Fraser / Live Music: Singing the songs of every day life
February 1, 2008
The next musical guest for Java Mic Night at Fraser’s Rocky Mountain Roastery is guitar player Gregory Alan Isakov.
Isakov, who came to the United States from Johannesburg, South Africa with his family, started touring Philadelphia with his first band at the age of 16. The well-rounded musician has a love for old guitars and also plays harmonica and dobro.
He began playing music with his brothers and reluctantly played saxophone throughout high school. One day, one of his older brothers came home with an electric guitar that caught his attention. He loved to sit and listen, but when his brother wasn’t around, he would jump at the chance to play it. Seeing his passion for the instrument, the brother finally “threw up his hands and let me have his guitar,” he said.
Isakov takes comfort from the old library-book smell of his ’67 Gibson J-50, which was given to him by a friend in Nebraska.
Isakov also takes pride in playing a small mahogony Martin as well. Despite its weathered cracks and its patches of tape, Isakov said he thinks he’ll “play it ’til it’s really in pieces.” He said one of his newest guitars, which he won at Telluride, is worth more than anything he has and sounds great, but that he doesn’t like the feeling that it might be “too nice to play.”
With the release of his album “Rust Colored Stones” in 2003 and “Songs for October” in 2005, he has made quite a name for himself as a folk musician. Just this past year, he had the opportunity to share the stage with Fiona Apple and he played at the Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, Rocky Mountain Folks Fest and the Southpark Music Festival.
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His talents have been compared to many of his influences, including Bruce Springsteen (especially his “Ghost of Tom Joad” album), Will Oldham, Gillian Welch, Elizabeth Cotton, Mississippi John Hurt, and Leadbelly. He loves early Bob Dylan and “everything Kelly Joe Phelps puts out.”
Isakov also plays with his band “The Freight” and they celebrate the release of “That Sea, The Gambler,” which came out in May. The band’s name came from one of the first songs Isakov learned, which was Cotton’s “Freight Train.”
He mostly plays originals and said his favorites change every day.
“I’m inspired by so many different things … whether it’s other musicians’ work or just everyday life,” he said. “Songs are just a mystery to me. I don’t know where they come from exactly, and I think I really like that about it.”
To him, folk music embodies visions of “trains, politics and outdoor festivals with blankets and kids playing around.” He said he loves that about folk music, but that he doesn’t have any political songs, “and that’s alright with me.”
This will be Isakov’s first performance Grand County, but he said his truck broke down once on the way through.
“It’s a beautiful place to be stuck,” he said, and although he hopefully won’t have any car trouble this time, he might have trouble tearing himself away. He said he’s also heard great things about the music scene up here, including from friend Tres who recently played up here with the Paper Stars. Freight fiddler Jeb Bows may join him for Friday night’s performance.
Each Friday night during the ski season, the Fraser Roastery will be hosting a wide selection of musical talent from across the country. Upcoming performers include Grand County’s own Yaniv Salzberg along with Mike Music Feb. 8, and Carlson Nightly and the Smooth Shifters Feb. 15.