They say that you can tell where a British person is from, sometimes to within a few miles, just by the sound of his or her accent. In a sense, the same is true of bluegrass music, though in bluegrass it's often less about where you come from than where you go. Tony Rice, David Grisman, Clarence White, Pete Rowan, Chris Thile -- all, and indeed many others of their ilk, contribute to what we might think of as the California sound in bluegrass despite the fact that only one of them (Thile) was actually born there.
Nevertheless all have been based in California at one time or another, and you can hear it in the way they write, play and interpret bluegrass music. Their music is perhaps freer, more apt to take chances, more likely to contain new and, at times, wholly counterintuitive ideas. (Pete Rowan's reggae bluegrass is something that could only ever happen in California.)
There is arguably a Colorado sound in bluegrass, too, of which Hot Rize is the most visible example, though it's a sound that the Blue Canyon Boys share. Like Hot Rize, this is a band that is interested in the traditions but is also after a specific sound, one with a more urban edge, a lower lead vocal range, and which draws on the vocabulary of pop and rock music. (Pete Wernick, for example, still gets asked about his phase-shifted banjo sound, one that made the rock songs of Hot Rize, such as "Radio Boogie," sound like, well, rock songs.) On their recent album, "Mountain Bound," the Blue Canyon Boys set covers of Country Gentlemen, Bill Monroe, and Louvin Brothers songs next to a cover of the early INXS hit, "Don't Change." That's maybe something that could only happen in Colorado.
But no matter the material, there is a sound here that the Blue Canyon Boys apply to everything they do. It's not so incredibly different from that of bands from the bluegrass epicentre, but there is certainly a bit of a twist and some elements that could set a traditionalist's teeth on edge. Jeff Scroggins is a brilliant banjo player, and has won many awards to prove it, though he's more Bill Keith than Earl Scruggs. On "No Reason to Go Home" he plays in a melodic style that is perhaps a bit more appealing, if only subliminally so, to listeners who come to the music from a pop or rock background. His fills on "Blue and Lonesome" are blues, not bluegrass, as are the solos he trades with Jason Hicks on guitar and the slap bass of Drew Garrett.
The same is true of the vocals. Hicks' delivery of "Rocky Mountain Bound" is bluegrass by way of Hot Rize and other bands that, since the mid-1970s, have defined and refined the Colorado sound. And that's also what makes the work of the Blue Canyon Boys interesting and truly "Coloradoan," despite having been born somewhere else.