Robert Earl Keen, Lonesome Stew & Peace of Mind Orchestra

Weather conditions look ripe for a make-up concert for Robert Earl Keen at the Concert Hall this Sunday

by Chris Aaland

I spent a lot of my holiday break reminiscing about all of the concerts and festivals I’d seen during the past decade. I sifted through the souvenirs in my music room: bootleg recordings, concert posters, ticket stubs, reviews and columns I’d written, photo albums, autographed CDs, and vinyl records.

During the ’00s, I attended every single Telluride Bluegrass, Rockygrass, Silverton Jubilee/Jamboree and Pagosa Indiefest/Folk’n Bluegrass festival and missed just one or two Meltdowns. I put thousands of miles on assorted vehicles to see legends like Dylan, the Dead, Metallica and Judas Priest. Even on business trips, I’d scan the Web and local A&E rags to see who was playing.

I noticed that around the start of 2007, my attendance began to wane. Having a newcomer to the family does that to you. Between this past Labor Day and a snoozer of a Greg Brown concert right before Christmas, I heard no live music other than the sound of the Skyhawk band at FLC football games.

This week, I just might be in the house for a show or two. Gotta start the new decade out right, you know?

Robert Earl Keen cancelled his concert in Durango last January due to weather, but holds true to his word of honoring the date. He’ll return to the Community Concert Hall at 7 p.m. Sunday. Keen recently released “The Rose Hotel,” his first studio album in four years. Like much of his recent work, it’s a solid effort, full of Keen trademarks like humorous lyrics, travel songs and mid-tempo numbers. His longtime band backs him with additional support from Danny Barnes on banjo and guest vocalists Greg Brown and Billy Bob Thornton. While the album doesn’t exactly break new ground, it’s comfort food for longtime fans. Sure, surf and turf is nice, but sometimes there’s nothing’s better than mom’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

Lonesome Stew, a collection of five of Durango’s top bluegrass pickers, will perform at 7 p.m. Friday at the Smiley Auditorium. It’s basically past and present members of such bands as the Badly Bent and Rock & Rye coming together for two tightly rehearsed sets of bluegrass standards and a few originals. Lonesome Stew includes Robin Davis and David Smith on guitar and vocals, Pat Dressen on mandolin and vocals, Jimmy Largent on bass and Hap Purcell on banjo. Don’t call Lonesome Stew a side project, throw-together band or even a band at all. Smith said it might just be a one-time concert. “We’re simply long-time locals with similar interests in music, looking to show Four Corners bluegrass fans a good time for one night,” he said.

How many musicians does it take to make an orchestra? Apparently, just two. Ari Leopold (bass and keyboards) and Matt Engel (guitar and drums) pull the feat off in Peace of Mind Orchestra, which hits the Summit tonight (Thursday). Their trippy, ambient music has echoes of Pink Floyd, Motown R&B and New Orleans funk. Their forthcoming album is entitled “Still Awake at Dawn, Part Two.”

The Summit’s lineup also includes DJ Benjamin K on Friday and DJ Also Starring on Saturday.

Steamworks will groove to the dirty, rocking funk and blues of Memphis’ Ghost Town Blues Band at 10 p.m. Saturday.

This weekend’s music at the Purple Haze includes a happy hour by Back Alley Blues from 5-7 p.m. Friday and 8-midnight sets by Stone 66 on Friday and Saturday.

Elsewhere: The Jelly Belly Boogie Band performs at the Derailed Saloon Friday and the Sky Ute Casino Saturday; and the Kirk James Blues Band plays the Schank House at Vallecito Friday and Desperados Bar & Grill Saturday.

New Orleans' Peace of Mind Orchestra plays the Summit Thursday

Want to become a KDUR DJ? Fort Lewis College’s community radio station hosts a mandatory meeting for those interested in hosting a show at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in 125 Noble Hall on campus.

All of my live music reminiscing inspired this week’s Top Shelf list, which features my favorite concerts in Durango this past decade. My rules were simple: 1) I had to be there, which obviously ruled out shows I didn’t attend; and 2) they had to take place in town. It was a tough feat, mind you. I stewed over this one for days. I’m sure I’ll hear from the usual suspects about the errors of my ways, so feel free to email me your additions:

1. March 30, 2001, Yonder Mountain String Band, San Juan Room. When Yonder still played clubs and before they became kings of the jam-band universe, they were at their bluegrass peak.

2. Sept. 11, 2002, the Gourds, Storyville. Exactly one year after 9/11, the Gourds’ road manager opened with a solo, acoustic reading of Paul Simon’s “American Tune.” It was chilling. Slowly but surely, the Gourds joined him and went on to do two full sets including the obligatory “Gin and Juice” encore.

3. Sept. 26, 2002, Todd Snider, Durango Arts Center. Only about 90 people witnessed Todd’s first foray to town. Armed with two acoustic guitars, a harmonica and a grand piano, his between-song banter was almost as good as his tunes.

4. July 21, 2003, Dwight Yoakam, Whalen Gymnasium. Joined by a smaller touring band than he usually plays with, Dwight proved why he’s the best traditional country artist since the Hag.

5. Jan. 12, 2004, Steve Earle, Abbey Theatre. As a concert promoter, this was my high-water mark.

6. April 28, 2005, Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass, Durango Bluegrass Meltdown. Their Friday set at the pre-Hank Diamond Circle Theatre was my favorite Meltdown set ever.

7. May 10, 2005, Willie Nelson & Family, Whalen Gymnasium. The Red Headed Stranger sold out more than 2,000 seats in minutes. He didn’t disappoint.

8. Aug. 20, 2006, Kris Kristofferson, Community Concert Hall. An American icon, Kristofferson politely rebuffed a pro-war Hawk who disrupted a new tune that questioned the Bush Administration. Then he talked to little Otto, still housed inside of Shelly’s pregnant belly, after the show

9. Sept. 8, 2006, Alejandro Escovedo, Abbey Theatre. A mix of Al’s lyrical mysticism, glitter-rock guitar and cellos.

10. July 27, 2009, Lyle Lovett & his Large Band, Ray Dennison Memorial Field. Despite drunks in front of us, Lyle proved his meddle and shared some great new tunes. •

Guitar, we got years to kill? E-mail me at



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows