Colorado Sound Music Awards: meet the nominees
Meet the nominees of the 2022 Colorado Sound Music Awards! Below are profiles of each nominated artist, each of which is an active Colorado musician or band.
All descriptions below are written by Adam Perry, except where noted.
Voting has closed for the Colorado Sound Music Awards. See the list of winners of the 2022 Colorado Sound Music Awards!
On the Rise
This category showcases Colorado bands and musicians who are getting noticed, gaining traction, and actively growing their audience.
While Big Richard could be called an overnight sensation, building a following quickly with online videos of searing originals like “Greasy Coat” and cheeky covers, it’s made up of hard-working, outspoken and talented Colorado musicians who anyone close to the music scene recognizes instantly, from groups such as Bonnie and the Clydes and the Lonesome Days. Big Richard began as a fun all-female collaboration and a couple Spotify singles and has risen to rocking delighted audiences at storied venues such as the Bluebird Theater and Mishawaka Amphitheatre (along with slots at major festivals) in the time it takes most bands to get out of the rehearsal space for a debut gig.
He may be the son of a Colorado music legend, and even frequently play in his father’s band (see Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, below) but George Cessna is carving his own path as a songwriter, music stylist, and performer. On the two full-length albums he’s released so far (the latest, Lucky Rider, recorded with Brian Buck in the basement of Denver club the Hi Dive, where he works), Cessna’s music takes country songwriting and twists it up with a darker, moodier, lo-fi sound. His voice runs deep, and his songs burrow into your soul. (Kurt Wolff)
Nate Valdez of the bombastic Colorado duo INTHEWHALE has spread his wings with a new project dubbed VALDEZ, a soft, dreamy and mostly acoustic jaunt through sentimental indie-folk. The debut VALDEZ album, Wishbones, dropped last year and falls somewhere between Father John Misty and R.E.M., led by Valdez’s earnest voice and heart-on-his-sleeve songwriting. With a recent smattering of music videos and local sets, VALDEZ has Northern Colorado excited for the band’s future.
Easily recognizable in the Fort Collins area for her many years fronting the rocking Patti Fiasco and later the Harvest-esque Whippoorwill, Wyoming product Alysia Kraft is breaking out on her own, and the beautiful single “Cold Mountain” is her spark. The track, which lands somewhere between the Shins and Sera Cahoone, won Best Original Song at the Los Angeles International Independent Film Festival this year and opens Kraft’s new album, First Light. At times dusty like Emmylou Harris and at others sweet and swirling like Maggie Rogers, First Light could be the beginning of an exciting solo career for Kraft.
Denver-based Blakk Mantra describes itself as “utopian rock,” but the cover art for the group’s singles (Siamese twins, nefarious wizards and smoking skulls) suggests something darker, as does its intrepid, swirling hard-rock. Though fans are still waiting for a full-length album, Blakk Mantra’s churning, funky singles (and collaboration with Clutch producer Gene “Machine” Freeman) suggest ambitious weirdness is on the way. Could frontman Johnny Noble be on his way to becoming Denver’s Josh Homme? We’ll see.
(formerly Future Heritage)
Artists in this category are uniquely part of the fabric of our extraordinary state, gracing stages around the world with the spirit and soul of Colorado.
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
Some at least co-credit Slim Cessna’s Auto Club with creating the definitive Denver sound — dark alt-country with revival-tent fire. Though named for Slim Cessna, the group’s frontman and only constant over its 30 years as a band, the brilliant and semi-menacing singer-songwriter Munly Munly is just as important to SCAC’s vision. Colorado native Cessna and his son, George, make SCAC a family affair, and the band’s tasteful, authentic country-goth is the product of a remarkable collection of musicians who have been Auto Club members over the years. Well-loved in Europe and even Russia, SCAC is nevertheless a Colorado sensation.
Although it’s a successful international touring band, DeVotchKa remains a little Colorado institution, and has recently even lent its talents to the tiny Mercury Lounge in Denver for a Ukraine benefit. Since 1997, when Nick Urata began fronting DeVotchka (whose name comes from the Russian word for “girl”) as the backing band for burlesque shows, the Gypsy-folk group has given Colorado (and eventually the world) cinematic, romantic old-world music with an indie-rock flair. It’s been four years since the last DeVotchKa album, but its music can often be heard in movies and TV shows, making the group a ubiquitous presence on the touring circuit and in the living room.
