If you had asked Casey Houlihan in high school about his future, performing in a hip-hop band likely would have been at the top of the list.
His fate was forever changed, though, when buddy and now bandmate Will Koster handed him a CD by country and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs.
"I couldn't stop listening to it," said Trout Steak Revival's bass player and singer from a tour stop in Missoula, Mont. "I was 20. I loved the harmonies, the fast picking, the rhythmic elements with no drum set, and the band becoming one big drum set."
Though that hip-hop career never materialized, a life playing bluegrass music did. He and a group of guys from his home state of Michigan slowly migrated, one person at a time, to Colorado: Guitar and mandolin player Steve Foltz was first after taking a design job in Avon. Houlihan followed, after landing a job working in a residential treatment center in Evergreen, where he also found work for dobro player Koster. Banjo player Travis McNamara took a little longer to head west but eventually made the trip. Once here, they discovered Denver-based fiddler Bevin Foley out and about on the music scene.
Originally called the South Platte River Ramblers, they renamed themselves Trout Steak Revival after a lighthearted backpacking trip elicited the catchy phrase, and they attained some success finding gigs for their mostly original music.
What put the cherry on top, however, and sent their name to the top of the marquee, was winning the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 2014. In 2013, the band also won a Heartland Emmy Award for contributing to a PBS web documentary soundtrack. They'll perform Saturday at Memorial Hall in Manitou Springs in support of their fourth album, "Spirit to the Sea," released this month. Local bluegrass band Woodshed Red will open the show.
Salida-based Houlihan, as well as the rest of the band, no longer has to work another job. Music is a full-time thing for the quintet, as they tour a good portion of the year, singing their songs of home, love and positivity.
"Trout Steak Revival's signature lush instrumentation and harmonies still each have a home on the new record, as well. In particular, Bevin Foley's work on the fiddle is absolutely exceptional. While not the end-all stop for the band in its overarching rise to the top of the bluegrass scene, their latest effort proves that their days are indeed getting brighter one step at a time," Jonathan Frahm wrote in 2015 on the website Popmatters.com about their last album, "Brighter Every Day."
Their latest record branches out a bit, Houlihan said, though it still contains music and lyrics by all five members.
"There's a little bit more breath. It's not as tight an album as 'Brighter Every Day,'" he said. "We've been touring full-time for three years. There's a lot about what we've experienced, whether it's falling in or out of love, traveling, losing loved ones. Quite a bit of that seeps into the songs. It's more grown-up."