'Music on the Green' features local bluegrass

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Bluegrass band County Road 41 used to live and play in Steamboat Springs.

The band's name comes from the dirt road in Hilton Gulch that all four members lived along at one time or another. They each wrote original songs inspired by the landscape and way of life. Their demo CD features a picture of a defunct Yampa Valley barn that once stood in the yard of the tiny cabin they rented.

But then three of the four band members moved to Loveland.

"We all love Steamboat Springs quite a bit. Sometimes life just throws a curve and you can't live up there," said guitarist Doug Crowl, the first one in the band to leave the valley and the first one to admit he'd be more than happy to come back.

Crowl will be road-tripping back to Steamboat on Thursday with mandolin player Dive Irby and banjo player Ben Dodds. They reunite with bass player Bob Shaffer for a free County Road 41 "music on the green" performance at 12:15 p.m. that closes Strings in the Mountains' signature summer series at Yampa River Botanic Park.

It will be a concert filled with original songs in the "bluegrass style," Crowl said. Most of those songs were written in Steamboat, he added.

Crowl told of a song he wrote that was inspired by the miraculous survival of a child who fell 300 feet as he descended Devil's Causeway. Another of his songs is an ode to Whiskey Park, home to the sheep and cattle wars at the turn of the 20th century. He said he heard a story about jugs of whiskey and wagons full of prostitutes being sent to sheepherders in Whiskey Park to divert them from tending their herds, then wrote a song from the perspective of the sheep herders who had been isolated for months before the unexpected arrival of whiskey and women.

Now that Crowl has moved to Loveland, bought a house and is expecting a baby girl in the upcoming month, he said he is writing "transition songs." He said he's more into music than ever and writing a lot more because he's not so distracted by the lure of snowboarding all winter long.

As for Irby, "everything's real convenient" in Loveland, and he's finding plenty of inspiration on the Front Range, he said -- especially because he and Dodds moved out of the camper they lived in for a month before they found a "big, fat pad."

Irby said getting out of the mountains got him away from the tendency toward "the John Denver stuff" and opened the door to write about more personal things than just his love for the mountains.

Now County Road 41 just has to convince bass player Shaffer to move to Loveland so the band can practice together, Irby said.

Crowl said he is excited to be performing for the Steamboat crowd once again, especially at the botanic garden, which is perfect for County Road 41's style of music. He spoke fondly of the Yampa Valley curse -- saying he doubted its existence until he moved away.

For now, only time will tell whether Crowl and his newly relocated band mates truly are under the curse that might bring them back to the Yampa Valley. In the meantime, they assure their local fans that County Road 41 will be back to perform as much as possible.

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