Folked up, Flatlanders and farewell to Jonezy

by Chris Aaland

Folk music is often misunderstood in today’s day and age. Younger people think of crusty graybeards in sea captain’s hats playing to beat-folk poets in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse. Others think of “A Mighty Wind.”

For me, folk music is the intersection of all American roots genres — and the staple for my weekly radio show on KDUR that proclaims to be “High Test Western.” Jazz, blues, bluegrass, country, rock and R&B all trace their roots to songs brought to America by immigrants — some who came here by their own volition, others who were brought here against their will.

Durango gets folked up this weekend with no fewer than six songwriting legends who have been dear to my heart for many years.

On Friday, KSUT and the Hank lean heavily on the Lilith side of folk with a twin bill that features Lucy Kaplansky and Patty Larkin. Kaplansky is more of a folk traditionalist, with six singer-songwriter albums under her belt and collaborations with Richard Shindell and Dar Williams in “Cry Cry Cry” and John Gorka and Eliza Gilkyson in “Red Horse.” Larkin, on the other hand, is more of a neo-folk, “urban-pop stylist”and an innovative guitarist. While most known her for 1997’s “Perishable Fruit,” which yielded her signature song, “Wolf at the Door,” I prefer the soundscapes of 2003’s “Red=Luck.”

My tastes lean toward the twangy side of folk, making Saturday’s Durango Acoustic Music production of the Flatlanders and Tom Russell a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see four great songwriters on the Smiley Theatre stage (showtime is 7 p.m.). Born in the fertile soil of Lubbock, Texas, in the early 1970s, the Flatlanders sprung the careers of Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. Ely later opened for the Clash, was a member of Los Super Seven and recorded such classics as “Letter to Laredo” and “Honky Tonk Masquerade.” Gilmore, with his distinctive, rural tenor, is a Zen-like leader of the Texas music scene, recording timeless albums like “One Endless Night” and “After Awhile” … not to mention achieving cult-hero status to scores of slackers worldwide for his role as “Smokey,” the pacifist bowler in “The Big Lebowski.” (Not to belittle Gilmore here: I’m a Lebowski junkie.) While the lesser known of the three, Hancock is pure genius, a renaissance man as adept at running rapids as he is in photography, art and music. Toss in Tom Russell, who opens the show and is no stranger to Durango via numerous previous DAM concerts, and you have dirt road nirvana.

The Nelson clan claims Guinness Book of World Record fame for spawning No. 1 hits from three straight generations: the big band sounds of Ozzy & Harriett, the rockabilly of Ricky, and the early ‘90s glam-metal of Nelson and Ricky’s boys, Matthew and Gunnar. While I doubt the twins will play “(Can’t Live without Your) Love and Affection” at the Community Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, I do expect plenty of their late father’s hits like “Hello Mary Lou,” “Travelin’ Man” and “Poor Little Fool” when they bring “Ricky Nelson Remembered” to town.

Beer drinking for worthy causes is becoming as trendy as tribal arm band tattoos and “The Jersey Shore.” It seems every weekend corrals thousands of beer-bellied hooligans and outfits them with commemorative pint glasses. This week sports two such events.

The warm-up is the annual fall fund-raiser for the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, held from 5-9 p.m. tonight (Thurs., Sept. 23) on the loading docks of Durango Brewing Co. Ten bucks gets you a souvenir pint glass, barbecue and live bluegrass and Celtic music from Waiting on Trial, the Scrugglers (featuring our very own Labowskie!), Giants Dance and Old North State.

The big event, though, is the seventh annual San Juan Citizens Alliance Oktoberfest, held on Main Ave. Saturday and Sunday. Carver’s, DBC, Ska and Steamworks will be selling their award-winning ales to benefit the SJCA (11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday) with a host of bands, including headliners Mingo Fishtrap, Paper Bird and Nosotros, plus local favorites the Lawn Chair Kings, in a day and those zany polkateers, Alte Kameraden, among others. Buy a traditional stein for $10 or a one-liter boot for $40 and the first beer is free. New on the schedule for 2010 is a $5 breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Sunday featuring potato pancakes, applesauce and German sausage.

Mingo Fishtrap also does the Abbey Theatre late-night Saturday. The Denton, Texas, outfit plays soul and funk and has released four albums during its career.

The Durango Dharma Center presents improvisational performance artist and dedicated meditator Nina Wise on Friday night at the Smiley Theatre. Wise brings her skills and spirit into play as she spins movement and stories into unpredictable renditions of what it is like to be a human. An all-day retreat with wise will be held Saturday at the Durango Dharma Center.

Jonezy has been a fixture in the local entertainment community for years, but all things must come to an end. The NYC-bound Swede hosts a comedy roast and going away party at the Starlight from 6 p.m. ‘til close Saturday. Those celebrating with him include a dub rock band, Michael Dark, Benjamin K, Niko, Sparxxx Madden and Mr. Anderson. Always one to have the last word, Jonzey will also do stand-up comedy with Mike at an open mic night at the Summit at 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Check the Telegraph’s calendar for more local happenings.

This week’s Top Shelf list features my five favorite albums from the three Flatlanders:

1. The Flatlanders’ first recording sessions, 1972. Originally released on eight-track only, it later reappeared on vinyl as “One More Road” in 1980 and on CD as “More a Legend than a Band” in 1991.

2. “Fair & Square,” Jimmie Dale Gilmore, 1988. The definitive version of Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner Blues.”

3. “Eats Away the Night,” Butch Hancock, 1994. An under-appreciated masterpiece.

4. “Letter to Laredo,” Joe Ely, 1995. This might be my favorite album of all-time. Featuring the legendary flamenco guitarist Teye and songs by Butch Hancock and Tom Russell, it’s one for the ages.

5. “Wheels of Fortune,” the Flatlanders, 2004. “Eggs of Your Chickens” and “I’m Gonna Strangle You Shorty” were two of my old radio partner, Nathaniel Miller’s, favorite songs. ï®

Tonight I think I’m gonna go downtown? E-mail me at



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