For the Saturday morning opening act of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the path to the Main Stage begins wherever a band calls home. Ten fresh, talented bands converge on Telluride with hopes of winning the contest and securing a Main Stage slot the following year. They carry with them the hopes of their fans from wherever they hail, be it Oregon, Texas, Ohio or Tennessee.
From last year’s competition, Arizona’s Run Boy Run reigned supreme and will take the Fred Shellman Memorial Stage on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., right after this year’s band contest finals.This captivating group won last year’s judges’ hearts with their rich three-part female harmonies.
Run Boy Run is Bekah Sandoval, vocals, guitar, fiddle; Grace Rolland, vocals, cello; and Jen Sandoval, vocals, mandolin, highlighted by the incendiary fiddle playing of two-time Arizona State fiddle champ Matt Rolland. Jesse Allen keeps it all locked down on bass.
Like good parents raising children, Run Boy Run gives their music roots and wings. They carry a deep regard for Appalachian song forms, Bill Monroe’s high lonesome and the country blues of Townes Van Zandt. What makes them unique is how they meld those deep roots with contemporary folk, jazz and even classical influences, to give their original compositions wings.
Jen Sandoval, in a recent blog post on the band’s website, spoke of how Run Boy Run loves delving into gospel, and wrote that one of the band’s favorite things about traditional music is the “poignant lyrics and sweet harmonies.”
Each of the musicians in Run Boy Run is solidly talented. Their ensemble work is a joy to behold, as evidenced in this video from the preliminary round of last year’s band contest. See the little tow-headed children dancing in front of the stage? That will be you this year.