Dopplebock, butt-rock and guru


by Chris Aaland

Winter’s first enormous blast finally hit, dumping more than 2 feet of snow last weekend. Skiers and boarders loved it. The thousands of La Plata County residents without power and water hated it. Travelers – especially droves of FLC students returning from winter break – dealt with extreme winter driving conditions and numerous road closures. As a fly-fishing junkie, I’ll gladly trade shoveling-induced back pain for the prospects of higher water flows in our rivers next summer.

So who’s to thank (or blame) for our recent dump? In recent years, heavy January snows have coincided with the release of Ska’s commemorative Snowdown ale. Remarkably, Dragon Ass Dopplebock hit Durango liquor stores last Friday … the same day the snow began falling. By nature, dopplebocks are full-bodied, malty beers with chocolate or roasted characteristics. Dragon Ass follows suit. I found my first bomber to have a caramel finish. If any of you knaves and wenches would like to try it, you’ll have to hurry to a liquor store before these sell out – which often occurs before Snowdown itself (Ye Olde Snowdown is slated for Jan. 30 - Feb. 3). The only tavern that will feature Dragon Ass on tap is Lady Falconburgh’s.

I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I have an unhealthy affinity for microbrews and imports. My step dad, who prefers the harder stuff, reminds me that “beer makes you fat, fart and stupid.” So noted. Most of the others who chide me for swilling “trendy” beer are simply cheap. They also fall into three music-listening categories: butt-rock, big belt-buckle country and hip hop. Not surprisingly, listeners to each of these styles prefer bargain beer. Fret not, cheap draught drinkers, as Top Shelf has entertainment alternatives for you.

The vocabulary listing on describes the classic rock sub-genre of butt-rock as rock bands from the mid-1970s onward that feature several male members with mullets, wailing guitar solos, distorted guitars and lyrics about women, sex, drugs and cars. My own keen reporter’s eye has noticed that butt-rockers tend to drink Busch, Natural Light and Keystone.

Local butt-rockers should circle this Saturday on their calendars, as tickets will go on sale at 9 a.m. for the March 2 George Thorogood & the Destroyers concert at and the Community Concert Hall’s ticket outlets in Durango and Bayfield. Trust me, this one will sell out quickly … mostly to 40-somethings shouting “Bad to the Bone” requests the moment Thorogood hits the stage.

The big belt-buckle country crowd won’t have to wait long to crack open their Bud and Coors Light longnecks, as piano-playing crooner Phil Vassar comes to the Community Concert Hall for a 7 p.m. hoedown this Sunday. Vassar has achieved a long list of Top 20 hits on country radio, including nine No. 1 songs.

Hip hop nation has long embraced 40-ouncers of Mickey’s and OE. A few of these might be consumed prior to Sunday’s 10 p.m. Abbey Theatre performance by Guru of Gangstarr and Jazzmatazz. I’m no hip hop expert – my CD collection is sadly light in this area, featuring mostly Beastie Boys albums with a smattering of ’80s and ’90s party songs – but I’ve been told by many folks that Guru appeals to hip-hop newcomers as well as diehard fans because he blends jazz, R&B and more.

Saturday night finds Latin dance band Nosotros returning to the Summit for a 9 p.m. gig. A longtime Durango favorite, Nosotros adds flamenco, jazz, salsa and rock to create its unique sound.

This week’s Top Shelf column features the Top 10 bluegrass albums of 2007 as chosen by KDUR DJ and Rock & Rye singer/guitarist David Smith. Tune in to KDUR at 91.9 and 93.9 FM and each Tuesday from 6-9 p.m. to hear David on “The Sweet By and By.” Three of the bands listed below (Infamous Stringdusters, Lauderdale, Sweet Sunny South) will appear at the 14th annual Durango Bluegrass Meltdown from April 11-13.

David Smith’s Top 10 Bluegrass Albums for 2007

1. John Starling & Carolina Star, “Slidin’ Home” – With three founding members of the Seldom Scene and two current members of the Tony Rice Unit, this album is a shoe-in for me for #1.

2. Infamous Stringdusters, “Fork in the Road” – The ‘Dusters went from being on the verge of being the next big thing, to being the next big thing, to just simply being THE big thing in modern bluegrass. This album has everything that makes the genre great: instrumentals, ballads, driving numbers, a murder song, love songs and a tune about Virginia.

3. The Seldom Scene, “Scenechronized” – This band means a lot to me personally, as I grew up listening to them live back in Virginia. Dudley Connell is great on lead vocals.

4. Steep Canyon Rangers, “Lovin’ Pretty Women” – Since winning the Rockygrass band contest, SCR has stayed true to its ways of original, honest and driving bluegrass. These guys do North Carolina right!

5. Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, “Took Up and Put Down” – Cordle has been keeping honky tonk alive and well in bluegrass for decades. He has several albums out with Lonesome Standard Time, and they’re all great.

6. Big Fat Gap, “A Brief History of Big Fat Gap” – Here’s the unknown band of the list. Pretty much a local Chapel Hill, N.C., band, but if you follow the world of bluegrass pickers under the age of 30, you’ll notice some of the best names around.

7. Don Rigsby & Midnight Call, “Hillbilly Heartache” – Rigsby has been in several incredible bluegrass bands over the last many years. Now he’s fronting his own group. The “Kentucky Waltz” on this album is one of the best I’ve ever heard (sorry Mr. Osborne).

8. Jim Lauderdale, “Bluegrass Diaries” – There’s nobody quite like Jim Lauderdale. A Tai-chi-in-the-park sort of guy, wearing embroidered two-piece Western suits on stage, this album just got nominated for a Grammy, find out why.

9. Larry Sparks, “Last Suit You Wear” – Here is my classic for the list. Sparks is a legend and over the last year or two, he’s put out two great albums. Hearing Del McCoury singing tenor chorus is a real treat.

10. Sweet Sunny South, “Showtime” – Out of Paonia? That right, a band from Colorado made my list. SSS has a knack for writing original songs that are extremely catchy and clever. •

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