Storytellers: Bluegrass spans generations

"In Colorado, there are so many young people playing bluegrass."

KUSA - On Monday nights at The Bluegrass Coffee and Bourbon Bar in Olde Town Arvada, turning something old into something new again can be just as simple as hanging out with friends.  Matthew Gabriel, a software developer, and his buddies are doing just that. 

“It’s kind of like a bowling night for us,” said Gabriel, “we all get along really well and it’s just fun.”

Gabriel plays standup bass in the band Crooked Cannon—a Bluegrass band who plays in venues around the Denver area.

“We just like to play in places like this,” said Gabriel.

His musician buddies all have all various career backgrounds from a sales and service manager, a painter, an attorney and even a mail carrier.

“Yeah, we’re a bunch of old guys,” laughed Gabriel.

“As you get to know people and find out what they do,” said former painter and Mandolin player, John Gowdy, “it’s all over the board.”

“I’ve got all my teeth even though I’m the banjo player,” said attorney Michael Zwiebel. 

They all met at various “jams” around town but get together with a common chord of helping bring back a style of music called Bluegrass originating from the mountains of Appalachia.

“Denver is a huge Bluegrass area so there’s jams every night.” said Ernie Johnson, on rhythm guitar/harmonica/singer.

Johnson, the former sales and service manager, says when they play, they just have a good time and enjoy themselves.

“We’re serious enough to make sure we play the songs right,” said Johnson, “but we’re not so serious we think we’re going to make a living at it.”

“The music has a certain old-time appeal,” said former mail carrier and Dobro player, Alan Minietta, “it’s all acoustic, it’s not super loud, (and) it’s not super obnoxious.”

“It is kind of an old form,” said Gabriel, “it’s not as old as people think.”

Their music is an old form--with a new twist.

“We’re revitalizing songs from the 70s and putting a Bluegrass spin on them as well,” said Gabriel.

They say their inspiration goes back to their youth.

“We all used to listen to rock and roll when we were growing up and some folk music,” said Gowdy.

“We’re all kind of the same age and when we were 17,” said Johnson, “a lot of these songs were popular.”

Their group, “Crooked Cannon”, gets its name from what these guys do best.

“There’s an expression in the Bluegrass area that refers to somebody who plays an instrument really hard and plays really fast as a ‘cannon’,” explained Johnson.  “We don’t just do standard Bluegrass, we do a little Rolling Stones, Beatles, and Grateful Dead, so it’s kind of a ‘crooked cannon’.”

They play at various spots around town and say the popularity of Bluegrass in Colorado is bigger than some people may think.

“There’s so many professionals that live all up and down the Front Range,” said Gowdy, “touring musicians that make their living that way.”

“I talk to people from places like Virginia and Tennessee and the Bluegrass scenes there are not as big as they are here,” said Johnson.

Gabriel and his buddies come together to help make the music from the mountains appeal to fans of all ages.

“You can involve anybody at any age into this style of music,” said Minietta, “whether their very young or very old.”

“In Colorado, there are so many young people playing Bluegrass,” said Zwiebel, “I go to a jam and I’m the oldest guy there.”

Creating new sounds for everyone to enjoy, is as simple as hanging out with friends.

“It’s a team effort, we try to support each other,” said Minietta, “(we) make each other sound better and help each other out.

“It’s very relaxing, we do it on a Monday night,” said Gabriel, “and I look forward to Mondays.”

Crooked Cannon has been playing together for the past 10 years. Check here for more details about where they are playing next.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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