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Stillhouse Junkies take home an IBMA award

It’s 2022 and Durango’s bluegrass star is shining a bit brighter. Not that it was dim in the first place, as this town and outlying region hold a firm spot on the bluegrass map.

With a stellar spring festival that kicks off festival season (when a virus isn’t railroading said festival and its season), it remains a place musicians want to come play, and with a load of killer local and regional musicians and bands, it remains a hot scene and something local music lovers should be proud of.

Local band Stillhouse Junkies, who are Fred Kosak on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Alissa Wolf on fiddle and vocals; and Cody Tinnin on bass and vocals, is one of the reasons Durango’s bluegrass star is shining brighter, as the trio (in addition to being named best musician/band in The Durango Herald best of poll of 2021) were awarded “Momentum Band of the Year” at the 2021 International Bluegrass Music Association’s “World of Bluegrass” Conference and Festival held in Raleigh, North Carolina, last fall. The award was not bestowed as a result of the band competing in an onstage competition like a festival band-contest, it was awarded because of past accomplishments. Despite the pandemic, The Stillhouse Junkies remained productive with numerous online shows and limited capacity front-yard concerts throughout Durango, among other musical projects.

“It’s more just giving recognition to a specific band for what they’ve done in the past calendar year,” Tinnin said.

“Bands can apply or nominate themselves or submit recommendations, and then applications are reviewed by a panel of judges,” Kosak said. “In that sense for us it meant more than winning a contest where you get up and play a couple of songs. It’s based on the entirety of the year we had in 2020. Every aspect of that was taken into account rather than just how well we played.”

Winning the Momentum Award is a solid accolade in a close-knit, national musical community stacked with talent. It’s an award that has and will continue to open doors for the band – they’ve already booked a tour later this year that will take them to Germany, Austria and Switzerland, an overseas trip to make up for the U.K. tour that got scissored by COVID-19.

They’re also the newest band on the roster for Dark Shadow Recordings, a bluegrass label run by Stephen Mougin, who in addition to running the label plays guitar with newgrass pioneer Sam Bush. They signed on with the label late in 2021 and will head to Nashville in February to record their Dark Shadow Recordings debut.

“We had met Stephen before, and that opened the door when we saw him at IBMA,” Wolf said. “I was comfortable saying hi to him, and he saw us perform, and I just slipped in ‘Hey, we’re looking for a label.’ He gave me his card and said ‘email me.’”

Signing to a mid-sized, indie label will take the business work out of the hands of the band, so they can concentrate on what they do best; writing bluegrass-based music that strays into dirty and dark, progressive roots music, and playing shows.

“When we had released albums in the past we just kind of were like, ‘Hey, here’s an album.’ We didn’t have any kind of plan in place to promote it. We didn’t have a publicist, we didn’t have radio placement, we weren’t trying to get on Spotify playlists because we don’t really know how to do any of that. And we didn’t have the money, we did Kickstarter campaigns for our previous things,” Kosak said. “These guys have a whole timeline for what happens after we track everything, that will culminate in September with an album release in Nashville, and we’ll be doing something in Durango as well.”

Stillhouse Junkies will drop singles from their forthcoming record through the spring and summer, and their Durango record release show is tentatively scheduled for early fall.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.