This is an entry in an ongoing series for 303 Magazine, which will provide a range of local album reviews. It is our intention to highlight the talents of local musicians, whether veterans to the industry or newcomers. Like the bands, the album can be fresh or something we just haven’t had the power to take off repeat in the past few months. Check out previous entries in the series here.
The Low Road, a five-piece Americana/bluegrass band, was formed where so many of Colorado’s finest local bands get their start — at the good ole’ University of Colorado. Guitarist George Trent Grogan and dobro player Andrew Gordon met in Boulder and began songwriting together. After a relatively soft start to their musical careers, the duo reunited with a solid plan and a desire to “do it proper,” as Grogan put it. Two turned into five, first with the addition of bassist Daniel Putrino, who Grogan had known previously. Then keyboardist James Hatch had been invited for a sit-in that turned permanent. To round out their bluegrass sound, The Low Road brought on Tenth Mountain Division’s Winston Heuga to play mandolin on their debut EP Tales From Home.
This project of Grogan and Gordon’s is a prime example of Denver’s local music scene. In Grogan’s own words, that scene is collaborative and eclectic, a place where “everyone is hungry and happy.” He defined The Low Road as a super-group, one that “exists because of Denver’s music scene and it what it allows of us.” He also described the coming together of the five musicians as “true lightning strikes.” His and Gordon’s idea for the EP was to come out swinging, to show face “once people had an idea of who we were,” and to introduce themselves as “a band that’s here and ready to attack.” And that’s exactly what they’ve proven in this four-song EP.
“Voodoo” is the first song from the EP, which opens with a lengthy instrumental introduction that showcases the strings section. About a minute into the track, Grogan comes in on vocals and holds strong for the duration of the EP. Simultaneously gruff yet smooth and steady, Grogan’s vocals are the ideal accompaniment to The Low Road’s combination of bluegrass, folk and rock music. The endearing poeticism from Grogan and Gordon stands out immediately on “Voodoo” — “Well, now some time’s past / Things ain’t changed much at all / We’re still lost in this whatever we are / Once it’s burned down, there’s no bridge left to cross / What’s not gained in love will always be lost.”
The second track, “Austin,” is more heavily based in the band’s bluegrass roots and boasts some brief but powerful solos from Heuga’s mandolin. While “Austin” is a slower tune, The Low Road picks up the pace and adds some twang in “Wasted.” Whereas the first two songs touch on the common themes of love and loss, “Wasted” is a more playful tune that takes those themes and puts an upbeat, country honk spin on them. Gordon’s dobro is the shining star of “Wasted,” a song that sings about women and whiskey in true bluegrass form.
The fourth and final song of the EP, “Fool’s Gold,” was written nearly ten years ago and has now finally come to fruition. Hatch’s keyboard leads the way, oozing heart and soul throughout the track. The EP’s intriguing lyricism remains consistent from song to song, and reaches its peak in this last song — “Oh, lord, don’t you know how to save me / ‘Cause I can’t seem to find my way home/ I’m lost up here in the mountains searching for gold / Some fool’s gold.” With the release of “Fool’s Gold,” a dream 10 years in the making has come full circle, and The Low Road is setting out to be the next bluegrass-band-to-watch.
Listen to the full EP from The Low Road here.