Local bands don't come any more local than the High Rollers, the Durango-based country band celebrating the release of
its first CD, "Ride Ride Ride," on Saturday night at the Wild Horse Saloon. Two members were born and raised in
Southwest Colorado, and the other two have lived and played here for 20 years or more. And being local has its
"Since we're from around here, we get to see everybody grow up, I guess," said lead singer and bassist Andy Janowsky.
"In any crowd, there are usually a few couples that we played at their wedding, and (drummer) Mike Canterbury even
has grandkids in Ignacio."
Durango locations also show up on the CD jacket, which lists 10 cover songs recorded at live performances during the
last year, plus five of Janowsky's originals. The covers are eclectic and high energy, with a quality of musicianship
and multipart harmony you'd expect from a national touring band instead of a bunch of current and former
law-enforcement and road maintenance supervisors.
The only cover track that misses the mark is the band's version of "Mustang Sally," which may be the price a (mostly)
country band pays for covering an R&B anthem. The rest of the live tracks are generally very good, from Radney
Foster's "Texas in 1880" to lead guitarist Garret Valencia's conjunto-flavored instrumental "El Metate."
The High Rollers' local focus even extends to its song selection. The best cover is an up-tempo version of Charlie
Daniels' 1975 hit "The South's Gonna Do it Again," which also highlights fiddle player Jeff Johnson's virtuosity.
Still, as good as the covers are, the real treats are the original tunes. These are songs with some meat on 'em, and
the lyrics are written to be paid attention to.
"When I look at a new album cover, I pull out the lyrics first to see if I'm going to like the songs," Janowsky said, and it shows.
On "Breakout," two young lovers conspire to make a run for it, which in this case may be no farther than the county
The writing sparkles on two other tracks as well: "DARE! To Keep Kids off Trucks" is a tongue-in-cheek warning to
parents who want their kids to safely grow up to be lawyers or movie stars (who all drive cars). They should be
careful of letting impressionable youngsters behind the wheel of a "Cowboy Cadillac." The big winner, though, is
"Ride Ride Ride," the CD's driving, inspirational title song. If a bullrider ever needed some juice to get himself
psyched up to "get on, tempt fate, open up that gate," this is it.
Local color influences Janowsky's songwriting as well, with one tune - "The Jacks of this World" - being a plea to
the Lord to take care of folks like a well-known Durango street character.
All five originals are thoughtful, and all serve to inspire in some fashion. In fact, the CD would have benefited
from more originals and fewer covers, but the mix reflects the band's modesty onstage as well. If you've been to a
High Rollers show and have not heard any original music, it's deliberate.
"People pay to hear us play the music they know, and we don't want to jam original songs down anybody's throat,"
The band plays many private events in addition to club dates, but if you're not invited to somebody's big shindig
this summer, Saturday's gig at the Wild Horse or Sunday's performance on Main Avenue in Durango will give you a taste
of the High Rollers' wide musical swath. From the sound of the CD, the original material will be at least as welcome
as the songs you already know.
Mike Clark is a local country and western music afficionado and is an occasional contributor to the Herald. Reach him