Rocky Mountain bluegrass is hardly a new subgenre to those in the know, and in the new single “New Mexico Winds” from Colorado’s Floodgate Operators, we’re reminded of just how powerful a force it can be when performed by the right players. Floodgate Operators have been gaining steam all over their home state in the past four years, and with the release of this latest track, they seek to impart a more radio-ready look to the audience than they have in previous releases. Everything about this performance feels just a little more polished than the status quo calls for, which alludes to their evolution as both a band and a group of creatives looking to master artistic cohesion for themselves. 


The harmonies that make up the foundation of “New Mexico Winds” are undisputedly on the progressive end of the aesthetical spectrum, but I wouldn’t say they’re removed from the rusticity of the instrumentation (as it stands on its own) at all. On the contrary, there’s a terrific contrast between the meld of strings and vocals and the textural expressiveness of these two entities independent from one another, which isn’t something I can say about a lot of the more puritan bluegrass I’ve listened to in the last few months. These guys are more adventurous than the average players in their genre tend to be, and they don’t mind doing a little bit of showing off in this single. This doesn’t translate as arrogance, either, but instead a bit of swagger that I think they’ve earned. 

Despite the potency of the sound Floodgate Operators are wielding in this piece, their execution is coming from a place of gentle precision, the likes of which you don’t hear enough of in bluegrass, folk, Americana, and straight country music anymore. There’s never any doubting whether or not these musicians value the medium as much as they do the substance of the uniquely western story they’re constructing with lyrics, and whether it be the chime of the twelve-string guitar or the brooding undertow created by the bassline, the gallop of the band stays consistent from beginning to end in “New Mexico Winds.” They’re playing like they’ve got something to prove, which in turn suggests an ambitiousness that could put their brand over the top. 

This is easily among the most compelling acoustic jams I’ve listened to since the start of 2022, and if it’s giving us any kind of real indication as to where this Crested Butte-founded act is going to be taking their music next, they’re going to have a tough time staying a secret outside of the Centennial State. Theirs has been mentioned as one of the more underrated music scenes in all of America at the moment, and with the passion that Floodgate Operators are pouring into “New Mexico Winds,” I can see them bringing a lot more attention to the local circuit from which their campaign is being sprung. This single is telling of their depth, and I want to hear more material like it soon. 

Garth Thomas