OURAY – The line-up is official: it’s singers and songwriters again. The Wright Opera House recently announced the return of its Summer Music Series, and five new acts will take the stage beginning later this month.
The music of the first band – Over the Rhine, which appears May 31 – has been dubbed “post-nuclear, pseudo-alternative, folk-tinged art-pop.” But it is the band’s literary influences, writers Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot among them, which provide a window into who the Wright hopes to attract with its roster; this is brainy pop for hip, thoughtful audiences who appreciate a good melody.
The programming strategy is deliberate, and also personal. Though the acts appearing this summer were chosen by committee, they reflect the musical preferences of this series’ chief tastemakers (and part-time Ouray residents), Jay and Jackie Lauderdale. It was the Lauderdales who brought the first iteration to the Wright, in 2012. For years, Jay Lauderdale explained to The Watch last summer, he had sought out small musical venues – the Rock House in St. Louis, the Mucky Duck in Houston – while travelling for work. The settings were comfortable and relaxed, the songwriting strong and, often, confessional. Put all those elements together and “occasionally you find a hidden gem.”
One such gem was the songwriter Griffin House. And speaking of houses, he will likely stay at the Lauderdales’ again this summer, when he returns to the Wright’s stage July 27. As opposed to acting as mere bookers, “Jay and Jackie have a deeper relationship with these artists,” says the Wright’s Executive Director Josh Gowans. “They’ve gotten to know [the musicians] as well as their music.”
Other acts in this summer’s program include singer-songwriter Dan Navarro, the all-girl alt-country band The Trishas, and Texas-based “modern-day honky-tonker” Jack Ingram. The series concludes September 14 with Shawn Mullins, best known for his Grammy-nominated hit, “Lullaby.” Those who think this artist’s discography starts and stops with the chart-topping “Lullaby” are making a mistake, wrote critic Andrew Leahey. “Now in his early forties, Mullins has developed the sort of weary, lived-in baritone that suits his music, and he tailors his folk songs to an adult contemporary audience.” In short, his music suits this series’ patrons. It also suits the performance space. “We were very conscious of matching the music to the venue,” Gowans said. It’s a small stage, and “When the lights go down, it’s intimate – warm and inviting. You want to sit back and enjoy a beverage.” And this is what you want to listen to.