Spring Creek
Gig Seeker Pro

Spring Creek

Lyons, Colorado, United States | INDIE

Lyons, Colorado, United States | INDIE
Band Americana Bluegrass


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Spring Creek rides wave"

Lyons bluegrass band follows recent success with new album

By Quentin Young
Longmont Times-Call

LYONS — Since last summer, the first thing you hear about the Spring Creek Bluegrass Band is that it won the band competitions at the Telluride Bluegrass and RockyGrass festivals.

Spring Creek is the first band to do this in the same year in the history of the two festivals, and only one other band — Hit & Run — has won both competitions.

The wins put Spring Creek on the main-stage lineup for the 2008 festivals — meaning it joined the ranks of Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Béla Fleck, Peter Rowan, Bruce Hornsby and Ani DiFranco.

How is the band responding to all this success?

“We’re definitely trying to strike while the iron’s hot,” said Taylor Sims, the band’s 23-year-old guitarist.

One strike will come in the form of Spring Creek’s second album, “Lonesome Way to Go,” due to be released next month.

Sims, reached on a cell phone recently as he stood on a beach in Watsonville, Calif., where he and his three bandmates were on tour, said the new album really shows what Spring Creek can do.

“We think it’s just head and shoulders above the last one,” he said, referring to the band’s debut, self-produced album, “Rural and Cosmic Bluegrass.” “It’s so much better and so much more us. More mature.”

He gave much of the credit to the new album’s producer, Sally Van Meter, the famed Lyons slide guitarist.

A CD release concert is planned for March 21, at the Boulder Theater.

The band permitted a reporter last week to listen to five of the album’s 12 tracks, which include seven original songs.

The material supports Spring Creek’s reputation for holding the history of bluegrass in deep respect. The playing is crisp and tasteful, and solos expertly draw from the instruments their high-lonesome twang. The lyrics deliver straightforward messages and evoke romantic longing and rural living. Voices mix into harmonies like the precisely blended ingredients of a pie.

Of those five songs, one, “Sleepin’ Like a Baby,” written by the band’s Jessica Smith, accelerates past a mid-tempo pace and kicks up some whitewater. Its chorus goes: “I’m sleepin’ like a baby since you’ve gone/No more all-night honky-tonkin’ while I’m a-waitin’ by the phone/No more sittin’ up a-wonderin’ if you’re out doing wrong/I’m sleepin’ like a baby since you’ve gone.”

Brian Eyster, marketing director for Lyons-based Planet Bluegrass, which presents both the Telluride and RockyGrass festivals, said “sweet” is the word that comes to mind when he thinks of Spring Creek’s music.

“Lonesome Way,” to judge from the preview selection, is full of sweet — sweet playing, sweet singing, sweet words. Bluegrass has branched off into many sub-forms that favor alternative instrumentation and attitudes. Spring Creek for the most part avoids these tributaries and sticks with the currents of tradition.

Sims is the youngest of the Spring Creekers — the others are 25-year-old Chris Elliott on banjo, the winner of last year’s banjo competition at RockyGrass; 26-year-old Smith on bass fiddle; and 27-year-old Alex Johnstone on mandolin and fiddle. They all sing.

The band’s headwaters can be traced to Harmel’s Ranch Resort dude ranch in Almont, on the Western Slope. Sims and Elliott were working at the ranch and playing music together in the summer of 2004.

On July 4 of that year, Sims was at a party in Crested Butte where he saw a fiddle player who impressed him. Later, while driving, he noticed the fiddle player hitchhiking on the side of the road, and Sims stopped to pick him up.

The hitchhiker was Johnstone.

Johnstone soon took a job at Harmel’s and began playing with Sims and Elliott. Smith, whom Sims had previously known, also started working at the ranch and joined the band. This confluence of talents was the birth of Spring Creek.

Sims, Elliott and Smith originally met at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, where they studied under bluegrass musicians Joe Carr and Alan Munde.

The band later joined the swell of acoustic players who have moved to Lyons in recent years. Among those who took notice was K.C. Groves, doyenne of the local music scene and member of the band Uncle Earl. At one point she hired Spring Creek as her backup band.

“When I first went to their house and saw that they had Osborne Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs records on their wall, I knew that if any new band around was going to make it, one with those records on their wall were already a step ahead,” she said.

Eyster said one of Spring Creek’s strengths is its ability to integrate an old-time bluegrass vibe into its music.

