Late last year San Marcos area musicians David Beck and Paul Cauthen exited their Texas home base to cross into the Western Slope for a mission of the live music variety. Being only a couple of years old as a band, they were still somewhat of a mystery on the Colorado scene at the time. The six-piece outfit led by Beck and Cauthen was touring on their 2011 self-titled release, Sons of Fathers, a debut album that caught me off guard by how enchantingly well it translated from the first spin. More importantly, dozens of plays later it maintains that high – a rare find from rising artists pushing air with grassroots touring. Although tempted to trek out to that Dolores River Brewery show, I regrettably missed what I suspect was one of Colorado's last chances to catch a rare intimate performance from Sons of Fathers.
This year the boys are giving us a shot at redemption via a co-headlining slot with Honey Island Swamp Band at the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride. They come armed with 10 news songs from the album titled Burning Days that pick up right where they left off in the studio last time. Sacrificing nothing that made their original sound great, Beck and Cauthen took Southern roots rock into experimental and grooving alternative soundscapes. It is inherently country music given their geographic origins, but the tunes themselves aren't traditional country songs at all.
Moments of slightly pop-oriented psych-rock touch down before moon jumping to the fringes of progressive folk. The Sons easily shatter all single genre classifications on standout tracks like "O.G.C.T.a.W," but quickly return to their string picking and Texas slide guitar sonic signature on “Selfish Mind.” That is just one example of the progression seen from one great early album to a bold second attempt that stays true to who they are as artists without being afraid to venture into new territory. To put it bluntly, Burning Days is the album that Mumford & Sons should have followed up Sigh No More with. The overlap in band names seems fitting in that way, but I have my money on this band outlasting the aforementioned megastars. See for yourself on Saturday night and let me know what you think.
Sons of Fathers with Honey Island Swamp Band, Sat., Jun. 29, Sheridan Opera House, Telluride, 8:30 p.m., $22, sheridanoperahouse.com
From Ghost to the Man: Portugal. The Man, at the Telluride Conference Center
Fittingly enough, as I pen this I am sitting in a sweaty hotel room around intercity Lisbon near western Portugal. I am not sure what my neighbors think about me blasting Evil Friends at 9:30 a.m., the seventh studio effort from from Portland-based Portugal. The Man, but then again this record is so good that I don’t really care. Loosely forming only a few hours from the hometown of Telluride favorite Jewel in Wasilla, Alaska, P. The Man has been the indie rock band everyone always sort of knew and liked, but never really hit the that band tier until recently. Rewind a bit and founding members John Gourley and Zach Carothers are disbanding the short lived run of their first music project Anatomy of a Ghost. Gourley sings, sort of, and Carothers plays bass to electronic drum loops and synths. Rearranging vital pieces of a project birthed what would become the first lineup of Portugal. The Man. With a few other local recruits the group transplanted seeing the budding scene in northwest Oregon. Over the next two years they recorded, traded out members, toured and scored a deal on Fearless Records in time to drop their debut album Waiter: “You Voltures!”
Their sound was raw and full of energy, but was still premature on the mainstream front. A few years later the city they called their new home would burst open with a flood of bands with synonymous sound, but something set them apart when the gates finally did open. Social awareness in lyrics that’s not preachy, but still reflective, and an odd pop culture humor, is most likely the divide that keeps Portugal. The Man relevant from great early tracks like “Gold Fronts” to the fresh “Hip Hop Kids” off Evil Friend. Or it could be teaming up with unsuspecting super-producers like Danger Mouse (Jack White, Gorillaz, Norah Jones) and touring with mega-bands like Black Keys. But I think it is the now five-piece's ability to craft near-perfect albums of just heavy enough dance rock with anthemic hooks. It is simply good music from the modern era that has been proven with tours around the world, appearances at every major festival, and now a headlining spot at a gem venue like Red Rocks. The fact that this band is coming to Telluride is without a doubt one of the most special billings of the year. All I can say is be at the Telluride Conference Center on Wednesday.
Portugal. The Man with Guards, Wed., Jul. 3, Telluride Conference Center, Mountain Village, 9 p.m., $25, tellrideblues.com