Bluegrass Music In New Mexico
Bluegrass Music In New Mexico
More to come
I grew up in and around the Boston area listening to 60’s and 70’s type music. I started playing drums at the age of 15 and played in a high school rock and roll band. We did songs from Steppenwolf, Eric Clapton, Jethro Tull etc..
In 1977 I drove my $300 Ford Futura to Colorado and ended up in New Mexico. It wasn’t until I went to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1984 that I realized that I wanted to learn to flat-pick and play bluegrass music.
After that, I was in and out of bluegrass jams and bands throughout the late 80’s and 90’s. 1990 was a special year for me. I bought my first mandolin and celebrated the birth of my daughter.
While working at the hospital, I would occasionally see a guy I thought looked like John Cleese from Monty Python. As luck would have it, this guy, Tony Smith, was a bluegrass musician with connections to a bluegrass band called the Fiasco Brothers. After two years of playing with the “bros”, we branched off and formed our own band called the “Duke City Swampcoolers.”
I have been a fan of country string band music since I was barely tall enough to see over the top of my uncle's pedal steel. I was raised a Baptist (twice on Sunday, plus Wednesday night prayer meeting), singing at the top of my lungs, fanning my own cool breeze in the humid Oklahoma summer. My first (analog) computer was a player piano. I really loved threading the rolls and studying the workings, but my legs were too short to reach so I sat on the floor and worked the pedals by hand. When the elementary school started a band, I became the tuba player by default, being both the largest and the latest to the first rehearsal. My musically-inclined kin moved to California, so I taught myself a little guitar, played tuba in the band, and sang in the school choir. I made a half-hearted attempt at a college musical education, tried my hand at uranium mining and 105mm cannon marksmanship, but eventually returned to digital computers. I took up the banjo about fifteen years ago when TV got too bad to watch. Then I hooked up with these guys who thought "Duke City Swampcoolers" was a good name for a band.
I had a mid-life crisis at age 40. I didn't go buy a new car or get a new wife but I did buy a new guitar. Without knowing much about bluegrass music or the local bluegrass scene, I managed to meet and start playing with an established band in Albuquerque called the Fiasco Brothers Bluegrass Band. Those guys had the patience of Job to put up with me for the first several years. I was like a band fungus…something that just wouldn’t go away. In the process of learning tunes I came to the realization that I could write and compose music also. One thing led to another and eventually I migrated with a few others to form the “Duke City Swampcoolers”. My favorite guitar is a Pimental acoustic dreadnought made here in Albuquerque New Mexico. They make amazing guitars.
Vocal and Bass
Vocal and Dobro
1. The Swampcoolers were featured in a photo in the New York Times as part of an article discussing the Music in Medicine program at the University of New Mexico where we performed for patients in the clinic there.
2. Here are some excerpts from the New Mexico Magazine, March 2006 which reviewed our first CD release, It Ain’t the Years, “…these songs never fail to entertain with the musicians’ lively pickin’ and heartfelt lyrics.”
3. The New Mexico Magazine reviewed our second CD, Drained and Unplugged, in January 2008. Here are some excerpts, “Tony Smith, however, still writes the cleverest songs….Bill Dufault’s “East Canyon Winds” skillfully details his journey west from Massachusetts to New Mexico. Aaron Combs provides great fiddlin’ throughout, and Jon Bryan’s fine banjo pickin’ punctuates his toe-tapping “Swampcooler Breakdown.” His “Time Enough for Love” is a poignant end for this cozy, down-home recording.”
4. Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine reviewed Drained and Unplugged in their March 2009 issue and here are some excerpts from that review. “Drained and Unplugged is an exciting offering of eclectic bluegrass created by a high energy band from Albuquerque, New Mexico….With Drained and Unplugged, the Duke City Swampcoolers have created a rambunctious and entertaining collection of high-octane bluegrass that leaves a yearning to attend one of their live shows.”
5. The Swampcoolers were the Artist of the Month for the New Mexico Music Commission in January 2009.
6. “We saw the Swampcoolers in Albuquerque in June when breezing thru on Route 66. They were great live and this album captures their infectious enthusiasm. Thanks Guys, long may you play!” David Munro…review of It Ain’t the Years on CDbaby.com.
7. “Loved the CD and loved the variety of songs on the CD. Glad that New Mexico magazine wrote about it, otherwise I would never have known about it. I'm particularly fond of banjo playing.” James H. Webster…review of It Ain’t the Years on CDbaby.com.
8. 2-28-2022: We wanted to add this bit of sad news. Art Jarvis passed away recently. Art played music with the Swampcoolers for many years as our bass player and a vocalist. He was loved by all. He will be sorely missed by the music community here in Albuquerque and he will be dearly missed by those of us who were lucky enough to play music with him.