Saturday, May 6, 2006
Kelly AspenHey, John Denver, Kelly Aspen owes you one. She was born in Houston, Texas, but because her mother loved John Denver songs and the pictures they painted in her mind, they left the Lone Star State and moved to Colorado. It's been Kelly's home ever since, and she likes it that way. She lives in Johnstown, a small town southwest of Greeley. By the time she was 5, Kelly knew that she'd grow up to be a singer. Barely into kindergarten, she announced that intention to her family. Now, a couple of decades later, she has stayed true to her plan. Fans are lining up at clubs, fairs, festivals and rodeos to hear her sing "mainstream country with a bluegrass twist" -as she puts it. She is also wrapping up a degree in psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Kelly's CD, titled Kelly Aspen, is on the Aspen Music Group label.
Jimmy Sferes & Jennifer WhiteSeveral years ago, Jennifer White happened into a Lyons, Colorado, music store looking for a songbook. Jimmy Sferes was behind the counter. One thing led to another and soon the two were singing at open-mic nights. A year later, they did their first official gig as Jimmy Sferes & Jennifer White. Jimmy was born in Queens, New York, and moved to Colorado in the '70s. He started playing guitar when he was a youngster, and has dabbled in many musical styles: funk, jazz-fusion, R&B and more. Jennifer, who grew up in New London, New Hampshire, is a relative newcomer to the music scene, although she grew up in a musical family (her father played stand-up bass in a band called the Four Fakers) and she's been singing and playing percussion since she was a child. Since diving into the deep end of the music business, she has done studio recordings and radio sessions; she has also performed with various ensembles, including an a cappella group and a country rock band. In addition, Jennifer is the co-founder of the ConservED Project (CEP), which teaches individuals and businesses how to conserve and live more sustainably. (Jimmy and Jennifer use wind power to power their studio, and they recently bought a vehicle that is fueled with biodiesel-soy bean oil.) Sferes & White's debut CD, The View from Here, was released in 2005.
The GreenesDr. David Greene has another gig besides teaching biomechanics in the occupational therapy department at Colorado State University: He and his sons, Josh and Jonah, perform Irish music as The Greenes. David has been playing music since he was a little boy. He's the group's guitarist, but also plays banjo, mandolin, piano and, on occasion, drums. Josh Greene, 15, a high school sophomore, plays fiddle and whistles. He began violin lessons when he was 7 years old, but only turned his attention to Celtic fiddling a few years ago. Jonah Greene, 12, an avid diver and rock climber, takes care of percussionist for the trio. But instead of using the bodhran, as one might expect for Irish tunes, Jonah plays the djembe, a drum typically used in African music. The Greenes, who make their home in Fort Collins, have recorded two albums: Aubergine and The Greenes.
Halden Wofford and the Hi-BeamsHalden Wofford and the Hi-Beams is a honky-tonk and western-swing band from Denver. The group has been together for five years (two years with the current personnel). They play about a hundred dates a year, appearing at clubs, theaters, dances and concerts along the Front Range. While the Hi-Beams is one of the busiest bands in Colorado, these five musicians have other pursuits as well. Guitarist and lead singer Halden Wofford is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. He wrote and illustrated a children's book called The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music (to be published next year by Little Brown). Bret Billings (steel guitar, harmonica) is a social worker. Drummer Damon Smith is employed by the Greeley Hat Works, makers of fine cowboy hats. Ben O'Connor (bass) is the group's manager. He also teaches at Colorado State University in the journalism department. Greg Schochet (electric guitar, mandolin) is a fulltime musician. In addition to performing, he teaches and produces. The Hi-Beams new CD, Midnight Rodeo, is due for release next month.
John NiemannFiddler and mandolinist John Niemann started out playing electric bass in a high school rock 'n' roll band. Later he took up guitar, fiddle, mandolin and mandocello. He was a member of Peter Ostroushko's quartet The Mando Boys, and he spent seven years with the Minnesota-based bluegrass group Stoney Lonesome.
Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).