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By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
As we head into the final week before the 18th annual Four Corners Folk Festival, the excitement is building here at FolkWest!
This year’s lineup is definitely one of our best ever, and we’re excited to kick the festival off, for the first time ever, with a free concert in Town Park on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 5 p.m. (weather permitting). Preview in the Park will feature music from Colorado favorites Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams, plus a new band to the FolkWest festival scene, New Country Rehab. Be sure to bring your most comfortable dancing shoes.
The bands on the Four Corners Folk Festival lineup, which takes place Aug. 30-Sept. 1 on Reservoir Hill, include John Hiatt and the Combo, Natalie MacMaster, Darrell Scott Band, The Wood Brothers, Jimmy LaFave, Elephant Revival, The Lone Bellow, Baskery, Slaid Cleaves, Aoife O’Donovan, John Fullbright, Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams, Sunliner, The Giving Tree Band and this week’s featured artists New Country Rehab and Rose’s Pawn Shop.
It may come as a surprise to hear the foot-stomping strains of Appalachian bluegrass channeled through a rock band from Los Angeles, but heartache, loss and regret have always been the cornerstones of great music and that city has its share. In a town better known for movie stars and face lifts, anything as authentic and heartfelt as Rose’s Pawn Shop is a pleasant surprise.
Singer-songwriter Paul Givant grew up on the disparate array of popular musical styles any late 20th century kid did. And in that mishmash of rock, punk, country, pop, rap, and all the rest, it was American Folk and Bluegrass music that rooted deepest in Paul, transforming him and his songs. Having played in various rock bands since early high school, Paul decided in 2004 it was time to take his growing batch of old style/new school folk songs, and build them into something greater, more ferocious. The songs were there, volatile, almost flammable, but if they were to attain their potential greatness, he was going to need help.
As so many fortuitous events unfold, it was through a series of chance meetings, twists of fate, and Craig’s List, that Paul met kindred spirits in Sebastian St. John, Derek O’Brien, Bill Clark, Derek Swenson, and John Kraus. In 2005 they began building the music and the band that would soon be known as Rose’s Pawn Shop. This group of young musicians combined in their collective musical melting pot the old style American sounds of Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, and Hank Williams, the high energy punk of The Ramones and The Pogues, and the melodic songwriting sensibilities of Elliott Smith and The Beatles. They were creating something musically unique and yet imbued with a familiarity and accessibility.
The final ingredient was added one fateful day when Paul’s scorned ex-girlfriend/former bandmate in an act of revenge stole the band’s instruments and gear and took them down to the local pawn shop. Priceless. Rose’s Pawn Shop was born. The match was lit.
In spring of 2006, after months of playing live and breaking ground around Los Angeles, the band recorded and released their debut album, “The Arsonist.” The album quickly began receiving critical praise from print and online publications as varied as About.com, The Daily News, Miles of Music, and Music Connection. A month after its release, Rose’s Pawn Shop showcased and won the grand prize in Billboard Magazine and Discmaker’s Independent Music World Series. In the summer of that year, the members of Rose’s Pawn Shop dared to quit their day jobs and hit the road, and what had started as a slow and steady burn, began spreading like wildfire.
They have been touring the United States nearly nonstop ever since. On any given day, you might find Rose’s Pawn Shop playing the Georgia Theatre in Athens, busking the streets of Jackson Square in New Orleans, opening for Jack White and The Raconteurs at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, ripping the walls off the club in their month-long residency at the Parkside Lounge in New York City, or hitting the main stage of Floydfest in Virginia. On any given day, they’re out there, growing their music, igniting their passion and converting an ever-increasing congregation of loyal fans.
In early 2010, Rose’s Pawn Shop entered the studio with renowned producer Ethan Allen (Patty Griffin, Better Than Ezra, Counting Crows, Luscious Jackson, The 88, Gram Rabbit) to record their second album, “Dancing On the Gallows.” In recording the new record, the members of Rose’s Pawn Shop found themselves rising to a new level of song craft and sound experimentation, while retaining the same fiery intensity and excitement of their early material.
With an arsenal of banjos, guitars, mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel, upright bass and thundering drums, their sound is a wholesome mishmash of creek mud, rusty nails and your mom’s cookin’. It’s sincere and straightforward, effortlessly combining such disparate musical styles as rock, country, bluegrass and punk to create an incomprehensibly smooth and accessible sound for true believers and skeptics alike.
With wisdom beyond their years, they fearlessly confront traditional country music themes of loss, lamentation, and redemption, while throwing in some drinking-songs for good measure. Sure, they’re borrowing pages from the books of Hank Williams, Bill Monroe and Johnny Cash, but Rose’s Pawn Shop takes those pages, tears them up and sets them on fire with breakneck speed, bluegrass instrumentation, tight three- and four- part vocal harmonies and lyrics that’ll break your heart. You can catch Rose’s Pawn Shop on the festival main stage on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 11:30 a.m. and on the late night stage that night at 9 p.m.
New Country Rehab cuts through the clutter of watered-down musical imitations with a modern, high-voltage, alt-country sound. Combining sharp innovation and a deep respect and knowledge of timeless musical themes and motifs, New Country Rehab’s powerful music is full of love, loss, longing and joy. As Uncut’s Nigel Williamson says, the band is “more Arcade Fire than Lady Antebellum … like Canada’s answer to the Avett Brothers, and Mumford and Sons.”
Spearheaded by lead singer and fiddle player John Showman, joined by Champagne James Robertson on guitar, Ben Whiteley on double bass and Roman Tome on drums and backing vocals, the Toronto-based collective is, “poised to be the next big thing in Canadian music” (Tom Power, CBC Radio). Growing audiences in Canada, the U.S. and Europe are responding to New Country Rehab’s infectious love and enthusiasm for the music they are playing.
This artistic vision and original writing has earned the respect of many critics. Maverick magazine’s Russell Hill describes the band’s sound as, ”successfully merging the old and new in a rambunctious way.” Their 2011 debut self-titled album was received with glowing and international praise by reviewers. The group blends lyrical sensibility and musical focus to produce exceptional original songs. The haunting mood of “Cameo,” a contemplative tale of escape and redemption, provides a beautiful contrast to the gritty tale of a gambler’s endgame, “The Last Hand,” a rollicking interplay of fiddle and guitar riffs underpinned by driving bass and percussion that builds relentlessly to the violent climax and denouement of the story.
Not afraid to show its influences, New Country Rehab takes the Hank Williams, Sr. classic “Ramblin’ Man,” chews it up and spits it out as an eerie, dub-drenched trip through a mournful Latin groove. The group reinvents Bruce Springsteen’s seminal “State Trooper” with police sirens and jarring, distorted hooks to imbue it with, “… a menace even the original struggles to match” (Andy Fyfe, Q Magazine).
You can enjoy the deep roots-based musical palette of New Country Rehab at the free concert on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m., and catch them on the festival’s main stage on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 1:15 p.m. and again on the late night stage that night at 10 p.m.
If you are interested in learning about last-minute volunteer opportunities with the festival or would like tickets or additional information, call 731-5582. Complete festival information, including schedules, ticket prices, etc. can be found at www.folkwest.com.
The Four Corners Folk Festival is supported in part by a grant from Colorado Creative Industries.