Local band The Badly Bent rides again. Or more appropriately, continues to ride, because despite the pandemic, the band hasn’t really gone anywhere.
The tenured local bluegrass band, winner of the band contest at the 2005 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, has been a mainstay in the local bluegrass scene for over 20 years, having officially come together in fall 1998. Sure, there have been changes in the lineup with some members coming, going and coming back again, as well as some stretches of time that have found the band busier than others, but for the most part, they’ve kept a steady pace of appearing on local stages in one way or another, busting out their original, traditionally based high-energy brand of bluegrass while also dipping into the bluegrass music canon and beyond.
These are exciting times for the band, as they are welcoming back returning members and breaking in new ones, while looking ahead to the release of a new album.
The 2022 lineup consists of: Mark Epstein on banjo and vocals; Pat Dressen on guitar and vocals; Cindi Cone on fiddle and vocals; and new members Guy Ewing on bass and Joel Denman on mandolin.
“Everyone is really excited about the material we’re doing, and about each other’s playing and ability and personalities. Yeah, we’re getting along really well and having a lot of fun,” Dressen said. “There’s been some great players throughout the years, but I think this is one of the best of the best.”
Recording sessions on their new record began a year ago but where temporarily shelved because of the global party-crasher. Those sessions picked up again last week when the band returned to local studio Scooter’s Place to finish the project.
“I had a bunch of songs I had written that I wanted to get recorded, that was the basis for getting this thing going,” Epstein said. “It’s been a little over a year since we did the original recording. It sat in the can for a long time and we’re now just getting this back going again. We’re back in the studio, we’ve got some new songs we got to add, some parts we have to change, but overall, I think it’s a really good project.”
One secret to their success is the friendships. Bluegrass is social music, and the overall scene is made up of players who know the language of songs that are pulled from a vast catalog. Ask any bluegrass musician why they got into the scene and the majority will say they got into it to make music with their friends.
“One of the things that made The Badly Bent stick around, Pat and I have had a really special musical relationship and friendship for 20 years now. No matter what happens, it seems that we figure out a way to get back together and play music again,” Epstein said. “Cindi has also been a big part of that, she’s been on and off in the band since it started. So I think that the three of us, we’ve all had a great time playing music together, and we’ve all have immense respect for each other. That helps a lot.”
Another secret to that success is local support. This area has its music lovers and more specifically its bluegrass lovers, the people who will come out night after night, festival after festival or backyard pick after backyard pick, all in order to support their bluegrass-playing friends. It’s one of the things that makes this local scene so vibrant.
“We’ve had a lot of people that supported us just extensively thought the years, and it just makes it so incredibly worthwhile to want to play music. So hats off to the people that live in Durango and all the places that support live music,” Epstein said. “There’s still a lot of opportunities, and it’s just fun.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.