Dravis pays ultimate tribute by covering Denver’s music

By David Goe
Friday, May 29, 2015

One of John Denver's band members, John Sommer's favorite sayings is “coincidence? I don’t think so.”

Ken Dravis, musician and owner of Aspen Leaf Recording Studio in Grand Junction, heard that quote numerous times. Working for Starwood Security in Aspen during the late 1970s, Dravis was assigned to a guard shack on the edge of Denver’s mountain compound.

Sometimes Denver would drive by, stop for a chat, and leave little drops of wisdom about life, music and what it "means to be Human".

Dravis, who found himself on business in Starwood after a coal mining job became excessively dangerous, happened to be an aspiring musician, and the person he was protecting just happened to be one of his music idols.

A fan since the age of 16, Dravis was hired to keep people "like himself" away from the renowned musician. (John actually got a big laugh out of that one)!

All coincidence? I don’t think so.

“I was'nt a fan,... I was a student and  John was giving me an education,” Dravis said. “What he was writing about, I read a lot of meaning in to it. I just respected him so much. It was more inspirational to be around him than anything.”

During graveyard shifts, the 21-year-old Dravis would write songs on guitar to pass the time. Over the course of two years, Dravis eventually self-recorded a demo and passed the cassette to his music idol.

“I sat with John in his backyard and gave him a tape of my original songs,” Dravis said. “He listened to my songs and said that my writing hadn’t matured enough...yet, though he enjoyed what I was writing in my thoughts but he still encouraged me to get out and follow my dream to play music full time.”

Dravis took Denver’s advice to heart, leaving Starwood, and set out on a long journey that eventually led him to building and operating his own professional recording studio in Grand Junction, www.AspenLeafRecording.com

Close to 40 years later, Dravis is paying homage to his biggest influence by covering Denver’s music.

“Rocky Mountain High: In the Spirit of John Denver” is a 12-song tribute to Denver and the effect he’s had on Dravis’ life.

Dravis sings and plays guitar on “Rocky Mountain High, careful to do Denver justice, and every detail was accounted for. To capture that signature Denver sound, Dravis included the 12-string Guild acoustic guitar on the album, an instrument made famous by Denver.

Guitarist Pete Huttlinger and pianist Chris Nole, both of whom played and recorded with Denver, also were recruited for the album. Both recorded parts for Dravis from Nashville and remotely sent them in to Grand Junction. Dravis also consulted with friend and John Denver songwriter John Sommers, and even recorded one of his tracks, “In The Grand Way,” for “Rocky Mountain High.”

Dravis’ treatment of “In The Grand Way,” demonstrates the level of scrutiny put into each track.

Instead of featuring French horn as was in the original recording, Dravis had world-renowned pedal steel guitar player Mike Johnson featured on the track. Dravis even made minor tweaks to the lyrics (with permission from his friend, John Sommers) to improve the flow of the song.

When Sommers heard the final cut of “In The Grand Way” with Dravis’ tweaks, he said he liked it better than the original 1976 Denver recording. "With the steel guitar...that's how I always heard it in my head."

It’s been 18 years since John Denver’s passing, yet his memory and legacy are far from forgotten. For Dravis, this album represents a lifetime of inspiration and each track is handpicked from the heart.

Dravis can’t exactly explain how he settled on these songs, but together they just seemed to make sense.

“For different reasons, I’m really pleased with all of the recordings,” Dravis said. “I hear little nuances where people contributed and everyone did a great job. It just fells right.”

From the opening chords of “Thirsty Boots” to the fade out on “Rocky Mountain High (single),” the album shows it is more than your typical run-of-the-mill collection of covers.

“Rocky Mountain High” is not a note-for-note cover album, rather an update version done by someone with an intimate understanding and respect for the source material.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. Dravis’ life has led to this momentous work.




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Aspen Leaf Recording Studio

Aspen Leaf Recording & Production Studio is one of the premier studios across the Rockies and beyond. Any size of projects are welcome. From simple demos to Radio ready CD's. We offer amazing rooms, world-class mics, equipment and a respected mix & Mastering engineer & producer at no additional cost! Big City-Sound at small-town prices.  If you want your music to "stand shoulder-to-shoulder" among the best, have a listen to the Aspen Leaf difference. We have many, many, many references and samples! Come by to see & hear from yourself!

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