A local bluegrass favorite, the acoustic quartet known as Elk Range, will be performing at this year’s Mountain Fair on Saturday, July 30. The band says that they are excited to play in their hometown for friends and fans, while bringing their music to a more eclectic audience. Through July and August of this year, Elk Range has 20 shows on their roster all throughout the state.
Elk Range is comprised of four talented musicians: Ken Gentry, who plays the mandolin and sings; Curtis Fiore, who plays guitar and sings; Betty Hoops who plays harmonica and sings on the band’s most recent album; and Hugh Phillips, a recording artist from Nashville who has played upright bass for the band for a little over a year. Every member of the band also dabbles in the songwriting process.
Hoops actually started out as a friend, and self-proclaimed “‘crazed fan” of the band, who would sit in during rehearsals. She followed the band for two years before Gentry and Fiore decided to let her join in on the harmonica, as well as vocals, something that Hoops said she only did as a hobby before.
“Well, really what solidified it, I think, was I bought them — what’s it called? — the drink holders that go on the mic stands,” Hoops joked. “I love bridging the sound between all the string instruments. The harmonica is a nice bridge between the strings or groundedness between the strings.”
Gentry told The Sopris Sun that Elk Range was born of circumstance. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Gentry started playing the mandolin at 17-years-old after being influenced by the song “The Thrill is Gone” by B.B. King. He also cited as influences the Grateful Dead, David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, as well as the genre of blues music as a whole.
Gentry first met Fiore casually while working in the Roaring Fork Valley. After encountering one another at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2015, camping close, they chatted about their goals and eventually began working together.
“I realized that there were a lot more guitar players than mandolin players around here. So I took the mandolin back up and have been doing that seriously for the decade I’ve been in the Valley,” Gentry told the Sopris Sun.
Fiore, by contrast, started his music career playing in a metal band. “There’s a lot of things that correlate there,” he said. “I always think bluegrass is metal music without distortion. I still appreciate metal music. It’s just, you know, I like to hear the notes.”
They affirmed that what keeps Elk Range shows exciting is that they never play the same set twice. Including covers and original works, their repertoire consists of over 180 songs.
“We try to diversify every single show,” stated Gentry. “Whether someone is seeing us for the first time or the 10th, they’re going to get something new.”
In addition to performing at Mountain Fair, Elk Range is excited to announce that they’ve been working on an “album’s worth” of new material. Their first album, “Long Winding Road”, is available to stream online. Check it out, as well as the schedule for upcoming performances, at elkrangemusic.com or on Instagram: @elk_range