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Kentucky Artists Take The Show On The Road To Denver For Appalachia On The Rocks

Kentucky music is no longer a secret and people all across the country are taking notice. You may ask, “What makes you say that?” Glad you asked. Because we have been invited to be involved in tons of Festivals and shows in several different states in just the past year.

First we made it out to Iowa for Hinterland. An event that featured three Kentuckians in Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, and Wheeler Walker, Jr. (Review here)

We then invaded Nashville for three shows.

We partnered up with Whiskey Soldier during the SEC Tournament for a Kentucky Takeover show with artists like Tyler Booth, Senora May, Jericho Woods, and Timmy Dunn. (Review here)

Lastly, we saw Tyler Childers make his debut at both The Grand Ole Opry and his Ryman debut in support of Margo Price. (Review here)

As Tyler Childers fame continues to reach new heights every day, he continues to be presented with larger opportunities and he recently sold-out the most acclaimed venue in the United States, perhaps even in the world, at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver. (Review here)

With that taking place, Darren Byrd approached me to give him some input as he put together an event to give all those traveling Kentuckians something to do while in Denver. The event was to be called ‘Appalachia On The Rocks.’

Having seen my work here at Capture Kentucky, Darren was adamant that I be a part of this event and with a tiny amount of arm-twisting, I agreed.

As the show developed, Darren secured the venue, Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver, Cervantes would hold an Appalachian party like nothing Denver had ever seen before.

The lineup was finally set with The Wooks, Laid Back Country Picker, The Local Honeys, Chelsea Nolan, Eric Bolander, Ritch Henderson, Josh Nolan, and three-time bearhug champion, Geno Seale. Those names are very familiar in Kentucky, but in Denver? Would anyone actually care? Would it be a disaster for a fella trying to do a good thing?

I’ll let the photo below answer those questions.

As you can see, Denver showed up, but didn’t show out. Smooth night of good music, high altitude and over 600 people nearly 1200 miles from home making memories as we celebrated the music of our great Commonwealth.

I was a bit leery about the effect of the altitude extending the value of the dollar as folks quickly realized alcohol at that altitude hits much quicker. I feared fights or drama. None. At least that I saw and I’m very proud that everyone behaved.

First up was Geno Seale. If you don’t like Geno Seale, it’s your own damn problem. When I think about what a Kentuckian means to me, Geno lands in the 99th percentile. You just can’t find anyone else better. Oh yeah, he is a purdy badass songwriter to boot. His set was greeted with the 40 or so folks in line for the doors to the venue.

Then literally three songs in, the bottom of the venue was 3/4 full and all the stools in the second deck held a$$es. I don’t think Hollywood could match the magic of a mini club version of Kickin It The Creek, Mini-KIOTC West we’ll dub it.

The King of I’m cool, but I’ll never say it, Mr. Josh Nolan, took the stage next. You can see him here setting his tone to face-melting mode below.

Josh released a MONSTER of an album in 2019 and every time I see Josh live, I’m entranced. His stories are nearly as beautiful as his soul and Denver treated Josh Nolan like the King that he is.

I first heard Josh’s song “Revelations: Things Could Be Worse” at Kickin it on the Creek in 2018. I was blown away and as he did in 2018, Josh played his set with just a mic, an amp and a guitar.

If you’ve never heard “Revelations”, fix that below. You’re welcome. Lol

The lone non-Kentuckian on the bill was Ritch Henderson. I saw Ritch walking around at Kickin’ It On The Creek and I heard that he may just play KIOTC next year. That information came from a late night/early morning impromptu jam session and while I can’t confirm that yet, I do hope it’s true.

Ritch was really good and watching Rhonda Williams sing every word back to him on the front row, I want him there if for no other reason than Rhonda’s happiness. Rhonda told me I better not post her photo, so check out Billy Bishop as he takes it all in.

Ritch Henderson is a mountain of a man and his voice rang through the hills at the KIOTC camp without a microphone. So let’s see what he can do with one next year.

I mentioned earlier in this article about how alcohol hits a lot harder at that high of an altitude. Well, during Eric Bolander’s set is when I learned about that firsthand. Eric’s set is a little fuzzy for me, but I know he’ll understand my struggles.

If you were unaware of Mr. Eric Bolander before Saturday night, I’m certain he made an impression on you. He always does, it’s kinda his thing.

