The International Bluegrass Music Association has put their ears to the West, aiming them toward Front Range bluegrass band FY5. The long-time Durango favorites, who have come through town on numerous occasions for one-off shows or as part of the lineup at the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown held each April, have been selected as an official showcase band for the IBMA Conference later this fall. Their songwriter and guitar player, Mike Finders, has also been selected as a showcase songwriter. The IBMA conference is a scene overflowing with big bluegrass names like Skaggs, Fleck and Strauss, and even more overflowing with aspiring bands and songwriters from around the country; to be selected as a featured artist at the conference means you’re making some waves.
“It’s a great coming-together of anyone involved in bluegrass music, whether you’re a concert promoter, record label, or a publicist,” said Finders. “We’re glad they gave us a fair shake, and super excited they selected us. I think they only choose, like, 10 bands. We’re tickled that they like our stuff.”
Before FY5 heads east to Raleigh, North Carolina, they’ll be headlining the Meltdown on the Mesa, the one-day event held on Ewing Mesa just south of downtown that serves as a fundraiser for the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown. FY5 is the first out-of-town band to play this now three-year old concert.
They remain an apt representation of the Colorado style of bluegrass. Not the Colorado-based jam bands that use bluegrass instrumentation and a handful of bluegrass songs to serve as a vehicle for extended jamming and improvisation, but the Colorado style of bluegrass that, at its heart, remains true to the Appalachian origins of Bill Monroe’s bluegrass, while also meddling somewhere in the neighborhood that welcomes acoustic roots and classic country.
Self-labeled as “New American Roots Music,” they’re a band of lyrical emotion with solid playing and performance. When bass player Erin Youngberg takes vocal duties, they are capable of drifting into a dreamy, indie-folk realm. When dipping into the vast catalog of original songs penned by Finders, you’ll note his influences vary from songwriters within scenes from East Nashville to Laurel Canyon.
“We just played a bluegrass festival, and I talked to a guy that had heard our set, and he said, ‘I like you guys, but you’re not really a bluegrass band.’ I’ve heard that a lot. There’s a part of me that wants to argue (that) we’re not a Flatt and Scruggs cover band, but neither were Flatt and Scruggs. They did their own songs. And so did Bill Monroe. And so did the Stanley Brothers. I’d like to push back and say that we’re more of a traditional bluegrass band than a lot of bands that choose to cover those traditional bluegrass bands, because those original bluegrass bands were doing songs that were written by people in the band,” said Finders. “I didn’t grow up with my grandpa sawing the fiddle across the floor from me, I grew up listening to John Denver and the Beatles, and in high school, I grew up listening to that same crap that people listen to in high school, and I hope that would come out in my songs.”
FY5 just finished up in the studio recording their new album, “The Way These Things Go,” due out in 2018.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. firstname.lastname@example.org.