• Dylan Kishner-Lopez

Boulder Based Bluegrass Band "Bowregard" releases debut album!

If you’ve been waiting for some new bluegrass music to come your way, then look no further. Bowregard, a Boulder, CO based bluegrass group (and winner of the 2019 Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition), has been working hard to bring about their first album into the world and it has finally arrived. The group’s first full-length album Arrows is available now across all platforms and it delivers a much needed breath of fresh air into what has become a jam-heavy music scene in Colorado. Arrows lends a modern ear to bluegrass music while maintaining the roots and traditions of the style, giving the collection a unique and forward-looking sound. Bowregard consists of Max Kabat on vocals/guitar, James Armington on vocals/banjo, Colleen Heine on fiddle/vocals, Zachary Smith on Bass/vocals, and Justin Konrad on resophonic guitar.

Photo credit: Daniel Herman (www.bowregard.com)

The group began when Max and James met Zachary and Colleen at the famous Conor O’Neill’s weekly bluegrass pick in early 2017. Zachary and Colleen had recently moved to Boulder, and Colleen brought them both out to the pick. “James and I had been playing together, and had a band that wasn’t very active” says Max Kabat “And I met Colleen at that pick and I remember at some point someone leaned over to me, because their harmonies together and the way they both played together, it’s very poignant, and they said ‘Somebody’s going to spook these guys up and start a really awesome bluegrass band. And I just remember being like ‘Yeah, yeah that’s me!”

From there the group began playing regularly, although gigs were few and far between for a while as Zachary and Colleen had a child on the way. Zachary remembers “One of our first recognition gigs was the band competition for Ullr Grass, and Max said ‘Hey we’re in this competition!’ and the rest of us were ‘Aww shit’ you know? Like ‘What did you get us into Max?’ But I guess we did pretty good, because we ended up winning the thing, but it was funny because we just played our set and thought ‘Well that was it’ and packed up and left. And that was the first night Colleen and I had a babysitter for our kid so we just hightailed it out of there. And then on our ride back to Boulder from Golden, Max called and said ‘We’ve gotta play a final round, we made it to the finals!’ So Max and James pulled together a crew to play the final round with them, and we ended up kinda winning that in a strange way”.

Photo credit: Josh Elioseff (www.bowregard.com)

Once Bowregard found out that they would be in the Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition they went to go see local dobro legend Sally Van Meter, who helped them tighten up their tunes and was able to “rip into it a little bit” as Zachary puts it, “And it was a great experience that really allowed us to dial our arrangements in and make sure that we were performing in a way that would really come across to the audience and maximize the power that we were trying to get across.”

Of the songs on the album, the band “forged their sound” (as Max says) around a few songs that he had already written, including the title track and ‘Fallen Angels’, “The cool thing about this band is that we all bring our very unique influences and backgrounds to this music, but together we form a sum that is greater than the parts”. Zachary adds “James also had a really interesting instrumental composition with ‘Sage, the Western Basil’ and that one really helped round out the composition of everything, in that it’s just a different pace, you know we played it at Telluride, but to have a really slow beautiful instrumental tune really rounds out the set, rounds out the album really nicely.” The album itself was recorded at E-Town as part of a prize package for the group’s 2019 win of the Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition. Through this they were hooked up with Nick Forster (owner/manager of E-Town) and he wound up producing the album. “We didn’t want any filler or anything,” says Max.

The album starts off strong with “Fallen Angels”, a rippin’ tune that sets the tone for the rest of the album, immediately invoking some traditional musings. Next up is “A Reasonable Man (Killdozer)” which is based on the very true story of Marvin John Heemeyer, a man from Granby, CO who, after a number of disputes with the town of Granby, wound up building an armored bulldozer and destroying various properties in the town. Third on the track listing is an instrumental titled “Sage, the Western Basil”. A beautiful and delicate tune, it features every instrument weaving around the melody in perfect compliment and arrangement.

The songs “Formaldehyde” and “High on a Mountain” bring the energy back up before the second instrumental “Cousin Sally Brown”. This instrumental begins with an Old-Time fiddle tune sound, and soon picks up to reveal the roots of bluegrass music in Old-Time (and even Irish) fiddle tunes. Following this high energy excursion we have “Nothin’ to It”, a ballad that feels more country than bluegrass, but don’t let that fool you. Penned by Benny Galloway (who has written for the likes of Yonder Mountain String Band and The Infamous Stringdusters) “Nothin’ to It” will get stuck inside your head for days and serves as a comedown from the energy of the previous two tracks.

The album’s title track brings that energy right back. “Arrows” is a fun and energetic song of past love that is sure to get anyone dancing. The third instrumental “Flannery’s Dream” features a duo guitar and fiddle melody that melds perfectly. The last track is titled “The Henrys” and provides a perfect stopping point for the album, with a steady but energetic pacing and wonderful melody.

Through the COVID shutdowns the band had been distancing, but ultimately wound up getting together at a family member’s property in Park City, Utah to workshop some new material. When asked if they had any plans for recording or streaming in the near future, Max replies “I think a huge positive out of this whole thing is that we got a great response on our Kickstarter campaign and we were able to raise almost double what we set out to do, and part of that promise to the people who made those pledges and pushed us over our goal was that we would invest in some equipment in order to do just that, and offer more consistent streaming stuff from us, both high quality video and audio so we’re looking into getting all the stuff that we need to make that happen.”

Bowregard has a stream coming up on July 19th for the Charles Sawtell Memorial Mountain Jam put on by KGNU (a virtual live streamed event) and hopefully will be putting on their own streams in the very near future. In the meantime make sure you give Arrows a listen and drop by the band’s website to check out their merch and any upcoming news.

written by Dylan Kishner

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Denver, CO 

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