Also, he said, “They’re really smart.”

The band recognized the marketing value of its 2007 festival achievements and spread the word accordingly, Eyster noted.

The release of “Lonesome Way to Go” will be one of the first steps in Spring Creek’s follow-up to last year’s prizes. They’re walking a venerable path. A previous winner of the Telluride band competition was the Dixie Chicks.

Quentin Young can be reached at 303-684-5319 or qyoung@times-call.com. - Longmont Times-Call



K.C. Groves was hosting a Christmas party when December's first big blizzard slammed her hometown of Lyons.

Groves, a celebrated bluegrass musician who plays in the supergroup Uncle Earl, barely made it back from a Whole Foods run in Boulder. She was sure her party's turnout would be in the single digits - just like the temperature outside.

"But sure enough, all of these people who lived in Lyons snowshoed and skied over to the liquor store two blocks away and then came over to my house," she recalled. "People started playing music, and at one point there were two different jam sessions going on.

"Toward the end of the night, someone made a toast: 'Hey, this is a pretty cool place to live."'
The Song School at the Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons draws musical visitors to the town every summer. Song School student Molly Venter of Austin, Texas, composes a song along the banks of the St. Vrain River during an excercise to create a song in 45 minutes. (Post / Cyrus McCrimmon)

It is indeed, especially if you play bluegrass music.

In the past decade, Lyons has emerged as the great bluegrass mecca of the West. Not only is the small town, population 1,600, home to roots-music giant Planet Bluegrass, producer of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and other events, it is also the place that countless bluegrass musicians call home.

"Lyons used to be the best kept secret in all of Colorado - in all of bluegrass, too," said Sally Van Meter, a Grammy-winning slide guitar player who has lived in the small mountain community 25 minutes north of Boulder for nine years. "But in the last year or two, a lot more artists and musicians have found themselves here."

The mass gathering of artists makes sense. Lyons is a charming town where everyone runs into neighbors at the coffee shop and the post office, since there is no home mail delivery. It lacks a major grocery store, but that's the way some residents prefer it. Boulder is less than a 30-minute drive.

While property values in Lyons are certainly trending up, it is nowhere near as expensive as Boulder. And you can't beat the natural beauty of Lyons, which is nestled among scenic red cliffs, sprawling river basins and
Spring Creek Bluegrass Band (Jessica Smith on bass, Alex Johnstone on mandolin, Taylor Sims on guitar and Chris Elliott on banjo) rehearse in the kitchen in a home in Lyons, the bluegrass mecca of the West. (Post / Cyrus McCrimmon)
tree-freckled foothills that dominate the land 20 miles east of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Artists drawing artists

As rich a draw as Lyons is aesthetically, its artistic residents are steadily becoming the reason so many people are moving this direction.

"We knew about Lyons and RockyGrass," said Taylor Sims, singer-guitarist with Spring Creek Bluegrass Band. "We'd been here before, and we knew that it was a cool little town - and that was part of the reason we chose to move here."

Spring Creek Bluegrass Band formed in the Gunnison valley in 2004, but the quartet left Colorado a year later to study under bluegrass legends Joe Carr and Alan Munde in Texas. When the time came to move
Legendary resonating guitar player Sally Van Meter travels the world for her music but calls Lyons home. (Post / Cyrus McCrimmon)
back to Colorado, the band's decision of where to live was made easier by friends who were talking up life in Lyons.

"It's turned out to be better than we could have ever imagined," Sims said. "If somebody ever needs a guitar player, they can call me up or they can call a bunch of other people up. There's a lot of camaraderie, and we all share common interests. It also helps that we all play music."

Life in Lyons is unlike life in most other towns. There are the impromptu porch jams that take place any old afternoon or evening in houses all over town. There are the planned picking jams, which often go late into the morning hours, reminding surrounding neighbors of their town's talented residents.

Students at The Song School at the Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons stretch before rehearsing. Lyons has become the bluegrass/folk capital of the West. (Post / Cyrus McCrimmon)
also the Tuesday-night jam at Oskar Blues, which now attracts up to 60 or 70 pickers, according to manager Scott Waller. And there's the Thursday-night bluegrass concerts at Oskar, which are gaining a regular audience.

"There are plenty of touring acts we could bring in on Thursdays to play," said Waller, who has worked at Oskar for six years. "But it's almost bigger when we keep it in house using local musicians."

