World music, bluegrass band to make Steamboat debut Friday |

World music, bluegrass band to make Steamboat debut Friday

Nicole Inglis

The Gypsy Lumberjacks, of Minneapolis, blend world sounds with traditional folksy bluegrass. They play a free show at 9:30 p.m. Friday at Old Town Pub.

— Peter Verdin was in elementary school when he moved to Brazil for three years. It’s where the Gypsy Lumberjacks bass player said the bossa nova and samba beats of Brasilia seeped into his subconscious.

"It has a lot of people playing extremely simplistic — it has a lot of simple patterns," he explained. "And it all fuses together as far as a crazy dance machine.

"Bluegrass is actually the same thing. It's just played in a different meter. It has all the same notes; it still has all the same beats."

Verdin isn't the only member of the Minnesota-based Gypsy Lumberjacks who is ingrained with wanderlust and world music.

Lead singer Leif Magnuson decided to learn to play the guitar while rock climbing in Spain and frequenting flamenco bars.

"The more places you go, the more you pick up sounds you like," Magnuson said. "I wouldn't say we're experts at playing flamenco. You try to apply that in how you write. … It's more of a blending of as many things as you can."

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Percussionist Ben Karon and guitarist Bobby Patrick round out the band, which got its start as a weekly jam in a Minneapolis bar.

The world Americana and bluegrass group is in it for the music, but Magnuson said that's not necessarily what brought them together.

"I think it's just that we all like traveling so much," Magnuson said. "We love playing, don't get me wrong, but we just don't like staying in the same place all the time."

This week, the band is in Colorado playing shows in Denver, Golden and Fort Collins. On Friday, the band makes its Steamboat debut at the Old Town Pub. The free show starts at about 9:30 p.m.

While on the road, the band collects stories from the interesting characters its members meet — like that leprechaun they met Wednesday at Five Points in Denver. Verdin is a green chili connoisseur (Sante Fe has the best, he said), and on top of that, they create and rehearse original music, which mainly is written by Magnuson. His songwriting style is, like the band's outlook, laid back.

"I'm a weird person, so I've always enjoyed singing," he said in his gruff drawl. His singing voice has a soulful, even Southern edge not characteristic of traditional bluegrass. "Sometimes, I'll be running through a chord or cadence, and I can figure out something from it; other times, I'm singing something in the car or just hanging out, and I'll just remember it. Or I won't. I've probably forgotten thousands of songs already, like, today."

With the varying beats and rhythms from 12-bar blues to Afro-beat, the music actually would look quite complicated if written out on a clef.

But Magnuson said it's not about trying to hit listeners over the head with complex time signatures.

"All you care about is how it feels to you how you move," he said. "If it's a falling down kind of song, sometimes you can feel like a drunk elephant."

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

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