Country rock band Ryan Chrys & The Rough Cuts have quite the rhythm section.
On drums for the Denver-based band is Michael Jochum, whose resume rattles off a load of names of the classic and modern rock variety, including Jackson Browne and Korn. He retired to the Front Range a handful of years ago before his wife pushed him back out the door and behind the drum kit. Playing bass is Susan Phelan, who before joining the band spent some time playing the role of “Liberty” of the “Powerful Women of Wrestling League,” while also working as an on-air traffic reporter on television.
That’s just half of a killer band, which also includes Lauren Michaels, 2021 Female Vocalist of the Year for the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame, and Chrys himself, frontman of the Rough Cuts, a band that walks a fine line between hard-rock outfit and aggro-country band.
Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts will perform Friday (Aug. 26) for the VIP portion of the San Juan Brewfest in Buckley Park in downtown Durango.
They’re a band that, thanks to Chrys’ upbringing, is a lot of country, and a lot of rock ’n’ roll. The country came from the roots music his folk-singing and guitar-playing mother laid on him, the rock ’n’ roll from an older brother doing exactly what loads of older brothers have done before him, which is turn him onto rock music, and presumably other things as well.
WHAT: San Juan Brewfest VIP Party featuring Ryan Chrys & The Rough Cuts.
WHEN: 5 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: Buckley Park, 1200 Main Ave.
TICKETS: $100, only 500 tickets will be sold.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.sanjuanbrewfest.com.
“My mom was a folk singer and a guitar player, so I had it from the beginning. What defined my style was my mom was always playing old country and folk, I grew up around that. But I have an older brother, he was always cranking rock, AC/DC and all those bands from his bedroom so I had one kind of music coming from there, and another kind coming from down in the living room, so I had rock and country in each ear,” Chrys said. “So that explains a lot.”
They’re eight years and four records in, recording those albums in great music cities like Memphis, Nashville and at home in Denver. Their latest release, “Tears and Blades,” is a record that is equal parts outlaw country, 21st century cowpunk and Southern rock. It’s a record of ballads and anthems, of subtle twang and rootsy-rock, all delivered from a team tossing out hard-charging rockers and hard-country melodies, along with a package of heavy harmonies. It’s an equal partnership, where two men and two women share the studio and the stage.
“That’s how this band has evolved, from a starting point of ‘OK, we’re a band and we’re doing this,’ to where we are now. And where we are now is we all share the spotlight equally, and we all have strengths that we share and it all just comes out,” Chrys said. “Everybody leads the band in the show, which is awesome.”
21st century country music heard via commercial, country music radio is a tough sound to swallow. This isn’t that type of music. Chrys likens his sound to the Red Dirt genre of middle America, but with a harder guitar sound. He calls it “Garage Country,” where punky chords are paired with bouncy twang, and the songs range from road anthems to murder ballads. It’s all a solid mix of tunes from a dude reared on great American roots music, along with great hard rock. It’s a band offering the best of both worlds.
“I’m a country singer-songwriter, and a rock guitar player,” Chrys said.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.