By Lyons Bluesologist, David McIntyre
I can’t believe it’s been four years since the last Blue Canyon boys’ release (Next Go-Round) it seems like it was just yesterday. The latest self-titled release is their best one yet in my humble opinion. It will be their last one with Chris C-Bob Elliott playing banjo, as Zach Daniels is taking over the banjo chair.
Chris and the boys have been trying to work out his schedule so he could remain in the group and also work with a couple other bands. But try as they might, they can’t make it all work. So amicably, Chris is stepping down and Zach has taken over the banjo playing in The Blue Canyon Boys. The rest of the band consists of Gary Dark on mandolin, Jason Hicks on guitar, and Drew Garrett bass and sound technician.
The thing that, for me, makes this bluegrass band one of the best around is their diversity. They can play traditional bluegrass with the best of them, sing gospel harmonies as pure as can be, and also rearrange pop songs to fit in with their style.
The new CD, Blue Canyon Boys, starts off hot with “Roll Muddy River,” switches to a real nice ballad by Jason Hicks, then a jaunting instrumental “The Road to Westcliffe” by Chris. Gary Dark then contributes “Wake up the Party’s Over,” a tune that on first listening you’d think was a classic country tune. “Riding on that Northbound Train” is a driving tune with great instrumentation written by Hicks that also sounds like a tune you’ve been listening to for decades. Bill Monroe’s “Get on Your Knees and Pray” is one the guys really let loose and sing their gospel harmonies with ease and perfection. Followed by Jason’s “Just an Old Road” a very Colorado sounding country tune that might remind you of a local road you may luckily travel. Then it’s Pink Floyd’s “Time” a tune Chris brought to the band to experiment with. It is the type of song that separates this band from so many bluegrass bands.
I spoke with Jason Hicks about the band’s desire to do songs of this nature. He admitted none of the band grew up listening to bluegrass music and their roots are actually in pop music, which makes it easier for them to bring that kind of music into their sets. He says they work hard to bring a part of themselves into their approach to pop songs and try to make sure they fit, and yet still sound like Blue Canyon Boys and not the originators of the tunes. I recently heard Tim O’Brien and Jerry Douglas admit the same thing about not growing up submerged in bluegrass, but rather being heavily influenced by the rock music that played on the radio when they were young.
The album closes out with a couple of great tunes written by Jason and Gary including an instrumental by Gary called “Shinjuko Station;” a Buck Owens tune “There Goes My Love” they kill; and a smoking version of Don Robertson's “Born to Be With You.”
The Boys started using in-ear monitors a few years ago on their live shows and it made quite a difference in their overall sound. For those of you who are not musicians, monitors are speakers on the floor that usually face the band so they can hear what the audience is hearing through the bigger house speakers. It becomes easier to sing together with in-ear monitors as you now hear just what you want to hear, be it a particular instrument or more importantly what the other singers are doing when you are singing in harmony, which the Boys do so well.
Go see this band live; you will be highly entertained and walk away singing their praises.