The Six Dollar String Band continues to display a punk-band aesthetic in their old-time world. It’s an aesthetic that if most bands practiced, would result in a more honest music business arguably bettering the overall output.
The local string band, which record after record have put out its own interpretations of tunes that are a hundred years old as well as recording new tunes that sound like they could be a hundred years old, continue to fly a do-it-yourself flag that oversees their songwriting, recording and production. The utilization of local talent for album art, the ambient sounds used as between-song transitions on certain releases, the historical songs, underlying ideological concepts and breakneck tempos give the old-time band a flair of art rock along with classic American punk.
Six Dollar String Band will perform today at 11th Street Station.
Currently, the band has a couple of new releases bouncing around. “Calico” is a 7-inch EP featuring all instrumentals. Recorded last year at Scooters Place in Durango, the medium was inspired from banjo player/vocalist Brendan Shafer’s love of collecting punk vinyl; buyer and listeners note: Vinyl is the only way you can hear this record.
“When I was into punk music, collecting 7-inches was the thing to do, and it’s fun to be able to make 7-inches as an old-time group,” Shafer said. “Functionally, it’s a nice length of time, and it’s a cool concept. And with artwork by Jon Bailey, it’s collectible – having a piece of Bailey art is always fun to have.”
Sales of “Calico” will help with the final financial push of their forthcoming double LP, “Fire On The Mountain.” Recorded a year and a half ago when the band took up residency at Willowtail Tail Springs in Mancos, it’s the record Shafer has been itching to put out his entire musical career, if not his life. Like punk, blues or jazz, The Six Dollar String Band believes in region having a say in the music you make. Punk rock has its lovers of Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, even the Pacific Northwest. Blues or jazz people may side with Chicago, Memphis or New Orleans. Twang-lovers may look to Texas or Bakersfield. As historians, both Shafer and fiddle player Tony Holmquist are taking what they know of old-time music from other regions and adding to what they’ve got here in Southwest Colorado.
“Old-time music is very regional. I learned in the Ozarks, and it’s very important that regional style is part of the repertoire for a lot of people. I took a lot of that from the Ozarks, Brendan took some things from the Ithaca sound as he was in Connecticut. It’s a blend of those things, and our interest is bringing some of the Colorado sound into it,” Holmquist said. “We’re developing our sound here with it, and it’s been fun. That’s how it’s going to be pushed forward, is just continuing to work on it and present it in your own way, in an artistic and creative way.”
“The reason I’m saying this is the album we’ve always wanted to make is because it’s really specific, the sound of it” Shafer added. “We’re trying to go for a Colorado sound, and we’re trying to put our stamp on that catch phrase, the Colorado sound, I think this really does it. Some of the tracks are not traditional, some are actually ballads I wrote music to. Some are old songs that we kind of put a jam band stamp on and that brings in the Colorado sound a little bit. The selections are unique from an old-time perspective.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.