"I was born and raised in Mississippi, so I grew up playing blues and that’s my foundation,” said Garland Burton of Garland & Friends, who has worked toward forming a band since he moved to Aspen in 2009.
“My direct influences growing up were local blues guys,” said Burton. “My guitar instructor for my first few months of playing was a blues guy. I took lessons for a short period but was busy doing other stuff as a kid, like sports and other extracurricular activities. I took up guitar as a hobby then, but now I’ve decided to take it in more of a professional direction.”
Burton had been playing gigs around town with a local drummer when they decided to expound on their two-piece blues band to do something more. They found musicians to fill the extra spots but named themselves Garland & Friends because it's hard to get people to commit in a place as nomadic as Aspen. But they currently have a regular lineup comprising Garland Burton (guitar), Kyle Light (drums), Mark Nussmeier (guitar) and Mike Foley (bass). Dustin Lutomski (trumpet) joins them for about half of their performances.
Each member of Garland & Friends has been an instrumental part of the Aspen music scene, making this band a supergroup of musicians from the valley. I have written most of them up already for acts they have previously been a part of. I even wrote an article about Mark Nussmeier eight years ago, which focused on why he was sticking to playing solo with a looping machine because finding time to practice with other musicians was just not practical.
“I’ve known Mark since I’ve lived here,” says Burton. “But, he’s always wanted to do his own solo thing, which I understand because it’s hard to find commitment in this town when people are so transient. A lot of musicians come and go, so he created his own solo set and we all obviously recognize his talent. I kept nudging him to work with me and finally, he took the bait.”
Since forming a lineup, Garland & Friends have been playing live twice a month, once at The Red Onion (usually a Wednesday) and the other at Silver City (usually a Friday). The bimonthly gigs have worked out well for them, keeping their material relevant each time they play. This Saturday however, Garland & Friends will be headlining the Belly Up stage for a local artist showcase with a 90-minute set that you would think they have been practicing for.
“We actually don’t practice,” says Burton. “It’s truly a jam session. I guess it all derived from me playing simple blues riffs that Kyle could follow me on without practicing. We needed to expand and showcase a couple more songs and other genres of music, so we started doing what you could consider practice. We just walk through songs with instruments unplugged, discuss where the stops are, what happens in the bridge and then go do the song without actually having a proper rehearsal.”
Most of these quasi-practice sessions have taken place at D’Angelico Guitars, where Burton is the manager. Selling guitars and being surrounded by the music industry has reinvigorated him. Garland Burton and the rest of Garland & Friends have been working on writing more originals with lyrics and, after they have lined up some songs, they want to make an album.
“I haven’t incorporated many lyrics into our sets yet, because we don’t practice,” says Burton. “I’ve dabbled in different genres and home production but I want to try some different things with this band — with this orientation I want to go a more rock direction.”
John Zelazny has been in the blues all his life. He’s still delivering ‘cause he has a long memory. He appreciates your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.