There's also the High Street Concerts series, which regularly sells out Rogers Hall, in addition to other local shows and series. And then there's the big daddy, RockyGrass, which sold out the expansive Planet Bluegrass Ranch from July 27-29 with headliners such as Nickel Creek, the Sam Bush Bluegrass Band
Craig Ferguson, founder and director of Planet Bluegrass since 1991. (Post / Cyrus McCrimmon)
and the Del McCoury Band.

That's 4,000-plus people per day - in tiny Lyons.

"I hadn't noticed the influx of musicians living here until someone mentioned it not long ago," said Craig Ferguson, the director of the Lyons-based Planet Bluegrass who started producing festivals there in 1991. "But now I look at it, and it's really clear that they're here - and it's not just bluegrass or folk artists. There's just a lot of musicians in this town.

"I don't know when it happened. It was a sleepy, little town when we showed up. I'm not gonna use the term redneck, but it was a quarry town. But now there are sculptures all over Main Street and some poets living here - it's a diverse arts community, and I guess one brings the other."

New venue opening

When Ferguson and his partners bought the 20 acres of land that is now the Planet Bluegrass Ranch for $500,000 in the early 1990s, they struggled to make it happen. He now recognizes the deal as a steal, and the organization is happy to be unveiling its latest Lyons venue, the Wildflower Pavilion, with a Tim O'Brien show on Sept. 7.

"Between all the festivals and the concert series and the shows at Oskar, there are plenty of great gigs here in Lyons," said Brian Eyster, a musician who makes his living as the marketing director at Planet Bluegrass. "But more than anything, Lyons is the place where we all come home to and talk about music."

Planet Bluegrass is one of the biggest names in bluegrass, and its connection to Lyons has not gone unnoticed. When Eyster was in Nashville in 2006 for his first International Bluegrass Music Association conference, he had his small-talk, where-are-you-from spiel cued up and ready to go.

"I was prepared to tell everyone, 'I'm from Lyons - that's 25 minutes north of Boulder,' but I actually didn't have to tell people. They knew where it is," Eyster said. "You tell people you're from Lyons, and they immediately know Planet Bluegrass, and it seems like everybody in the industry knows somebody who has just moved here. And that's kind of funny, because Lyons is a tiny town."

Banjo songstress Abigail Washburn plays in numerous bands and incarnations, one of which is with Groves in Uncle Earl, whose last record, "Waterloo, Tennessee," was produced by former Led Zeppelin bass player John Paul Jones. While Washburn lives in Nashville, she has spent plenty of time in Lyons - once even jamming with Jones, Nickel Creek mandolin player Chris Thile and her Earl buddies at Rocky-Grass - and she's proud of her bandmate for helping foster such an intimate and involved scene.

"I'm really proud to know K.C., because she's been a big part of encouraging people to move out there," Washburn said. "I've talked with a lot of people who said, 'K.C. told me to move here.' And it's so great that so many people have. ... Some bands have formed just because that town exists. Every time I'm there, I feel full of life - because of the sunshine and the people playing music and the small town of people knowing everyone's names."

Funky political stew

Groves is unofficially known as Lyons' bluegrass hostess. She started the High Street Concert series and eventually passed it on to Eyster. And when she's not touring or recording, she hosts the Tuesday-night bluegrass jam at Oskar Blues.

"Most of the musicians here have a road life and play gigs in Boulder and Denver, and as a result, everybody is really supportive of each other - K.C. in particular," said Eyster. "When a new musician moves into town, she's always the first person to know, because having another bass player in town means more possible jams."

Groves landed in Lyons around 2000, and as she has helped build the community around her, certain realities have emerged.

"It is definitely getting more expensive to live here, but it's still not outrageous," she said. "It's not Boulder at all. But there is this dichotomy for people, where you'll have a car up on blocks next to a house with Buddhist flags. People live together, for the most part, amicably. Sometimes, with the politics, it gets a little funky. It's all about the old Lyons crowd, with our back porches and our instruments, meeting the new Lyons crowd, with their Gore-Tex baby strollers."

The growth has been both good and bad for Ferguson's Planet Bluegrass, which faces complaints about the stress his festivals - including this weekend's Folks Festival - bring to the small community.

