SHOW REVIEW: Paul Simon’s Farewell Tour Hits Denver (Westword 5/31/2018)

photo for Westword by Brandon Thrift

Paul Simon
Fiddler’s Green, Denver 5/31/2018
by Adam Perry for Westword

The Paul Simon farewell concert on May 30, 2018 became one of the hottest Denver tickets in recent memory.

The legendary New York singer-songwriter wrote an open letter to fans in February effectively announcing the Fiddler’s Green date would be part of a tour aimed at “bringing my performing career to a natural end.”

When Tom Petty passed away suddenly last year, one of the remarkable things about the outpouring of love and sadness was how everyone seemed to agree that no matter who you are, where you’re from, there are at least a few Tom Petty radio hits you turn up and rock out to, singing along with every word. When Simon announced this farewell tour, there seemed to be a similar agreement that no matter who you are, where you’re from, there are at least a few Paul Simon songs that make you think, laugh, cry – maybe even feel at peace with life, love and death.

Bringing out a fourteen-piece band steeped in jazz, rock and orchestral music, Simon opened with the sweeping 1967 classic “America,” the 5-foot-3 Queens native immediately showing unbridled joy, and revealing he can somehow still nail all the sweet, strong vocals of his historically dynamic songs at age 76.


Three Kinds of Americana at Red Rocks (Westword 5/26/2018)

Murder By Death at Red Rocks (photo by Adam Perry

SHOW REVIEW: The Devil Makes Three, Murder By Death and the Wood Brothers at Red Rocks
by Adam Perry for Westword, May 26, 2018

Three kinds of Americana were on display on a scorching Friday night at Red Rocks: the light, the dark and the near-perfect in-between.

Santa Cruz’s nefarious-but-accessible The Devil Makes Three – expanding its lineup from a trio to a quintet – packed America’s greatest venue, bringing along the jammy, funky, quirky Wood Brothers and the gothic folk punk of Murder by Death.

Starting the evening early, at 7 p.m., to a packed crowd, Murder by Death focused on tunes from its deep, powerful 2012 breakthrough Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon and the sprightly, wholehearted 2015 followup, Big Dark Love. The 45-minute set juxtaposed rock-and-roll electric guitar, drums and bass with thoughtful, poetic, wicked lyrics, Sarah Balliet’s elegant, intricate cello and David Fountain’s jaw-dropping multi-instrumental prowess, which he displayed for the big Red Rocks crowd. That crowd included Fountain’s one-year-old daughter, who was attending her first-ever concert.


10 Best Things About Biking The C&O Canal and GAP Trail (Boneshaker Almanac)

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10 Best Things About Biking the C&O and GAP Trail From D.C. to Pittsburgh
by Adam Perry for Boneshaker Almanac

1. More wildlife than you might imagine seeing. Since it was April, we were frequently the only people on the trail for miles. And, since my riding companion had been doing long bike trips through the U.S. and Europe for many years and was not only faster than me but also riding a road bike, I was often by myself on my Kona mountain bike for long stretches. Alone, you see things on the trails: a turkey stumbling up a cliff when it sees you flying towards it; ducks flapping their wings as they struggle to fly from the trail to water shortly after you wheel into view; whole families of turtles (10 or 12 of them at a time, from tiny to huge) promptly plunking themselves from sunning spots on tree branches into muddy Maryland canals as you look their way; mother geese not only hissing, but violently charging at you as you try discreetly to have a look at their newborn yellow offspring; deer outrunning your bike with grace.

2. When your iPod runs out of battery and you’re able to listen to the sounds of nature all around: geese hissing, cardinals chirping, rivers rolling, crushed gravel being further annihilated by your spinning wheels. Sure, the sounds of Midlake, First Aid Kit and Fleet Foxes juxtapose beautifully with the dark forest trails of Pennsylvania at sunrise. Mid-’80s Metallica bootlegs got me through the 23-mile climb from Cumberland past Frostburg. And the drawling soul of Maryland’s own Cotton Jones perfectly accompanied my ride from Little Orleans, Md., to Cumberland along the Potomac. But the rougher part of my ride on the 184-mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail didn’t become meditative until the surrounding world became all I experienced.

