Music

Check 1, 2
7:57 pm
Sun August 3, 2014

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers made a needle’s-eye leap onto the national music circuit in 2012, bringing with them a refreshing sound, spirited stage show and wellspring of good vibes, along with a turntable and milk crates stocked with their favorite vintage vinyl for backstage sustenance.

Now, the San Francisco-based band and its striking front woman with a girl-next-door demeanor step out with Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, a luminous, heartfelt patchwork of California folk-rock, brisk Americana and show-stopping soul, punctuated with fresh four-part harmonies, crisp rock guitar and Nicki’s soaring, nuanced vocals that some critics say remind them of Linda Ronstadt. The first record under the banner of the full band, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers is very much a family album, featuring 11 new songs penned by the band members, arranged and produced by Nicki’s husband and the band’s musical director, Tim Bluhm, and recorded at the Bluhm’s Mission Bells studio in San Francisco.

The lead single “Little Too Late” kicks off the proceedings with a fun and funky punch of soulful rock and an anthemic quality to the lyrics that quickly made the song a fan favorite at live shows in the months prior to the album’s release. Also released in advance of the album, “Ravenous” marks a departure for the band as Nicki flirts with her dark side, urged on by haunting echoes of classic Fleetwood Mac. Tim and Nicki’s great love of country music and Americana storytelling takes center stage in the sparkling “Till I’m Blue”, an enchanting ode to lasting love, as well as in “Deep Water”, Nicki’s endearing telling of life lessons learned. Bluhm family friend Steve Poltz, best known for his collaborations with the singer Jewel, contributed the coaxing soul waltz “Check Your Head”.

There is an evergreen quality to the band’s music that resonates with music lovers across ages and time zones, fans who are touched by the band’s natural, bright-eyed charm and timeless expression of life and love. “We make music that generations of friends and families can share,” Nicki offers with a quiet confidence. “For me, there is a tenderness, a humanness. It’s about getting down to the basic level of bringing joy. We’re a fun, honest group of people who love traveling and seeing the country. I’m with my husband and my best friends, we’re so lucky to be doing this, and we’re so grateful for those coming out to visit with us.”

With such an earnest appreciation for every moment of the grueling work and endless hours required for touring “uncharted waters,” as she puts it, one can imagine Nicki almost pinching herself to prove that this really is her life -- and rightfully so. She never saw any of this coming.

Tim and Nicki’s paths first crossed at a house party, when someone passed a guitar to Nicki. Though she’d never before sung in front of a crowd, she took a chance and belted out an impromptu blues number, immediately catching Tim’s ear. It was a spark-plug moment that evolved into the two playing music together, followed by Tim mentoring Nicki as she developed into a career singer/songwriter. As love blossomed and marriage ensued, the couple created and released Nicki’s debut solo album, Toby’s Song (2008).

The formation of Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers happened in similar organic fashion, when Nicki recruited her childhood friend, Deren Ney, to play lead guitar in her new band. Dave Mulligan accepted an invitation from Nicki to join the Gramblers on guitar and vocals while out hiking with the Bluhms one day. Bass player Steve Adams and drummer Mike Curry each got the call from the Bluhms and agreed to double-time it with their existing musical commitments. When not working with his own band, the Mother Hips, Tim takes his place on guitar, keyboard and vocals. Nicki’s second album, Driftwood (2011), earned numerous positive reviews and put Nicki and the Gramblers in front of a wider swath of show goers across the western U.S.

It was during this time that the band’s “Van Sessions” video for Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That” went viral and introduced Nicki and band to the world of their endearing, stripped down versions of classic songs as well as to an existing catalog of original tracks from Nicki’s two previous solo albums. They went back on the road and quickly developed into a tight knit, six-piece headlining act, logging over 200 dates in 2012. In 2013, Nicki and the Gramblers’ touring schedule has included auspicious sets at Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Hangout Music Festival and Mountain Jam, as well as being featured on network television by veteran journalist Anthony Mason for “CBS This Morning”.

Check 1, 2
3:27 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

Best of "Check 1, 2" LIVE!

