Scotty Stoughton officially qualifies for the title World Traveler. He has also, for the last dozen years or so, been quite ingrained in the Vail Valley music scene. His travels have taken him to the far reaches of the planet from war torn Nicaragua to the canals of Venice. Over that same time he has managed to run numerous nightclubs and promoted a decades worth of live performances from Vail to Avon to Rancho del Rio and all venues in between. You may say he’s a gypsy with roots. And it’s just that personal story that makes Bonfire Dub’s new record so extraordinary. It’s a lavish aural travelogue rooted in the place of home. It’s appropriately called Gypsy Roots.
The album, set for official release at the band’s rare live performance at the Vilar Center on Friday December 2nd., is greatly inspired by the life experiences of Stoughton and benefits musically from contributions from his long time band mates and special guests like Tyler Grant and the divine Bridget Law. Gypsy Roots is a lifetime in the making and the production finely lives up to the energy this band packs in its live shows. From the opener “Budapest” to the J.J. Cale sounding “Free River,” The Dub has accomplished their mission of celebrating community and collaboration.
There are great grooves on this record but also a strong message of hope and inspiration. It’s a fine balance that in the past found the band bordering preachiness; however, with this nine-song effort they have found their balance. It’s a groove fans of the band’s live shows have witnessed for years, but hasn’t always translated to their recorded output. That has changed with Gypsy Roots.. This is most evident in a couple of staples of recent live shows like “Pilot” and “One Stone.” And it’s songs like “Pilot” that give this album its poise. A song about traveling no doubt, but it’s rooted in the sentiment Stoughton holds for his father the pilot of his youth. Amongst Law’s emotional violin comes Stoughton’s honesty “I like walking down the road/A little less traveled/Lessons I learned/Well they contain a lot more value.”
Long time fans of the band will also hear some new vibes. The band, typically rooted in what might be referred to as ‘steel reggae’ with strong acoustic leanings, takes some musical risks on this record and it pays off. From the country tinged “Free River” to the rocking groove of the anthem-like “Rewind,” it’s apparent that producer and Grammy winner Steven Vidaic (Citizen Cope) encouraged the band to take this record to new places and the result is an enlightened journey for the listener.
The pity here is that there will be only a few chances to see this album come alive. Bonfire Dub has announced just a trio of shows in support of the best record they have ever produced. The largest of these shows will be at The Vilar Center on Friday December 2nd which promises to be a celebration of community and great music as the band, made up of long time ‘brothers’ Rodney James Coquia on Guitar, Jeff Armistead on Keyboards, Mark Levy providing percussion and Trevor Noel Gagstetter on bass , are joined on stage by Law and Grant for a unique one off in coordination with the Beers of Prey event. Take the trip up the hill to enjoy the show a then spend some time at home with this excellent release from the band that clearly has Gypsy Roots.