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Heirloom Music Coming to Central Colorado

Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s musical career does not read like a fairy tale, it’s more a story of fits, starts, patience, persistence and lucky breaks.

Gilmore spoke to Colorado Central Magazine from his home in Spicewood, Texas, outside of Austin, in advance of his upcoming U.S. tour. He is getting ready to set out a with the band The Wronglers, on a tour that will take him to Philadelphia, New York City, Charleston, Cleveland, Chicago and beyond, but not before he first completes a tour of Colorado, a place he once called home.

Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Wronglers

A veteran of the early alternative-country music scene in Austin, Texas, it was there that he met fellow Texans Joe Ely and Butch Hancock in the early 1970s and they put together a band, The Flatlanders. They performed local circuits for about two years and produced one recording before disbanding in 1973 to pursue solo careers. Meanwhile, that obscure first record was released in Europe in 1972 and then again, for the first time in the U.S., on Rounder Records in 1991 and is considered a landmark recording in progressive, alternative country music.

Years later, in 1988, they were asked to contribute a song to the soundtrack of the Robert Redford film, The Horse Whisperer. This led to a Flatlanders tour but no record, so in 2002 they recorded an album together for only the second time – one of many critically-acclaimed Flatlanders recordings that followed.

In 1980 Gilmore returned to Austin after a 16-year hiatus from the music industry during which he was involved with a spiritual group in Denver, and resumed his musical career – basically picking up where he left off. By then Austin had developed a reputation as a music mecca, and he quickly immersed himself in that scene. Ironically, it was during that earlier spiritual interlude that some of his songs began circulating and gaining listeners, as they were being recorded and released by Joe Ely. Specifically “Dallas” and “Treat Me Like a Saturday Night.”

Gilmore released his first solo record, Fair and Square, in 1988. His solo albums have earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Artist, and Rolling Stone Magazine named him Country Artist of the Year two years straight. His high-lonesome tenor vocal stylings have led to inevitable comparisons to Hank Williams and his music has come to be described as “Sagebrush Soul.” He grew up listening to classic country music as a child but also owes some of his unique vocal qualities to hearing early recordings of Native American chants.

Gilmore is also known for a cameo role he played in the classic cult film, The Big Lebowski. In it, Gilmore plays a pacifist bowler, Smokey, who gets into a dispute with a hair-trigger Vietnam vet played by John Goodman, over an alleged toe-slip over the line.

His latest project, Heirloom Music, is a collaboration between him and the American roots band The Wronglers. Fronted by banjoist Warren Hellman, the band came about as a collection of friends around the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, a huge, multi-stage, free festival held every October in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, founded and financed by Hellman, a co-founder of one of the most successful venture capital firms in the U.S..

It was at one of the early festivals that Gilmore was introduced to Hellman at a musician’s party. “We discovered that we had so much in common in our musical tastes.” Gilmore recalled. “We shared a common love of old time music.”

Gilmore brought up the idea of a collaborative record with Hellman at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, and in May of 2011 the new album of 14 songs celebrating American “Heirloom music” featuring a wide variety of traditional songs in the bluegrass/deep country/blues/folk genres was released. Also a member of The Wronglers is renowned Colorado-based fiddler Heidi Clare, formally of the Reeltime Travelers.

Fans of any and all of these genres should be sure to catch this unique show with a one-of-a-kind American musical artist. Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Wronglers will be performing at the Jones Theater in Westcliffe on June 8, Salida SteamPlant on June 9, Turn of the Century Saloon in Montrose on June 10 and on July 8 & 9 at the High Mountain Hay Fever Festival in Westcliffe.

– by Mike Rosso