Travis Mann came home last week, making a rare appearance as part of the North Fork Creative Coalition's Celebrate the Fork event at the Delta County Fairgrounds.
A 2010 graduate of Paonia High School, Mann moved to Nashville in 2012 and defied the odds by making both a living and a name for himself as a country singer, guitarist and most recently, songwriter.
"It's good to be back home," said Mann before taking the stage with his band. "I'm really excited about this."
Three months earlier he got a call from the Celebrate the Fork committee, asking if there was any way he could make it. "I said, 'If there's any way I can make it, I will.'"
Mann brought his band, including Brian Zonn on upright and electric bass, Matt Bohli on drums, and sessions musician and solo artist Guthrie Trapp on lead guitar. "He is my favorite guitar player," said Mann of Trapp, who has worked with a long list of national artists including Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Vassar Clements and Tim O'Brien. "A lot of people's favorite guitar player for Nashville and the rest of the country."
Mann and his band were scheduled to play a show in Denver Friday, but the band's flight from Nashville was canceled and he had to cancel the gig. "Total bummer," said Mann.
Mann got the crowd on its feet, performing a blend of oldies, including Ernest Tubb's "Driving Nails in My Coffin," a slow rendition of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone," and his original, "It's Just My Turn," written for an upcoming album.
Mann, who worked "off and on for two years" at West Elk Mine while going to Mesa State, included some coal-mining tunes to honor the local coal miners, including his original "From the Bottom of This Hole," and the Tennessee Ernie Ford classic, "16 Tons."
"I don't know if any of the coal miners showed up tonight," said Mann. "I kind of doubt it, but I'll be playing those songs for them anyway."
Mann's most recent trip home was in 2014 when he attended his brother's wedding. He last played in Paonia a few years back at the Mountain Harvest Festival, "maybe three, four years ago." He said he doesn't want so much time to pass between this show and his next home performance with his band. "I don't think it will," said Mann. "Once we got here, I was like, man, I need to come back, and bring these guys."