Steamboat’s Old River Road hits the ground running with summer gigs |

Steamboat’s Old River Road hits the ground running with summer gigs

Nicole Inglis

Old River Road is a new configuration of bluegrass musicians who will be playing a host of summer shows. The musicians, from top left, are Scott Kirton, Ann Kirton, Craig Thornhill, Carol Ives and Jason Striker. The band plays a show today from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Steaming Bean Coffee Co.

— In the snowy depths of a Steamboat Springs December, local mandolin player Jason Striker returned home one day to a sticky-note left by his wife.

It said something to the effect of, "Banjo player wants to talk to you."

And so began the new local bluegrass project Old River Road, comprising five local musicians from varying backgrounds pulled together by former Cornbread banjo player Scott Kirton, whose many phone calls brought a few new names out of the woodwork.

"I was playing with Cornbread, and it kind of petered away, and I wanted some new people to play with," he said. "Part of my agenda was getting people from outside the circle. It's fun for us."

The band will play its third gig in its short history today at Steaming Bean Coffee Co. downstairs in Old Town Square. From 6:30 to 8 p.m., the quintet will be set up outside to play acoustic bluegrass originals and covers with a bluesy twist.

The band comprises Kirton on banjo and vocals, Striker on mandolin, Ann Kirton (Scott's wife) on fiddle, Carol Ives on upright bass and vocals, and Craig Thornhill on guitar and vocals.

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Thornhill and Striker said although they've lived in Steamboat for years, this is the first local band they've played with seriously.

Thornhill said the group aims to be a "drama-free" band with a focus on members' common passion for music.

"We never set out to say, 'We are going to be a band in Steamboat,'" Thornhill said. "We just want to have some fun and see where it goes."

Thornhill comes from a New Orleans background and carries those blues influences — along with an affinity for jam music — with him in his first bluegrass project.

"It's bluegrass, but Craig's guitar runs really give it a minor feel," Kirton said.

Although Kirton has been playing banjo for almost two decades ("There are no sad notes on a banjo," he says) the two women are relatively new to playing the genre live.

Ann Kirton has been playing fiddle seriously for only a year, and for former Blissful Mayhem bassist Ives, it will be her first live foray into upright bass from her standard electric instrument.

"And she rocks," Scott Kirton said.

But no matter their background, all of the musicians have fallen in love with bluegrass in their own way.

"It seems so honest and clean," Ann Kirton said.

Striker, who also comes from a jam band background like Thornhill, said the genre fits well in Steamboat's mountain culture.

"It's a great structure for music," he said. "I've had friends move here from the Carolinas and say there's more bluegrass here in the mountains in Colorado. It's almost the music the mountain culture is about."

With Kirton compulsively writing songs and booking gigs, the band is surging forward with a democratic approach and the power of positivity.

While Ives recovers from shoulder surgery in coming weeks, she will sing and Walt Seibert will play bass.

Upcoming gigs include the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series, the Mainstreet Farmers Market and outdoor festivals, setting the stage for that ideal combination of sunshine and acoustic bluegrass.

And for the band, that's enough for now.

"I'll play for tips and free coffee," Thornhill said with a shrug and a smile.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email

For more

Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series: June 18, July 9 and 23 and Aug. 6

Hahn’s Peak Cafe: June 24

Taste of South Routt: June 25

Hayden Days: July 16

Mainstreet Farmers Market: July 23

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