The state of Colorado has a strong bluegrass scene, and a relatively new band, Jake Leg, is making a name for itself around the state. "We have a hugely supportive audience for bluegrass music here," says band spokesperson Dylan McCarthy. The band, made up of seasoned, award-winning musicians who love playing bluegrass, formed in 2021 and quickly became one of Colorado's leading contemporary bluegrass bands. "For me, this project has been a long time coming. I always wanted to make music together with these guys."
"Jake leg" refers to paralysis caused by drinking improperly distilled or contaminated liquor. Dylan says that while no one in the band has suffered from such an affliction, they all liked the name. "When we were kicking around names for the band, we wanted something that wouldn't pigeonhole us in any particular genre of music. We just think it's a fun-sounding name."
Dylan (mandolin, vocals) has played with most of the band members in different bands or jam sessions. Other members include Eric Wiggs (vocals, guitar), Justin Hoffenberg (fiddle), and Troy Robey (bass). "We are focused on original music and stylings," explains Dylan, "but we want to have music that is our own. We want to be identifiable as our own thing, but we don't want to stray from the elements that make bluegrass so fun to play."
Jake Leg indeed focuses on delivering compelling original music, rich in storytelling, that brings each song to life. The entertainment value of their live shows is high, with exciting improvisation and a range of music that keeps the audience engaged until they play the last note.
As more festivals opened after the pandemic, Jake Leg has found itself on larger stages at bigger festivals. In 2022 they had an invitation from Planet Bluegrass to perform in the Wildflower Pavillion at Rockygrass in Lyons, Colorado. Last fall, IBMA invited them to be a showcase artist, which is where The Bluegrass Standard caught up with them.
Dylan was born and raised in Boulder. He was a natural musician, playing classical piano when he was only seven years old. Taking up guitar at ten, by age 13, Dylan was playing bass guitar with a rock band. He studied for two semesters at Berklee College of Music, where he picked up playing old-time and bluegrass music on the mandolin. He returned to Colorado and attended jams, where he learned from local players. In 2019, he became the Rockygrass Mandolin Champion.
Guitar player Eric Wiggs owns Vermillion Road Studio. He has collaborated with several other musicians and produced his own work. He won first place in the 2016 Rockygrass Flatpick Guitar Competition. Justin Hoffenberg and Troy Robey round out the four-piece group. Before the pandemic, all worked as full-time musicians. "Now we all teach, some more than others. Some teach live, and some via the internet."
The band has released some singles, including "Tossing and Turning," written by Dylan. "It's the first song we worked on with this group," he says. It's become the flagship song of sorts for Jake Leg. "It's a little bluesy, with a rock edge to it. I really like the spaced-out breakdown in part two. That tight package is what Jake Leg is all about." The second single dropped is called "Jackie."
The band will begin working with someone in March to prep for recording. "We are hoping to record an album this year," Dylan says. The band is independent. "We haven't signed with a label yet."
The band has kept close to home, playing in the Colorado area in winter and spring, including the Midwinter Bluegrass Festival. "It's a great picker festival," says Dylan. The band's schedule includes some out-of-state summer dates, so check their website, https://jakelegmusic.com, for locations near you.