Gregory Alan Isakov
Stick around Colorado long enough and you’re bound to see Gregory Alan Isakov both serenading a sold-out crowd at Red Rocks and intently caring for his Boulder farm. The quiet native of South Africa grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Boulder to study at Naropa University, and along the way happened to create subtle, creative folk-pop that’s found its way into commercials, films and the grandest theaters of Europe, where the Grammy-nominated Isakov is arguably more popular than in America, even at home in Colorado. Isakov has been putting out well-crafted, poetic albums starting with his first full-length studio effort in 2007. Part of his magic is that he always seems on the verge of something greater.
Cary Morin sings that he’s “hopeful as the day is long” but his intricate, deep and folky blues – juxtaposed with his gritty voice and delivery – has always suggested he’s wise and world-weary enough to know better. If Marcus King focused less on world-class guitar solos his songs might have the depth of Morin’s, but we’re happy to call him not just unique but also Colorado’s own. Morin can rightly call his music Native Americana, his incredible indigenous spirit melding with generations of American acoustic paths, from blues to southern rock to Cajun/Creole and folk. Of Crow heritage, Morin is a prolific touring-and-recording bluesman and storyteller like no other.
Gasoline Lollipops began as a country-punk duo featuring Boulder-area native Clay Rose and original drummer Jonny Mouser, and over the last decade-plus has blossomed from a longtime Tuesday-night residency at the old Waterloo Icehouse in Louisville to selling out clubs and theaters in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins. With a rabid fanbase and an impressive lineup of stellar musicians supporting captivating singer-songwriter Rose, Gasoline Lollipops (which has performed as far away as Belize and Belgium) is now a household name in northern Colorado, and even cracked the Billboard charts with “Love Is Free.”
Outstanding Stage Presence
These bands and artists have incredible presence, captivating audiences every time they perform live.
Just to have a hip-hop or R&B tune begin with “I came from the land of the mountains…Mother Moon kissed me every night” is striking, but the Reminders’ velvety Colorado grooves, with Aja Black’s vocals and personality soaring above them, would be captivating even without such powerful lyrics. If you haven’t enjoyed a Reminders performance in person yet, just a few moments of the husband-and-wife group’s blazing Red Rocks performance (widely available online) and you’ll want to. Big Samir matches Black’s skyscraping vocals with his own conscious hip-hop swagger, and the Reminders’ empowering positivity and rebellion are intoxicating. Born in Belgium and Queens, respectively, Samir and Black bring an elevated, informed energy to Colorado music that almost makes them the Clash of the Centennial State.
If you think of the Velveteers as just the band that opened for Guns ’n’ Roses at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park last year when Eddie Van Halen’s son couldn’t make it, you haven’t been paying attention. Frontwoman Demi DeMitro, a Boulder native, has a big guitar sound and an even bigger stage presence, often ending up in the crowd along with her bandmates and their instruments. That three young musicians playing the devil’s blues can command audiences at 1,000-seat theaters like the Gothic is impressive itself, but the group’s debut album — produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach — is revealing to the whole world that DeMitro and Co. can write, play and rock as good as anyone.
Los Mocochetes moves audiences with its lyrics of revolution-rock and its booty-shaking Latin grooves, mixing Spanish and English to remind us that – except for the indigineous – we are all immigrants and we all have the responsibility to love and accept each other and ourselves and fight for justice. Fist-in-the-air tracks like “Rocks” touch on vital issues like police brutality and apathy, begging Americans who’ve had enough to “take back control,” and Los Mocochetes’ founding members are not just exciting local musicians on the rise but important community activists. Spanish slang for “snot-nosed brats with machetes,” Los Mocochetes is as rooted in Mexico as Colorado, and its diverse influences entrance listeners to both get down on the dance floor and get out in the streets to “be the change.”
David Eugene Edwards
Fronting both 16 Horsepower and Wovenhand, Englewood native David Eugene Edwards put Colorado on the musical map in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s with a wild, dark Colorado-bred rock that remarkably mixes Christian imagery with bluesy Western soundscapes and a sonic power that seems almost ancient. While many who grow up in the church end up in bands that rebel against religion entirely, Edwards sees belief in Jesus Christ as “a gate out of hell” and his heavy, sweeping music — though distinctly Western — has a direct line from early Black Sabbath, which used head-banging riffs to spin cautious tales of evil that were actually signposts to love and righteousness. The frontman for various projects that have drawn big audiences with big live-concert energy, Edwards’ real talent is that his songwriting — and performing — can captivate large audiences with a sprawling rock show or just an acoustic guitar and a stool.
