COLORADO (BY PAPER BIRD) A Colorado Song

This post is about the song “Colorado,” by Paper Bird . . .  but before we get to that, let me talk a bit about my kids’ education.

In 1993, the summer before our son Michael began 4th Grade and our daughter Suzanne began 2nd Grade, our family moved to the mountains outside of Idaho Springs, in Clear Creek County, Colorado.  Clear Creek is small county, and over 70% of it lies within national forest and other public lands.  There were (and still are) fewer than 10,000 people living there, so the school system was rather small.  The whole county had four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school, with the middle school and the high school sharing a single building.

Carlson Elementary School, Idaho Springs

Carlson Elementary School, Idaho Springs

Our children attended Carlson Elementary School in Idaho Springs.  The principal was a gentleman named Kim Summeril.  His wife, Gayla, was a counselor for the school district, and their son, Caleb, was a student at Carlson.

Kim was one of those picking and singing kind of principals.  He would regularly bring his guitar to school and go to the different classrooms to sing songs with the students.  He was popular and Carlson seemed to be providing a good education, so we were disappointed when Kim left a couple of years later to accept a position paying a lot more money as a principal in neighboring Jefferson County, which has Colorado’s largest school district.

The children in the Eastern part of Clear Creek County attended King-Murphy Elementary School through 6th Grade, and then were bused to Idaho Springs when they began middle school.  Sarah Anderson was one of the girls from the King-Murphy region.  She was in the same class as Suzanne, and they both sang in the choir for several years.  Sarah had a beautiful voice, and the choir director always made sure she did some kind of solo at all the choir concerts.

Now let’s jump forward to early 2013.  Michael and Suzanne were grown and Cathy and I had moved down the mountain to Arvada nearly eight years earlier.  I was walking along the Ralston Creek Trail with Darcy, our new 3-month old puppy, when two people riding bikes passed us going in the opposite direction, and then turned around and stopped next to us.  One of them asked me, “Didn’t you used to be Lou Weltzer.”  I admitted that I still was, and as they removed their bike helmets and sunglasses I recognized Kim and Gayla Summeril.  I had not seen them for at least 10 years.

Paper Bird

Paper Bird

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We talked for little while and asked about each others’ families.  They told me that Caleb was playing in a band called Paper Bird.  It seems that in the summer of 2006 Caleb had gone hiking with Sarah Anderson and two other friends, Paul DeHaven and Esme Patterson.  They were all musicians and had brought instruments along with them, so they began jamming on the streets of the ski town of Breckenridge, and somehow got a gig to play that night at a local coffee house.

Soon, the group had added Patterson’s sister, Genevieve, and another friend, Tyler Archuletta, and were performing around the state.  About the time they had achieved the financial success to let them give up their day jobs, a local dance company, Ballet Nouveau Colorado (now Wonderbound) commissioned Paper Bird to write a score and play for one of their shows.  For that project, they brought in a couple of more horn players and added a drummer – Sarah’s younger brother, Mark Anderson.  Shortly after that, Mark became a permanent member of the group, but Archuletta decide that he did not want a career in music, and moved to Alaska.

The Patterson sisters were born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, where their parents still live.  I do not know them; however, since it is a small world, I learned that my friend Rick Garnett is a good friend of the family, and he tells me that Esme and Genevieve have always had beautiful voices.

From its earliest days, Paper Bird was interestingly diverse.  Its members played guitar, bass, banjo, cornet, trumpet, trombone, harmonica and other instruments, creating an eclectic sound that was part folk, part bluegrass and part indie pop, with interesting multi-part harmonies.  An interviewer on NPR’s “All Things Considered” remarked that their sound “almost belongs to a different time and place, as if it might be playing on a giant, wooden console radio from the 1930s.”

In 2014, Esme Patterson left the group to pursue a solo career.  Her place was taken by Canadian singer Carleigh Aikins.  To date, Paper Bird has released eight albums.  Their most recent one, entitled Paper Bird, came out just last week (as I write this in September, 2016).  The new album sounds quite a bit different from their earlier work, and I haven’t heard enough of it to know whether I like it.

But we aren’t here to discuss the new album.  We want to talk about the song, “Colorado.”

That song is certainly one of Paper Bird’s most popular among the locals, who are from Colorado and like hearing songs about their homeland.  If you read the lyrics, they seem somewhat pedestrian.  They don’t seem to flow well and they try too hard to tie in “hip” references to Colorado songs from the old Baby Boomer generation – like John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” and Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way.”

Of course, songs are more than just a collection of words.  The words are set to music; and then the words and music are sung or otherwise performed.  Listening to Caleb’s banjo playing in a bluegrass style while Sarah, Esme and Genny are having fun with the lyrics is a pleasant experience that is also great fun for the listener.  “Colorado” is found on Paper Bird’s 2009 EP, A Sky Underground, and on the 2011 album, Carry On.

Colorado
By Caleb Summeril

Well hop on board or just run
Cause we won’t stop til we’ve had our fun,
Doin’ the things we never thought we’d do
So take your fill, don’t hesitate
Or we’ll snatch that elk from off your plate
Before you can help us sing this tune

Colorado, Colorado! escape the city
In the rocky mountain way,
Come on down, we’ll take you to
Colorado, Colorado, Colorado

Miner’s gold and mountain men
Is the best way for us to begin
To describe the greatest state we love so well.
Where rivers flow and huge pine trees
And mountains as far as you can see
When you get here we all know you’re gonna yell!

Colorado, Colorado! escape the city
In the rocky mountain way,
Come on down, we’ll take you to
Colorado, Colorado, Colorado

Huge snowstorms and blazing heat
Make you want to move your feet,
We’ve got everything you need and that’s no lie!
Well, hold on tight and don’t fall down
’cause we’re the only ones in town
Who’ll  let you enjoy that rocky mountain high

Colorado, Colorado! escape the city
In the rocky mountain way,
Come on down, we’ll take you to
Colorado, Colorado, Colorado

Well there’s nothing left to say to you,
See you later if you’re passing through,
Have a good time as you’re traveling on.
With wild forests and a golden sun
You’ve left just enough time for us to have our fun,
No offense, but we won’t miss you when you’re gone!

Colorado, Colorado! escape the city
In the rocky mountain way,
Come on down, we’ll take you to
Colorado, Colorado, Colorado

Colorado, Colorado, it’s not a city,
It’s your mother’s favorite state!
Come on down, we’ll take you to
Colorado, Colorado, Colorado!

For an index of the Colorado Songs in this series, please click here.

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