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Local albums worth tracking down

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Did you know that musicians still make albums, and fans still buy them? It's true. Visit a nearby music store, and you're sure to find local music in the bins. You can also go directly to artists' websites — or, better still, their shows — and cut out the middleman. Here's a handful of recent releases that are well worth investigating.

Broken Spoke, Broken Spoke

Tom Skora's quavering voice and evocative lyrics — along with co-founder Josh DeSmidt's understated approach to guitar, banjo, lap steel and harmonium — gives this 2½-year-old band a kind of high, lonesome Americana sound that deserves national recognition. "Downtrodden, brokenhearted / Never seen a play that I didn't feel a part of," sings the former cadet who made the unlikely transition from Air Force man to alt-country troubadour.

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Che Bong, Sleeping While You're Awake

Che Bong is the first of four emcees in the Colorado Springs hip-hop group BullHead*ded. The subject of a 2011 Indy cover story, he draws upon the spirit of the music he grew up to listening to, like Tribe Called Quest and Eric B. & Rakim, and more contemporary underground hip-hop inspirations like Murs and Blueprint. Sleeping While You're Awake finds him moving into the ranks of established Springs hip-hop heroes Black P and the ReMINDers.

El Toro de la Muerte, Dancer These Days

While the journalist who characterized them as an indie-rock version of Supertramp may be pushing it, there are commonalities between El Toro de la Muerte and the venerable prog-pop band. Both have two distinctive frontmen/songwriters and specialize in music that's immediate, accessible and idiosyncratic. El Toro's debut EP was released last fall; check out the track "The Chattering of Rats" to sample the venue-packing band's characteristically weird and undeniably catchy sound.

Grant Sabin, The Homesick EP

An old soul at age 21, Grant Sabin started gigging in his mid-teens, with a sound that drew heavily from Robert Johnson and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He integrates those Delta blues influences into something more personal and unique on this 2011 EP, with biting slide guitar that complements his soulful growl and heartfelt lyrics.

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Grass It Up, Live

Now in its seventh year, prolific "newgrass" outfit Grass It Up is a constant presence on the Springs scene, with a dedicated fan base rivaled only by that of the Haunted Windchimes. This live album, recorded at Western Jubilee here in Colorado Springs, combines vintage bluegrass classics with spirited originals that are as impressive as they are engaging.

Haunted Windchimes, Out With the Crow

The Windchimes started out as a Pueblo trio that's since expanded to a five-piece. Their stunning harmonies and homespun music evoke an era that's a half-century older than the 20-somethings who comprise the band. Following their 2011 appearance on A Prairie Home Companion, the Windchimes ventured out on their first serious national tour, the kind that involves no hitchhiking or tip jars.

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Jake Loggins, Have a Nice Day

While showcasing the blues-rock prodigy's fluid guitar skills, Jake Loggins' debut album also shows a songwriting talent mostly hidden during years on the local club scene. A dozen originals include the ska-inflected "White Picket Prisons" and the revved-up "Fool," which has the feel of early Paul Rogers and Free. With a new family, Loggins plays out infrequently, but this album holds the promise of great things to come.

John-Alex Mason, Jook Joint Thunderclap

The leading light in the local blues community, John-Alex Mason was 35 when he died last year after surgery. This 2011 album demonstrates just how honest and powerful his music was, and always will be. On it, the third-generation Colorado Springs native sounds like he just took a bus up from the Mississippi Delta. At the same time, the sound and songwriting have spirit and originality that's timeless.

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