Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ferg previews Telluride on Denver radio show

Chief festivarian Craig Ferguson, president of Planet Bluegrass, which operates Telluride Bluegrass, Rocky Grass and several other Colorado festivals, appeared this morning on Denver's roots rock radio station KCUV to preview the upcoming Telluride event.

As a way to illustrate the uniqueness of a live festival, he brought along some of his favorite tapes from the vault of Telluride's 34-year history (although several of his selections would not play properly on the station's audio equipment). He also highlighted a couple of highly anticipated performers for the 2006 festival, which runs June 15-18 in Telluride, Colo. (Visit Planet Bluegrass for all the details.)

For past highlights, Ferguson selected an unscheduled appearance by Bonnie Raitt during a set by Jackson Browne, and another Raitt duet with Susan Tedeschi singing John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery." Both Raitt and Prine are on the bill this year.

He also selected Shawn Colvin's first appearance at the festival, when she made a huge impression on the audience, and John Cowan's moving performance of "Dark As a Dungeon" during a festival-wide power outage. He also played cuts from the vault by Nickel Creek and Yonder Mountain String Band,

Bands at Telluride often want to do more than just play their standard sets, Ferguson said. This year, indie rock band Barenaked Ladies will do a special bluegrass set that they will record for a future live album.

He said that each year there are artists on the bill that stretch the boundaries and cause festival-goers to raise their eyebrows, and that there is also always one or more less-well-known artists who give a breakthrough performance. In the first category, Ferguson suggested that The Decembrists and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings may surprise attendees, while Steven King & The Sixers is a prime candidate for a breakthrough.

Although Telluride offers much more than bluegrass, "the bluegrass bands are always the last ones standing," Ferguson said, making the case that bluegrass forms the foundation for the other genres of music at Telluride.

That mixture of genres built on top of bluegrass may be Colorado's important contribution to the world of bluegrass, Ferguson claimed, pointing to such home-state innovators as Hot Rize and Yonder Mountain String Band that have had a major impact on directions in the music.

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