Eric performed to a packed house and he did not disappoint. I will say that opening your set with your most popular song is sometimes risky, but this was Kentucky in Denver. Eric’s “The Wind” seemed to be similar to the bugle at the Kentucky Derby. Because when Eric hit that first chorus, the party hit the front stretch and there was no turning back!!

I briefly remember Eric performed “Oh Lord,” which is also a favorite of mine. Sorry EB, the altitude got me! Lol

I make no secret that I love Chelsea Nolan’s music. Once you meet Chelsea, you immediately want to see her succeed. Her talent, humor, humility and songwriting skills are enough reasons to love her, but then you hear her voice.

Chelsea has great vocal control, but it’s her rasp that pulls you in and captivates you, allowing her melodies and stories to permeate your soul. Comparisons are usually inevitable, although I hate them, and Chelsea’s voice is often compared to that of Janis Joplin.

Opening her set with Roger Miller, who shares a birthday with Chelsea, and then transitioning into Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” likely helps foster those comparisons, but it’s just not fair. Chelsea sounds like Chelsea and that should be enough, at least in my eyes ears.

Chelsea rocked Denver as only she can. Telling the stories behind the songs, and delivering a great set. She had folks rolling with the story behind “Rock Bottom.”

Next on the stage were the lovely ladies in The Local Honeys. If you aren’t familiar with the Honeys, they play traditional bluegrass and gospel hymns with the goal of preserving and passing on traditional Appalachian music.

The Honeys are such a pleasure to see perform. Using one old-time microphone, the band carries on the early radio days tradition where acts would take turns using the microphone for their solos and such. These ladies are wonderful musicians, but when those harmonies hit ya, you can’t escape. You’re hooked!

You get a mixed bag with the Honeys, which is truly a wonderful thing. You may hear an original tune, or you may hear an old Jean Ritchie tune, or maybe a Loretta tune. Their repertoire literally spans a century of music and they ain’t afraid to use it.

I have seen probably five or six performances and I still haven’t heard them miss one single note and Denver was no different!

There can only be one Laid Back Country Picker and Kentucky is awfully lucky to lay claim to him. Accompanied by his Honey, and backed up by the Miles Brothers of Wayne Graham, LBCP brought the party to Denver and Denver Kentucky came ready to party.

I will say this, if you have an opportunity to see Laid Back in a venue with a massive disco ball, you better take it. In fact, I think the “Magoffin County Cadillac” needs a little disco ball for it’s mirror.

Laid Back, Honey and the fellas played the best set I’ve ever seen from them and I feel that I may just know why. This was a packed house, 1200 miles from home and nearly every single face was a familiar one.

“Playing Good Country Music and Treating People Right” is the mantra of LBCP, it’s also a new song that will be on the next album. “Truck Stop Sam” and “Johnson City” will also be on there whenever the album gets a release.

You just can’t help but love these folks and that set was a memory that I’ll cherish for the rest of my days. Especially when Laid Back stepped to the edge of the stage and shredded a solo with Eric Bolander, drink in hand, is eating up the mojo. Twas a good time.

Just ask Jeff Cox. I said “Jeff, you look like you’re on Cloud 9.” To which he quickly quipped, “These clouds go all the way to 11!” Touché my friend.

Closing out the night was The Wooks.

The Wooks and Colorado have a strong relationship. The band does a lot of work for and with the CAN’D Aid Foundation. The nonprofit is self-described as “People Powered Do-Goodery.” The Wooks are involved on the music side of things as CAN’D Aid donates musical instruments to kids that need them. It’s just another good example of the caliber of folks from Kentucky doing things the right way.

The fellas that make up The Wooks have a long history with Mr. Tyler Childers. In fact, Mr. Jessie Wells was a member for quite some time. So you best believe that the Ballroom was rocking as they played two TimmyTy penned tunes in “‘seng,” and “Messed Up Kid.”

Switching vocalists all night long, we were all delighted to dance our cares away as The Wooks sang us back home into the early morning hours.

Songs like “Union Pacific”, “Little Sandy Queen”, “White Lines and Neon Signs”, “Dear Prudence” and many, many more were the perfect way to end a very hectic day.

Denver likely picked up a yearly tradition that will continue for decades, but there can only be one first time. For those in attendance, you already know how wonderful that night was. For those that couldn’t make it, I hope I was able to take you along with this article.

Love y’all!