Words & Photos by Kevin Kenly
Billy Strings closed out their Spring tour on Saturday night in Denver, CO at the Mission Ballroom, and the quartet was clearly in the mood to leave it all on the stage, and to pay tribute to many of their heroes in the process.
The group played a total of 15 cover songs over the course of the evening, with their enthusiastic takes on tunes by Jeff Austin, David Grisman, Tony Rice, Jackson Browne, and more.
The group opened the show with a rollicking “Know it All,” which is the first track on their latest album, Renewal. From there, they kept up the momentum by segueing into the traditional cover, “Little Maggie.”
Shortly thereafter, Billy took the opportunity to remember his old friend, Jeff Austin, formerly of Yonder Mountain String Band, by playing his song, “Run Down,” to a delighted audience.
Up next was a fiery cover of David Grisman’s “Unwanted Love” that saw the group reach breakneck speed as the room began to blur with frenetic energy.
The band finished the first set having only played three of their own written songs before giving the crowd a quick breather.
Set II began with the stunningly beautiful ballad, “Love Like Me,” before ripping into a sequence of classics. “Highway Hypnosis” brought the high energy chaotic cacophony of sound that we all know and love before lighting up the room with a fierce and extended “On the Line.”
The group then chose to cool it back down with a beautiful rendition of “Watch it Fall,” off of Billy’s sophomore album, Home.
The second set also saw a significant volume of cover songs played, including an uptempo version of Jackson Browne’s classic hit, “Running on Empty,” that saw banjo player Billy Failing truly shine.
Later in the set, Billy turned to mandolin player, Jarrod Walker to determine who was cuter. Jarrod (who was being referred to by Billy as “Hairrod” took the opportunity to educate the audience and enlighten them to the fact that anyone who plays The Stanley Brothers songs is, in fact, the cutest.
The group then followed suit by playing “Nobody’s Love is Like Mine,” by the aforementioned Stanley Brothers before playing their own “Nothing’s Working.” This marked the entirety of the latest album, Renewal, being played over the course of the last 3 nights of their Colorado run.
The real highlight of the second set, and maybe even the whole show altogether was the closing sequence of an extended “Must Be Seven” transitioning into the Robert Hunter-penned “Thunder.” This segment gave Billy the opportunity to really light things up as the show was reaching its final curtain.
The bluegrass quartet closed out the show with yet another cover, “Born to Be With You” by the Chordettes before bidding the audience a fine farewell.
Billy and the boys will take a month off before they return to the stage in mid-June, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be busy! Billy mentioned that he will be going into the studio next week with his step-father, Terry Barber to record a new album as a father-son duo! Here’s looking forward to that!
Know It All (>) Little Maggie, There Is a Time, Run Down, Unwanted Love, New Camptown Races, Tennessee Stud, Gold Rush, My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darlin’, All of Tomorrow, Tipper, So Many Miles
Love Like Me, Highway Hypnosis, On the Line, Watch It Fall, Haul de Woodpile Down, Hollow Heart, Running on Empty, Doin’ Things Right, Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine, Nothing’s Working, Shenandoah Breakdown, Must Be Seven (>) Thunder
Born to Be With You