One-time local mandolin player Patty Storen still keeps a foot in Durango’s rich acoustic music scene.
A founding member of local jam-grass band Liver Down the River, Storen has recently moved to Denver with a few of his Liver bandmates, while continuing to keep ties and make music with other pickers from the Southwest. He continues to play with Fellowship of the Strings, formed the Cosmic Groover Band with musicians from Durango and Denver, and fronts Patty Storen’s City Slickin’ String Band, which features Storen and a rotating cast of musicians, which can include Dennon Jones, Andy Yeomens and Lech Usinowicz, among others.
Patty Storen’s City Slickin’ String Band will perform Saturday, along with Red Eyed Djinn and Smelter Mountain Boys at Tico Time River Resort, an Animas River-side RV and camping park outside Aztec. Tico Time will host numerous festivals this summer, including a bluegrass festival in late April that Storen is helping organize.
Denver is fertile ground for a band like Liver Down the River. In their nine years in Durango, they quickly grew into a jam-band juggernaut, selling out local rooms and whipping their dedicated fanbase into a musical frenzy with their high-energy take on newgrass music that would extend into funk, jam and psychedelic rock. Not without its typical band member woes, the Front Range and its musician abundance may provide a bit more stability to the band lineup.
“We made the choice to move up to Denver to try and keep things going in a more efficient way,” Storen said. “It’s been difficult to try to maintain band members in the long term. Every year that comes around we have a bit of a lineup change, and it’s gotten stressful to only deal with the musicians that were available to us in the Four Corners. There’s a lot of talent up here, it’s really nice to be able to play with a lot of different people.”
Storen’s musical ventures don’t stop there. Liver Down the River will drop a 30-track, live release later this year, and in addition to his City Slickin’ String Band and The Cosmic Groover Band, he’s playing regularly around Denver with guitar player Jack Cloonan. He’s also teaching himself the ins and outs of audio engineering and production, recording his solo debut “Western Slope” in his home. That forthcoming release features Storen on guitar, mandolin, bass, banjo and vocals.
Storen majored in classical guitar at Fort Lewis College. Soon after he graduated, he got rid of his classical guitar, choosing to pursue bluegrass and acoustic music in a rock ’n’ roll setting. However, his education in music theory has, and continues to assist in, the writing, recording and performance of newgrass music.
“I think it lends itself in the same way to any genre of music that you’re going to deal with because you learn so much about harmony and about how music works as a science. I won’t say that all the music theory I learned is applied to composing music in the bluegrass or rock ’n’ roll realm, but everything I learned from music theory classes one and two I definitely hold onto. And it will benefit any musician,” Storen said. “There’s an approach I like to call it the Jimi Hendrix approach. People say, ‘oh well, Jimi Hendrix didn’t learn theory or learn how to read staff, so why should I?’ But most people aren’t Jimi Hendrix, so there’s something everyone could benefit from learning music theory. If you want to break the rules you have to learn them first.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.