In 1978, traditional bluegrass was nudged forward by four guys living, not in a rural holler or on an isolated hillside in Tennessee or Kentucky, but in Boulder, next to the mountains, high up, thin air, great weather, easy and relaxed, plenty of music, and a small, music-obsessed community more concerned with having a good time, than anything else. That’s how I remember it.
Hot Rize were hometown boys and they felt like family to their audience. They were four guys on stage, around a mike, singing traditional harmonies and giving us great picking, who were serious about the music (they were wearing suits!), but who were also having a good time. Everyone’s fingers were on fire! It was bluegrass that had a feeling both old and new, twanging the heart, and keeping toes tapping all over town.
Being from Boulder, it made sense that they balanced this suit side of things with sequins and fringe sets from their honky tonkin’ alter-egos, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers. So the first set was High on a Mountaintop, Shady Grove, and the great tunes they wrote themselves and the next was Always Late (with your kisses), Kansas City Star, and In the Jailhouse Now.
Over the years, you could hear them at the Coal Company, a bar/garage tucked into a far corner of Boulder, or the Left Hand Grange or the big shed at Chautauqua. They toured, recorded, and then, more or less, went their own ways, leaving us with memories of a lot of good times and a lot of great tunes.
They reunited, periodically, for a one shot deal at Rockygrass, right down the road, or up in Telluride, but now, for a while, they’re back together with new tunes, a new album, touring and playing, and taking us back to the past and forward to something new, all at once.
There’s a lot to say about the music and the players, but that’s just words. I want to hear them play.