Memory lane, Mighty Diamonds and Hot Strings

I’ve been fortunate to have lived at least three lives in my 40 years: first as a ranch kid near Rifle, later as a bookish basketball player in Wheat Ridge, and finally as a suds-hound, music geek, trout bum and pseudo hippie aging in Durango. All three worlds collided last weekend.

One of my high school buddies, David Rye, celebrated his 40th birthday and bachelor party on Saturday in Vail. He and his brothers rented a condo and invited a host of honors nerds from Wheat Ridge’s class of ‘86. Three of us actually joined them.

The drive to Vail via Delta, Rifle and Glenwood Springs and the return trip over McClure Pass brought back one memory after another. I passed the pizza joint in Delta where I got drunk on pitchers of 3.2 Coors Light as a seventh grader; the Battlement Mesa ranch where my grandpa broke his back on a cattle drive; the Glenwood Springs football field where I forgot the snap count and cost us a touchdown; rivers and streams where I learned to fish, first with worms and later with a fly rod; even an organic ice cream shop in Ridgway that was once run by my acid-fueled amigo Dancin’ Pat (check out the dancing hippie at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival on YouTube).

Most of my high school friends who were invited to Vail have earned advanced degrees and hold down prestigious jobs as doctors, financial advisors, college professors, engineers and geologists. They get their kicks traveling the globe in search of adventure, heli-skiing on mountain ranges I can’t even pronounce, dropping a few Franklins for top-dollar fishing guides, and then showing pictures to the guys back at the office.

Me? I’m happy sitting at my usual barstool at Lady Falconburgh’s next to scruffy types who work as hard on their beer cards as they do at their blue collar jobs. What’s more, the fish in our pictures are usually bigger and we likely spent more on beer than accommodations.

The kicker: when leaving the condo, my high school pals wanted to leave a nearly full, mid-range bottle of tequila because the seal had been broken and it might be considered an open container. I’m happy to say it found a home nestled among the bottles in my liquor cabinet. I gladly departed Vail with more booze than the cooler full of Ska that I brought. It’s the Durango way.

While most of us can’t afford to crisscross the globe seeking thrills, the Durango way brings us a world of music this week, from blues and reggae luminaries to up-and-coming rappers to local rockers and newgrassers.

Taj Mahal plays the Community Concert Hall at 8 p.m. tonight (Thursday) with his trio. Taj is truly a living legend, rooted firmly in the blues but also steeped in Caribbean, African and other ethnic genres. Throughout his career, he’s bounced from National steel guitar to piano, organ, mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar and various percussion instruments. An ethnomusicologist, Taj’s concerts are more than entertainment — they’re history lessons that should come with three upper-level college credits.

The Mighty Diamonds — legends in their own right — visit the Abbey Theatre at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday for an all-ages show. Formed in 1969, the Diamonds are Jamaica’s premier harmony trio. With more than 40 albums to their credit, they’re best known for their hits “Pass the Kouchie” (later recorded as “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth during MTV’s heyday) and “Go Seek Your Rights.” In true Rastafarian spirit, their roots reggae songs are socially-conscious calls to arms. The bill also includes DJ I-Gene.

Local indie rock takes center stage at the Summit on Friday, as the Formless (a Durango band) performs with opening act Stereo Indifferance (from Farmington).

Saturday finds the Hot Strings at the Summit. With a new lineup that now features drums, the band has strayed further down the newgrass highway from their traditional bluegrass roots — a natural progression for this fine group of pickers that once won the Telluride Bluegrass band competition.

Louis Logic reportedly brings a singer-songwriter approach to rap by blending traditional beats with piano style. The Brooklynite plays the Summit on Wednesday.

Eric Kiefer, best known for his work with Aftergrass, does a solo, acoustic set at the Moe’s Starlight Lounge at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Visit the Starlight each Thursday for Salsa night, featuring free dance lessons at 7 p.m. and DJ Twelfth Night spinning tunes until 11.

If you’re in the mood for a Monday road trip, head into the upper Rio Grande drainage to catch Tim O’Brien in an 8 p.m. solo appearance at the Creede Repertory Theatre. O’Brien’s latest album is appropriately titled “Chameleon.” The bluegrass maestro plays each song with his own sparse accompaniment on mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki, guitar, banjo and whatever else he can get his hands on. It’s a singer-songwriter affair that ventures into folk, Celtic, country and even rock territory. Visit or call 719-658-0909 for more information.

Tonight’s Ska-B-Q features the reggae beats of DJ I-Gene and food from CJ’s Diner. The weekly Thursday happening starts around 5 p.m.

Speaking of Ska, the Bodo boys hit another one out of the park with the 10th installment of their Local Series beer. Puck’s Potion is a midsummer ale brewed with lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaf. It’s crisp and refreshing — perfect for a lazy summer afternoon. I rank this among the finest of the series, right up there with their import style pilsner and double chocolate stout.

With apologies to Robert Johnson, this week’s Top Shelf list honors Taj Mahal by featuring five blues albums that belong in your collection:

Johnny Winter, self-titled. This 1969 release unleashed the 25-year-old guitar phenom on the world.

B.B. King, “Live at the Regal.” The King gets lowdown in this 1964 set.

Otis Taylor, “When Negroes Walked the Earth.” The blues ain’t happy. Otis sings of freed slaves-turned-cowboys, lynchings and bodies lying on slabs.

Elmore James, “King of the Slide Guitar.” A box-set of sides that inspired Duane Allman and Billy Gibbons.

Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers, self-titled. The raw 1971 album that launched Alligator Records, the greatest contemporary blues label.

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