In September 2018, Alex Paul, frontman of Birds of Play, won a solo blues competition at the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival. He had wanted to start a band for a few years and he also had a grant from the Telluride Arts District to record an album. So he called his friends Jack Tolan (guitars, vocals and mandolin) and Eric Shedd (bass, mandolin, guitar and vocals). They started making music, and after recording an album, they went on tour to practice playing together and get ready for the Blues and Brews show.
The three performed wherever they could, meeting up to play around campfires and for friends. The more they made music together, the more they recognized their undeniable chemistry. Violinist and singer Anneke Dean joined the group in the summer of 2020, adding the perfect chord element.
Even before the pandemic, Birds of Play was working remotely. Members were divided between Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming. Paul writes the majority of the songs, and the other members save the skeleton of their songs and upload them to Google Drive so that everyone can learn them. The band has managed to create a folk album that makes listeners feel like they’re sitting around a campfire with the band under Colorado skies.
Birds of Play is inherently, unmistakably, Colorado. The last outing of the group, Whispers, vol. 1, focuses on the natural world and how humans connect to it. âFor me, personally, my approach to songwriting is to remind myself of how I want to engage with the world,â Paul says. “My hope with this approach to songwriting is to inspire the respect I feel for the natural earth.”
On the album, the trio of songs “Fate of Saints” is “a love story between the San Miguel and Dolores rivers,” says Paul. The two rivers start at the top of a pass, the Dolores flowing south and then north. Inevitably, the rivers turn in the end, almost like fate.
On “Gale and Doug”, Paul draws another parallel between humans and the natural world, telling a love story between the wind and a tree. “He’s waiting for her standing, it’s clear that he adores her. When she comes back, he’s taken in her grip,” the song says.
In terms of composition, the album is authentically folk with a string of pure country that runs everywhere. With beautiful guitar riffs and violin solos, the music could stand on its own even without the deep lyrics. Anyone who likes a good acoustic folk song will appreciate it. Listeners can hear the flowing rivers, the sound of the beloved Colorado mountains and the soul of the true natural landscape.
âIt’s so deeply ingrained in my bones, this state and this earth,â Paul says. “It’s like my most authentic voice singing the things that are dear to me. My community is all here. My home is Colorado.”
Using music to build community is the group’s raison d’Ãªtre.
âI would love to use that as a catalyst to bring people together,â says Paul, âand the music and the band are bigger than us and the songs.â
Birds of Play will present a 7 p.m. album release show on Wednesday, September 29, at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom, 2635 Welton Street. Tickets, $ 12, are available on the Cervantes website. Whispers, vol. 1 is now available on streaming platforms.