Folky troubadour Gregory Alan Isakov first performed with the Colorado Symphony, his now-hometown symphony, back in 2013. Even then, that orchestra was one of the most progressive professional groups in the country (case in point: when cannabis was legalized in the state, the orchestra pitched a Classically Cannabis series). Three years later, however, Isakov worked with the orchestra again to capture that ethereal and collaborative spirit. Those 11 tracks comprise his newest studio release, Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony.
The first LP since 2013’s The Weatherman, Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony includes cuts from each of his three previous albums. But because Isakov’s own band already includes fiddler Jeb Bows and double bass player John Grigsby, the orchestral treatment doesn’t sound unfamiliar. In fact, the swelling, sweeping strings, brass, and woodwinds feel completely natural. The Weatherman single “Amsterdam” and fan-favorite “The Stable Song” both start off with little orchestral accompaniment, but grow to incorporate invaluable instrumentals. The breakdowns of opening “Liars” and subsequent “Dandelion Wine” could both be isolated and used in a dramatic cinema score. And the woodwinds in “Big Black Car” add a touch of lightheartedness to Isakov’s otherwise brooding songs.
The only catch with Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony, if it can even be considered a drawback, is that the symphonic accompaniments mesh so well with Isakov’s relaxed folk music and poetry that it’d be hard to differentiate these classical interpretations from his other studio work if listening passively. Regardless, Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony serves as one of the best examples of how to engage younger audiences with classical music.