"The consistent drag is the politics," Ferguson said. "There's the complaints about the parking and the people and the petty stuff, and we have to deal with all that on a political level. But now with all of these artists living here, I don't even know if I've ever enjoyed the political support of a community as I do now. It has swung completely with the artists moving in."

Van Meter remains irked about a city council squabble that resulted in Lyons not getting a larger grocery store, but other than that, she couldn't be happier. Talking last week from her front porch, where she can see the town's three church steeples, Van Meter was awaiting her friend Jason Dilg, who was coming up from Boulder to play some old-time music with Van Meter under the stars.

"Within the last three or four years, it just seemed like everybody was looking for a house to move into up here," Van Meter said. "It's really become this tight community of people who knew that being able to live within a community of musicians is really kind of rare.

"It's like the East Village of New York, when all the poets were living there in the '60s. It almost has that feel because of this great connection we all have."

Pop music critic Ricardo Baca can be reached at 303-954-1394 or rbaca@denverpost.com.

Folks Festival

FOLK, POP|Planet Bluegrass Ranch, Lyons; 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m. today featuring acts including Chris Isaak, Richie Havens, Cheryl Wheeler, Peter Himmelman, Serena Rider, Guggenheim Grotto and others|$45|bluegrass.com, 303-823-0848

Lyons is home to countless talented bluegrass artists. Here are five of them.

* Sally Van Meter: Whether she was living in San Francisco, Boulder or Lyons, Van Meter always leaves a mark on her surroundings. She's played with everyone from Jerry Garcia to the Yonder Mountain String Band, and her work on "The Great Dobro Sessions" as a featured performer helped the recording win a Grammy.
* K.C. Groves: A talented solo performer and also a part of the supergroup Uncle Earl, Groves is also quite the organizer. She created the High Street Concert series, hosts the Tuesday-night bluegrass jam at Oskar Blues and serves as the unofficial "bluegrass hostess" of the Lyons scene.
* Spring Creek Bluegrass Band: This band formed in the Gunnison Valley and studied in Texas before moving to Lyons and becoming the first band ever to win the band competitions at Telluride and RockyGrass in the same year, an honor they claimed in 2007.
* Eric Thorin: This respected bassist plays regularly with a large number of individuals including Drew Emmit, Brother Mule and Open Road Bluegrass Band.
* Todd Livingston: This slide-guitar player moved to Boulder to study under Van Meter, and he proved to be a quick learner. His group, Hit & Run, became a fast favorite. And he also won first place at RockyGrass' Dobro championship in 2001, returning the next year as an instructor.

Ricardo Baca - Denver Post (Aug 19, 2007) - The Denver Post


Spring Creek
Hold On Me

Spring Creek
Way Up on a Mountain
Rebel Records, 2009

Spring Creek
Lonesome Way to Go

Spring Creek Bluegrass Band
Rural & Cosmic Bluegrass



In Colorado's Wild West, Spring Creek has found its niche in the nexus between the strict traditionalist pickers and the free-wheeling jam bands, setting a high standard for dynamic live performances. Spring Creek still adheres to the old-school bluegrass standard for tasteful picking and vocal harmonies, while stretching out to showcase intricate arrangements and unique songwriting. The band flows into each new song, creating the feeling of being airborne that extends the experience into ever-changing new and different directions.

Avoiding many of the clichés that befall young bands, Spring Creek jumped headfirst into success by winning awards and prestigious band competitions early on. They have shared the stage with legendary traditional greats like Del McCoury, as well as innovators such as Peter Rowan and younger heroes like Drew Emmitt. Spring Creek has performed at the biggest roots music celebrations across the country including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, MerleFest and Strawberry Music Festival.

Citing early influences such as Hot Rize and Country Gazette, band members cut their teeth on traditional bluegrass at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, before moving as a band to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Spring Creek's complex geography of sound is as much shaped by the flatlands of Texas, the wilderness of Alaska, and the high mountain backcountry of Colorado as it is by the songs and musicians who inspired them.

Spring Creek is firmly ensconced in the lively musical community of Lyons, Colorado, a mini vortex of activity and creativity. Founding members Taylor Sims (guitar), Alex Johnstone (mandolin, fiddle) and Chris Elliott (banjo) have recently been joined by Danny Booth on upright bass, also a young veteran of the bluegrass stage. They have just released their fourth album, Hold On Me, with GRAMMY-winning Dobro player Sally Van Meter producing.