- Kerry Sherck
- Critically beloved singer/songwriter and author David Berkeley will perform and tell stories at the Manitou Art Center on April 5.
Dethlefs took home the “Best Teen Songwriter” award in 2009 from the Denver-based organization Swallow Hill Music, and in the years since has shared stages with Nathaniel Rateliff (recently announced, incidentally, to appear with the Night Sweats at Woodstock 50 this August), Gregory Alan Isakov, Yonder Mountain String Band’s Jeff Austin, and many more.
In October 2018, Dethlefs released the single “Remembering,” a plaintive country-folk ballad that is infinitely more wistful and poetic than your archetypal “tears-in-your-beer” country balladry — though there’s enough weeping pedal steel, courtesy of Jeff Rady, to justify that sort of response. Dethlefs’ other most recent effort, 2017’s six-track Beauty in the Unknown, displays a clear affection for the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Gram Parsons, though Dethlefs’ often soul-tinged vocals and intelligent, concise arrangements keep the proceedings sounding fresh and original.
Meanwhile, continuing the MeadowGrass-adjacent theme for the week, Rocky Mountain Highway’s Friends House Concerts series continues with its latest installment, bringing acclaimed, Mil-
waukee-based singer-songwriter Willy Porter to town on March 30.
Porter is a largely self-taught musician, though his guitar playing has drawn comparisons to John Fahey and Leo Kottke (certainly no faint praise). Porter’s albums have seen guest appearances by prog-rock royalty (Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and Martin Barre, King Crimson and longtime Peter Gabriel right-hand man Tony Levin), and the singer-songwriter has recorded live with the Columbus-based Carpe Diem String Quartet.
In 2018, Porter released a “Silver Anniversary Edition” of his breakthrough 1996 LP Dog Eared Dream, featuring four previously unreleased tracks, and in 2016 released Bonfire to Ash, a well-met collaborative LP with like-minded singer-songwriter Carmen Nickerson. The latter is a great jumping-in point for those unfamiliar with Porter, as there’s plenty to appreciate in the album’s engaging songwriting and subtle sonic details. You’ll want to grab a good pair of headphones and check out the easygoing, bluesy flavors of “Old Red Barn” and “Plant a Garden,” the cloudy-day roots-pop textures of “I Need You,” and gorgeous, glacial ballads “Wasting Time” and “If You Stay.”
The intimate singer-songwriter appearances don’t stop there, either. On Friday, April 5, the Manitou Art Center and E11 Creative Workshop host the Santa Fe-based David Berkeley for “An Evening of Songs and Stories.”
Berkeley, it’s safe to say, is something of a polymath and critical darling, with his voice likened to those of Nick Drake, Tim Buckley and Donovan. His writing is no less lauded — he’s been the recipient of ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Songwriting Award and the Kerrville New Folk Award, for starters, and he’s toured with Billy Bragg, Nickel Creek and Don McLean, among many others. He’s written two books, the 2015 novella The Free Brontosaurus and the 2010 short story collection 140 Goats and a Guitar (which neatly exist in tandem with his albums Cardboard Boat and Some Kind of Cure, respectively). Perhaps most eyebrow-raising of all, Berkeley’s music has even seen success in the realm of electronic dance music, with Steve Brian notably remixing Berkeley’s 2004 track “Fire Sign” in 2010.
In November 2018, Berkeley released his latest EP, The Faded Red and Blue, a collection of “political love songs.” It’s undeniably powerful, led by the atmospheric “Throw Down a Line,” which ruminates on the Las Vegas and Parkland mass shootings, and the title track, whose understated horn arrangements go a long way in ratcheting up the pathos of its bruised patriotism.
Finally, for something completely different, locals can look forward to not one, but two Led Zeppelin tributes in the coming weeks. (Hey, Houses of the Holy turns 46 on March 28, so why not?)
The weekend of April 5-6, Stargazers Theatre plays host to Zoso – The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience, the almost constantly touring national enterprise, which features Colorado Springs native and guitar phenom John McDaniel, while April 11 brings the Chicago-based Led Zeppelin 2 to the Black Sheep stage.
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