Americana Roots: Tenth Mountain Division

Americana 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.  Emerging from the fertile musical breeding grounds of the mountains of Colorado is Tenth Mountain Division who sound like the rebellious love child of Little Feat and the Grateful Dead who spent time skipping school to follow Leftover Salmon on tour.

Name: Tenth Mountain Division.

For Fans Of: Little Feat, The Band, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth.

Hometown: Denver, Colorado, USA.

Band Members: Andrew Cooney (bass), Tyler Gwynn (drums), Winston Heuga (mandolin), MJ Ouimette (guitar), Campbell Thomas (keys)

Website: http://www.tmdtunes.com/

Discography:  ‘Cracks in the Sky’ (2016), ‘In Good Company’ (2018)

Background:  Maybe it is the really good (now legal) weed, maybe it’s the cool mountain air, or perhaps it’s the freedom found in the Rockies, whatever the reason, Colorado has long been a fertile breeding ground for roots-inspired music since a bunch of hippies first came together and started the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1974.  Since then those mountains have produced a slew of innovative genre-bending bands from Hot Rize to Leftover Salmon to the String Cheese Incident to Yonder Mountain String Band and countless others.  Following in that long tradition is Tenth Mountain Division.

Formed in 2013 at the University of Colorado in Boulder and named in honor of famed military unit the, 10th Mountain Division.  Tenth Mountain Division the band is built upon the long-friendship of Winston Heuga and MJ Ouimette, who first met and started playing music together in high school.  The two eventually landed at the University of Colorado together and formed Tenth Mountain Division as an acoustic trio.  Over the next few years they added drummer Tyler Gwynn and keyboardist Campbell Thomas.  Bassist Andrew Cooney replaced the band’s original bassist a few years later solidifying the lineup.

Since forming in 2013 the band has released two albums, ‘Cracks in the Sky’ in 2016, and ‘In Good Company’ in 2018.  During that time the band has been a touring machine taking their sound on the road from coast to coast across the U.S., with stops at some of the most prestigious festivals in the country including the Aiken Bluegrass Festival, Summer Camp, Boogie at the Broadmoor, Yarmony Fest, and Winter Wonder Grass.  Recently the band has been in the studio with producer Tim Carbone from Railroad Earth working on a new album slated for release in early 2021.

As the band’s lineup solidified with the addition of bassist Cooney, so did their sound, a high-energy fusion of roots-inspired, Southern Rock boogie, and the progressive-bluegrass found in their home state of Colorado.  The connection to that progressive-bluegrass sound leans more to the progressive, as Heuga admits, “We tend to play bluegrass songs with our own style and pizzazz.  We have been graciously welcomed into the bluegrass scene for a band with drums and electric guitar.  It’s a scene where our music fits in even though we tend to bastardize traditional bluegrass.”  With influences that range from all ends of the musical spectrum, Heuga recognizes it’s sometimes hard to put a name on what they do, “I like to think of it as a damn good dance party packed full of all your favorite genres.”  And that is the beauty of Tenth Mountain Division, their chameleon-like sound, that finds hints of psychedelia, bluegrass, southern rock, and the fun-party vibe found in the mountains in Colorado.  “Defining our genre, like many bands we admire, is a million dollar question,” says Heuga, “at least to us.”

Much like many of those Colorado brethren they admire, Tenth Mountain Division’s live shows inform much of who they are musically.  For Tenth Mountain Division there is a loose, freewheeling, openness to their music that sounds like the rebellious love child of the Grateful Dead and Little Feat, and that is rooted in their explosive live sets.  “Our approach to music is much like our approach to our live show, creating a lively dance party for all to share in,” explains Heuga, “we have recently been diving deeper into our own sound and possibilities that come out of it.  Nothing’s off the table.”

What They Do Live:

To check out all the artists featured in Americana Roots swing by the regularly updated playlist below:

Author: Tim Newby

Author of books, writer of words, enjoyer of good times. Often found barefoot at a festival somewhere. 'Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin' Sound & Its Legacy' (2015), 'Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival! (2019)

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