Lining up for High Rollers

French guitarist adds European flair to band’s country sound

The crowd dances to The High Rollers on Friday evening at the Wild Horse Saloon. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

The crowd dances to The High Rollers on Friday evening at the Wild Horse Saloon.

The seemingly omnipresent High Rollers, created and ably led by Andy Janowsky for the last 18 years, released its sixth CD on Friday at the Wild Horse Saloon to an adoring, dance-crazed crowd.

The mood of the throng waiting at the front door for admission was orderly and willful; they knew The High Rollers and were determined to get past the door and be part of the celebration without impediment.

With hands stamped and sobriety checked, the faithful congregated in the side patio before showtime to mingle with band members and renew friendships. Most staked out seats inside and all were there clearly as devotees.

The High Rollers’ new CD is called “Altitude” and 14 of the songs are written by Janowsky, who has been writing poetry for music since he was a kid in a musical family.

One track, “Colorado Girl,” is among the most requested singles of the year on KRSJ in Durango and KISZ in Farmington. And when the band played the song during its two-hour first set, seats emptied with a roar of appreciation and just about everybody on the crowded dance floor was mouthing the words. It appears that country music has a real hit, homegrown right here in the Rocky Mountains.

The High Rollers are rehearsed to what the French call “éclat” (we’ll come back to that word, meaning brilliant display or effect), and the quartet of musicians know their instruments and each other well enough that their performance is never short of tight and fully formed.

Their arrangements are sophisticated, their songs catchy and, while they appear to be having the times of their lives, their attention to precision is conspicuous – which is saying something for music that is driven by drums and heard two blocks away.

Now, back to “éclat.” The High Rollers were booked at this time last year to appear at a music festival in France. At the last minute, the band’s lead guitar player couldn’t go, and Janowsky informed the concert promoter they were unable to attend.

Disappointed because he had heard the High Rollers in Durango during a trip to the U.S., it was suggested that a French guitar player fill in. Janowsky said it was out of the question. What does a French musician know about country music? he said.

The producer told Janowsky not to worry, and he gave him the contact information for Jerome Desoteux, who lives in a provincial town in the south of France called Cavillon. Desoteux is known throughout Europe as “Mr. J” and his country-western band is an unembellished “Mr. J’s Band.”

He’s a career musician making a living playing cowboy music in France and throughout Europe. He asked Janowsky to send to him his recorded playlist and assured Janowsky that he’d be able to fill in.

The High Rollers took a big chance last year in France and found what Janowsky describes as the finest musical talent in the business.

Mr. J is here in Durango for the anniversary of that French collaboration; he recorded tracks on all of the songs in The High Rollers’ new CD. He is a genuine phenom who shouldn’t be missed.

Catch The High Rollers and Mr. J at the Main Avenue street dance Wednesday after the July Fourth parade. Even if country-western music isn’t your thing, you will be impressed with The High Rollers and dumbfounded at the virtuosity of Jerome Desoteux – now Durango’s own Mr. J.

Jeff Mannix is a local journalist and author. Reach him at JeffMannix.com.

Guest guitarist Jerome “Mr. J.” Desoteux of Cavaillon, France, performs with The High Rollers on Friday evening at the Wild Horse Saloon. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Guest guitarist Jerome “Mr. J.” Desoteux of Cavaillon, France, performs with The High Rollers on Friday evening at the Wild Horse Saloon.

Jeff Johnson performs with The High Rollers on Friday evening at the Wild Horse Saloon. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Jeff Johnson performs with The High Rollers on Friday evening at the Wild Horse Saloon.

High Rollers’ drummer Mike Canterbury sings June Carter Cash’s part of “Jackson” opposite fiddle player Jeff Johnson, who sang Johnny Cash’s part (not shown), at Friday night’s release party for the new CD “Altitude” at the Wild Horse Saloon. Jerome “Mr. J.” Desoteux, of Cavaillon, France, joined the band on guitar. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

High Rollers’ drummer Mike Canterbury sings June Carter Cash’s part of “Jackson” opposite fiddle player Jeff Johnson, who sang Johnny Cash’s part (not shown), at Friday night’s release party for the new CD “Altitude” at the Wild Horse Saloon. Jerome “Mr. J.” Desoteux, of Cavaillon, France, joined the band on guitar.