Album Review: The Coloradas

coloradas

The Coloradas, by The Coloradas

Released December 2011

We are in a full-on Folk/Bluegrass Renaissance.  From internationally successful acts like the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons to the glut of talented Americana bands here in the Portland area, it’s clear that this Americana movement is running at full tilt.  Add to this revival The Coloradas, fronted by the long-time Portland singer/songwriter Roy Davis.

For the self-titled debut album, Davis, along with song writing partner Bernie Nye, assembled a group of musicians who approach the bluegrass genre these songs are steeped in from a traditional vantage point.  However, the songs aren’t merely your granddaddy’s bluegrass.  Mandolin superstar Joe Walsh in particular keeps these songs from faltering into thin revivalist imitation with his melodic sensibility and urgent mandolin ‘chop’ keeping the backbeat on these drum-less tracks.  Walsh’s playing stands out in the first few bars of the album’s opening song, “Misery,” and doesn’t waver.  The rest of the band is sturdy in their bluegrass approach, reminiscent of Old Crowe Medicine Show and the Gillian Welch/David Rawlings duo.

Musical talent aside, an album is nothing if it doesn’t have well-built songs and melodies, and The Coloradas has both.  Davis’ voice is often compared to Ryan Adams from the Jacksonville City Nights era, and those comparisons will certainly continue after listeners here The Coloradas. (Hey, if you have to be continually compared to anyone, Ryan Adams ain’t a shabby doppelganger.)  Bernie Nye sings lead vocals on three of the albums songs and has a been-around-the-block voice.  His raspy vocal approach gives street cred to the lyrics from “Red Dress” where he sings, “Blood on the stairs, there’s blood all around / So I took a little match and I burned it down.”  The storytelling songwriting on this album is in the vein of Steve Earle and The Felice Brothers. One downfall of the songwriting is its tendency to evoke tired agrarian imagery that all Americana music seems to be drowning in.  With that said, Davis and Nye might not be potato farmers from the County, but they sure can write songs that move us.

This debut album is a strong showing from talented songwriters and a backing band with serious musical prowess.  There may be a flood of bands exploring the great Folk/Bluegrass Renaissance, but The Coloradas’ self-titled album shows they are more than revivalists, they have stories to tell and we should listen.

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