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Support Your Favorite Bard or Band!
Tim Van Schmidt
Music needs an audience and local musicians are no exception in terms of being starved for ears thanks to the raging virus. Gigs are rare — or even if you could book one, there’s no real way to know whether it will happen.
One way to support local music — especially now — is to simply invest a little cash and buy a CD, or pay for a download or whatever your preference is, from your favorite local bard or band.
To stir the pot, here are a few suggestions.
Grace D Marie: Another area artist who has also recently released a CD is Fort Collins singer-songwriter Grace D Marie. Marie is known internationally as a leader in the Dances of Universal Peace movement, and that experience informs her music on “Life as a Garden.”
Much of the music Marie makes here is based on chants — the words repeat over and over again, allowing the listener to go deeper into the phrase, while the musical accompaniment keeps things steadily moving forward.
Marie is also more of a traditional songwriter, delving into her personal experiences — in Alaska and as a mother — to reflect on the deepness of life.
In “Life as a Garden,” Marie keeps the music clean and even. Finely mixed, the recording especially highlights a gorgeous sense of harmony with layers of voices supporting her clear, strong lead vocal work.
Marie’s music does not distract, but it soothes. It does not shout yet asks some important questions — in several different languages. It reveals and confesses with the same even keel.
The most powerful track for me was the last one, “Mitakuje Oyasin,” based on a Lakota phrase suggesting “we are all related,” a prayer seeking harmony with all forms of life. In “Life as a Garden,” Marie doesn’t just ask for harmony, she delivers.
Check out Marie’s site for info on “Life as a Garden” and her other releases at www.LifeasaGarden.com.
DIY: Go to your favorite local musician’s page and see what’s going on. If they’ve gotten some studio work done while everything else is on hold, buy it. Everything helps when it comes to supporting our creatives, so lend them your ears.
Russ Hopkins: One name that might be familiar to longtime local music fans would be Russ Hopkins. As a seasoned performer and a recording studio operator, Hopkins contributed plenty to the NoCo music scene.
Today, Hopkins lives in the Berthoud area, plays gigs occasionally, and, most importantly, continues to record in his private studio, collaborating especially with area guitar virtuoso and music arranger Jerry Palmer.
That brings us to Hopkins’ latest release, “Buffalo.” It’s a 2020 collection of traditional folk tunes that transcend the deceptively simple musical makeup of the songs to tell some riveting stories.
The characters in these stories are drinkers, lovers, soldiers, buffalo skinners, murderers, beggars, and dreamers. As the storyteller, Hopkins stays out of the way as these characters reveal the dire things that have happened to them and their loved ones. He keeps the music — both vocals and the spare accompaniment — to a low simmer. This allows the collection of hard-luck pioneers and jilted lovers who are gathered here to tell their gritty truths.
Have you ever really listened to the full lyrics of familiar songs like “Working on the Railroad” and “Clementine”? They aren’t kids’ songs at all and you can hear them here. Another familiar folk song, “Tom Dooley” — made popular in the 1950s by The Kingston Trio — is a grim tale of killing and the last thoughts of a condemned man.
It’s not all dark. “A Jug of This,” an a cappella ode to a favorite drink, is lighthearted — as long as everything comes back to that drink — and “Begging I Will Go” lets a proud bum have his day in the sun.
Hopkins vacillates between traditional English folk music and Western country-folk sound — and those things are not necessarily unrelated — but what remains the same here is the distinctive voices Hopkins brings to life.
The production does feature some tasteful ear candy — some cool slide guitar and other touches — but for the most part, “Buffalo” is about setting the stage so the people in the songs can take over. And take over they do, spinning yarns of mischief and mayhem.
Find out more about “Buffalo” and Hopkins’ music at www.russhopkins.com
Tim Van Schmidt is a photographer and writer based in Fort Collins. Visit his YouTube channel at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt.”