If you’ve read this column regularly over the years that I’ve been privileged to write it, you should know I’ve repeatedly touted the work done by people who thanklessly put their necks on the line trying to bring music to Durango.
I’ve also taken my fair shots at the glass half-empty people in the “there’s no good music in Durango” club. Routing a band to town, negotiating the fee and contract, finding a venue, hiring a competent sound person and properly promoting it are all hurdles concert promoters face, all while those in the club continue to critique their efforts. I, however, choose to laud those efforts.
Durango Acoustic Music formed 23 years ago, originally as The Durango Society of Cultural and Performing Arts. Since then, the all-volunteer bunch has booked about 200 shows, averaging in their heyday and most productive years anywhere from a dozen to 15 shows a year. Recently, volunteer commitments and more venues and promoters than ever has resulted in them scaling back to two or three.
On Sunday, D.A.M. will bring Black Lillies, from Knoxville, Tenn., to the Durango Arts Center. The five-piece band is Cruz Contreras on guitar and vocals, Tom Pryor on guitar and pedal steel, Jamie Cook on percussion, Robert Richards on bass and Trisha Gene Brady on vocals.
The Black Lillies have found fame in a short time. Just after releasing their debut “Whiskey Angel” in 2009, they scored a set at the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee, which was quickly followed by festival gigs in the West, including the Four Corners Folk Festival in Pagosa Springs. Being a touring musician is blue-collar work. It’s seldom glamorous or lucrative, unless your idea of glamour and profit is long hours, little pay and regular meals of road food.
“We’ve been going at it in an old-fashioned way, getting out there and working hard and playing for as many people as we can,” Contreras said last week from a recording studio in Nashville. “We’ve also made the best records we can, and it’s all worked quickly.”
The band is described as “Americana,” an overused term that’s replacing “Alternative” as a genre description that is more of an umbrella term that a single audio explanation. Once pinned to country rock, Americana can be lumped into any American band. For example, Miles Davis created his sound in America; I guess he’s as much Americana as Gram Parsons or Muddy Waters. So a band like the Black Lillies with the “Americana” label has the right to play rock music with elements of blues, jazz or country, which they do.
“The term and what it refers to is evolving, Contreras said. “It was easy to associate with alt-country, and that’s the kind of music people were digging, but it had no mainstream outlet. There’s always lineage. It doesn’t end; one style of music is once removed from another. Really, it’s the last bastion for real music. It’s everything that’s not commercial. The term refers to everything that’s real, honest music.”
. Bryant Liggett is KDUR station manager.