeyer - bass
Joe “Sawmill Joe” Cheves is the stuff of country-blues legend. When not recording music and playing in dive bars, Cheves works at Olde Tyme Lumber, six miles south of Boulder, where he lost a finger earlier this month. Originally from Frederick, Maryland, before moving out to Minnesota to get a job in the iron mines (as mentioned at the beginning of “The Trade”), Sawmill Joe has lived in Colorado for about five years now. With the release of this new album, he may have found a home for good. This debut sounds like a humble beginning for a man with obvious talents.
Sawmill Joe’s story isn’t the only thing that sounds like it came straight out of the Mississippi Delta—the songs on his self-titled album sound like they could have been recorded by Alan Lomax himself. They’re simple, heartfelt, and at times angry or sorrowful. This is the stuff that comes from the roots of the roots; it’s not imitation and it’s not affectation. Vocally, Joe can go from gravelly growl to cracking high-pitch country twang in one song. When most the songs consist of a simple blues guitar line and vocals, the feeling and passion in Joe’s voice comes through clearly, and it’s one of the highlights of the music.
“American Dream” is a love song that takes aim at money and religion, with the chorus, “If love don’t count for somethin’ won’t you please tell me what does?” On a song like “Destitute Blues,” you can easily peg some of Joe’s influences, like Mississippi John Hurt or Blind Lemon Jefferson. But where some artists would go over the top and just record a cover song, Sawmill Joe remains original. Listening to Joe’s songs, it’s hard to believe music like this is still being made in the 21st century. These songs about struggle and love are a soundtrack to one man’s life, but they are relatable and memorable regardless of where you come from.
Not all the songs here are desolate solo efforts. Denver musician Lief Sjostrom brings cello to a few tracks, including the unrequited love song “Be Your Man.” The cello isn’t overpowering, and it adds another dimension to some of the songs that’s refreshing and makes you wonder what kind of power Joe would have with a full band behind him.
-Matt Pusatory A.V. Club
Two Tone Wolf Pack is early 20th century imagery and idealism manifested
in a trashcan-americana quartet, lending a rowdy voice to the working
class, to the back woods, to the dark and hidden.
The songs are at once anthemic and strange. They sing of being beaten down, and of surviving. Two Tone Wolf Pack reestablishes the spirit of chain gangs as the brooding spirit of hopes and fears. Through steady heavy beats you hear the railway’s pounding in your heart, and through gritty vocals; haunting, luring melodies in your ears.
In June 2011, Two Tone Wolf Pack released their first EP, For Your Health. The EP was recorded on homemade microphoness, styled after 1920’s tin can models. They have toured locally and nationally, including having played festivals such as Austin's SXSW and Denver's UMS in 2012. TTWP is currently working on a new recording.
PRINCESS MUSIC is a five piece, all-star cast of classically- trained players, with backgrounds in a spectrum of musical stylings from chamber music to math metal. They rip through tightly orchestrated complexities and upbeat harmonies with a mixture of expertise and mirth. The music is built for the heart and the head, with the poignant narratives and spiritually evocative content found within classically influenced rock structures.
Princess Music arrangements simultaneously project intelligence and embody subtle pop sensibilities that allow casual music listeners to embrace it in all its glory. The band is fronted by Tyler Ludwick, a crooner harking to the likes of David Byrne, David Longstreth, and Zach Condon, who takes his classical guitar training to an electric guitar, his composition skills to cello and violin textures, and his drumming background to the overall poly rhythmic and irregular meters of the music. Ludwick is a playfully serious singer, who wears a deep emotional connection to his music on his sleeve.
PERFORMED WITH: The Lumineers, Punch Brothers, State Radio, Paper Bird, Dark Dark Dark, Haunted Windchimes, March Forth Marching Band, The Centennial, Fierce Bad Rabbit, Sunshine House, Pee Pee, Shenandoah Davis, You Me and Apollo, M and the Gems, Fort Wilson Riot, Patrick Dethlefs, Eye & The Arrow, Clouds and Mountains
PERFORMED AT: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Belly Up Aspen, Fox Theater, Ogden Theater, Meadowlark, Hi Dive, The Gothic Theater, Coco 66, Lost Lake