Band dusts off forgotten music
June 9, 2005
Picture the members of Open Road listening to old 45s and 78s searching for the perfect traditional tune. Hold onto that image and you have an idea of what to expect on stage from this Colorado bluegrass band.
“We’re really into traditional music forms, but not in a textbook way,” said Caleb Roberts, mandolin and singer for Open Road. “We were into finding what’s exciting about traditional music, finding what there is that people today can get excited about, and we distill that for our audience.”
Open Road plays a style of bluegrass that echoes the feeling of old-time mountain music. They search for songs that may have been left behind “but shouldn’t have been,” Roberts said. They research musicians who may have been only regionally popular or had limited distribution and dust their music off for another performance.
Lead singer and songwriter Brad Folk wandered into a hip-hop record store in Fresno, Calif., and stumbled upon a box of 230 country record albums the store bought from an estate sale. He has been sorting and sifting through the stack looking for music to play or to inspire the sound of the band’s originals.
And Roberts has been scouring his own collection of several hundred LPs for the same reason.
Seeing Open Road in concert can be fun for the walk through obscure portions of music history, but it also is a powerful experience seeing their performance of original material.
One of their most popular songs is called “Hard Times” and sounds like an old train camp storytelling song.
“It’s a really powerful song,” Roberts said. “But what moves me is that Brad is very talented at delivering songs that convey great emotions. Not just anyone could deliver that song. Occasionally I get a little overwhelmed by the emotion he conveys through it.
“A couple times he has started crying a little bit, but that only happens when the audience is responding to it.”