Daniel Shaw

I thought it would be fun to look back at the shows we’ve done to date and highlight a few of the live, in-studio performances we’ve captured. What really struck me as I listened to these shows again is the variety and quality of the live music we’re lucky enough to have in our valley. And, it’s been a blast for me to get introduced to and introduce you to some extraordinary artists I’d never even heard before they showed up here in the studio.

The show features live tracks by Brothers Keeper, Jerry Jeff Walker & Jimmy Ibbotson, Robert McDuffie, Juanito Pascual, Crystal Bowersox, and Sean Hayes.

Aspen Music Festival
8:57 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Festival Notes - August 1st, 2014

Today is Friday, August 1st.

One of the Aspen Music School’s most illustrious alumni, Sarah Chang, returns to the Festival tonight at 6pm for the Dvorak Violin Concerto. Hugh Wolff conducts the Aspen Chamber Symphony in a program that also includes Ligeti’s Roumanian Concerto, the gorgeous Prelude from Capriccio by Richard Strauss, and one of the most beloved American classics, Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Tomorrow at 10am at the Wheeler Opera House, the up and coming stars of the Aspen Opera Theater Center will be joined by the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen Orchestra for staged opera scenes complete with supertitles.

Head up to the top of Aspen Mountain by gondola (or if you’re a strong hiker, by foot) to enjoy the view and the free 1:00pm Music on the Mountain concert.

At 4:30pm tomorrow, it’s Chamber Music in Harris Concert Hall, featuring the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble conducted by Sydney Hodkinson and a performance of Schumann’s melodious Piano Quintet, opus 44.

A free piano competition takes place tomorrow at 6pm in Edlis Neeson Hall on the Bucksbaum Campus.

At 8pm tomorrow in Harris Concert Hall, don’t miss a rare chance to see a duo recital by superstars mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and guitarist Sharon Isbin in an all-Spanish and Latin-American program. Then on Sunday at 6:30pm in Paepcke Auditorium, there will be a screening of Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, a documentary about this extraordinary artist.

Leonard Slatkin returns to conduct the Aspen Festival Orchestra on Sunday at 4pm in the Benedict Music Tent, joined by Garrick Ohlssohn for the Chopin Second Piano Concerto. Fandangos by Roberto Sierra and the Richard Strauss Alpine Symphony also on that program.

Christopher O’Riley’s popular radio show From the Top comes to Harris Concert Hall this Sunday at 8pm.  Be part of the audience during this live taping featuring top AMFS students.

Aspen Music Festival
8:57 am
Thu July 31, 2014

Festival Notes - July 31th, 2014

Today is Thursday, July 31st. A busy day at the Aspen Music Festival and School with a variety of events, many of them free.

Pianist Julian Martin will give a master class at 10am this morning in Harris Concert Hall.

At 10:30am, it’s Tunes and Tales at the Pitkin County Library, a free and fun program for children ages 4-9 accompanied by an adult. Listen to enchanting stories along with classical favorites performed by AMFS students.

Today at noon at the Aspen Community Church, there’s a free Spotlight Recital showcasing top students.

Chapel Chamber Music takes place today at 4:15pm at the Aspen Chapel with a diverse program played by talented ensembles. Admission is free.

At 5pm at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, guitar students of Sharon Isbin will offer a free recital.

The Basalt Regional Library hosts a free recital today at 5:15pm.

Pianist Andreas Haefliger performs works of Beethoven, Berio and Schumann tonight at 8pm in Harris Concert Hall.

The weekly free String Showcase with some of this summer’s finest string students will be offered tonight at 8:30pm in Edlis Neeson Hall on the Bucksbaum campus.

Read more
Aspen Music Festival
3:18 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Rufus Wainwright talks "Prima Donna" at Aspen Music Festival

Rufus Wainwright

A special conversation with Rufus Wainwright speaking with Alan Fletcher of the Aspen Music Festival and School ahead of tonight's (July 30th) performance at the festival of selections from Wainwright's opera "Prima Donna".

Read more

Pages