40th Anniversary Telluride coverage

We’d like to introduce David Smith, who will be providing on-site coverage during the Telluride Bluegrass festival next weekend in Colorado. He will join Jason Lombard who will be photographing the event for us.

David SmithI’m thrilled to be joining the Bluegrass Today team for the extended weekend of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, June 20 through 24. Please allow me to share a bit about myself, so that you may know more about my perspective on the festival to come.

I was born in Washington D.C. a few blocks away from and a few days after what I would deem to be a defining moment in bluegrass music: the performance and recording of the Seldom Scene’s Live at the Cellar Door album. Being born in Washington D.C. and raised in Fairfax County, Virginia my young ears were drawn to the vocal harmonies and acoustic sounds of bluegrass music.

Over the last 20 years or so, upon moving to Durango, Colorado to attend college in 1993, I have been involved in many areas of bluegrass: DJ with community and public radio stations, board of directors of the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown festival, feature writer for a bluegrass publication (Colorado Bluegrass Music Society’s Pow’r Pickin’), a musician and of course – a fan. I also attended nearly every Telluride Bluegrass throughout my 18 years living in Durango. It’s been two years since I moved from Durango to North Dakota, and two years since I’ve been to the festival. Rarely does a day go by that I haven’t thought about the good times in the epically beautiful locale of Telluride.

The 40th Anniversary lineup promises to be both a walk up Telluride’s Tomboy Road in the days when school buses lined up as summertime homes, as well as a portrait of things to come. Alas, legends of past Telluride Bluegrass Festivals such as John Hartford and Vassar Clements are now late greats, and others aren’t touring with the vivacity of their younger years. Our walk into the goodle days won’t be giving us a glimpse into the storied gatherings of the late 70s and early 80s, but with musicians such as Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush, and Peter Rowan, as well as bands such as Hot Rize, Leftover Salmon, and String Cheese Incident, I feel that the 40th does a nice job in remembering the excellent lineups throughout the 80s and 90s. The portrait of things to come is easier to paint. Each day will bring the audience the best in modern-day acoustic music: Steep Canyon Rangers, Greensky Bluegrass, Trampled By Turtles, Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, The Infamous Stringdusters… on and on…

One of the coolest aspects of this notion of past and future are the bands that live in both worlds. Past Telluride Bluegrass attendees may have seen Leftover Salmon with Mark Vann on banjo bursting out of the Fly Me To the Moon Saloon on a late night of years gone on – or sat in Colorado admiration as Charles Sawtelle surprised one and all with each note played in a Hot Rize solo – but what praise we should all declare for these bands as they bring their best (now with Andy Thorn and Bryan Sutton respectfully) to the event’s main stage. These two bands symbolize all that is great about the Telluride Bluegrass Festival: like the ying and the yang of the festival organizer’s Planet Bluegrass logo, past and future are symbiotic and create a sound as unique as its magnificent mountain setting.

For my Telluride Bluegrass blog posts I hope to go beyond the main stage sets and give you an inside look at several different aspects of the festival. A talented songwriter, Pete Kartsounes, is a finalist in the Troubadour Contest and will share his words with us. I’ll be backstage with the Infamous Stringdusters during their late night “Nightgrass” set – and I’m lined up to be a judge in the nationally-recognized Band Contest, where past winners have included the Dixie Chicks, Nickel Creek, The Hillbenders, and Greensky Bluegrass. Of course I’ll be in the crowd for what’s to emerge on stage and will put pen to paper – later to type and submit – on standout songs and guest musician sit-ins.

I’m looking forward to bringing all of this and much more to the readers of Bluegrass Today.

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About the Author

David Smith

David Smith is currently the host of the Red River Ramble Bluegrass Show on North Dakota's Prairie Public Radio. Having been born and raised in the Mid-Atlantic, he moved west 20 years ago, first to Colorado, and more recently to North Dakota.