Top Shelf

Ziggy, Lucero and a summer shandy

by Chris Aaland

Say what you will about Nashville. Some call it Nashvegas, a tacky, Top 40 country music sideshow with enough glitter and glamour to look like the Las Vegas Strip and more prefab Americana shtick than a Cracker Barrel restaurant.

I prefer a more romantic Nashville, one filled with legendary venues like the Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Café, a city where guys like Kris Kristofferson could push a broom at Columbia Studios by day and pen soon-to-be classics by night. I think of the Bohemian scene at the end of “Heartworn Highways,” a 1981 documentary of Nashville’s “Outlaw Country” movement of the mid-70s.  

Then-unknowns like Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and Steve Young gathered ’round the Christmas table at Guy and Susanna Clark’s house for a long night of drink, smoke and song.

Susanna Clark, who died June 27, was the matriarch of that tight-knit musical community. While her husband, Guy, is arguably one of the greatest American songwriters of the last 50 years, Susanna was no slouch with the pen, authoring hits for Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Miranda Lambert, Roseanne Cash and Jerry Jeff Walker, among others. An artist by trade, she painted such legendary album covers as Willie Nelson’s “Stardust,” Emmylou’s “A Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town,” and Guy’s own “Old No. 1.” She’ll be sorely missed.

Bluegrass may be in the rear view mirror with Telluride Blues & Brews (Sept. 14-16, including Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule and the B-52’s) and The Ride (the Aug. 25-26 rock fest featuring Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Los Lobos and Ben Harper) still months ahead, but big sounds fill the San Miguel valley floor this week.

The big event is the annual KOTO Doo-Dah, which brings five-time Grammy-winning reggae artist Ziggy Marley to Town Park on Sunday. The eldest and most famous of Bob Marley’s offspring, Ziggy is probably best known for his work in the 1980s and ’90s with the Melody Makers, a group that spawned his biggest hit, 1988’s “Tomorrow People.” He’s continued to garner awards and acclaim as a solo artist, which began in earnest in 2003. Ziggy has become somewhat of a cultural icon, having been punked by “Celebrity Deathmatch” (Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy and a resurrected, cartoonish Bob Marley fought to the grave over how Ziggy got his nickname) and included among VH1’s one-hit wonders of the ’80s (“Tomorrow People” checked in at No. 85). He even created his own comic book superhero (“Marijuanaman”). Gates open at 3 p.m. with music beginning an hour later with the experimental world fusion and electronica of Beats Antique. Ziggy takes the stage at 6.

While Ziggy may be playing the biggest venue, Telluride scores huge points in my book with tonight’s (Thurs., July 5) show at the Sheridan Opera House. Lucero sprouted from the same fertile musical soil as the likes of Uncle Tupelo and the Drive-By Truckers. Equal parts country and punk, this Memphis band owns a nine-album catalog that rivals alt-country legends like the Old 97’s and Son Volt. In fact, 2005’s “Nobody’s Darlings” is a classic. Fronted by singer, guitarist and chief songwriter Ben Nichols, the band is touring in support of its latest effort, “Women & Work.”

The Abbey Theatre has been somewhat quiet the last month or so, but the joint will rock Saturday when the Statesboro Revue returns to town. These guys long for simple things like soul and groove. Their blend of music isn’t unusual – blues, gospel, soul, country and rock.  

Their press kit hypes that, “they’ve taken the attitude of the Stones and Faces, the soul of Otis Redding and Leon Russell, the brawn of Zeppelin, the melancholy trance of the Allman Brothers and the sincerity and the groove-based storytelling of The Band and Little Feat and created their own voice.” And there’s nothing wrong with that. This Texas quintet employs the tried-and-true Southern rock lineup of three guitars, bass and drums with soulful, white boy blues.  

Local alt-country songwriter D.L. Marble opens, with doors at 9:15.

If classical music is your thing, then you surely know about the 26th annual Music in the Mountains, which brings Beethoven and Brahms to Durango Mountain Resort and other venues from July 8-29. This week’s highlight is an intimate Alpenglow with pianist Aviram Reichert at 7 p.m. Monday at the Glacier Club. Visit for a schedule or to purchase tickets.

July’s first Friday falls this week, which means it’s another Firkin Friday. This month, Steamworks unleashes the Randy Firkin upon us. The lone keg of this shandy style beer gets tapped at 3 p.m. “A shandy is a beer mixed with citrus-flavored soda, carbonated lemonade, ginger beer or ale or cider,” head brewer Ken Martin explains. “For our firkin, we used our hefeweizen as a base and then made a mixture of sugar, fresh-squeezed lemons, lemon zest and fresh ginger to create a unique lemonade.”

The Summit has celebrated its 15th birthday all week long and festivities and giveawyas, which continue through the weekend. Musical highlights include A Dub Rock Band and DJ Mateo tonight, the First Friday music and art pairing with DJ Juan Blanco and DJ Benjamin K and Bram on Saturday.
A local group that doesn’t play nearly enough in my humble opinion is Jack Ten High. Fortunately, they do tonight’s Ska-B-Q. This quintet bills itself as Durango’s premier jam band and its roster is loaded with ringers from such local bluegrass and rock outfits as The Badly Bent, BoXcar, Outta Hand String Band, Rock & Rye, Sourmash and the Marmot Mudflaps.

Also of note: Pete Giuliani plays a solo, acoustic gig at Trimble Hot Springs at 6:30 p.m. tonight and with Freeplay on Moe’s patio at 7 p.m. Friday; the Black Velvet duo happy hours at El Rancho Friday, while their full band rocks the Derailed Saloon on Saturday; and Moe’s hosts a Foam Party with DJ Mateo and Ralphsta Saturday.

This week’s Top Shelf list simply offers advice from Susanna Clark’s best-known song:
1. Sing like you don’t need the money
2. Love like you’ll never get hurt
3. Dance like nobody’s watching
4. It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work

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