Brothers of Brass
Brothers of Brass is not just another New Orleans-style big band that plays for tips outside Colorado sporting events. It can play virtually any genre of music and make it danceable, funky, enticing and huge. The group did get its start as a small, hustling brotherhood of horns on the streets of Denver but quickly utilized intelligence and ingenuity to make piles of money entertaining audiences at “egresses” — excitable entries and exits to large gatherings like Rockies games and Phish concerts. At this point, however, Brothers of Brass has the experience and expertise to not only rein in music lovers on the way to something else but also slay more formal sets at music festivals and diverse events.
Outstanding ‘Secret Ingredient’
Not every player in a band is out front. This category celebrates some of Colorado’s ‘secret ingredients,’ from exceptional instrumentalists, to people behind the scenes or helping artists create their best work.
The Blasting Room
Virtually every Colorado band that rocks has recording at the Blasting Room on its bucket list. Founded in 1994 and co-owned by legendary Descendents drummer Bill Stevenson and punk-rock luminary Jason Livermore, the Blasting Room uses a team of experienced, tasteful producers and engineers to ensure that every musician who stops in to record will have the chance to craft great songs and great recordings. When you step into a 4,000-square-foot Fort Collins studio built by veterans of Black Flag, ALL and the Descendents – one that balances new technology with the best vintage equipment – it’s clear you’re in the right place to make a good record, and for 20 years countless artists have come to the Blasting Room and made history.
Dani Grant, long a vital part of the Fort Collins music scene as one of the SpokesBUZZ masterminds and visionary owner and gatekeeper at several local venues, brings the Keb’ Mo’ song “Put a Woman In Charge” to life. She’s simultaneously brash, honest, supportive and tough as nails, and any Colorado band that’s connected with Grant has moved at least a couple steps forward because of her wisdom. Grant recently joined the Recording Academy and has pushed Mishawaka Amphitheatre into the future, and her inimitable, positive mark has been left on virtually every corner of the northern Colorado music industry.
Elephant Revival made waves in Colorado and beyond for the course of six albums and zillions of shows before its 2018 hiatus saw its members set out on their own, including the mellow, contemplative Daniel Rodriguez, whose acoustic folk-pop found a home on BMG sublabel Renew Records. Touring on his own and as support for relatable artists like Gregory Alan Isakov, the Lumineers, and Jim James, Rodriguez (a Lyons native) tells tales of everyday life with a sweet, soft touch he calls “cuddle rock” that’s made him a crowd favorite in the folk and jam communities.
Mary Claxton is a rare combination of musical talent and far-reaching musical activism, simultaneously known for crushing it on drums (and vocals) in the barn-burning funk band the Burroughs and changing kids’ lives as a keystone of Little Kids Rock. Claxton has experience in playing and teaching a myriad of musical styles, from drumline, jazz and orchestra to show-stopping funk. A passionate teacher, organizer and musician, Claxton has held court at dozens, if not hundreds, of summits, clinics and workshops that inspire, enable and challenge young students to get in the practice room and onto the stage.
Every city in the world should have festivals like New West Fest and FoCoMX, and a first-class venue like Washington’s that local bands can headline if they work hard enough, but not every city has a Greta Cornett. A graduate of Columbine High School and CSU, Cornett plays trumpet in two supremely uplifting bands (Mama Lenny and the Remedy and 12 Cents for Marvin), is co-founder and president of the Fort Collins Music Association, puts together all the best festivals with all the best bands, and is the marketing arm of Washington’s. Without someone like Greta Cornett supporting a local music scene, would any city really have a local music scene?
Colorado Artist You’d Drive 105.5 Miles to See
Who is your all-time favorite Colorado band or musician? Who would you drive many miles to see play live?
This is a write-in category, so the field is wide open. The artist or band must be based in Colorado and be actively working right now. One vote per person, please.
Voting has closed for the 2022 Colorado Sound Music Awards. See the list of the winners, and congrats to all our nominees!
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