Top 10 musical moments from Telluride Bluegrass 2013


4 p.m. Boulder CO – Looking back at four days and more than 40 hours of music I experienced last weekend at the 40th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival, I still get a pleasant chill up the spine thinking about some of the stellar moments. Since I’ve been writing about the Telluride Bluegrass Festival since 1980 these moments not only compete with each other but also with great sets at past events. In general, the 2013 event ranks up there among the best years of a festival still passionately devoted to presenting great musicianship.

Here are my Top 10 moments from the 2013 Telluride Bluegrass Festival June 19-23:

No. 10: I cherish Telluride because I am always introduced to new or unfamiliar acts that open my eyes and ears. This the surprises came in the form of “brother” harmonies from Milk Carton Kids, soulful swing from Lake Street Dive and bright bluegrass fusion from Boulder’s Elephant Revival.

No. 9: For sheer uplifting spectacle and sonic grace, nothing beats the ceremonies and presence of the  Drepung Monks. If soul is the heart of bluegrass then these monks are pickin’ and grinnin’ too.

No. 8: We rose to our feet to wildly cheer for the amazing, pioneering Masters of Bluegrass with Del McCoury, Jerry McCoury, Bobby Osborne, J.D. Crowe and Bobby Hicks. The opportunity to hear Del McCoury and Bobby Osborne harmonize together is something I’ll never forget.

No. 7: The original Colorado jamgrass ensemble, Leftover Salmon, displayed a seeming new lease on musical life with a high energy and even became a twangy folk rock band as the boys coaxed Jackson Browne out to sing “Under the Falling Sky.”

No. 6: When Mumford & Sons had to cancel because of illness, Steve Martin stepped up to the proverbial plate and delivered a late night set full of droll humor and precision bluegrass with the uber-talented Steep Canyon Rangers with the surprisingly wonderful Edie Brickell. In a Texas-accented voice perfect for bluegrass she sang a bunch of warm, affecting lyrics set to banjo tunes from Martin. 

No. 5: Richard Thompson proved once again that all it takes in one man, one voice and one guitar to captivate 10,000 people. The British-born icon remains one of the great, unmistakable guitar gods of our generation and fine singer of his own moody, edgy tunes.

No. 4: The musicians in Boulder-born Hot Rize did something at Telluride they hadn’t done for more than a decade by introducing a slew of great new songs. Guitarist Bryan Sutton continues to grow his legend as America’s top flatpicker. Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers were hilarious as always.

No. 3: Recalling his glory days in the ’70s and ’80s, singer/songwriter Jackson Browne re-energized his roster of hits. His voice was as strong and distinctive as his piano work. With guests stars joining in he cranked out a winning rendition of his Eagles hit “Take it Easy.”

No. 2: The Telluride House Band – featuring virtuoso instrumentalists Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Brian Sutton – typically performs once per year at Telluride. It’s always a jaw-dropping experience but for the 40th anniversary the group called out a series of younger artists to sit in. It seemed like the initial step in the changing of the guard as Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Chris Thile and other members of Punch Brothers were welcomed into their exclusive club.

… and the No. 1 musical moment from the 4oth Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival: Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. These friends of 40 years turned the clock back four decades to crank out a killer set of genuine country rock. Emmylou’s voice shone brightly with Crowell’s harmonic assistance in reinvigorating such chestnuts as “Luxury Liner.”

I to give honorable mentions to the typically great sets from the Sam Bush Band, Bela Fleck, Infamous Stringdusters and Punch Brothers.



Comments are closed.