The Moab Free Concert Series is held at Swanny City Park, 400 N. 100 West. [Photo courtesy of Aaron Tasjan]

When National Public Radio’s Ken Tucker reviewed Aaron Lee Tasjan’s new album “Karma for Cheap” during a Fresh Air program last fall, he said he was glad to have the CD along on a recent road trip and that the CD was a “keeper.”

“No one seems to know where to categorize him in the music industry,” Tucker reported. “His previous album, ‘Silver Tears,’ earned him a nomination for an award from the Americana Music Association.” 

Tasjan has played at bluegrass festivals, Tucker added. And, he toured as the opening act for the punk band “Social Distortion,” plus, opened for Sheryl Crow, who sings harmonies on Tasjan’s song “Crawling at your Feet.” 

“All my records are different,” Tasjan said. “I make music that inspires me in the moment. There are a lot of dynamics in a live show,” that could include loud guitar, quiet folk moments and crooner-sounding ballads.

Tasjan, along with his bass player and drummer, will kick off the third annual Moab Free Concert Series on Friday, July 5, at Swanny City Park, 400 N. 100 West.

Tasjan plays various guitars — including 12-string, electric and acoustic — as well as keyboards. Everyone in the band sings.

National Public Radio (NPR) also featured Tasjan on its Morning Edition program, and he was invited to perform for the public radio station’s Tiny Desk concerts that are “intimate video performances recorded live at the desk of “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen.

Currently based in Nashville, Tasjan said he “cut his teeth” as a musician during the 10 years he spent in New York City. There, he performed with the glam band New York Dolls. He cites The Beatles and Tom Petty as early influencers, and later found inspiration from singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Elliot Smith and Richard Swift.

Friends of the Moab Folk Festival was instrumental in founding the free concert series in Moab. Community partners include the Moab Area Travel Council, KZMU Community Radio, Moab Gear Trader and the Moab Arts and Recreation Center. Other local businesses and community volunteers also pitch in to help make the concert series happen, said Cassie Paup, of the Friends of Moab Folk Festival.

“We’d always wanted to do a summer series,” she said.

Moab is able to bring in well-known acts to this rural area thanks in part to Pickin’ Productions’ Rob Miller, who books musicians for free summer concert series on Colorado’s Western Slope, Paup said. 

“We’re very excited about another year of live music in the park,” Paup said. “It’s a varied repertoire, from rock and roll, music from Quebec, the 23rd U.S. Army Band of the Utah National Guard, and Shinyribs, a country band from Austin which will be a great finale.”

The performance will be Tasjan’s first in Moab.

“I really enjoy being outside,” he said. “I’m looking forward to taking it all in.”

Food trucks and other vendors, including Castle Valley Farms, will be present during the concerts. Proceeds from the sale of beer and wine will go toward keeping the free concert series going, Paup said.

Music season kicks off with Nashville-based trio

“We’re very excited about another year of live music in the park.”

— Cassie Paup

What: 3rd annual Moab Free Concert Series featuring Aaron Lee Tasjan

When: Friday, July 5, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Where: Swanny City Park, 400 N. 100 West