Vail Valley Band plays in Vail Sunday night |

Vail Valley Band plays in Vail Sunday night

Charlie OwenVail,CO,Colorado
AE Vail Valley Band 1 KA 11-20-07

VAIL, CO If you ask any of the members of the Vail Valley Band their age, theyll answer Somewhere between 40 and death.That means that between the five-piece ensemble theres over 150 years of musical experience. And if you doubt it, just ask them to play a song any song and they will almost always nail it.Don Watson and the Vail Valley Band will be performing this Sunday night at the Kings Club in the Sonnenalp Resort and they hope that the audience will be receptive to some of their new material. The band members Watson on guitar and vocals, Beth Swearinger on percussion and vocals, Dave Andersen on guitar and mandolin, Peter Fontanese on bass and Bob Hynes on drums have been working together writing new songs and they plan to record a new album.Watson, who could be considered the bands leader, has lived in the valley for 28 years. He considers himself a musical chameleon, able to play any style of music. His band has focused on playing for corporate fundraisers and weddings; theyre famous for their ability to cover almost any request from the audience.Whatever people want to do, were real flexible and weve been real successful at it, Watson said.

And while covering John Denver and Jimmy Buffet for a living has its rewards, he and his band mates feel its time to expand beyond the realm of crowd-pleasing sing-alongs. Thats kind of what these shows have been all about to us, Watson said, referring to the bands most recent performances, including Sundays gig at the Kings Club, where they play mostly original songs to make kind of a switch in ourselves from a cover band to original music and its tough to do. Each member contributes their own songs, and then the group spends time practicing until ready to play them in front of a crowd.The response to the original material has been very good, Watson said. He credits the bands varied sound to the different musical backgrounds of each members. Swearinger had a career on Broadway as a singer and actress; Andersen comes from Chicago where he was steeped in blues and rock; Watson has been heavily influenced by the folk scene of the 60s and 70s and it comes across in his songs. Savannah, a highly personal song, rich with storytelling imagery, was written by Watson about the town of Savannah, Georgia. In the song he describes the city by giving it the traits of a woman.When all of these elements come together, a sincere pop music sound is created.

Although there is a sense of vulnerability that comes with playing an original song in front of strangers, it is something that each of the quintet is starting to become more comfortable with. Swearinger describes playing covers like wearing a pair of old, very comfortable cowboy boots. Stepping out of those boots and into brand new shoes is the only way for these seasoned vets to find new meaning in their careers.Watching them play together, it takes no effort to see the ease with which they sink into their roles and find their rhythm, even when they dont exactly know the words and music. When they play together its like watching an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? if the show was performed by musicians.Spontaneity and improvisation is a key element of the groups show. According to Watson, even during performances that feature their original tunes, they will not steer away from taking requests from the audience.If you try to strike us out, its pretty easy to do, said Swearinger on the bands ability to improvise an obscure song. But if you go with things that bring back memories to you and that you really want to hear, we have a really good batting average on that.So exactly how difficult is that transition from playing covers to originals?To this band, its all just part of the fun of playing together. They seem happy to be playing regardless of the crowd or music.Doing the original stuff is a whole new area for us and it adds a whole different dimension to (playing), Swearinger said.Needless to say, putting your heart and soul into a song makes it a lot harder when it gets panned. But they seem up to the challenge and unafraid of the scrutiny that comes with putting new material out for people to criticize.This gives us a chance to go put ourselves out there and I think its a pretty cool thing, Andersen said.And if it seems like the Vail Valley Band might be too old to play your favorite songs, dont worry. Theyre not afraid to play some Green Day or Pearl Jam, either.Arts & Entertainment writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or

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