Newgrass was only the beginning |

Newgrass was only the beginning

Wren Wertin

After the release of their debut, a self-titled 15-track album, earlier this year, the quartet has dedicated the past few months to honing their sound. According to critics, it seems to have worked.

“It just feels real, real good,” said banjo player David McCloskey. “We’re digging what we’re doing.”

What they’re doing is mixing things up a bit. The group started out using newgrass instrumentation – mandolin, banjo, bass, drums. But with the addition of keys, also played by McCloskey, their sound has evolved into more acoustic rock than bluegrass. One thing that hasn’t changed is their spirited style, playful and determined.

“I’m playing keys now in the band, just on some of the new tunes we’re working on,” McCloskey said. “It adds a whole different layer of sound. It’s cool to have that kind of diversity. If we play 25 songs I’ll probably play keys on six to eight of them.”

David is joined by his brother Todd McCloskey (mandolin), Steve Roseboom (bass) and Dan Menchey (drums). They recently had a couple of days off in Washington mid-tour. They rented a cabin in the mountains and indulged in a frenzy of songwriting. The result was six new songs.

“I think Todd and I are evolving as songwriters,” said David. “Like anything, the more you do it hopefully the better you get. We’re seeing more bridges and interludes. I think that makes it more interesting.”

The McCloskey brothers moved to Aspen while still in grade school. Coming from Florida, the mountains were a world just waiting to be explored by the boys. They never lost their love for it, which is reflected in many of their lyrics. One of their signature songs is “Sunny on Top,” written about the time they decided to try their hand at being professional musicians. While riding a chairlift at Snowmass in the middle of a blizzard, they decided they would go for music if it was sunny on top. Just as they reached the crest, the sun broke through in dazzling clarity. It was indeed sunny on top.

Of the new material, David lists his favorites as “Secrets,” a banjo tune with an interesting hook, and “Harmony,” an almost Elton John-influenced piano tune.

In between tours, David has taken to teaching music to undergraduates in Boulder. Many of his students are engineers and math majors, whom he says learn it quickly.

“A lot of the theory is mathematical,” he explained. “Some of them gravitate more toward theory. Others just like it when it flows. I think I’m a balance of the two … I went through a period of time as a music major when I couldn’t hear any music, I could only hear the chord changes and different components.”

Called a major talent by Bela Fleck in the Aspen Times, David is past that now, though he can deftly craft a song out of the elements.

The McCloskey Brothers Band plays Half Moon Saloon tonight at 10. For more information, call 476-4314.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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