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‘Holy Water and Whiskey: An Evening of American Folk Music’

“Holy Water and Whiskey: An Evening of American Folk Music,” takes place this Friday, Nov. 19, at The Ross Aragon Community Center.

A delightful trio from Albuquerque that specializes in traditional and contemporary American folk music, cowboy songs, gospel and bluegrass, Holy Water and Whiskey is renown for its beautiful vocal harmonies, solid instrumental style, great stories and humor. The group performed a highly successful concert in Pagosa two years ago.

The concert begins at 7 p.m. and $10 advance tickets are still available at the community center and Higher Grounds Coffee Company. Tickets at the door are $12. Young people, 18 and under, will be admitted free. 

A pre-concert social begins at 6 p.m. with free coffee. A beer and wine cash bar will be open throughout the evening. You are invited to bring a dessert to share for the social and intermission, if you wish.

“The music of Holy Water and Whiskey is so uplifting, humorous, and perfectly woven — with guitar, bass and banjo — that you wish it would go on forever,” writes a concert reviewer. “Their vocals are exceptionally fine — with Maggie Washburne’s voice soaring clear as a bell one minute, and then, just as naturally, joined by Bruce Washburne and Scott Altenbach’s harmonies. It’s like hearing what you see when birds change formation in mid-flight: seamless. These folks are the real deal, for whom music is as natural as breathing.”

Holy Water and Whiskey formed in 2003 and since that time, has played at hundreds of events in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Colorado and Iowa. The members all got their start performing during the folk music revival of the 1960s. Since then, their musical tastes have evolved to include a variety of acoustic styles. Audiences say that they particularly appreciate the close and sweet harmonies in their songs as well as the interesting variety of songs and the human stories that those songs tell. They also enjoy their delightful jokes and their friendly rapport with the audience. Their beautifully rendered bluegrass gospel tunes and other tunes with spiritual themes sometimes earn them invitations to perform at church events, but they are just as much at home playing those and their other tunes at pubs, festivals, parties, fund-raisers and other concert settings.

“There’s nothing like harmonies and some good jokes to restore sanity, if you had it in the first place,” quips Scott Altenbach. “We are interested in music, our kids, horses, steam engines, trains, farming, humor, small towns, meeting interesting people, and family,” he says. Altenbach - when he isn’t playing music - might be found dangling on a rope three hundred feet down an old mine, looking for bats. A retired professor of biology, Altenbach is the foremost photographer of bats and he has written extensively about them. Currently, he consults with several state governments about preserving natural habitat. He is a renowned rattlesnake expert and once owned the largest personal collection of rattlesnakes in the world. Altenbach, who is very involved in solar technology and organic farming, enjoys rebuilding old steam engines and mining machinery.

Maggie Washburne spends a lot of time teaching and doing science. A Biology professor at the University of New Mexico, her voice has more than a trace of the superb vocal quality of another female singer, Joan Baez. “We choose songs that resonate with our lives,” says Washburne. “We’ve had great times brightened by friends, family, laughter and love — and times when we were touched by suffering, separation and death. These things are the emotional basis for our music and harmonies. Our songs represent the positive resolution of all of these valued experiences. We believe that music — harmonies, especially – are healing.”

Bruce Washburne is a social worker in charge of the VA programs assisting blind veterans in New Mexico and Southern Colorado. Bruce and Maggie met in a band in Hawaii in the mid-’70s, were married and have been playing music together ever since.

Join us for “Holy Water and Whiskey: An Evening of American Folk Music,” a concert sure to create a memorable ambience for Thanksgiving season in the Rockies.

The Ross Aragon Community Center is located at 451 Hot Springs Blvd. For further information, call 264-4152.

This program is sponsored by The Ross Aragon Community Center and Elation Center for the Arts. ECA is a local nonprofit, dedicated to the preservation of traditional music and dance. The community center operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization through the Pagosa Springs Facilities Coalition (PSCFC), benefiting the community of Pagosa Springs by creating, coordinating and providing space for social, athletic, fine arts, performing arts, cultural, educational, business and faith-based activities. “Holy Water and Whiskey: An Evening of American Folk Music” is a benefit fund-raiser in support of The Ross Aragon Community Center and Elation Center for the Arts.