Katie Carroll: Leon Littlebird
Steamboat Springs — This weekend, you’ll get a treat at the Chief — Leon Littlebird and the Yampa Valley Boys. The valley’s premiere C&W duo has paired up with their friend Littlebird, an entirely unique solo act. Between this ultimate western trio, you’ll hear guitar and banjo, flute and percussion music, along with some of their favorite stories.
Littlebird calls his style “native Colorado music” because he melds influences from all over, especially his own rich Colorado history. His family history includes the Navajo of northern New Mexico as well as pioneers — his great-grandfather was one of the first to settle in Blackhawk.
His lyrics reflect his deep sense of place and why he self-describes as embodying the “spirit” of Colorado. In the song “Timberline,” Littlebird reflects on his connection with nature: “You feel yourself becoming part of nature’s masterpiece … At night you feel like you could reach up and grab the moon.”
We live in Steamboat because we are part of nature’s masterpiece; I mean, water bubbles out of the earth under our feet. When the moon rises, how many times have you imagined catching it — especially when it balloons over Thunderhead Lodge during sunset happy hour? The song “Naa Ohn Kara” (Where the Blue Water Meets the Sky) offers a deeper reflection on forgotten legends and spirits that walk the land.
Littlebird’s storytelling and attention to lyrics allow him to spin a web of magic around his audiences. Where is the musicianship in a Top 40 hit with lyrics like, “I’m too hot (hot damn)/Called a police and a fireman/I’m too hot (hot damn)/Make a dragon wanna retire man.” Man, weather patterns severely affect mythological creatures, damn. Back to Littlebird, please.
In between Littlebird’s and the Yampa Valley Boys’ sets, expect stories. It sounds like there may even be a friendly contest with the YVBs: “We’re never sure what stories he will tell, although when we introduce an ‘old’ song that goes back to the 1800s, he comes back with a song that dates back to the 1400s,” Steve Jones of the Yampa Valley Boys wrote in an email. Littlebird’s depth of knowledge knows no bounds, it seems.
Since he is a solo performer, Littlebird usually uses a digital loop station. You won’t just hear the flute — you’ll hear flute, guitar, percussion and, of course, vocals, throughout the performance. With the Yampa Valley Boys backing him up, you’ll get a completely full, lush sound, and Littlebird will do the same for the Yampa Valley Boys.
How did our local boys meet Leon? Down in Buena Vista, for the Gold Rush Days.
“We hit it off immediately, which led to us doing one show each summer at the Historic Tabor Opera House in Leadville,” Jones said.
Friendship, not just complementary musicianship, has blossomed like Littlebird’s tundra flower in “Timberline.” I, for one, am looking forward to a night off from the favored Rocky Mountain rock and entering a completely fresh musical event.
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