The rock of The Natives
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE, Colorado ” “Everybody is pushing and shoving, whatever happened to kissing and hugging?”
So asks the song “Give Love,” straight off The Natives’ new CD. And right now, even though it’s just playing through my headphones, it feels like the whole newsroom is rocking out to it. The sound is fun, funky and electric. Steve Skinner’s smooth voice is rolling over lyrics about peace and modern life. I’m all into it.
Looks like Skinner was right. I had to hear the music for myself.
He’d mentioned that Tuesday, as he was describing “Restless.” Though The Natives have been a valley band (in one form or another) since 1982, this is actually the first CD with their name on it. It marks Skinner’s 12th album, however, and he’s doing the occasion up royally. Tonight, the singer and guitarist will be celebrating at Steve’s Guitars alongside fellow Natives Billy Conn (bass and vocals), Louie Girardot (accordion, keyboards and vocals), Dale Coon (lead guitar and vocals) and Corey “Captain X” Spagnolo (drums). All Natives lovers are invited, of course.
“I’ve almost been making an album a year for a long, long time,” Skinner said.
He was all casual and comfortable, wearing shades and sitting in the sun outside KDNK (where he’s the manager). He explained that this current CD, like so many from his past, focuses on peace, the environment and other weighty issues.
“These topics are universal, man,” he said, “and music is the portal to the heart.”
So, no, he wasn’t talking about your average rock ‘n’ band.
With its bumping sound, The Natives definitely go against the bluegrass “musical grain” in the valley, too, he continued. In his words, being a rock group in these parts “isn’t always a bed of roses.” There are only a handful of venues around, and the nightlife leaves a bit to be desired.
But he can’t think of anything he’d rather do.
“You know, music is magic, wherever you experience it by yourself or in a recording studio,” he said.
Over the years, he’s been a “persistent motha,” he went on, and he’s just had to entertain. He’s played for weddings and theater productions and the like, and many a time, there’s been a dramatic streak to his stuff. He recounted a night at Steve’s when he and a few Natives dressed up like bugs and performed in the round. There were insect noises in the background and a black light shining in the space, and he felt like the crowd was kind of transported by it all.
Near the end of our talk, he promised something special, though not similar, for tonight’s performance. But it wasn’t like he was going to ruin the surprise.
Now, these days later, as I give my first listen The Natives’ tracks, I’m wondering what this party might look like. I’ll admit it, obvious songs like “Suck on the TV” and satire such as “Humor Me George,” have whetted my curiosity. I want to hear the album’s rumba and polka that Skinner promised, too.
I’m also thinking about one of the last things he said to me.
“If you go home and listen one of my songs, that’s success,” he said.
Mission accomplished, Steve.
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