They’re from Austin, Texas, but their name evokes images of one of this mountain region’s most familiar, beloved creatures: the deer.
Turns out deer are popular in Texas as well, at least with the band The Deer, which reportedly named itself after the ungulates because the term “represents the cohesive collaboration of all of the members of the band” — deer are herd animals, after all — and “because the group especially identified with deer as a symbol of protective guidance.”
This is according to the website for the Texas musical patronage Black Fret, which awarded the band an $18,000 grant to, in essence, keep on playing. Which is exactly what they’re doing: The band returns to Ridgway for a concert at the Sherbino Wednesday and a performance in Telluride at Wood Ear the following night.
“They’re great,” said Bryan Eyster, the publicist for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. “They played in our Wildflower Pavilion during (Front Range fest) Planet Bluegrass last year. We first had them appear in a support slot, in 2017. Band member Noah Jeffries was in Milk Drive, which we’re big fans of. Things have really taken off for them since then.”
The Deer’s sound — sweet melodies, chiming harmonies, spacey lyrics — has been dubbed “transcendental Texas folk” and “stargaze surf-western.” They call their music “Psychotropic folk from Austin.”
“Grace Rowland Park’s voice levitates and glows like a lightning bug over a psychedelic mushroom patch of electric and acoustic instruments,” wrote Austin Chronicle critic Kevin Currin of the band’s third album, “Tempest & Rapture.” They may hail from Texas, but there is something about Colorado that agrees with The Deer; they’ve shared the stage with Front Range bands Mountain String Revival and Elephant Revival, and are recording their latest album at Mountain Star Studios, in Blackhawk (you can hear “Acid Wash,” recorded live at Mountain Star, on YouTube). Following their appearances in Ridgway and Telluride, the band will play Buena Vista, Dolores and Carbondale.
After returning to Texas, they’ll be back in concert in Colorado, this time in Denver and Boulder, in late July.
There are no other gigs in any other places listed on their website.
There seems to be an affinity between certain bands from the Lone Star State and this state. Texas singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz “used to talk about the connection she felt to Colorado when she came out to Rocky Grass Academy, and that was when she was only 12,” Eyster said.
“You have to assume that these progressive communities” — like Austin, like Boulder, like Ridgway and Telluride — “in the middle of ranch country foster a certain creative environment,” he went on. “It goes way back. Townes Van Zandt had a bunch of songs about this state, ‘Colorado Girl’ and ‘Colorado Bound.’ Lyle Lovett, and Joe Ely, and all those folks — Colorado has been a strong place for them in terms of audiences, and they really connect to it. Even urban folk music,” which comes out of a Boulder or an Austin “is still about the larger place,” the rural place. Indeed, The Deer’s music may be associated with the City of Austin, but in a letter to the Austin-Chronicle, a fan pointed out that this is not strictly accurate. The writer called the band’s sound “A beautiful distillation of San Marcos culture, which will always be distinct” from (though influenced by) that of Austin.
“The farm” Rowland Park “refers to throughout lies down a wooded time machine road in between the San Marcos and Blanco rivers,” this correspondent continued. “Powerful spiritual energy, primal wildlife. Ever present owls. Lime Kiln Road and the 2 rivers can be felt in this music. It belongs to the hill country.”
The band returns to the even-bigger-hill country next week, where primal wildlife and owls are also ever present (along with deer).
Band members Grace Rowland Park, Michael McLeod, Jesse Otis Dalton, Alan Eckert and Noah Jeffries perform as The Deer Wednesday at the Sherbino Theater in Ridgway and at Wood Ear in Telluride Thursday. The music begins at 7 p.m.