Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Here I Am in Denver... ( Crystal River Band )

So I'm digging through the mountain of bags and boxes, from the move up to Denver, and rediscovered a recent addition to the Colorado stash, courtesy of Austin, at Recollect Records.

I put this fantastic homemade bluegrass disc on the turntable, and my ears perked up, when I heard this catchy, and oh-so-appropriate chorus, which became an instant unpacking earworm:

I hit the Internet to see if I could find out more about the Crystal River Band. It didn't take long to locate former-member Russ Rueger, who graciously offered to tell me more about his involvement in the band, and the recording:

"I joined the band in the fall of 1982. A friend brought me to a small bar that was at the intersection of Hog Back Road and I-70, in Golden. A bunch of guys were jamming, and I joined in on harmonica. They invited me over to their next practice, and I brought a guitar and mandolin. Over the next few weeks we played a lot in the basement of a house, in Arvada, and Saturday nights at the same bar. The band settled into six of us, and we named ourselves "The Crystal River Band," after the river out by Carbondale. The band was: Andre Lefebvre - guitar picker and banjo; Charlie Mueller - bass; Kevin Knudsen - rhythm guitar; Kent Knudsen - banjo; Dan [didn't recollect last name] - drummer, and me on mandolin-harmonica-guitar.

Crystal River

We got into the Medicine Man Saloon up on Lookout Mountain, and became their house band. We played there most Friday and Saturday nights through 1985. We gigged some other clubs in the Denver area, and were the top billing for Bailey Days in 1984 and 1985. We also did a couple of festivals and weddings.

We recorded that album in one cocaine-fueled night in a small studio in Denver. Our drummer had left the band, and the producers brought in a studio drummer [Phil Gonzalez] a few days after our sessions. Mostly I remember being really tired.

We fell apart in 1985. Kevin and Kent disappeared, Andre moved back to Nebraska after a nasty divorce and job loss, Charlie met a woman and spent all his time with her, and I got serious about raising my four kids. I moved the family to Vermont in 1987 [Listen to Russ's new music, on his website].

Here's a pic from our heyday - minus the drummer. Left to right: Charlie, Andre, me, Kent, Kevin."

Russ told me there were probably less than 100 of these LPs pressed. The extensive website located a copy, and reviewed it:

"I suspect this disc was simply a souvenir of a summer that a few buddies spent smoking pot and picking out tunes by campfires in the Rocky Mountain nights...  There are a few cover songs -- "Ghost Riders In The Sky," Ian Tyson's "Summer Wages," Doc Watson's "Deep River Blues."  It's exactly the sort of stuff you'd expect mellow '70s dudes with guitars to strum along to at a barbeque party or whatever. There are also a fair number of original tunes by mandolin picker Russ Rueger, also in a raggedly folkie vein. Anyway, this is a real record made by real people..."

Of note, and not to be confused, there was also a faith-based Colorado Springs group, going by the Crystal River Band, around the same time period. 


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