As the unofficial house band at the Shakedown Bar in Vail, rock trio Brothers Keeper have a long-running tradition of inviting guest musicians to sit in for some jamming.
It was through that series that the band was joined one night by Blues Traveler frontman John Popper and seasoned producer and musician Jono Manson. From the first note, the five musicians hit on something special.
“It just clicked like crazy,” said Michael Jude, who plays bass for Brothers Keeper. “It was just such a brotherhood, right off the bat.”
They decided not to stop with just one show. That first performance led to more shows, an ever-growing musical bond and an album, “Todd Meadows,” which was released last summer. The album features a dozen tracks of bluesy, rootsy Americana rock that rides on the strength of guitar licks, Popper’s distinct vocals and a collaborative song-writing approach.
Brothers Keeper with Popper and Manson will kick off a 14-city tour in support of the new album on Wednesday with a special New Year’s Eve show at the Animas City Theatre.
The band is looking forward to returning to Durango, Jude said, which has consistently delivered a receptive, wild and energetic audience.
“We can’t wait to come down,” Jude said.
The trio at the core of Brothers Keeper is comprised of three musicians with East Coast roots who fled to the mountains of Colorado years ago: Jude, John Michel on drums and Scott Rednor on guitar.
Jude and Michel go way back; the two moved to Colorado with a band called Little Blue and have played with The John Oates Band in the Roaring Fork Valley for about 15 years. One night, they were playing their regular Friday night gig in Eagle, when Rednor – a brash guy with a Jersey accent – showed up and informed them that he was their new guitar player. They were skeptical, but they let him sit in.
“Sure enough, he killed it,” Jude said. “Here we are, three and a half years later. It was one of those things that was meant to be.”
The band started playing regularly at Shakedown, which Rednor owns, and the collaboration with Popper and Manson followed. Brothers Keeper didn’t go into it expecting to cut an album with the two big-name musicians, Jude said; instead, it was something that unfolded naturally.
“We were all sitting in the green room together, and Popper said, ‘We should do an album together,’” Jude said.
The five traveled to Santa Fe and spent two weeks in a song-writing flurry before recording “Todd Meadows” in Memphis’ famed Ardent Studios.
Jude said the band’s approach was to create pure, unadulterated rock ’n’ roll. All five take turns on lead vocals on “Todd Meadows,” and the album features guest spots by musicians like Jason Crosby, Glenn McClelland, DJ Logic, Joel Guzman and Rob Eaton Jr.
“It’s just basically very organic. There’s not a lot of bells and whistles to it,” Jude said. “It’s just kind of real people making real music. It’s very much a collaborative brotherhood.”
Jude said Brothers Keeper will be playing many of the cuts off the new album, along with covers from the canon of classic rock.
Playing live, he said, is where the group is at its best – dynamic, improvisational and riffing off the energy of the songs and the audience.
“Everyone goes on their own, takes the risk, knows that everybody’s got you,” he said. “It’s almost like a jazz tune, exploring where this tune can go outside of the structure of the recording.”