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Bluesman R.L. Cole Is Ready to Shine (Westword, 2/27/2017)

photo by George Blosser

Bluesman R.L. Cole Is Ready to Shine
by Adam Perry for Denver Westword

Thirty-year-old Denver bluesman Robert Louis Cole grew up in Manitou Springs in the late ’80s and ’90s before leaving home to wander the roads of America as a musician and all-around rambler. He landed in Denver a decade ago because it was “the biggest piece of concrete next to the piece of concrete I grew up on,” he says. Now he lives in the Baker neighborhood, where he’s part of one of Denver’s most thriving music scenes.

Cole, who works as a line cook at Sputnik, has the look of a man who has weathered more than a few street fights. He has a small frame and a booming voice — one that could have come straight from the Mississippi Delta.

A veteran of bawdy jazz-punk act A. Tom Collins, Cole released his debut full-length album, Money for the Milkman, in the summer of 2017, but he’s been a favorite among Colorado songwriters since releasing his brooding Long Darkness of the Night EP in 2013 and Live From Cherryvale, an epic recording of a Boulder house concert, in 2015.

Money for the Milkman marries Cole’s Skip James roots with a wicked Tom Waits weirdness, all backed by a band that can groove, rock and swing.

“It was a nice transitional record, going from lo-fi singer-songwriter stuff to a little bit of a bigger sound, and it’s been good to transition into our new, much more rock-and-roll material,” explains Cole. “Each song is, in its own way, a little microcosm of one little aspect of my wheelhouse, as well as little snippets of different influences ranging from Black Sabbath to Bill Callahan and back and forth across the universe.”

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INTERVIEW: Grayson County Burn Ban (Westword 1/10/2018)


Grayson County Burn Ban’s New Album Is On Fire
by Adam Perry for Denver Westword, 1/10/2018

“Are you an idiot, or just an asshole?”

That’s certainly a brazen lyric to open a debut album. But Austen Grafa, singer and rhythm guitarist for local campfire-country band Grayson County Burn Ban, might be the only songwriter fun-loving and sincere enough to spin something so immediately antagonistic into a folky PSA about common courtesy during Denver’s population-growth avalanche.

The album Better Neighbor, says the thirty-year-old Grafa, is about two things: “the general camaraderie that already exists, but also how much Denver has changed in the five and a half years since I moved here.” The band will release the new record with a show at the hi-dive on January 12.

Grafa grew up in Sherman, Texas, before attending the University of Colorado Boulder, where he graduated with degrees in economics and humanities. The scruffy, smiley, long-haired Texan also plays bass in Denver’s Bud Bronson and the Good Timers, a brotherly punk-rock band equally influenced by Thin Lizzy and Titus Andronicus. Grayson County and Bud Bronson share not only Grafa and the lovable Brian Beer (who fronts Bud Bronson and plays lead guitar in Grayson County), but also a tangible and infectious sense of solidarity and I-don’t-wanna-grow-up liberty.

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SHOW REVIEW: Primus In Boulder (Westword 5/16/2017)


Primus Still Sucks, 30 Years Later
by Adam Perry for Westword, 5/16/2017

Stuck in a two-block line of people waiting to get into Primus’s sold-out show at the Fox Theatre, a guy in his mid-twenties told a friend incredulously, “My cousin said he’s never heard of Primus. He didn’t even know fucking ‘John the Fisherman!’”

Yes, some youngsters might not realize that 25 years ago – around the time the Fox Theatre opened – an eccentric Northern California band became an MTV staple and a household name thanks to the dark tale of Alowishus Devadander Abercrombie (long for Mud). Back then, the trio packed arenas and cracked the Billboard Top Ten. That would be like Animal Collective doing the same today.

