A Night for 70s Nostalgia, Durango Herald Oct. 23

Pure Prairie League, Firefall Acoustic to play FLC Concert Hall

Country rock band Pure Prairie League has mastered a formula for success in the new millenium: combining nostalgia with fresh passion for that old, familiar music.

“We try to make our audience feel young and old at the same time,” said Craig Fuller, the lead singer and songwriter.

This should be easy to accomplish when the band performs its 1970s hits “Amie” and “Falling In and Out of Love” on Friday at the Community Concert Hall with Firefall Acoustic.

Fuller, who formed Pure Prairie League in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969, wrote both songs. But he left the band after its second album was released in 1972, seven years before Vince Gill joined the group in 1979 and sang the hit “Let Me Love You Tonight.”

Fuller and longtime bass player Mike Reilly brought Pure Prairie League together again several years ago.

“We were curious how many people would come for nostalgia’s sake,” Fuller said.

They played 15 dates in 2001 and have expanded to playing 35 dates in recent years.

“The audiences (today) are more zealous than they were. More assertive,” he said.

There is another difference between then and now, Fuller said: “Back then we would do anything to see our name on an album cover. Even if it meant we only earned 2 cents a record.”

Today, the band is more interested in artistic control, cultivating its grass-roots fan base and taking its music to those fans, rather than hearing it on the radio.

“We’re more interested in making a living, rather than making a killing,” Fuller said.

And Pure Prairie League remains true to its country rock roots with rich three-part harmonies, strong lead vocals, acoustic guitar and pedal steel along with invigorating musicianship and melodic songs with meaningful lyrics.

“The band was lucky in finding a few songs that were direct and accessible lyrically,” Fuller said. “Songs you can sing along with.”

Pure Prairie League will be joined by another dynamic country rock band from the same era – Firefall Acoustic.

Firefall has deep roots in Colorado. The band formed in Boulder in 1974. Co-founders Jock Bartley and Rick Roberts met in New York City.

“I was playin’ with Gram Parson, Emmy Lou Harris and The Fallen Angels,” Bartley said. “Rick was playing the next night as a soloist, having recently left the Burrito Brothers, where he’d replaced Gram as lead singer.”

Like Pure Prairie League, Firefall has had its share of band members come and go, but the music remains timeless with songs like “You Are the Woman,” “Cinderella” and “Just Remember I Love You.”

“The songs are still great. They have withstood the test of time, and today when we play them, they are still great songs that people love hearing again.” Bartley said.

What continues to inspire Bartley after 30 years with the same band?

“It’s very much fun on stage. That’s one of the absolute main reasons. The crowd reaction and the genuine enthusiasm and warmth we get back every night on stage and in the meet-and-greets after the show.”

Firefall also will perform Beatles songs from Bartley and Steven Weinmeister’s critically acclaimed new album “Colorado to Liverpool: A Tribute to the Beatles.”

Both bands are looking forward to playing in Durango. They toured together with the Legends of Country rock show last year, but it has been more than a dozen years since they’ve been to Southwest Colorado.

“We are glad we are able to come to a secondary market, a more rural community,” Fuller said. “We get to reach people that we wouldn’t get to see in Denver or San Francisco.”

Artsjournalist@centurytel.net Leanne Goebel is a freelance writer.

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