The idea, floated in their press release, that Denver come across as “a modern-day Highwaymen” might be stretching it a little bit. Groupings that bring together the likes of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennnings belong in some rarified air. But for their own part, Denver aren’t doing badly at all. A group originally put together by songwriters Tom Bevitori (of Alela Diane’s Wild Divine), Birger Olsen and Mike Elias now also boasts Blitzen Trapper’s Eric Earley and Michael Van Pelt among a cast of Portlandians.
What we’re not sure of is why a band from Oregon took their name from Colorado when their sound is firmly rooted in California’s Laurel Canyon. It should take all of about 10 seconds of this whiskey-soaked record to have you thinking of Gram Parsons or the more ramshackle end of Neil Young’s back catalogue (okay, maybe Denver don’t sound quite as drunk as Neil was on Tonight’s The Night). The harmonising does more to recall The Band than Crosby, Stills and Nash’s polished sound but otherwise this is all west coast in its stylings. ‘Hot Denver #2’ borrows from the Flying Burrito Brothers in more than just a naming concept before it eventually descends into a good old-fashioned hoedown.
All these influences maybe more than 40 years old, but while this record is retro in its stylings, it never feels forced. There’s nothing scratchy about the production, with a crisp, clear sound bringing to mind more modern contemporaries like Dawes or, on the country ramble of ‘Dancin’ With The Moon’, Deer Tick.
Most of all, it just makes for a damn good listen.