Jeff Austin, Colorado’s prodigal son returned to the Centennial State for a three-night run that included stops in Denver, Fort Collins and Wray’s 4th and Main Listening Room. It was exactly one year to the day that JAB played at the Aggie. Jeff and his band, which consists of Kyle Tuttle on banjo, Mike Robinson on guitar and Max Johnson on bass came ready to throw down. While this is not the star studded affair of his initial touring group, the current pickers in Jeff’s band bring some serious chops. They invited local bluegrass veterans Chain Station to get the night started with their buttery brand of Mountain music.
Chain Station is some of the finest Colorado bluegrass available on the touring circuit today. After over six years of relentless touring they find themselves at the top of the heap when it comes to local grass. Their set opening up for Jeff Austin was a perfect introduction for any uninitiated bluegrass fans in attendance. Chain Station started promptly around 9 PM with a slew of originals and covers to keep the fans dancing. Versions of Tom Petty’s Refuge and Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” got people excited early. The driving string tune “Long Way Home” was an obvious highlight from a stellar opening set.
Jeff Austin and crew emerged from the side stage to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. For those that loved Jeff in Yonder Mountain String Band seeing JAB live is as good as it gets. I talked to several in the audience who were doing the entire run and stoked to be seeing Mr. Austin in Colorado again. An eager fan screamed, “…We love you Jeff.” to which he replied, “I love you too…” before pausing to add, “…no seriously.” He further fired up the crowd by opening with the Yonder classic “What The Night Brings” into a rowdy “Underground”. “No Expectations” came next followed by the beautifully built “One More.” The band transitioned nicely into the Irish folk traditional instrumental “Red Haired Boy” which they played at 100 miles per hour. “Screen Door” featured some of the deepest jams of the night. Jeff’s last album The Simple Truth was released in 2015 and we were treated to several songs off that album includ-ing a sublime “Shake Me Up.” They closed the first set with a new track entitled “Rolling Thunder.”
The obvious high point of the entire show was the second set opening “New Horizons” into an powerful “East Nashville Easter.” “Carry Water” was included a dark but blissful jam that gave way to massive “Lick #6” sandwich that featured another new song which is as of yet untitled. JAB proceeded with the bluegrass traditional “Rueben’s Train,” which melted nicely into the crowd-pleasing “King Ebenezer.” They closed the second set with a sick “Static State of Mind.” The band returned for a quick but sweet two song encore comprised of “Sing Me Back Home” into the 30db song, “Grave.”
Jeff Austin has retreated a bit from the limelight in recent years, but he now seems poised to dominate the bluegrass scene. With an extensive tour planned taking him across the country, and several festival dates already announced it would appear that Mr. Austin is making a comeback. Jeff was the idiosyncratic guy in Yonder, he brought the grit. If you find yourself missing that familiar edginess, go out and see Jeff Austin Band this summer, it will remind you of what you are missing.