Fraser / Live Music: Musician returns to ‘turn it up a notch’ |

Fraser / Live Music: Musician returns to ‘turn it up a notch’

by Cyndi Palmer
Sky-Hi Daily News

Musician Danny Shafer returns tonight to play in Grand County and is bringing The Unknown Americans band along to add to the fun. Shafer and the band, based out of Boulder, are set to rock “the Creek” tonight with a variety of Americana tunes.

Shafer, singer, songwriter and guitar player, said the four-piece band’s style of Americana “is an amped-up country rock sound.” He said their show is always “a high-country Friday night sound for the audience.”

Honky tonk and dancing are mainstays of their sound, with Shafer providing the songwriting. He said he likes to write about “the beauty of regular life … The simple things can be really inspiring.”

Shafer plays a ’60s Gibson that he said is so beat up that it sounds perfect and plays perfect.

He has showcased his talents at previous Winter Park and Grand Lake folk festivals. His reputation brought him and the band to many well-known venues, like the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival and the Boulder and Fox theatres.

He said he doesn’t come from a musical family but a hardworking one “based on the belief as long as you’re working hard you’re doing something right, no matter what it is.”

Members of The Unknown Americans performing tonight are Jason Pawlina on drums and backing vocals, Jon VanSpriell on (Fender) bass guitar and backing vocals, and Ben Gallagher on piano and organ.

They say, “Life is like a mountain railroad” ” a life which has so far brought them “all over the West.”

“The state of affairs in this country has made driving around and talking to people more interesting than ever,” Shafer said.

The name Unknown Americans, “helps us get across the point of the audience and band being in this together ” helping social barriers and lines disappear helps the music stay real, Shafer said. “We believe that as musicians working-class values still make good sense. Those values make sense business-wise and personally.”

The four-piece band is fairly new, he said, with Gallagher joining this past spring.

Influences include Willie Nelson, Woody Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Edwards, Dave Bromberg, Drive By Truckers, Leftover Salmon, Hank Williams, Nick Seymour and Adam Clayton, as well as their van that can apparently “go 100 miles per hour to the top,” and Colorado weather.

What puts The Unknown Americans in its own category, Shafer said, “is their focus on songwriting while still giving an audience the room to get rowdy and listen.” He said the audiences in Grand County seem to enjoy good songs, but that he also wants “to turn it up a notch and let go to get the room dancing.”