Inside the Fox, three men wearing A Perfect Circle T-shirts discussed the dietary habits of each member of Tool. A customary “Primus sucks!” chant filled the theater, reminding me of when I was a 12-year-old Catholic-school boy wearing a “Primus Sucks” shirt and ridiculed by kids who genuinely thought Primus sucked. Last night, I felt anticipation and excitement seeing, for the first time, one of my favorite childhood bands take the stage. (Read the rest at

Casey Prestwood Keeps It Real (Westword 3/1/2017)


Casey Prestwood Keeps It Real
by Adam Perry for Denver Westword 3/1/2017

Casey James Prestwood, veteran of Colorado country-rock band Drag the River and acclaimed Alabama emo group Hot Rod Circuit, is a country-music encyclopedia. Get him talking about legendary session musicians and he’ll spin a yarn the size of Texas. Discussing the earnest, emotional and sometimes downright depressing lyrics he sings over his backing band, the Burning Angels, however, doesn’t come so easily.

“I think I’ve kind of found a groove with when I should write and how I should write,” the Littleton resident says about his new album, Born Too Late, which drops in early March. “I lead a pretty happy life now. I’ve got a great wife and kids, and my band is awesome, so I kind of write when I’m down, because it feels like stuff’s more real. I pretty much keep it real in the songs story-wise, too. It’s almost always told from something that happened to me, so most of it is taken from earlier times, before I was settled down.”

For instance, “Jailbird,” from the new album, is about a family member who was incarcerated long-term and other references to Prestwood’s past, including somebody knocking his teeth out in Houston and spending time in jail himself.

“Sometimes you write a song because you’ve gotta get it out,” he explains.

On Prestwood’s first solo album, 2007’s The Hurtin’ Kind, he sang about being “passed out and kicked around” and “sleeping under the stars” — similar to the “blue, lonely and wasted” life he describes on Born Too Late, a crisp, lyrically deep and musically entrancing twelve-song trip through heartache and heavy drinking.

Prestwood’s most interesting recent travels include a month-long tour of Belgium, where, in true Johnny Cash style, the Burning Angels’ gigs included maximum-security prisons.

“About eighteen inmates came to see us, and they were, for lack of a better term, violent — serial killers and that sort of thing,” Prestwood says. “It was real clinical. They’re in the room with you, not shackled up or anything, and the guards didn’t have any weapons. They were real strange characters, but fascinating. We just did songs about prison and murder ballads.”

The bandmates — decked out as they almost always are in rhinestone suits made by the legendary Manuel Cuevas — played country gems about incarceration, such as “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Mama Tried.”

“The guy they call the Belgian Butcher, a big guy who was a schoolteacher and serial killer, he stood up while we were playing, and it kind of freaked me out,” Prestwood recalls. “He came up to me after and said, ‘Hey, man, great set. I really loved the tunes. Nobody really comes through here and does country music. But you guys don’t need to do “Folsom Prison” if you come back. Everybody who comes here plays that tune, no matter what kind of band they’re in. We’re sick of it.’

“I don’t think we’ve played it since,” Prestwood says of the song. “Maybe that’s the last time I’ll play it.”

Around the time the Burning Angels got together, in 2009, Prestwood — who has kept a side gig at Whole Foods for many years — thought maybe it was the last time he’d pursue a musical career. He says that bandmate Kevin Finn inspired him to keep going.

“Kevin was bugging me to get a band together, and I was kind of nestling in on my Whole Foods career, working up the ladder a little bit in that,” Prestwood says. “I’d cut my hair and was just, like, ‘Oh, man, I’m not gonna do band stuff like I used to when I was a kid.’ Really, if it weren’t for Kevin, I probably would’ve hung it up.”

Prestwood says it’s “wild” how many bandmembers have come and gone since the Burning Angels’ salad days, which are highlighted on a recent compilation disc called The Best of the Early Years. He calls Born Too Late “the most cohesive material I’ve written,” and bassist Jeffrey Martin seems equally pumped about the new record.

“Even though it was recorded in five cities, it all jells and sounds cohesive, like we did it as one session,” Martin says. “It features some of Casey’s best writing, and he’s really growing as a songwriter. The best is yet to come.”