Slamgrass, Tug of Weather and Elephant Revival

Leftover Salmon plays the Teluride conference Center this Friday

by Chris Aaland

There’s so much going on this week that I’ll spare you, trusted reader, my weekly drivel and get straight to business.

Leftover Salmon returns to the area Friday when they play the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village. For more than 20 years, LoS has infused the bluegrass/jamgrass world with their self-dubbed “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass.” The core remains: Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt share frontman duties, with long-timers Bill McKay (keyboards), Greg Garrison (bass) and Jeff Stipe (drums) still in two. Matt Flinner recently joined up as banjo player, filling the shoes of LoS co-founder Mark Vann, who died of cancer in 2002, and Vann’s replacement, Noam Pikelny, who pursued other projects when Salmon went on a long sabbatical.

Since reforming in 2007, their shows are sporadic celebrations, often reserved for festivals to allow its members opportunities to pursue side projects like Great American Taxi (Herman’s new outfit) and Emmitt’s partnership with Bill Nershi (String Cheese Incident). Herman, who was forced to cancel a recent Durango date due to the passing of his father, Regis, will be with the band on its upcoming run through Colorado ski towns. Elephant Revival is also on the bill. Doors open at 6 p.m., music starts at 7.

One of bluegrass’ most acclaimed duos, Dailey & Vincent, makes its Durango debut at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Feb. 24) at the Community Concert Hall. Their first album, “Brothers from Different Mothers,” won seven IBMA awards in 2008, including Entertainer of the Year and Album of the Year. With duet vocals that harken back to the great brother bands (think of the Delmores, Louvins, Monroes and Stanleys), expect these red-hot pickers and vocalists to conjure up the genre’s classic era. Not to be pigeonholed as just interpreters of bluegrass standards, their latest CD, “Dailey & Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers,” delves into classic country vocal territory, albeit in the bluegrass way. Jamie Dailey honed his chops with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; Darrin Vincent (Rhonda’s brother) was a longtime member of Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. A special treat is a Rock & Rye reunion (David Smith, Hap Purcell, Robin Davis, Red Greer and Chris Loftus) to open festivities.

Punxsatony has Phil, who seeks his shadow each Groundhog Day to determine the quickness in which spring will arrive. Durango has its own tradition, the brand-new “Tug of Weather,” set for Tuesday evening in front of Steamworks. This gala event pits enthusiasts of winter activities vs. those who favor spring sports in a 50-foot tug of war. The main event, slated for 6 p.m., features a winter team of skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers (captained by DMR’s marketing and sales guru, Sven Brunso) against the spring team of cyclists, rafters and hikers (captained by Mild to Wild’s Alex Mickel). The public is encouraged to join in the fun with tugs of war featuring such obvious adversaries as County vs. City officials, fire vs. police, breweries, restaurants and more. Participation is free and teams are encouraged to sign up by emailing or calling 375-5067.

Grammy-winning Native American folksinger Bill Miller plays the Student Union Ballroom at Fort Lewis College at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Miller, who is championed by the likes of Michael Martin Murphey, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Peter Rowan and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, sings music from the heart, based on his life experiences, spiritual journey and Mohican roots. I had the chance to produce a Durango Acoustic Music show featuring Miller about 15 years ago, and was blown away by his skills on guitar and Native American flutes; his songwriting, including the excellent “Tumbleweed,” cowritten with Rowan, has always impressed me. Folk, rock, blues, country and Native American genres find common ground in Miller’s capable hands.

Nappy Roots bring their blend of hip-hop, rap and Southern funk to the Abbey at 9 p.m. Saturday. “When you think of Nappy, you think of raw and untamed,” said group member Scales. This act tasted major label success on Atlantic Records a decade ago with such releases as “Country Fried Cess” and “Wooden Leather,” but has since returned to its indie roots.

If downtempo, dub and spacey electronica are your thing, then don’t miss Heyoka and Octopus Nebula at 9 p.m. Friday at the Abbey. If you thought it couldn’t get any trippier, there’s also a full L.E.D. light show.

The aforementioned Elephant Revival warms up for its LoS opener in Telluride by playing the Summit at 9 p.m. tonight. These guys claim to follow the lead, but not walk in the footsteps, of their jamgrass elders in Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band. Sure, there’s the usual instrumentation of banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass. But at other times, djembe, musical saw and washboard are added to the mix.

Meet your Durango Roller Girls at their second annual Derby Fashion Show on Saturday at the Summit. Admission is free and 2011 calendars will be sold for $10. Black Market Electric performs for your musical pleasure. Meet the girls at 8:30 p.m., with the fashion show to begin at 10 p.m.

California Bad Girlz, the hottest act from Hollywood, brings their all-girl revue to the Abbey at 10 p.m. tonight. It’s adult entertainment, for sure, so the show’s limited to the 18-plus crowd.

Also on tap this week: Patrick Crossing brings Celtic to the weekly Ska-B-Q tonight at Ska’s World Headquarters in Bodo Park; Black Velvet plays Rylee Mac’s at 5 p.m. tonight; Wahnder Lust, featuring Kim Manning of the P-Funk All-Stars, takes over the Summit at 10 p.m. Friday; Benjamin K and special guest spin dance music at the Starlight at 9 p.m. Saturday; and Rhythmic Circus tap-dances at the Community Concert Hall at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

This week’s Top Shelf list features five of my favorite Leftover Salmon recordings:

1. “Down in the Hollow,” from “Leftover Salmon,” 2004. This had been cropping up at Drew Emmitt solo shows for years.

2. “Pasta on the Mountain,” from “Bridges to Bert,” 1993. Ah, the old times at Farquahrts.

3. “Funky Mountain Fogdown,” from “Euphoria,” 1997. The glory of Mark Vann.

4. “Midnight Blues,” from “The Nashville Sessions,” 1999. Del McCoury adds vocal support.

5. “Alfalfa’s,” from “KBCO Studio C, Vol. 2,” 1992. A rarity, this one’s an ode to Boulder hippies. •

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