American Roots highlights the freshest and most original Americana and bluegrass from across the pond in the US. It covers everything from brand-new, just out of the box bands, to cult favourites, to established acts who have yet to reach the UK’s shores. “Progressive-traditional” bluegrass-inspired Bowregard is one of the most-dynamic bands to emerge from the bluegrass rich-tradition of Colorado over the last few years and poised to take their place among the festival elite with their blistering live show.
For Fans Of: Hot Rize, Chatham County Line, Steeldrivers, Lonesome River Band.
Hometown: Boulder, Colorado, USA.
Band Members: James Armington (Banjo, Vocals), Colleen Heine (Fiddle, Vocals), Max Kabat (Guitar, Vocals), Justin Konrad (Resophonic Guitar), Zachary Savannah Smith (Upright Bass, Vocals)
Discography: ‘Arrows’ (2020)
Background: “We view our job as playing as much as possible to bring people along on our journey through old-time, traditional, and progressive music, while having a great time dancing,” explains Bowregard Dobroist Justin Konrad. “Our shows are energetic affairs, with a lot of stage energy, usually with the band gathered around a single vocal mic.”
Bowregard formed in 2017 in Boulder, Colorado, when Max Kabat and James Armington met Zach Smith and Colleen Heine at a bluegrass jam. They found instant chemistry and soon started playing small shows around the area, including a weekly Sunday brunch residency that allowed them to play consistently and start developing what Konrad calls a “progressive-traditional” approach to bluegrass. That approach is born from the various tastes and backgrounds of the band – the love for old-time fiddle and banjo tunes from Armington and Heine, the explosive newgrass sound that is at the core of Kabat and Konard, and the affinity for Americana songwriters of Smith.
In 2018, the year following their formation, Bowregard won the 2018 Ullrgrass Band Contest. The win was validation for the band that they were on the right musical path. Shortly after, Konrad, the 2016 Rockygrass Dobro Champion, joined the band and helped to round out their bluegrass-rooted sound. In 2019 they won the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition. The band competition has launched many unknown bands over the years including The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks), Greensky Bluegrass, The Lil Smokies, Trout Steak Revival, and many others. Bowregard saw the same jump in interest and took advantage of it, heading into the studio to record their debut album ‘Arrows’ at famed e-Town Studios in their Boulder hometown with Hot Rize’s Nick Forster producing.
‘Arrows’, released in July of 2020, perfectly encapsulates the band’s “progressive-traditional” approach. The album moves seamlessly from the straight-ahead traditional take on Ole Bella Reed’s well-worn classic, “High on the Mountain,” to the hard-driving roll of “Formaldehyde,” without missing a beat. ‘Arrows’ sums up how far bluegrass music has come in the last eighty years while at the same time honestly respecting that past and tradition in a modern sound.
Over the years Colorado has become known not just for their rich-tradition of bluegrass-inspired music, but for legendary live shows that feature non-stop energy and innovation every night. Bowregard’s musical forefathers in the Rocky Mountains Hot Rize and Yonder Mountain String Band showed how you could bring a rock ‘n’ roll vibe to a more traditional bluegrass sound and give it a modern edge. Those musical forefathers blazed a live path that Bowregard has dug deep into and that informs what they do on stage every night. “Our sound is maybe a bit more traditional than a lot of bands in Colorado right now,” says Konard, “but there’s a lot of jamgrass going on right now, and while we’re influenced by aspects of that – especially the way that jamgrass bands communicate with their audiences -we have a strong affinity for traditional bluegrass and old time music as well.”
The affinity for the traditional and old-time is at the heart of who Bowregard is. Even with a blistering energy reminiscent of a rock show present in their live sets, Bowregard is guided by the beauty that can be found in the early traditional elements of bluegrass and how they can present that for a new generation. “We really enjoy taking traditional or old-time tunes and seeing how far we can take them from their original context – with new chord progressions or melodies – while retaining core elements that made the song memorable,” says Konrad, “it’s a nice alternative to the highly processed and electronic sounds that make up the majority of pop music these days.
What They Do Live: