Rick Huff’s “Best of the West Reviews” (because of the size of Rick’s reviews, we have archived the following)
Curio Cowboys “Rose Of Old Pawnee”
This group has a unique and ongoing preservationist mission. That would be to bring the earliest style of Western Swing forward, with all it’s quaintly rowdy and somewhat disjointed quirkiness. So here, straight from what could have been an Edison cylinder or pancake-thick 78 rpm recording, is the newest recording from the Curio Cowboys!
The collection celebrates some of the many early Fred Rose songs, including some from the period he used the pseudonym “Floyd Jenkins.” Rose became known later to another generation for such standards as “Kaw-liga,” “Roly Poly,” “Take These Chains From My Heart” and “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain.” He also was responsible for the now standardized arrangement of “Cattle Call.”
Pick tracks in the style include “Rootie Tootie,” “Low & Lonely,” “I Can’t Go On This Way,” “Home In San Antone,” “Deed I Do,” “Blues In My Mind” and the instrumental “Deep Henderson.” Jordan Ripley’s vocal on “”Deed I Do” is a nice plus and she and husband Byron (from The Tumbleweeds) do the honors on “Texarkana Baby” to its benefit.
When approaching this style, just set your tuning fork aside and relax! Eighteen tracks.
CD: $15 from amazon, cdbaby and “wherever Western Music is sold!”
– Dan Whitaker & The Shinebenders “Truck Ride”
Dan Whitaker has ridden the waves of musical genres in The Windy City since the 1980s so he’s got the credentials and the chops. The Western Swing tracks are primarily the collection’s instrumentals such as “Stony Island Stomp,” “Clipper Time,” “Metro Meltdown,” “Cottage Grove Cruise” but also the vocal “Jukin’.” Slow shuffles include “Only Illusion” and “Hangin’ On A Limb.” And there are some flat-out “Old School” Country tracks to keep the pot simmering.
Band mates include Earl Power (bass); Tom Mioducki (harmony vocal, acoustic guitar & electric piano); Eric Niffenegger (drums/percussion) and alternating steel players Gabriel Stutz, Dennis Andreatta and Herbie Green. Hey, they’re tight, they’re danceable…in other words, they’re everything a body’s feet could want!
Recommended. Sixteen tracks. CD:
– Andy Hedges “Cowboy Songster Vol. 2”
Although not strictly a Western CD by “definition,” all of the songs and recitations (set to Hedges’ often spellbinding guitar treatments) are authentic ones used by cowcamp entertainers. Or at least they were songs that coulda-woulda-shoulda been so-used!
It’s interesting to note how easily Bob Dylan’s “Walkin’ Down The Line” slips right into place beside “Ragged But Right” or D. J. O’Malley’s “Charlie Rutledge.” S. Omar Barker’s “Into The West” is set to music here and works well. In the notes Don Edwards says these cowcamp entertainers were variously known as “musicianers” or “songsters” and maintained “an intensely pure relationship” with their audiences. That effect is nicely achieved in the recording of this collection. Here you will find that simple, wholesome clarity that comes with well thought out voice and guitar work…heart to hand and voice to ear. To good effect for the recording Hedges used his dad’s vintage Harmony Sovereign h1260 guitar, rebuilt with a “harmony conversion.”
Andy Hedges is onto something fresh with this approach and I applaud it! Eleven tracks.
CD: (info not furnished – contact through www.yellowhousemusic.com or www.andyhedges.com)
vailable through www.danwhitaker.com)
– Gathering of Nations “Tate au – Changing Winds”
Gathering of Nations founder (and album producer) Derek Mathews states in the liner notes “for the best listening experience play this recording loudly from beginning to end!” I would add “over big speakers and with piñon incense burning!” You’ll be transported!
The CD was recorded live during the dance contests at the 2016 mounting of the World’s Biggest Powwow, and it makes a strong entry into the library of Gathering recordings (which already includes two GRAMMY® winners)! Arena announcers Vince Beyl, Dennis Bowen and Ruben Littlehead escort you along the trail. Repeated playings will let the listener begin to appreciate the amazing intricacies of these songs, as complex in structure as some classical compositions. Included here are 20 from the 31 top drum and singing groups who performed. Here are two points: traditional songs are designed to be sung through four times, honoring the directions. And the higher the voices, the more Northern is the influence. Welcome it in, as the Indian story most assuredly is part of the Western story!
In full discolosure, I’ve had the high honor of working closely with The Gathering since its founding in 1983. Twenty-four tracks. Recommended!
CD: (available through www.gatheringofnations.com)
– Jared Rogerson “Heaven”
Rogerson’s fourth CD release continues to justify his slogan “Cowboy Music From The New West,” and he is living proof that our definition of Western Music must hinge on lyric content rather than instrumentation or style.
His “Life’s Too Short Not To Rodeo” is Country Rock musically and it includes the classic Western theme of the city-bound guy opting for the “gentle” bucking arts! “When It’s Rainin’ Cowboys” describes a tough night at the rodeo. Tracks that fall squarely into the contemporary Americana category are also present. Most of the songs are Rogerson writes and co-writes, with covers of two songs written by CD co-producer Brenn Hill (“Pictures In The Fire” and “Cowboy Singer Too,” a valid comment on certain Western festivals’ bars for qualifying. “Why Wyoming” is a wonderfully eerie sung conversation/duet with Devin Rae about a spiritual need to relocate. It’s an effect I tried for producing a Jim Jones song back in 2004, but the other singer wouldn’t cooperate!
Jared Rogerson represents the new “Western.” Whether you would call his output by that name or not, you need to come to terms with it one way or the other. Twelve tracks. Recommended.
CD: $18 + $2 s/h through www.jaredrogerson.com , downloads through most online sources or mail order from Roughstock Records, PO Box 2071, Riverdale, WY 82941.
– Teresa Burleson “The Calf Book”
In “Cowgirl Way” she clearly states and demonstrates that strength comes in different dressing, but also she affirms making a hand doesn’t mean she hands off her feminine side. The title track “The Calf Book” illustrates it all comes out in the wash, and that is the problem, unfotunately! In “The Message” she arguably equates the shameful Indian betrayal with loss of rights today. And a particular turn of phrase from “Gettin’ Lucky” caught my ear: “Visions of cowboys two-stepped in their heads.” Covers include Luke Reed’s “One-Eyed Jack,” Larry McWhorter’s brief but dead-on “Therapy” and on Daron Little’s “The Bell Song” the CD engineer happened to record Burleson singing part of the words she intended to only recite and blended singing with recitation together in post. Good capture!
Some friends help on the album with music intros and outros. They include Aarom Meador (guitar/mandolin/Native flute), Devon Dawson (drum/Scottish bodran) and Kristyn Harris (fiddle). Eleven tracks.
CD: (info not furnished)
– Baxter Black “Tinsel, Mistletoe & Reindeer Bait”
The ever clever Mr. Black is back for the holidays, with a mixed bag of goodies! Broken into two sections labeled (accurately) “Fun” and “Faith,” the book contains a number of fan favorites from both categories.
In one piece Baxter asks the burning question “What’s Christmas To A Cow?” Who else would envision bovines choosing whether to believe in Santa Claus or Santa Gertrudis? Or try “How The Angel Got On Top Of The Tree” with its profoundly painful mental picture conjured up of the angel asking ‘Santy’ the wrong thing at the precisely the wrong time! There’s a nutty “Christmas Gift Exchange on The Farm” that will make you wonder if that desert air Baxter breaths is full of “provocatives!” The “Fun” section is chock full of Santy tails for the kidder in all of us. On Christmas Eve, put the wee ones to bed, then pull this out…and try not to wake everybody up giggling and snorting.
In Part Two (the “Faith” part), the content is obvious and specific.
The book is “gleefully illustrated” (the publisher’s words but I concur) by Wally Badgett, Bob Black, Don Gill, Dave Holl, Charlie Marsh, Herb Mignery and Bill Patterson. Fifty-six pages. Recommended!
– Floyd Beard “Short Grass Country”
“If I’ve got any pull I’ll pray that old bull will throw calves of ‘The Buyer’s Type,’ ”
Beard writes in the poem bearing that title. With equally apt turns of phrase, (and with considerable bravery…considering…), he brings us “One Size Fits All,” an account of his wife’s, er, adventures getting’ dressed to go dancin’! With a different kind of “bravery” he engages in Spanish dialect humor in the novelty “Papa Noel.” I’ll let that one sit with you where it will. A nice appreciation of the solitary cowboy life can be found in “Ain’t A Hermit” and the flip side of it is illustrated in “A Cowboy’s Life Is The Easy Life” (as in “ya gotta be freakin’ kiddin’ me”)!! Butch Hause also provides sensitive guitar support, making this a well produced package.
Covers of others’ works include Luther Lawhon’s “The Good Old Cowboy Days,” E.A. Brininstool’s “Where The Sagebrush Billows Roll,” Sunny Hancock’s “The Bear Tale” and Banjo Patterson’s “Man From Snowy River.” Nice collection! Eighteen tracks.
CD: $15 + $3 s/h from Short Grass Studios, PO Box 124, Kim, CO 81049
Book: $24,95 + s/h through www.baxterblack.com or call 1-800-654-2550.
– J. J. Steele “Just Passin’ Thru”
J. J. Steele is one of those cowpoets the fans want to hear from because he has definitely been-there-done-that! In his introduction, Steele admits “I might just break meter in mid-poem cause that’s the way I tell it best.” But it’s real, and that would be the point of the exercise, right?
Alluding to stages of life, Steele clusters his verse into the categories “Summer Range,” “Winter Stubble” and “Home Pasture.” From Steele’s poem “Frosty” comes the following vivid description: “ One day this horse kicked Frosty right smack in the face…and where his nose, it used to be, it left him just a place!” Ouch. And Steele also knows from whence came dinner in another verse: “When I eat my steak, I knew it came hard” and that means “tippin’ my hat to ‘The Crew In The Yard’!” His verse “Mr. Bud Pie” is a nice horse tale, and you’ll find others that will speak directly to you, particularly if you are from the horse and cow culture.
The collection isn’t Earth-shattering, nor is it intended to be. It’s just an honest portrayal of some more pieces of the West of today and of times not long passed. I guess you could say it deals with “the moments and the momentous.” Sixty-five pages.
Trade Paperback – US $14.95 www.outskirtspress.com and available through www.jjsteele.com
– Mary Beth Cross Band “Feels Like Home”
Her newest release is a six-track ET that touches all around feelings and life of the West without being specifically “Western.” Her writing is inspired, say the promotional notes, by stories of her family and the forests and farms of her Wisconsin upbringing and, of course, that Colorado effect! The closest to the Western genre would be “Cottonwood Creek” and “Threshing Time,” a lively trip onto her grandparents’ 1940s era dairy farm.
Covers of Paul Simon’s “Kathy’s Song,” Doc Watson’s classic “Shady Grove” (on which her band mates get to fly in solos), Gary White’s hit “Long Long Time” and a lengthy but interesting medley that takes “Summertime” by the Gershwins & Dubose Heyward and melds it with Van McCoy’s “Moondance” and an original of hers (done in English and French versions) called “Pas de Deux.”
Cross’ very tight band consists of co-producer Chris Pandolfi (banjo), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle/mandolin/harmony), Tyler Grant (guitar/harmony) and Adrian Engfer (bass/harmony). Enjoyable on many levels.
CD: (available through www.cdbaby.com/cd/marybethcross6 or
– Jerry Bell “High Mountain Memory”
The newest release from Jerry Bell should again find an appreciative audience, and once again I’m putting in my request for his studio guy to mix Bell’s vocal singing performances more in the forefront!
Bell is a vivid reciter, authentic in tone and content. Works of Colen Sweeten, Pat Richardson, S. Omar Barker, Sunny Hancock (rather than the “Sony Handcok” credited here) and Bruce Kiskaddon are always welcome. Among the songs covered are Tom Russell & Ian Tyson’s “Rose of San Joaquin,” Larry Bastian & Ernest Berghoff’s “Cowboy Bill,” Marty Robbins’ “Old Red,” Ernest & James Schaper and Bill Barwick’s “Don’t Know Much About Waltzin’” and Lucky Whipple’s “Bucking Horse Ballet.” Two worthy Bell originals round it out (Ride ‘Em Cowboy” and the title track “High Mountain Memory”). Fourteen tracks.
I do like Jerry Bell’s style of delivery in both his spoken and singing modes. Now if we can just get his “mixologist” to let us fully hear him sing…
CD: $15 + s/h from Jerry Bell, 20 Foxtail Lane, Riverton, WY 82501.
John Bergstrom “Daybreak Moon”
Vocally he nudges toward the Burl Ives direction but with more sand. Accompaniment is provided by John Nelson (banjo & guitar), David Jackson (bass & accordion), Jesse Olema (fiddle), Tom Corbett (mandolin) and Gency Brown (harmony vocals). And very much a vintage effect it is, which suits Bergstrom’s material. His are frequently saga songs done in tribute to or stories of their title subjects. Songs like “Daybreak Moon” and “Red Rocks of Sedona” are literal, the song “Lawmen” is about lawmen and so on, no muss-no fuss! “Come Waltz With Me” seems like a visit from a bygone era and John’s fans like it that way.
Some of those fans’ more requested songs (like “Latchkey Cowboy” and “Western State of Mind”) have received remakes here among the new material. As John puts it, “it’s some things old, some things new, some things borrowed (‘Mexicali Rose’ & John Zipperer’s ‘Ballad of Micah McDowde’ ) and a little bit of blues!” Fourteen tracks.
CD – $15 ppd from John Bergstrom, 27590 Olive Mill Ct., Valencia, CA 91354 or through cdbaby, amazon and others.
Bernadette Ducharme “One Boot In The Stirrup”
Bernadette Ducharme engages in the long honored practice of putting Cowboy Poets’ verses to music, a natural fit most of the time. Happily she is skilled and ably pulls it off with songs created in tribute to fellow Canadian poets.
Others have found musical inspiration in works of Mag Mawhinney. Six of her poems are given firm Ducharme mountings…in particular “One Foot In The Stirrup” (a stirring saga song) and “He Was Good Around Horses” (not a particularly obvious poem for putting to music, and it works well here). Other Mawhinneys are “Hoof Prints In The Snow,” “When A Cowboy Made Me Cry,” “Git ‘Er Done” and “Something About A Cowboy.” The late Mike Puhallo’s “A Cowboy’s Advice” and “Call Me A Fool,” Bruce Rolph’s “The Old Felt Hat” and “Ghosts Of Stockyards Past” and Frank Gleeson’s “My Favourite Buckskin” round out the poem-songs and two nice Ducharme originals complete the package.
Hers is a pleasant ballad voice that I feel doesn’t require quite as much reverb as the studio applied, but it’s a worthy collection regardless.
CD: $20 ppd US & CAN from Bernadette Ducharme, PO Box 408, Horsefly, BC Canada V0L 1L0 or through www.bernsmusic.com
Andy Nelson (w/Brenn Hill) “I Won”
Big successes include the reflective “Waiting On The Thunder,” “Family Cemetery,” “Will They Write Songs About Us,” a minor miracle about parenthood called “His Baby Girl & Her Little Boy” and Andy performs Brenn’s eerily beautiful verse “Cottonwood” with conviction. For me the jury’s still out on laying “The Horse Sale Catalog” over a custom-extended track of Leroy van Dyke’s “The Auctioneer.” Fans of Nelson nuttiness will enjoy “I Won,” “Feline Orthodontics,” “What Are They Thinking” and “Cowboys On Facebook.”
Three tracks are poem-with-song combos. They include Andy’s “Worst Winter Ever” (a not-all-that exaggerated Wyoming winter’s tale) with Brenn’s “Fair Weather Cowboy” (call me when it’s nice out) and another that struck me as being a bit overbalanced in the ratio of poem to song…Andy’s “Be The First” with Brenn’s lyrically dominant “Single Winter Rose.” The third is religious.
All-in-all, it’s enjoyable and done by two guys who know how it should be done. Fifteen tracks.
CD: (ordering info not furnished…visit www.cowpokepoet.com)
Royal Wade Kimes “Where Outlaws Roam”
I’ve not made a practice of reviewing novels. However I now feel I should cover writings of singer/songwriters as they branch out. Royal Wade Kimes certainly has a storyteller’s heart as is shown in his adventurous songwriting. In his debut novel, he brings a certain swagger as he pulls on limbs of inspiration from his own family (hanging?) tree!
If you’re okay with a certain amoral bent of the “heroes,” then the plotline of this sprawling tale should roll out for you satisfactorily. One positive is that events are allowed to happen with the disorder of real life. We embark with a ne’er-do-well of royal blood, banished to the land “where outlaws roam,” who then rides from the bayou swamplands up into Kansas where comes redemption (of a sort). There are occasional dialog and narrative incongruities (example: a 19th Century character refers to a “significant other”), typos (“detour” used for “deter”) and other issues (repetitious laughing in the face of death/danger) that more judicious editing would catch. But songwriter Kimes should prove to be an able hand at the Western novel genre as well! 275 pages.
Trade Paperback: $14.98 through www.bookdepository.com
Bar-D Roundup Volume Ten
– 2016th annual volume of this famous series, it was decided that taking a look back at what has been accomplished in past releases might be in order. It has resulted in a best of the best double CD collection that truly is one for the books!
Hear the actual voices of legendary figures from the genre delivering masterworks of theirs including Robert O. Service (a ghoulishly intense delivery of “The Cremation of Sam Magee”), Gail Gardner (“Tyin’ Knots In The Devil’s Tail”), Charles “Badger” Clark (“A Cowboy’s Prayer”) and several late contemporary masters who include Buck Ramsey (“Anthem”), J. B. Allen (“The Medicine Keepers”), Larry McWhorter (“Waitin’ On The Drive”), Sunny Hancock (“The Horse Trade”), Wallace McRae (“Reincarnation”) and others. Of course many poets who are still with us are with us here: Zarzyski and Rieman and Sicking and Steagall and Hollenbeck and Snider and Richardson and…and…and…
Two CDs with fifty-five tracks. Obviously this one is a must-have!!
2-CD set: $25 ppd from Center For Western & Cowboy Poetry, PO Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450 or
Dave Insley “Just The Way That I Am”
Insley’s thoughtful original writes and co-writes are offered in a variety of effective mountings. Brassy swing arrangements like the one provided for “Drinking Wine & Staring At The Phone” or a Western Ballad styling such as “I Don’t Know How This Story Ends” are counterbalanced as the brass takes a Spanish turn with “Arizona Territory 1904,” a sort of retelling of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso.” “Footprint In The Snow” evokes a “Gentle On My Mind” feel, then shufflers can shuffle to “Win-Win Situation For Losers.” And there’s even a novelty “Dead & Gone,” with its attention-getting opening line “my wife and my girlfriend met at my funeral!” The catchy “We’re All Here Because Of You” could be Dave’s atonement for that last one!
An amazing group of players including Kelly Willis, Red Volkaert, Dale Watson, Rick Shea and other top session folk help to make this CD one to consider. Twelve tracks.
CD: (available through www.daveinsley.com)
James Michael “Meadowlark”
For his second CD release James Michael has called on the skills of Jeanne Cahill & Jerome Campbell (many instruments & vocals), Cathy Boeker (harmony), Jon Messenger (fill and slide guitar), Mariam Funke (fill & rhythm guitar) and Judy Coder (Native American flute). Good choices all!
Picks include Jeanne’s “My Heart Lives In Old Santa Fe” (with Spanish verse by James), English and Spanish versions of “Sunset On The Water” (written with Jon and Jerome), the bilingual “Down By The San Pedro” (co-written with Les Buffham) and the interesting title track, written for his parents, which features a neatly interwoven whistle with “Meadowlark” call. Two covers are welcome additions as well…Bob Nolan’s “Tumbleweed Trail” and Cindy Walker’s AWA Award-winning “Ruidoso.” And the poet in the performer shines through with “Gaishena” (a Chaco Canyon fable) and the Gail Gardner-inspired “August In Arizona.”
Stylistically James Michael is a balladeer in the Marty Robbins tradition and he carries that tradition proudly. Recommended. Fifteen tracks.
CD: $15 +$3 s/h check or money order to Mike Hosea, 4980 Baylor Canyon Rd., Las Cruces, NM 88011, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and through cdbaby.com
Tom Swearingen “Rhyme ‘Em Cowboy!”
The verse of Tom Swearingen is characteristically brief, always to the point, effective and (most often) optimistic. And once again he has chosen to record his CD in front of appreciative living beings, which I generally find to be a plus!
Whether he is operating in the realm of Novelty (“Teddy Frank Is One Tough Hand”) or he is leaning more toward the thought-provoking (“The Visit,” One To Ride The River With” or “Dogies In Our Band”…are human dogies and their “misfortune none of our own?”), Swearingen spins a fine tale and his expert delivery is comfortably conversational in its cadence. Other picks in the collection include “Scotty’s Christmas Tree” and “When A Horse Hoof Hits The Ground.”
Tom Swearingen is most certainly one of the poets folks might want to point out when they are trying to explain or typify the genre of Cowboy Poetry. His style and body of work make him one of the most approachable cowbards workin!’ Recommended. Seventeen tracks plus the opener.
CD: $15 “plus postage” through www.oregoncowboypoet.com, also spotify, iTunes, cdbaby and other outlets.
Carolyn Sills Combo “Dime Stories Volume 2”
Vintage elements in contemporary dressing (as in “salad”)! In other words, here we have a most edible offering for those who can take their classic styles beat driven and chewy! Ok, “Buffalo Bill’s Defunct,” the one track billed as a “Western Anthem,” is actually a Rock Chant…but it’s a party. Chill!
The Carolyn Sills Combo is no copy of any group. Not even an homage to one, although “Rotary Phone Blues” does sort of lean toward Les Paul & Mary Ford. Basically they do what they want. They deliver a clever Rockabilly Swing arrangement on “Big Canoe” (I love the whistling and voice harmonizing on the bridge)! And then they come back with “Even Villains Once Were Babies” with refrain lyrics that may burn the braids of the uber-staid! Then there’s the Western-styled but eye-opening “Along The Pelican Trail,” Swing romps “Tinker To Evers A Chance,” “Hot Tamales” and “Boot Heel Drag” and…in keeping with the non-theme…“Catalina Island,” a samba tempo piece with semi-Hawaiian steel!
Don’t pigeonhole this herd! They’ll bolt on ya. Deal with it!! Thirteen tracks.
CD: (available through www.carolynsills.com or call 718-755-5977).
Bar D Wranglers “Durango”
Along with great barbecue dinners the Chuckwagons of America shows always dish up a heapin’ helpin’ of those Western standards done in perfect four-part harmony. On the Bar D Wranglers’ newest CD there are a few not too often heard gems as well.
Singer & fiddler Matt Palmer takes the lead on the title track “Durango,” a fine cowboy love song. It’s a very appropriate one for this famous Durango band to feature. Other less heard items include “The Big Corral” and Palmer and flat pick guitar champ Gary Cook shine on the instrumental romp “Forked Deer” (sounds delicious…whoops, ‘guess that’s not a Bar D Chuckwagon dinner item)!
Jeff Solan guests on harmonica, adding nice augmentation to the familiar rich sound of Bar D regulars Richard Espinosa (vocals & guitar), Gary Cook (vocals & lead guitar), Matt Palmer (vocals & fiddle) and Joel Racheff (vocals & bass). The illustrious Cy Scarborough is pictured on the album…did he slip in for a note or two?? Hard to keep a good cowboy down! Fifteen tracks.
CD: $15 + $4 s/h through www.bardwranglers.com (and at their shows, of course)!
Junction 5-12 “San Miguel”
On occasion I have extolled in print the arrival of what I’ve termed “emerging power duos.” I’m hoping it’s not a curse. Some of them seemed to dissolve even as the words were leaving my fingertips! Undaunted, I’m attempting the exercise again. In Junction 5-12 we certainly have the makings of “the next one!”
As has been said of The Pioneers, “it isn’t the flash…it’s the blend.” Denver’s popular Mary Gifford and vocalist/producer/multi-instrumentalist Ernie Martinez have issued their first album collaboration together, and it goes down smooth! CD picks include a fine new saga song from Mary’s hubby Joe Gifford “Memory Of The Sea” (referring to prairie grass waves), “One Wild Heart,” “Once A Cowboy” (a cow-cure for PTSD), Hugh Priestwood’s “Bristlecone Pine” and a fresh treatment of Lange & Daniels’ “Blue Shadows On The Trail.”
Junction 5-12 definitely has plenty to offer, and it’s obvious here that the whole is greater even than the sum of its parts. Particularly in this case, that’s saying a lot! Ten tracks.
CD: $15 + $2 s/h from Junction 5-12, 8023 East Harvard Circle, Denver, CO 80231 or through cdbaby or iTunes
Dave Stamey “Western Stories”
Nowadays it’s almost presumptuous to begin to review a Dave Stamey release. The name is its own review! It’s Dave Stamey, for Pete’s sake! You know it’s going to be good! And he is joined again by his favorite “harmonizer” Annie Lydon because…if it ain’t broke and so forth.
While all the songs on this CD bear the familiar stamp of the artist, Stamey doesn’t do filler material. He makes you glad that every song is included. So here once again find that Stamey style of power ballads, reflective Spanish laced songs, songs to make you smile and think. The medicine show snake oil salesman song “Let Me Sell You A Dream” is one of those infectious Stamey swingers people dig. You’ll also love “Runaway Horse” as much as finding out it was inspired by Stamey’s desire to flee from the Seattle Airport! And a personal Thank You to Dave for including the one called “New Mexico Woman.” We can invite you back now!!
Recommended, of course. Fourteen tracks.
CD: $15 + $4 s/h from Horse Camp Music, PO Box 189, Orange Cove, CA 93646 or through www.davestamey.com
Allan Chapman & Rodeo Kate “Under Blue Skies”
Welcome to one of those don’t need to prove nuthin’ kind of albums! It’s mostly originals with covers of J. Gorka’s “People My Age” (with rhythmic tuba punctuators) and a gypsy-tinged treatment of C. Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love.”
The mounting is acoustic, elegantly simple and it’s nice to hear Kip Calahan (in any manner she’ll allow us to) on harmony vocals. On “The Western Star” Chapman & Chapman give her the chance to prove something can be done with the solo word “water” beyond what Bob Nolan did! Other picks include the saga song “Cinco Peso,” a bittersweet love song “Signal Fire,” “A Hard One To Know” (seemingly Allen’s reconciliation song of sorts with his dad) and “The Question” (and its shut-down answer)! There are opportunities for Kate to take the lead on the instrumentals “Caledonia Stomp” and “Last Roundup Waltz.” There’s also a fond look back at some of Allan’s professional history in “1*9*7*3,” a year of high hopes in the music business.
“Under Blue Skies” is a pleasant collection that should wear well with you over time. Twelve tracks total.
CD: $15 through contacting email@example.com
Eddie Dean [The Golden Cowboy] by Stephen Fratallone
Bear Manor Media (464 pages) ISBN 978-1-59393-780-S
Finally a book has come forth covering Eddie Dean, the Golden Cowboy. It is profusely illustrated, and through photos and text we not only get to meet the B-Western singing cowboy, but also the news reader, radio soap opera actor, highly adept woodcarver and supremely nice guy. It is also a classic portrait of a talent being unfairly pigeonholed as he learns the tricks of the trade (partly through having them played on him)! Since a personal crusade of mine is to reinsert Hi Busse & the Frontiersmen into their rightful places in Western music history, I was happy to at least see photo reproductions of labels showing a tiny bit of their long involvement with Eddie. It goes far deeper, but I can’t really fault the author for not uncovering that part of the story. Fans and the curious will get what they’re looking for from this volume…Eddie’s years of singing with brother Jimmy, his earliest broadcast experiences, his years as a character bit player and on through his “golden” starring vehicles (each explored through plot and behind the scenes). This particular publisher still has not hired a proofreader, it seems, but that shouldn’t seriously impede your enjoyment of the narrative. Everything is presented in a lively and organized manner, and the reader definitely gets a feel for the times. Trade Paperback: Information through www.bearmanormedia.com
Buck Helton On The Trail To Where I Am
Mostly made up of re-releases from the past fifteen years or so, this congenial collection of originals and covers is delivered with baritone-bass authority by Mr. Helton. Picks include Cindy Walker’s infrequently covered “Jim I Wore A Tie Today” and the old classic “Aura Lee.” Also of interest are medley arrangements of Western standards combined with their “source” songs. Cases in point: “Bard of Armagh/Streets Of Laredo,” “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean/Cowboy’s Dream” and the somewhat puzzling (to me) “Bury Me Not In The Deep Blue Sea/I’m Going To Leave Old Texas Now.” For them Helton uses the more familiar melody from Carson Robison’s answer song “Carry Me Back To The Lone Prairie.” I had always heard the melody for the previous pair to be the dirge used by Tex Ritter in his recorded version of “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie!” Hmmm…a puzzler… Three Helton originals are religious and a poem “Keeper Of The Fire” rather supports his reasons for doing his “Golden Nuggets” column! Ten tracks. CD: (Ordering information at www.BuckHelton.com)
Cindy Smith Songs from Cowboy World
Not to say she should remain exclusively in this niche, but the somewhat pixie-like tone of Cindy Smith’s voice certainly does lend itself to a project aimed at the younger set! The Cowboy World shows Smith performs are aimed at giving school aged children an awareness and appreciation of their Western music heritage. Cute pieces like “Crickets On The Moon,” “When I Grow Up (Cowboy World)” and the Lone Ranger tribute “Who Was That Masked Man Anyway” are geared to spark imaginations. But at the same time the CD doesn’t shy away from a bit of love interest in songs like “Cowboy Kisses,” the Cindy Smith-Dennis Knill duet “Moonlight Ride” or even what must be the only love song ever inspired by comic B-Western sidekick “Fuzzy Q” Jones! (She has a Jones look-alike onstage in the shows!) The performances are solid and production values are high, making it that much more of an enjoyable little romp. Ten tracks total. CD: $10.99 + $3.99 s/h from www.cowboyworldatlanta.com and also through www.amazon.com.
Jack “Trey” Allen (with Shandee Allen & Geff Dawson) A Remnant Gather
First I should say I found the performances and writing of this predominantly Cowboy Poetry CD to be first rate. Pithy entries like “Lost & Never Found” and “A Story With Several Morals” keep you alert and guessing while fresh takes on old Cowboy themes like those found in “As Close As You Can Get” or “Roughstock Toast” keep it authentic. Please know I do like this album very much. But now I really have to address the packaging.
Believe it or not, nowhere on the surface, spine or label of the CD itself are the performers’ names to be found!! I had to scan the fairly fine print inside. The contents are laid out in such a way that the sealed CD reveals only the final six tracks, concealing ten more within! And nowhere is there a copyright or publishing protection, pretty much making their effort akin to Public Domain. Despite the problems, it’s worth your time and trouble to seek out. Sixteen tracks total.
Jim Jones Race With The Wind
The newest Jones release is intended to present the WMA’s 2014 Male Vocalist of the Year to new domestic and international audiences. Therefore the CD contains some fresh mountings of previously released songs…a couple of them on their third go ‘round!! There are some discoveries to be made, such as the Jim Jones/Andrea Renfree song “Common Ground,” “On The Wings Of The Wind” and “True Texas Treasure.” The Jones collaborators who have been deemed worthy (Bruce Huntington, Alan Chapman & Randy Huston) are represented with Jones & Chapman’s “Smoke Of The Branding Fire,” Jones & Huntington’s “Race With The Wind” and Jones, Chapman & Huston’s “You Can’t Get There From Here.” Due in large part to the efforts of engineer and multi-instrumentalist Mariam Funke, this album stands as the Jones showpiece of the last ten years. Thirteen tracks. CD: $12.97 through www.cdbaby.com for the disc or $9.99 for the MP3 download and $.99 per song download.
Larry Wilder The Sweetheart of San Fernando (The Legend of Marilyn Tuttle)
Normally I don’t review single releases but, considering the subject, this time I’ll make an exception. Larry Wilder’s swinging, nicely rendered tribute to our beloved Marilyn Tuttle includes support musicians Paula Sinclair (vocals), Kian Dye (fiddle), Cliff Ashmon (harmonica), Harley James (steel guitar and Jon Lindahl (bass) who also engineered the recording at Fresh Tracks Studio in Portland, Oregon. In addition to her own performance history, Marilyn has advised and guided many of our better performers in the arts of harmony and stage presence. She was a cofounder of the WMA and serves on its Board of Advisors. In fact, depending on what you think of my contributions to the WMA Board, she’s the one to either thank or blame…because back in 2005 it was she who nominated me to serve. My own mentor in the genre (WMA Hall of Famer Hi Busse) often spoke lovingly of his time performing with and knowing Wesley and Marilyn Tuttle. On the occasion of her 90th birthday, we might each find our own ways of paying a tribute. I can assure you, the very sound we produce in Western Music would be nowhere near as rich were it not for her. CD Single: (Information through www.LarryWilderMusic.com)
Randy Huston & Hannah Huston Cowboys and Girls
Some of Randy Huston’s most requested songs are reprised and plenty of new material is present in this Wrangler Award winning CD. For 2014 the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum saw fit to award it top honors for its portrayal of things Cowboy, so who the heck am I to argue??! Fan favorites include the header-heeler anthem “Hole In Daddy’s Rope,” “Lucky” and “Day Of The Cowboy.” The collection is made up of originals and co-writes (with Ted Hoffman and Paul Harris) and is very well produced. The subjects range from serious and heartfelt to lighted-hearted and comic. “Cowboy Magazine” is sort of a latter day Western answer to “Cover Of The Rolling Stone,” “Lucky” is a song of Cowboy optimism pushed to the max and “Got In It For The Romance” says it all! Daughter Hannah takes the lead on “Guardian Angel,” “Rides Like A Girl” and “Thanks For Today.” She’s not just here ‘cuz she knew somebody, either. She’s got legit chops! Huston’s talent for making fresh observations and ten additional support musicians keep this one sparkling. Recommended! Thirteen tracks. CD Rich Price Cowboy Songs As it was on “The Singing Sierran’s” previous release, the instrumental and vocal arrangements by Harold Bradley and Michael Black respectively along with the rich production values ride to the rescue. The mounting would have been suitable for anything a Johnny Horton or the Sons of the Pioneers could have wanted. Rich Price writes from personal experience (with co-writers Harrison Tyner and Bristow Hopper). Vocally I would place him in the same basic “Tubb” with Ernest (who gets a mention in Price’s tribute song “Texas”). Price’s pitch and phrasing anomalies are more frequently evident this time around, so I would lead the CD’s pick tracks with “A Cowboy’s Face,” since it is largely spoken. Also worthy of a listen are “There’s A Table” (there’s a music video of it), “Texas,” and “Cowboy & His Wife.” For air use, a problem lies in the contents not being printed on the CD’s back, just on the internal booklet. Twelve tracks. CD: (Ordering information through www.HTiMusic.com)
Richard Martin Old Houses, Horses, Dogs & Friends
The brothers Richard and Glenn Martin have apparently found an audience for their direct and very literal lyric writing, or maybe it’s the production values that sell it. Regardless, they’re back for Round 7 and the formula is in place. Stylistically the content of their newest is again a mix of Western, Folk and Country. The point is made through songs like “Horse Power” (stating we have horse power from cars and horses), “Old Houses” (plus Horses, Dogs and Friends are things we should appreciate) and “Spit Me Out” (saying “you may chew me up, but I’ll bet you”…get the idea). The support musicians add a lot to the project. They include Edna Martin (vocals/rhythm guitar), Blane Sloan (bass/electric & acoustic guitar/mandolin/harmony), George Langston (acoustic & electric guitar), Frank Howard (pedal steel), Susan Clark (harmonies/keyboards), Roger Baker (keyboard), Lee Taylor (saxophone), Kurt Baumer (fiddle) and Wayne Shrubsall (banjo) with Wayne Moore (bass/guitar/dobro/mandolin on the track “Daddy Juan”). Twelve tracks. CD: $15 ppd from Glenn Martin, 4979 Country Road 250, Durango, CO 81301-8620. Also through amazon, iTunes or cd.baby.com/cd/richardmartin.
Rick Pickren Liberty (Songs of America) While not Western by subject, much of this material regularly finds its way into the sets of Western performers. Preservationist Rick Pickren’s performances are joyfully expressive and the acoustic treatments add to the whole-cloth character of the piece. Part of the fun lies in all the lesser known verses of the songs being included. This may cause exclamations such as “those words are part of it too??!!” Did you know “Stars & Stripes Forever” has lyrics by Sousa?? Beyond the four guest musicians on steel, dobro and other instruments, the versatile Pickren (vocals/guitars/banjo/bazouki/mandolin/harmonica/melodic/keyboard & percussion) does most of the heavy lifting! He also produced, recorded and designed the packaging. And get this! All the composer credits and dates of origin are in place. Even “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “My Country Tis Of Thee” and “Battle Hymn Of The Republic!” No easy-outs of “PD” here, folks! As with all the other Rick Pickren releases, this one is very highly recommended. Thirteen tracks. CD: $15 ppd from Big Strike Music, 122 Ashland Ave., River Forest, Il 60305. Also through cdbaby, amazon & iTunes. Site: www.bigstrikemusic.com.
Royal Wade Kimes Shadows of Time One thing is a given. Kimes & Company know how to put out a quality album. The production and the performances are top notch. That makes “Shadows of Time” that much more gratifying, since this one is the long-awaited all-Western release! Most of the songs are Kimes originals. There are some of the expected contemporary-styled explorations (“I’m A Hand,” “Come Here Boy” and the Jerry Lee-like boogie “Making Hay”). The song “Turn Back” could be an alternate universe follow-up to “The Cowboy Rides Away!” There is a good strong saga song in “Back In Tombstone” and his superb cover of the Herb Newman/Stan Lebowsky classic “Wayward Wind” not only gets the big west treatment…it also features a Kimes vocal treatment that puts the very howl of that wind into the phrasing of the lyrics. Superior thinking went into it. Enjoyable and contemporary. This one deserves and should get plenty of air time! Twelve tracks total. CD: (Ordering information through www.royalwadekimes.com or www.wondermentrecords.com)
12-4-2014 BOOK REVIEW;
The Bar-D Roundup “Volume Nine 2014” Three generations of McCalls are featured on this newest volume in the legendary Bar-D Roundup series. The late poet Rusty McCall (pictured on the cover) does “Last Gather,” the award winning Deanna Dickinson McCall performs “For Rusty” and young Ila-Jane Owen offers Kiskaddon’s “Alkali Ike’s Zippers.” The superb CD opens with poet Joel Nelson’s intensely believable version of Frank DesPrez’s “Lasca” and DW Groethe with “Everlasting Hooves.” It ends with Jerry A. Brooks doing H.H. Knibbs’s “Bronco Shod With Wings.” In the center is a section of comic poets Yvonne Hollenbeck, Rodney Nelson, Pat Richardson and Andy Nelson…so Volume Nine could be a chocolate with a soft center, I guess! Like its predecessors, Volume Nine will raise the bar again. The classic recording this time comes from the John A. Lomax files. It’s one of the famous recordings that alerted the world to “Home On The Range.” Twenty-nine tracks including the song. Highly recommended. CD: $20 ppd from Cowboypoetry.com, Box 695, St. Helena, CA 94574.
Right from the opening title track (done a cappella), this first release from the trio Saddle Serenade features very strong harmony. Chris Mortensen and mother & daughter Mary Jo Hansen and Lindsey Oliva make up the group, and Mortensen’s and Hansen’s songwriting chops are consistently solid as well. I will say I prefer the ladies’ lead vocal work to that of Mortensen, freely admitting to a bias against anything anywhere near the vocal tone of Neil Young! Tenors beware. Seriously this group displays great skill in what they do. Picks include the more rough and tumble (“I Ride With Gus McRae” and “A Cowboy’s Home”) to the romantic (“My Vaquero,” “Dance With My Cowboy,” the lightly comic “You Can’t Miss Me” and “I’m Leaving My Heart With You”). This one’s a keeper. Eleven tracks and one poem. CD: $15 ppd from Chris Mortenson, PO Box 405, Paradise, UT 84328 or through www.cdbaby.com/cd/saddleserenade
. BOOK REVIEW
This time for sure. According to his notes Rod Miller is expecting to be ambushed by Cowboy Poetry purists. Sometimes he has written with no rhyme, broken meter, and dang well done what he pleased. But this award winning poet knows what he’s doin,’ so don’t tell him what he did. He’s way ahead of you. More so than with some in the genre, you know that when you’re starting on a Miller ride you will arrive somewhere. There is a payoff, be it a truth, view, impression or realization. There is a justification for your having invested the eye energy. How he’s chosen to reach each this time is just so-much cowboy stretching room. Picks include “Preliminary Aftermath,” “Goodnight Goes Riding,” “The Colorful Pageantry of Rodeo,” “Lamentation For A Living Legend” and just about all the rest of ‘em! Enjoy! BOOK (softcover) 104 pages: $12.97 (Kindle $3.97) through www.Pen-L.com
The latest from Nevada’s ever-productive Richard Elloyan and his new partner Steve Wade features mellow acoustic tracks with lush string sustain under many. The Steves (Wade & Swinford) provide sweet guitar licks and harmony backup. There’s something printable about Elloyan’s enjoyable arrangements. There’s a tendency toward lengthy yet effective melodic passages, placing certain vocal notes as the sixth as his accompaniment riffs on the 1-3-5. That’s not a complaint, but it usually tells me who I’m listening to. Picks this time around include the wonderful “Cowboy & Lonely,” “Still In Montana,” the jovially self-effacing reality check “Forty Miles Of Famous,” “Crazy Talk,” “Each Day,” the thoroughly squirrely “Wisdom Of The Ages” and their cover of the Steagall/O’Brien standard “Mama I’m A Cowboy.” Another winner from Elloyan (and Wade)! We welcome it with open ears! CD: $15 + $2.50 s/h from Richard Elloyan, 320 Ophir Rd., Dayton, NV or through www.richardelloyan.net.
Olivia Hobbs “Olivia” In looking for more information on the vivacious young lady I just met through the Western Music Association, I found another “Olivia Hobbs”…a British rocker. If you go online, ‘better make sure you know who you’re buying!! Our Olivia is a youth performer with obvious burgeoning vocal abilities. Her CD features three of her own songs (one a CD pick called “Hawaii”) along with covers. Those include Denver Darling’s “I’ve Just Got To Be A Cowgirl,” Belinda Gail’s “She’s A Cowgirl,” Jimmie Davis’ “You Are My Sunshine” and Patsy Montana’s “Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Two tracks are traditional classics – ”Red River Valley” and “Shenandoah.” On that one I have point of concern. I suspect her power vocal is putting her voice at its extreme edge. I’ve seen it all go away for youngsters who pushed while “under construction.” I hope she is getting vocal coaching to allow her to power up without tripping the main. Thirteen tracks. CD: $14.99 through www.cdbaby.com/cd/oliviahobbs (downloads 9.99).
In her first predominantly Western Swing release, Mikki Daniel gets a chance to fully stretch. This time out young Daniel is in The Lion’s den! She’s in cahoots with Dave Alexander, a guy who can certainly show her ALL the ropes to Swing on! The non-Swing tracks here include “Girl From Kentucky,” “Heaven In The West,” Daniel’s original “Laredo” answer song “Leave The Cards Alone,” the saga song “Cold Blue Eyes,” “She’s Gone” and the slow Jazz ballad “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.” If that sounds like there’d be no room left…wrong! Daniel duets with Alexander on “It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie,” co-writes with him on “She Should Be Me” and fleshes out the effort with five more tracks, three of them originals! Fourteen tracks total. What’s next-what’s next?!! I think I know, but I ain’t tellin’! CD: $18 ppd from Mikki Daniel, 606 Interurban St., Richardson, TX 75081 or through www.mustangmikki.com/mercantile.
Bringing forth what would have to be the definitive work on a songwriter not well defined, Michael K. Ward has tackled the elusively contradictory subject of Stan Jones. What emerges is a portrait of a man who both reaped the vast rewards and labored under the terrible tonnage of his one monster success. Stan Jones was not one to hold anywhere near the facts when it came to biographical details. The creator of “Ghost Riders In The Sky” didn’t much care for his actual story and so he made up much of it as he went along, making it rugged going for anyone trying to track him. Author Ward had the help of many who were closest to Jones, but sometimes even they were in the dark. In a tour de force of detection, Ward has finally put the dominoes in order…mostly! Some may find the book’s first part (detailing who was what to whom) a bit dizzying, but once under way it’s a fascinating portrait of a loving, giving but very complex man. Fans of Westerns should get it, fans of the song should get it, creators and writers should get it. And probably just about everybody else would like it too! 200 pages. (softcover): $14.95 suggested list (varying prices on www.amazon.com). Book Review
Historical happenings are the poetic goldmine of Utah poet Marleen Bussma. A North Dakota native, Bussma’s title track deals with the wild and wooly life of Poker Alice. Bussma’s delivery is what I would consider to be the spot-on mix of reciting and interpretive acting. In literate and wonderfully descriptive verse, Bussma tells of “The Outlaw,” a legendary 1900s saddle bronc (“the rodeo grew claws and snatched my carefree life away”). From “The Phantom’s Lure,” about a mustang now penned, we get “teasing thoughts of freedom flicker, fade and fall behind.” From “Slow Burn” she shows a damaged pen and its contents with “like the hull of the Titanic wood has sprung a gaping hole…movement heads in that direction as bulls think about parole!” Give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed. Fourteen tracks. CD: $14 ppd from Marleen Bussma, 1094 Homestead Dr. E., Dammeron Valley, UT 84783.
The title track (a CD pick) refers to Baker being a “third generation” cowboy. In the early days of the WMA, I recall he sought to establish a traditional Western Music spin-off of the organization, and he has included some of that beloved material here. Traditional songs include “Colorado Trail,” “I Ride An Old Paint” and “Take Me Back To My Boots and Saddle.” He is now one of our elder voices, but his sonorous bass (rather in the Jack Hannah range) still wraps around the material easily. Picks are the infrequently covered “Blue Bonnets” of Stuart Hamblen and his “This Ole House” as well as Baker’s own “The Road Not Taken,” one of the CD’s three religious tracks. Baker is ably showcased by the Bar-D Wranglers’ multi-instrumentalist & singer Gary Cook and fiddler/vocalist Matt Palmer. Ten tracks. CD: (likely available through www.cdbaby.com/cd/markbaker).
Big band and Cowgirl Jazz singer LeeLee Robert’s musical influences benefit this all-Western CD (with one straight swing departure). Robert is obviously in her comfort zone when her material allows her smoky voice to savor a bit of jazz or blues. She may be still feeling her way a little in her delivery of saga songs, but hers is an interesting spin on any subject at hand. A paean to “Wyoming Jewel Of The West,” falling “In Love With Montana” and developing “The Scat Yodel” from a visit with Janet McBride at the WMA Convention are highpoints. Picks include her cover of Dave Stamey’s “Buckaroo Man,” “Back To The Ranch” (sultry enough to be a jingle for the establishment in Nevada), “Paniolo” and a song worked up with Juni Fisher and Les Buffham “Blue Canyon.” Marvin O’Dell produced and the Red Hot Rhythm Rustlers provide strong musical support. Nice one! Twelve tracks. CD: $12.97 through www.cdbaby.com/cd/leeleerobert (download 9.99).
The WTC (West Texas Country) label of Howard Higgins & Brady Bowen is out to preserve and capture performances of classic Texas Swingers. H. F. Ritchie is definitely an elder statesman, but he still swings with any of ‘em. The musical accompaniment assembled for the project definitely conveys that band-behind-the-chickenwire roadhouse effect as Ritchie goes along. The title track refers to the mother well that launched the West Texas oil boom. She at least deserves a swing song in her honor! Picks include “Don’t Be Ashamed Of Your Age” (featuring Ritchie and the eternal Gil Prather cuttin’ up), “Bad Luck & Troubles” (a bluesy slow swinger) and “Ain’t Misbehaving’ (miscredited as being “traditional” when actually it’s Fats Waller’s signature song). Everybody seemed to have fun here. What more can you ask? Thirteen tracks. CD: $15 through www.backfortybunkhouse.com
(Bison Books – University of Nebraska Press)
In a clear and very descriptive narrative, H. Alan Day (brother of Sandra Day O’Connor, who furnished the book’s foreword) and writer Lynn Wiese Sneyd unfold a beautiful and (to some) unlikely story of trust and communication between man and alleged beast. Just who the beast really is does become apparent. Few bought into the idea that wild mustangs could be managed before Day demonstrated the communication he achieved with them on his Mustang Meadows Ranch in South Dakota. Wouldn’t you know the only creature that wouldn’t listen was the government?!! From triumph to tragedy you ride every ridge as this story runs past you. You’ll come to know and appreciate individual horses. And I guarantee you will feel like joining me in strangling some bureaucrats. This one belongs on the shelves of all those who defend and befriend equus caballus. 243 pages. BOOK (hardcover): (prices vary through www.amazon.com)
“Riding Behind The Padre” By Richard Collins
(Horseback Views from Both Sides of the Border)
Richard Collins’ book provides timely and important input into the discussion of border issues and the emerging West. Leave it to a Sonoita cowboy to get to the heart of things! The subject is framed around “cabalgatas,” his retracing with Mexican friends the hundreds of miles of muleback travels of the intrepid 17th Century missionary/explorer Fr. Eusebio Francisco Kino. Through his fascinating narrative Collins provides an accurate perspective and a strong reality check for those who have only flapped right wings or left wings ignoring the bodies in the middle. Kino was most concerned with doing truly useful work for the people he met despite the follies of Catholicism and Crown, a lesson we still could learn and apply if we can manage to turn off the strident media talk voices who are doing us absolutely no favors. BOOK (paperback): $15.50 (Kindle 7.99) from www.amazon.com.
If a washtub bass backing a heavenly choir and a certified nut sounds like a novelty to you…bingo! Recorded during Western Welcome Week in Littleton, Colorado, we find Doc Mehl and Washtub Jerry have stumbled upon a giant choir to perform with, just when they need one! Make sure you’re listening over speakers that can find the deep notes Tub hits or you’ll miss part of the action. Interesting additions in repertoire include Doc’s popular “I’d Rather Be” and the enigmatic “Jupiter & Mars.” Non-credited light percussion support helps things along and Sid Hausman “magically” appears on the album bonus track “Blackened Blues.” Compared to material on Doc Mehl’s previous releases, this one includes some also-rans, but his devotees will still run “pehl-mehl” to snap this one up. Thirteen tracks. CD: $18 ppd from Doc Mehl, 9140 W. 107th Pl., Westminster, CO 80021 or through www.DocTubFun.com.
Curio Cowboys “Sunburst Saga” The Curios are a curiosity, to be sure. They are a “vintage” Western Swing band in the most vintage sense of that word. There’s a rowdy, almost drunken randomness to the effect they work very diligently to achieve…one that originally belonged solely to the earliest, drunkest practitioners of the art! In some of the most thorough liner notes yet offered, swing historian/preservationist and bandleader John Feldman goes through the complete stories and recording process of these often rare songs. Rest assured there’s nothin’ out there quite like the Curio Cowboys! Picks include “Beale Street Mama,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Tulsa Baby,” “Midnight In Amarillo,” “Russian Lullaby,” “Let’s All Go To El Paso,” “Heart To Heart Talk,” “I’ve Arrived” and “Nightlife.” Sixteen musicians (including one, fiddler/vocalist Joe Carter, who passed away before its release) poured the rounds here. They truly have created an “original” cocktail! Seventeen tracks. CD: $16 + $3 s/h from Original Jazz Library, 1534 N. Moorpark Rd., #333, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360. Cowgirl True “Out of the Chute” A while back award-winning singer/songwriter Belinda Gail and award-winning poet Diane Tribitt found they had more than the usual shared experience. It was not only their ranching and Western backgrounds, but also the sobering imposition of widowhood. From their life experience emerges a unique expression of the Western woman. This, their first CD, was assembled to recreate their stage presentation. Coming in part from earlier recordings of Belinda’s, it manages to provide a nice trip back for those of us who recall her first arrival among us. There are tracks here from her Belinda Gail & Wild Wind days (“Amelia Crane” and “He’s Bein’ a Kid Again”) and a version of “Cowboy Sweetheart” with Jean Prescott and Jill Jones. Poetically Diane Tribitt provides some Cowgirl life reality checks and balances (“Rancher Lips,” “Half The Hand” and others), and the blend is one of distinction and variety. Recommended. Thirteen tracks. CD: (contact through www.cowgirltrue.org. Ordering info not furnished) Cowboy Thatch “The First Go Round” I had a chance to talk with the father of the eleven year old Cowboy poet Thatch Elmer at this year’s WMA Convention. He was certainly the proud papa, devoting his attentions and efforts to helping launch his son. But I’d heard proud papas and mamas before. What I hadn’t heard, until this CD, was anything…and I mean anything…like Thatch Elmer himself. I was taken with the level of maturity of his writing…the literacy…the thought in it. Couple that with Thatch’s subtleties of delivery. If he sticks with it, this cat is going to be one of the “majors!” I will say his delivery is very brisk, possibly not allowing the audience complete time to savor what he’s brought with him. And he’s still somewhat a slave to cadence, which may be a function of the muscle memory that lets him bring the lines to mind. But Thatch Elmer will hopefully be in it for many “go rounds” to come! CD: $15 ppd from Thatch Elmer, 120 Elk Dr., Bear River, WY 82930. Book Review – Carol Markstrom “Dance of the Desert” Here is a book aimed at 3 to 8 year olds from Arizona singer, songwriter and historian Carol Markstrom. Rather than envisioning some wildly fanciful dance party among animals when nobody’s looking, she portrays a natural rhythm, if you will, with the makers of the night sounds. With interesting art provided by Jose Sandoval, you can envision a child’s imagination working over what’s out there in the dark, behind each rock or out beyond each hill. And with a simple “free” download, the package becomes multi-stimulus. The children are the coming audience for what we are hoping to provide and preserve. One can only hope more of our artists contemplate developing materials for that market. BOOK (soft cover): $10 (hardcover $15) from www.carolmarkstrommusic.com or www.tatepublishing.com which includes a digital download of the audio book in its sung version. Bob Thomas “A Cowboy’s Story” Bob Thomas CDs would not logically be found in an Easy Listening music bin. His delivery is that of the old sand-voiced cowpoke. His writing is theirs as well. You say it ‘til you’re done and you stop. Curley Fletcher did it that way, didn’t he? If stretching an unlikely syllable across a note and singing a word that isn’t generally sung are issues for you, stop here. If not, plow on!! “A Cowboys (sic) Story” is a concept album with eleven loosely connected songs drifting from the Civil War to Cowboying adventures to hanging up the spurs. Thomas is aided along the way with good harmony and musical support, well produced by the enigmatic “HYIM.” Pick tracks are “Civil War,” “My First Cattle Drive,” “Leaving Texas,” the simple strummed “Wyoming Blizz” and “Cowboy Retirement.” Eleven tracks. CD: $15 + $2 s/h through www.bobthomasmusic.com. Bob Marshall Horses “That Run Far Away” Here’s what I would point to (and so I will!) as being an intelligent mix of Country-styled accessibility with plenty of true Cowboy lyrics. Bob Marshall knows how it’s done. Sure, a few tracks may lean toward the Hot Country feel. For the cagey pros in the game, there are still certain commercial considerations to gain airplay. But as a Western songwriter Marshall handles the heartfelt and the hardscrabble with deft skill. Pick tracks include “Real Cowboy,” “Hats To The Sky,” the Country novelty “Things Mommas Say,” the CD’s title track “Horses That Run Far Away” and “Cowboy Blessing.” And I’ve gotta say I truly love his phrase “never throw a wishbone where your backbone oughta be!” Nine strong support players round out the sound. Highly recommended! Thirteen tracks. CD: $15 + $2.50 s/h from Bob Marshall, 3368 Breezewood Ct., Ortonville, MI 48462. Rich O’Brien, Devon Dawson & Kristyn Harris “Badger & The Belles” It’s generally fun and very worthwhile when accomplished soloists team up to create. And soloists don’t get any more accomplished than these! What a nice batch of little-heard gems they’ve picked for this collection! The harmony parts are the CD’s strongest selling point (“Rose Of Old Pawnee,” “Rosalita,” Devon & Les Buffham’s “West Of Santa Rosa,” etc.), but there’s plenty more here to recommend. More picks include “Santa Fe’s A Long Long Way From Broadway,” and “I Didn’t Realize.” There’s an original collaboration present too…a packing lesson entitled ”Don’t Forget The Fiddle.” In Rich O’Brien’s notes he says they purposely kept it “a little primitive.” Primitive, my Aunt Matilda’s carbuncle! They go about proving all they bring is all that’s needed, skillfully alternating lead and support functions in vocals and instruments. Recommended! Twelve tracks total. CD: (available through www.badgerandthebelles.com). Andy Nelson “Santa’s Hired Hand” This Xmas delivery kinda got lost in the bottom of Santa’s bag, so we’ll cover it late! Once again the traditional Nelson stocking is stuffed with relevance, irreverence and rear evidence. We begin with a very sedate reading of “Luke Chapter 2,” but (of course) this is Andy Nelson we’re talking about. You’d better prepare to get your jingle jangled somewhere along the trail! We learn “Santa Must Be A Shoer,” and it’s a shoer bet “Santa’s Hired Hand” is a feller few would handle. You’ll learn “How To Tell Santa Is In Upper Management” and get some “Cowboy Tips For Holiday Gift Giving.” And there’s still a sweet moment or five to put you in the spirit if Andy doesn’t spear it. Ho-ho! Thirteen tracks total. CD: (contact Andy Nelson, PO Box 1547, Pinedale, WY 82941 or through www.cowpokepoet.com or (307) 360-8776. Robert and Susie Maxwell Case “Little Farther West’” (self-titled) The particular retro sound adopted by Oklahoma’s Robert Maxwell Case and wife Susie is that of the “Big Boss” guitar. Somewhere Duane Eddy, Lonnie Mack and Al Caiola are smiling. When early tracks weren’t actually being recorded in ringing tile bathrooms, frequently a Hammond organ spring reverb was used. The digital one employed here stretches each “s” into the next decade, but the vintage effect is basically intact. One of the CD picks is a Case original called “Dreaming On The Trail.” I applaud the Cases for recognizing Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought The Law” and Sylvia’s hit “Drifter” are defendable Western songs. Two titles I question: their “Katie and the Navajo Rug” is just “Navajo Rug” and their opener “The Western Star” (composer and publisher credited correctly) I know as The Tornados’ hit “Telstar.” It’s all fun though. Twelve tracks. CD: $11.99 (s/h not furnished) from Town & Country Records, PO Box 4, Slick, OK 74071 or through www.townandcountryrecords.com. 9-1-2014 Terry Brown “Party On The Prairie” The eminently likeable native Oklahoma performer Terry Brown hits with a bumper crop of contemporary styled Western originals and a good team of players to back him on them. His title track “Party On The Prairie” is a nice novelty swinger about desert critters jamming away when nobody sees them (a situation which must actually occur since no fewer than four other songwriters seem to have observed it!) Brown’s songwriting history includes Top 20 singles for Charley Pride and the Marshall Tucker Band with cuts by Aaron Tippin, Ty Hearndon, Chris LeDoux and the Remingtons among others, so he has a fiar idea of how to put ‘em together! Picks here include the title track, “Shake Rag Boogie,” “Old Coyote,” “C.O.W.B.O.Y.,” “Where Do Cowboys Go,” “Dance In The Desert” and “Circle Of Life.” Recommended for those who can stand to boogie. CD: Available through www.terrybrownmusic.com or call (209) 509-6806. Tallgrass Express String Band “Sky & Water, Wind & Grass” I really like this group’s approach…lyrics that give a strong sense of place with instrumentation that doesn’t just hit the notes but reinforces the emotion. I’ve stated before that lyrics rooted in occurrence frequently turn maudlin. Here are thirty more sweet tracks that miraculously skirt that. So many picks: “Freedom Must Prevail,” “It’ll Rain,” the saga song “Mollie Mae Fights Back,” the instrumental “Emma Chase Waltz,” the unbelievable “Dung Beetle Bill,” ‘gotta love “Doggie Paradise,” “Song of Samuel Wood,” “Trail To Santa Fe,” “Ghost Steps Behind Me,” “Wearin’ Our Cowboy Boots,” “Letters From Long Ago,” “Flint Hills Christmas Night”….. One little thing. They perform “Bury Me Not…” to the tune of “Carry Me Back To The Lone Prairie.” But many have. Double CD: $19.99 + $3.76 s/h from Anne Wilson, Five Oaks Ranch, 338 Middle Creek Road, Elmdale, KS 66850. CD download thru cdbaby.com $14.99 and 99 cents per song. Scott Bragonier “From Where I Came” This singer renders his all-original album in an intimately expressive, smoky tenor baritone voice with a touch of Rod Stewart rasp in it. Sorry…that’s ”cowboy sand” in it! Throughout the collection Scott Bragonier’s songwriting is basically solid. Several of these songs would be worthy of covers by others. Some picks for them to consider: “Wyoming Promise” & “Nowhere To Go” (both co-writes with Brenn Hill), the title track “From Where I Came,” “Trail Town Dust,” “The 7D,” “Reins West” and “The Ballad of Pogue & Elms.” Bragonier receives superior acoustic playing and engineering from Pete Huttlinger (guitars/mandolin/banjo) and able musical support from Trevor Krieger (fiddle) and Chris Nole (piano). I’m tempted to say it, but I’ll resist. Oh heck! I’ll do it. Scott has earned “Bragoniering” rights on this one. CD: $15 + $3 s/h from Scott Bragonier, 140 Chugwater Drive, Cody, WY 82414 or through www.scottbragonier.com Oregon Valley Boys “Hey Wait!” Here the Oregon Valley Boys show good harmonies over rustic swing with a Country presence on the drum. The collection features originals in Western Swing, Country Honky Tonk and a sample of light Rockabilly (one of the CD’s pick tracks “Just Can’t Do Without You Anymore”). Other picks are “Barking Up The Wrong Tree,” “Jimmy Legs” and their cover of “Miss Molly.” The Boys are Randy “Tex” Hill (drums/vocals), Paz “Smokey” Reingans (lead guitar), Matt “Speedy” Sutherland (bass/vocals), Paul “Hank” Saunders (acoustic guitar/vocals), Robert “Pecos” Waterhouse (fiddle/vocals) and Loren “Spankee” Depping (guitar/steel/vocals). Chuck “Doc” Zendner guests on bass and Joni Harms voices “Till The Sun Comes Out Again.” For my ear some lead instruments slip a little far back into the mix, and I feel the group is at its best in both performance and songwriting on the Swing tracks. CD: $15 ppd by check from The Oregon Valley Boys, PO Box 17264, Salem, OR 97305 or through www.cdbaby.com. Joni Harms w/The Sheerin Family “From Oregon To Ireland” The sweet-voiced Joni Harms remains one of our finest Western Music ambassadors. Her new one, a double CD recorded live in Ireland, is a twenty-two song compilation of mostly Harms writes and co-writes. Fan favorites from the past such as “Weakness For Cowboys,” “Cowboy Up” and “Let’s Put The Western Back In Country” are freshened, and proving her C & W (or W & C?) point is a perfect amalgam of Western with Country called “He’s More (Than Your Eyes Can See).” A favorite of hers “Blue Montana Moon” is a standout along with a very personal expression about her dad “Harms Way.” And you’ll rediscover “The Only Thing Bluer Than His Eyes,” her Top 20 Billboard song from her Capitol years. Joni gets terrific musical support throughout from Ireland’s Sheerin Family. Recommended! Double CD: Available through www.joniharms.com or contact Joni Harms, PO Box 272, Canby, OR 97013. Doug Figgs “Partners” Doug Figgs is one of those genuine workers in the Cowboy trade. He is a Certified Journeyman Ferrier, the highest recognition offered in that esteemed Western profession. And as he continues to “fire-up” as both an artist and a songwriter, we may well see him hit impressive heights in music, too! His style is a mix of Western with a contemporary edge and Country. And on this album (as on his previous two), he continues to benefit from the production and performing gifts of his buddy Mariam Funke. Western picks include “Life Of An Outlaw,” “Charlie & Evangeline,” “Runnin’ With The Wind” and the cover of the Dylan & Secor song “Wagon Wheel.” For rompin’ Country picks I would name “One More Thing” and “She’s Gone.” Fourteen tracks. CD: $15 through www.dougfiggs.com or from Doug Figgs, PO Box 3, Lemitar, NM 87823. Dale Page “Once We Were Kings” The freshly elected President of the WMA’s Western Wordsmiths chapter brings his enthusiastic, big stage delivery onto his latest CD…or perhaps we could call it a classic campfire delivery. Dale Page renders very thoughtful poetic portraits that were drawn from his personal experiences, his friends and his extended family biography. He is supported nicely by the playing and subtle sound texturing of musician and album engineer Ken Davis. This album could provide a good teaching aid on how to vary the effect of music and atmospherics. Picks include “Brush Poppers” (besting that constant no-show brindle cowbrute), “Lodgepole Lullaby” (a homesteading life story), “Just One More Day” (an old cowboy imparts memories to kids who’ll never fully know) and the CD’s title track “Once We Were Kings” (self-explanatory). Ten tracks total. CD: $16 + $3 s/h through www.dalepage.com or www.cdbaby.com. Barbara Nelson “Bring It On Down” “Bring It On Down” certainly isn’t the direction this one goes! It’s happy all the way! Gentle arrangements of swing and jazz standards support the ever-melodious, silky voiced Barbara Nelson (an AWA Female Singer of The Year). Assisting her guitar the instruments (including fiddle, pedal steel, bass, clarinet, trumpet and tenor sax) appear one or two at a time, but they add up to a combo! I’d prefer a slightly hotter mix on those support players, but Nelson’s the main thing anyway. It is a happy effect. Who knew “Hard Hearted Hannah” had a sweeter side? “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” is nearly rollicking! You can “Cry Me A River” but here? Smile when you say that! Yes, Nelson’s a happy performer, and her AWA Award and other accolades may lock that in for keeps. Fifteen tracks. CD: $15 + $3 s/h from Barbara Nelson, 72521 Tutuilla Creek Road, Pendelton, OR 97801 or through www.cdbaby.com. Aspen Black “Eastern Western Cowgirl” Here’s Aspen Black’s third release of original contemporary Western songs, and once again she has sung all the parts, played all the instruments and self-produced. It’s an admirable accomplishment and saves money, but as I stated the first time around, I still believe she would benefit positively by working with others. Vocally I would place her somewhere near plaintive 60s pop singer Melanie Safka with some of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s vibrato along for the ride. For the collection’s pick tracks I would name “Dream Ride,” “Ride With You” (an interesting life journey wish) and “Snowdog Moon.” These three stand up well with the mountings chosen for them. Generally ten to fourteen tracks is considered an album-length release. This one has only eight, which may place it more in the demo or ET category, but it seems to be priced accordingly. CD: $12 ppd from Buksbari Ranch, Inc., 90 Buksbari Lane, Rocky Mount, VA 24151. Andria Kidd “Sespe Lullaby” She calls her performance pieces “Musical Cowboy Poetry,” and by any barometer you choose Andria Kidd’s is a different act. Stylistically she bounces her word cadences off the rhythms of the accompaniment. In this case that support comes in the form of contemporary, rather rockish music beds created by Canadian composer Joey Stebanuk from Medicine Hat, Alberta. Not all the material is Western (witness “Call You A Cab” about her motorcycle wreck or “Somebody Said I Said” about somebody saying she said something), but all of it comes from her personal experience. Entry points to the effect are “The Pink Moment” (about Ojai’s Topa-Topa Mountains in the sun’s fading blush) and the title track “Sespe Lullaby” (riding the land where condors fly). Then move into “Once Upon A Daydream” (a girl’s dreams of barrel racing) and you should be acclimated. Twelve tracks total. CD: Available through www.AFIRMRecords.com Eddy Harrison “Trail Dust and Teardrops“ Very nice harmonies, supplemental instrumentation and strong production values all provided by California’s Ken Wilcox help set this collection a cut above the norm. Eddy Harrison is another of Western’s senior statesmen who vocally still has it together just fine, thank you!! His style of writing leans most often toward saga songs, and among the pick “stories” this time are “Ballad of Julio Robledo,” “God Kissed Us All Goodbye” and “Oh Antonia.” We’ll include “The Book” in there although some extended proselytizing at its end may bog it down for some. Pick covers include “Sonora’s Death Row,” and his Country inclusions “Crazy,” “For the Good Times,” “Remember Me” and “Tears on My Pillow.” Able versions of “America the Beautiful” and “Amazing Grace” round out the collection. Fifteen tracks total. CD: $15 + $3 s/h from Eddy Harrison, 690 Hummingbird Drive, Las Cruces, NM 88007. Jeneve Rose Mitchell “Rocky Mountain Hillbilly Girl” It’s enthusiasm with a capitol “En” on this release from WMA Youth Chapter member Jeneve Rose Mitchell. She sings and plays all instruments (guitar, cello, banjo, fiddle & bass), then she recorded and mastered herself. It certainly shows her capability as an artist and multi-instrumentalist. Budget allowing she now needs to move on to a professional producer & engineer. Included are her novelty yodel “Ragtime Granny” (written for the WMA Yodel Contest) and her and her dad’s Harmony Award winning treatment of “Cool Water.” Picks among the originals are her “Cowboy Singing the Cowgirl Blues” and her uncle Jay Neal’s “Colorado Skies.” Crediting note: “Colorado Trail” is now known to have been written by James A. Bliss (not Carl Sandburg & Lee Hayes) and Alan J. Lerner co-wrote “Mariah” with Frederick Loewe. Thirteen tracks. CD: $12 + $3 s/h from Jeneve Rose Mitchell, 4455 Clark Rd., Crawford, CO 81415 or though www.JeneveRoseMitchell.com Many Strings & Co. “Merry Galldurn Christmas” Battling 100 degree heat as they worked Tony & Carol Messerly have served up what I call a helping of Yule ‘Tude!! Or how would you refer to a holiday disc featuring a gifting song called “Colonoscopy”??! To be sure there are some straight-faced songs, such as “Cowgirl Up For Christmas” (toughing it out while her military man is deployed) or its almost-answer song “Lonesome Christmas Night.” But plenty of it is Christmas for the nuts and we don’t mean the ones roasting on an open fire. If you were alarmed by Grandma as reindeer roadkill, check out “We Hope Grandma’s Out Of Prison!” Or try “Eggnog Yodel,” which you may have to play repeatedly to believe “they actually said that!” As always the acoustic playing is galldurn near desperately inventive. Eleven tracks total. CD: Available from Tony & Carol Messerly, 470 S. 300 W., Salem, UT 84653. Book Reviews: – “Grandpa Lolo and Trampa” by Nasario Garcia Intended for Grades 3 through 6 but serving as a good primer for anyone interested in the Spanish Tongue, this is a sweet and very New Mexican story. In other words, there’s some Hispanic, some Indian, some Cowboy and a magical clincher! Each left facing page is done in New Mexico colloquial Spanish with the right page providing the English version. It tells of a young boy and his wizened cowboy rancher grandpa as they set about doctoring an injured coyote which, in truest Navajo Coyote Trickster tradition, holds a magic ace up its sleeve. Included in the back is a helpful glossary of words and “New Mexicanisms.” The book is thoughtfully illustrated by Jeremy Montoya. Set in New Mexico’s rugged and gorgeous Rio Puerco valley, you might think this tale is from some romantic, bygone day. It isn’t. Trust me on that one. Book: U.S. $9.99 through Rio Grande Books, 925 Salamanca NW, Los Ranchos, NM 87107 or through www.LPDPress.com Don Bullis “Unsolved” Dive into forty-six famous and obscure New Mexico who-done-its, why-done-its, what-was-its and even he/they-done-it-but-nobody-could-prove-its! The tales run the gamut from territorial times right up to cases featured on NBC’s “48 Hours” and “America’s Most Wanted.” Award winning historian Don Bullis copiously lays out the dark doings using as many sources (even conflicting ones) as can be obtained and, in so doing, provides great fodder for conjecture and for other creators to peruse for source material. Killers, rustlers, rounders (and other politicians!) along with truly strange people and events that have appeared on New Mexico trails or in its skies are engagingly covered. Care to know the real reasons for the smear of Kit Carson? Or meet the mysterious figures “The Hummer” and “El Solitario?” Or discover the likely true identity of the infamous Billy The Kid claimant Brushy Bill Roberts? Read on, read on!!! Book (219 pages): U.S. $19.95 from Rio Grande Books, 925 Salamanca, NW, Los Ranchos, NM 87107 or through www.LPDPress.com. “Max Evans & A Few Friends” Edited by Ollie Reed Jr., Slim Randles & Ruth E. Francis Its introduction calls this book “an effort of a lot of people who love Max Evans” They offer a joyful birthday card on the occasion of Evans’ 90th (or 1039th, as he prefers), a reminiscence and tell-all-we-dare prismatic view of the writer/artist/cowboy. Here’s a man as carved and colorful, rowdy and real as the land and lives he’s cherished. The portrait emerges from a palate of court-holdings and stories relayed during blurry evenings beginning as lunches and ending at last call. Contributors who’ve wrapped themselves in his words and friendship include readers, collaborators, cowboys and a Secretary of Agriculture! What if an essayist’s cards occasionally get held a bit close to the vest in a nudge-nudge wink-wink “you know Ol’Max” stance?!! It’s still a hoot and a trail worth taking. Twenty-seven contributors in 245 pages (61 photos/illustrations)! Book: $19.95 (e-book $5.99 through www.LPDPress.com ) from Rio Grande Books, 925 Salamanca, NW, Los Ranchos, NM 87107. ***************** BOOK REVIEW: – T.K. Galarneau “A Cowboy Tradition: Poems From the Heart” (180 pages) It is said “you have to know a rule to break it,” and I’m sure T.K. Galarneau made some specific choices here. Galarneau’s large volume of observations is done in a style that may not be familiar to many Cowboy Poetry fans. Rhyming and alliteration are optional and interspersed randomly. What seems to be free verse is frequently broken into four-line and three-line stanzas. Though uncommon in the genre, something seemed familiar. Contemplating the book’s section “Native American Tradition” (others are “Cowboy/Ranch,” “Family,” “Partners” and “Ramblin’ On”) and specifically her Coyote creation poem “The Good Path” revealed the answer. Country Music created by Indian artists is in non-rhyming, four-line stanzas. It tells a simple, non-embellished story and gets done. This material strikes me as being in that style. Whether the internal metronomes of the more traditional Cowboy Poetry readers click to it…they’ll have to decide. Book: $10.95, Bedazzled Ink Publishing Co. www.bedazzledink.com – Slim Randles “Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide To Writing” (133 pages) Publisher: Rio Grande Books The title, by the author’s own admission, is a bit misleading…and not his idea. The cowboy part could mean the cowboy logic embedded in this volume. Simply….and realize this statement comes from a buyer of multitudinous writers’ guides and magazines…this is the best book on selling your writing I have ever read. Hands down, bar none, the best! If you’ve been stalled in marketing your writing, Slim Randels shovels the mystique out of the stalls for you. As both a seasoned writer and an editor on the other side of the curtain, Randels blows the lid off the secrets of getting it sold without agents. If you want to make money writing, you’ll never find a better guide than this little treasure. For the aspiring freelancer, this one is a must, must, must-have!! Book: $15.95 from Treasure House Books & Gifts, 2012 S. Plaza Street, NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104 or call (505) 242-7204. – Dick Warwick “Cowboy Poetry Plus (or minus)” Wonderfully literate and descriptive is this varied stew of words and ideas Dick Warwick calls “Heartland Poetry,” for it occasionally transcends standard subject lines of Cowboy Poetry. His wish is for them to be reviewed and maybe carried into ideological battles. There’s Warwick’s customary satirical humor in “What’s So Hard About Riding A Bull,” “A Perceived Affront” or “Pleasant Memories.” There’s ecological thinking in “The Disturbing Dream” or his plea for common sense “Common Ground.” “In These Times” provides an advisory on moving forward. “Who Was The First To Ride” offers ponderings on equine on-and-offerings. And, yes…I found one to carry onward. “We Need A Will” asserts that Will Rogers-style humor and insight would be more valuable than the irresponsible tendentious garbage spewed by most current broadcast talkers. Wow! He really can bring it out in you. Twenty four poems. CD: Available from Dick Warwick, PO Box 111, Oakesdale, WA 99158. WESTERN MUSIC REVIEWS Sid Hausman & Washtub Jerry “Blue Horizon” Through clever arrangements and a serious sense of fun, singer/ukulele swing artist Sid Hausman and the inimitable bass & rhythm uke man Washtub Jerry have produced another jewel! It’s a fresh mix of classics and original works (“Blue Horizon,” “Only In Texas” and “Continental Divide Waltz”). Joining Sid & Tub are the accomplished, all-purpose guitarist/uke player George Langston, renowned fiddler Ollie O’Shea, and Brigham Hausman on trombone with harmony vocals from Cathy Faber, Cappie Hausman and CD co-producer/engineer Blane Sloan. The effect is at once full and yet delicately vintage. Nicely diverse sources from B-Westerns (“Nighttime In Nevada” and “Grand Canyon Trail”) to Parisian (“Django’s Minor Swing”) to Andrews Sisters (“House of Blue Lights”) help make Feel Good the order of the day. So, order it! Today!! CD: $15 through www.cdbaby.com/cd/sidhausman where you can hear samples or add $3 s/h from Washtub Jerry, 9 lunar Circle, McDonald Observatory, TX 79734. Rich Price “Spirit of Yosemite” Truly superb production values including arrangements by Harold Bradley and infallible rich harmonies from former members of The Jordanaires (arranged by Michael Black) buoy-up longtime Yosemite cowboy troubadour/songwriter Richard Alan (“Rich”) Price on this album of Yosemite tribute originals. I use “buoy-up” as the project truly does float due to these elements. Occasionally the near-spoken tempo harmony delivers the complete lead line right along with the rangy-voiced Price, in effect becoming Vocal by Many-Headed Hydra, but providing a pitch reference. There is somewhat of a precedent in the big support sound that backed Walter Brennan on some chart recordings or John Wayne on his famous patriotic album. Of course they spoke and Price sings. Picks for the effect are the title track and “Sierra Rain,” both co-written with producer W. Harrison Tyner. Twelve tracks. CD: Available through HTi Music, LLC, 204 Bluebird Drive, Goodlettsville, TN 37072 or www.HTiMusic.com – The Panhandle Cowboys “Song & Verse By the Panhandle Cowboys” In their style ( if not always their subjects) what singer/guitarist “Farmer Dave” Fulfs and poet J.B. Barber do hearkens back to the earliest era of cowboy camp entertainment. Our Western genre embraces the primitive style, but examples of it should only be judged against others of like character. Fulfs is a pleasant balladeer and Barber is a good storytelling poet. The true rustic style demands a direct, unprocessed presentation. Here producer Bodie Dominguez opts for echo, coupling and tight compression that hinders that effect. The most successful tracks are the true Western subject matter pieces like “Songs On The Prairie,” the collaboration “Like On The Range” and poems “Luck Of The Draw,” “The Big Sale” and “Life’s Hard End.” Fifteen tracks. CD: $18 from the Panhandle Cowboys, 17566 Central Grade, Genesee, ID 83832 and also through cdbaby, iTunes & amazon.com – Old West Trio “What’s Left Of The West” Leslie Ide (vocals & upright bass), Steve Ide (vocals & rhythm guitar) and Steve Johnson (vocals, lead guitar and harmonica) make up the Old West Trio. Here is another of their highly enjoyable collections. It’s nice to see Mike Beck’s “Don’t Tell Me (That the West Is Really Gone)” and “Old California” make appearances! The Trio’s own compositions this time are “Figure At My Feet” (about shadow gazers who fancy their own reflections), “Wyatt Earp’s Revenge,” “A Death Valley Day,” “Blow Away” and “Just Like The Movies.” A good version of Gary McMahan’s classic “The Old Double Diamond,” Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron” and Ned Washington & Dimitri Tiompkin’s famous “Rawhide” rounds it out. Since enthusiasm is infectious, the Old West Trio is catching! Eleven tracks. CD: $10 US + $2 s/h by calling 530-642-2280, through www.oldwesttrio.com, and by download through cdbaby or iTunes – Larry Wilder “Songs Of The West” & “Heart Of The People” I have never experienced one artist releasing two double CDs simultaneously! Larry Wilder may hold a record. Well, four of them! Not all the songs feature yodeling, although he is a National Yodeling Champion. In his lower register Wilder is somewhat like a folksier Rex Allen, Jr. with a splash of Marvin O’Dell. “Songs Of The West” includes recordings from 1986 through 2014. These are nicely produced, predominantly acoustic tracks with fourteen strong musicians guesting. Five of his good original songs team with famous Western songs of all vintages and eras. Songs known for classic harmony receive it. “Heart of the People” features Folk, railroad songs and some originals and Western from all periods. Both sets are superb and between them offer sixty tracks! Highly recommended. CDs: Available through www.larrywildermusic.com or Larry Wilder Music, 2000 NE 42nd Street, Portland, OR 97213 Kirkham Music “Ghost Towns” The Kirkhams are part of South Dakota’s renowned Circle B Chuckwagon Show, so not surprisingly most of the tracks here are Western standards of the kind featured at the Chuckwagons of the West. “Back In The Saddle (Again),” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Cool Water,” “Tumbling Tumbleweeds and others are here and done properly. Of special interest are two originals that are cover-worthy by others. One nicely self-effacing song called “Real Cowboy?” has Allen Kirkham admitting his standing. The CD’s title track is also a Kirkham original, presenting Colorado’s monuments to dry shafts and played out dreams while equating them to what’s personally important. Joining vocalist Allen Kirkham and bass/harmonica player Jill Kirkham are Lee Patterson (accordion, mandolin & banjo); John De Hoyos (guitar) and former Flying W Wrangler Joe Stephenson (fiddle). Recommended! Eleven tracks. CD: $15 ppd through KirkhamMusic@msn.com or call 719-494-5162. Also at Circle B Chuckwagon shows. – KG & The Ranger “Moonlight Trails” One notable feature on albums from Harmony & Yodeling Champions KG & The Ranger is that they never let enhancements stray too far away from what you can expect to hear from them onstage. This tends to give their releases a relaxed and uniquely delicate quality. In a curious way it’s the charm of a music box. The wistful sensitivity is enhanced by the non-pushed nature of the vocals and some sweet fiddle work from Suzanne Lansford. It’s all done with polish, not with force. Also featured (and all grown-up from her earlier Sagebrush Chorale appearance) is the couple’s daughter Angela (vocals) and husband Tom Otte (bass). Picks include Doug Green’s “Lonely Yukon Stars,” Ranger Rick’s “Young Lean & Seventeen,” “When It’s Nighttime In Nevada” and Rex Allen’s “Arizona Waltz.” Fifteen tracks. CD: $18 ppd from KG & The Ranger, 2517 Waunona Way, Madison, WI 53713. Online www.kgandtheranger.com – John Bradley “Lonesome Highway” Here is one of those instances where I need to commend the artist and the musicians, mainly for rising above obvious budgetary constraints. Alaskan artist John Bradley has a very pleasant delivery. He recorded this CD while in New Mexico visiting family. It bears unfortunate marks of being done quickly. He’s assembled some pretty decent musicians to help as they can. He then fleshed out the package with three tracks from the 80s (featuring less-skilled performers) and failed to note that. Not fair to the new folks. And the order of songs listed is scrambled. Believe it or not, I’ll still list picks! “Lonesome Highway,” “I’ll Make It On My Own,” “Bitter Coffee” and classics “Colorado Trail” and “Windy Bill.” Hopefully he’ll have a real producer next go-round. CD: $15 ppd from John Bradley, PO Box 752, Willow, AK 99688-0752 or $8.95 download from amazon.com or iTunes for $9.95. Joe Walus “Old Friends” If you appreciate simple or pared-down production and a clear Cowboy message delivered in a pleasingly melodic manner, here is your album. Joe Walus is gifted with a smoothly expressive, mellow and resonant baritone-bass voice. His original lyrics resonate as well. I must admit to complete ignorance of his history, but either he is a songwriter of long practice, or he is a natural. Either way his words are cogent and nicely thought through. All twelve of these original songs are worthy, but I’ll name as pick tracks “Trail of The Kid,” “Old Friends,” “The Outlaw Trail,” “Ride Out On The Trail,” “Letters From The West” and the interesting other-side-of-the-saga song “Return To Laredo.” I believe you’ll find Joe Walus’s “Old Friends” is worth your gamble. Pick it up. $13 ppd through www.joewalus.com or from Joe Walus, 2665 County Road J, Abrams, WI 54101. Jean Prescott “Traditions” Jean Prescott’s newest release deals with traditions of Western life and legacy, but I’m posing another Western tradition for you. When Jean Prescott does it, it’s a keeper. Here she’s co-written with (or pulled poetic source material from) some of the absolute best, including Joyce Woodson (a great Texas swinger “Smack Dab” and “Legacy of Love”), three written with poet & pard Yvonne Hollenbeck (my favorite is “Branding Day”) and one each with poets Pat Richardson, Doris Daley and Debra Coppinger Hill. And we shouldn’t neglect two fine covers (Gary McMahan’s “My Husband & I” and Leon Autry’s “Grandpa’s Dream”). There’s a homespun feel in much of Prescott’s work, but you’ll find it always professionally executed. She’s been at this a good while, and students would do well to take notes. Twelve tracks. CD: $18 ppd from Prescott Music, PO Box 194, Ovalo, TX 79541, also through www.jeanprescott.com, cdbaby & iTunes – Jay Veach (self-titled) After performing for forty years, Jay Veach has issued his debut album! Rather than having all the bumps smoothed over, Veach‘s vocal style is approachably folksy. For most of us, that works just fine. Veach also proves himself to be a decent songwriter of Western (and Country) material that may well put in appearances on other artists releases. What prompted this album release was a request of one fan. Veach’s “There’s No Hyphen In America” prompted the inspired man to request a recording of it and, on completion, he purchased 1000 copies of the single!! Needless to say this collection features the aforementioned song. Western songs on the ten-track CD include “Adobe Casa,” “Dreams Of A Cowboy,” “Chasin’ Buckles” and “Shiloh.” CD: $15 ppd through emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, direct from Jay Veach, PO Box 1789, Burlingame, CA 94010. $10 download through cdbaby & iTunes (10% of proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project) – GT Hurley “War Horse” G.T. Hurley has become one of contemporary Western Music’s more prominent power tenors. This release is a solid Brenn Hill/Ryan Tilby co-production and, as Hurley puts it, musically it’s “full speed ahead and damn the torpedos!” The album bears the Hill/Tilby tactical stamp, i.e. some tracks up front possessing fuzz guitar and rock values to hook Hot Country airplay and frame the internal Western business. The “War Horse” of the title isn’t the one from the movie or stage play. Rather it’s a 1911 issue Colt 45. The Marshall Tucker Band’s defendable Western hit “Fire On The Mountain” is here for station PDs seeking safety in the covers. Other picks include “Sunrise & Sunsets” (a good chugging swinger) and Les Buffham & Hurley’s thoughtful collaboration “The Reminder.” Eleven tracks. CD: Download available through gthurley.com, cdbaby & iTunes or $15 ppd & autographed from GT Hurley, PO Box 1144, Big Timber, MT 59011.. – George Dickey “Mountain Cowboy” Stylistically George Dickey’s songs strike me as lining up closely with traditional repeating melody line songs like “Old Chisholm Trail” or the original of “Strawberry Roan.” It makes him a contemporary traditionalist in the true sense. Dickey’s distinctive big saga style baritone is reminiscent of the Folk school of Glenn Yarborough or The Brothers Four, where you sing the size or the outrage of the issue, whichever. Dickey is enhanced by the presence of multi-instrumentalist Dennis Mack (who backed the Sons of the San Joaquin) and fiddler Gabriel Ziessler. CD picks are “Ballad of G.W. Dickey” (about a real trail drivin’ ancestor), “The Journey,” “Snow On The Mountain” (co-written with Les Buffham) and “Old Grange Hall” (with key changes that could have been taken from the Johnny Cash playbook)! Twelve tracks. CD: $15 from George Dickey (call 559-687-0348), $11.88 through www.cdbaby.com/CD/GeorgeDickey. Dave Stamey with Annie Lydon “Live In Santa Ynez” For this album (recorded at Santa Ynez’s Ranch & Reata Roadhouse) Dave Stamey freed his often heard harmony support musician from the recording booth and let her shine before the crowd. Annie Lydon has provided vocal backing on most of Dave’s famous releases, so this collection of favorites and soon-to-be-favorites provides an excellent venue for her outing! Here are requested Stamey standards like “Sweet Grass County Line,” “All I Need Is You,” “Blackjack Was A Mule,” “The Circle,” “Tonopah,” “Spin That Pony,” “Come Ride With Me” and others plus newer ones “There Is An Echo,” “Mojave Moon” and “Sunrise.” Each is framed with Dave’s mix of hilarity and heart. Here is your proof of the legitimacy of his many awards. It doesn’t get better than Dave Stamey, and frankly there’s no need for it to! Thirteen tracks. CD: $15 + $3 s/h through www.davestamey.com Clint Bradley “Riding After Midnight” England’s Clint Bradley rides in with a wonderfully retro Western release! It’s a sound not often produced in this country any more: the BIG Cowboy effect of Stuart Hamblen, Frankie Laine and Marty Robbins. Bradley’s voice intones Dean Martin, Elvis and Marty Robbins, but there are hints that he may possess a greater octave range than any of them. He can drive as powerfully as Frankie Laine ever did. His CD of original songs and covers is done in loving tribute. Examples include “We Are Shane” and the Victor Young/Mack David ballad from that film “Call Of The Faraway Hills,” his own Marty Robbins paean “I Wish I’d Been There” and Marty’s “Man Walks Among Us.” This collection is going retail across a good span of Europe, and rest assured our Western genre is represented well by this “Great Brit!” Eleven tracks. CD: $12.95 through cdbaby with complete info at www.clintbradley.co.uk – Carolyn Martin “A Platter of Brownies”. Carolyn Martin and crew have drawn sixteen standards from the vast and varied Milton Brown repertoire, retaining the shape and vigor of the originals, but flavoring each treat with the current players’ condiments. Drawing on former associates from The Time Jumpers and others, Carolyn & Dave Martin provide true aural gratification! Milton Brown & His Musical Brownies were the true swingsteaders, sinking the first postholes and running the fence, staking out the terrain others farmed as “Western Swing.” Helping to prove it are these wonderful tracks, including “Right Or Wrong,” “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” “Four or Five Times,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and oodles more. With each release the Martins could qualify as Swing Artists Of The Year. They are, unarguably, among the best of the best. CD: $15 + $2 s/h from www.carolynmartinmusic.com or PO Box 274, Joelton, TN. 37080 and through cdbaby.com. Bill Ganz Western Band “Trail Ridin’ with The Bill Ganz Western Band” This tight Tucson showband should have delighted their patiently waiting fans with this one! Majestic, multi-tracked vocal harmony arrangements by band member Bill Ronstadt and some clever instrumental effects build on the band’s strengths and help move this project more than a cut above the norm. Picks include “Rock Me To Sleep In My Saddle,” “(The) Cattle Call,” Andy Parker’s all-but-neglected “Trail Dust,” Luke Reed & Roger Brown’s “Adobe Walls” and a fresh mounting of Ganz’s own “Smoke Of A Thousand Campfires.” In recent years Ganz & hands have been lauded for their work with the Tucson Symphony in bringing Western classics to new audiences. Still it’s nice to find them back in a comfortable combo setting, “heavenly choir” notwithstanding. Eleven tracks. CD: Available through www.ganzmusic.com or from Bill Ganz Music Services, LLC, 6641 N. Camino Abbey, Tucson, AZ 85718-2007. – Belinda Gail “Granite Mountain” For this release the superb Belinda Gail has teamed with master producer & instrumentalist Rich O’Brien, and the result is everything you’d think it would be! Throughout it’s a grand blend of melody and message. I have to admit the title track “Granite Mountain” reminds me melodically of her late performing partner Curly Musgrave’s “Cowboy True.” But then the collection moves on into other territory. Vocally she ranges from lyrically pretty (her show-stopping a cappella “Shenandoah”) to appropriately outraged, such as on Andy Wilkinson’s “White Women’s Clothes” and her own song of displacement “Along The Buffalo.” Two recorded premieres (Joyce Woodson’s “He Sang For Me” and Paul Harris’ “Back of the Bay”) and the Jesse Smith/Ken Nordin beauty “Dollar” are worth the price of admission on their own. The cover of this CD will surely take a graphics award for designer Steve Atkinson! Fourteen tracks. CD: Available through www.BelindaGailSings.com 12-2-2013 Steve Porter
The Gillette Brothers “Leaving Cheyenne” Guy & Pipp Gillette are prized as shining examples of the Real Deal. They are longtime favorites at many of the Cowboy gatherings that count, and they provide positive proof that “rustic” is not a synonym for “out of tune!” They are solid entertainers and minstrels of a vintage kind. Musically they ride the same range as Sourdough Slim (in their retrieval of all-but-lost gems). They straddle the fence between historical and Tin Pan Alley on this, their eighth release. Expert musical support is given by producer Chris Gage. Gage produces the recordings of Roy Clark and Jimmie Dale Gilmore and plays lead guitar with Texas legend Jerry Jeff Walker! Goodies like Stephen Foster’s little-known “Don’t Bet Your Money On The Shaghai” (1861), Loesser & Hollander’s “Boys In The Back Room (1939) and Wendall Hall’s “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More” are examples. Guy Gillette’s moving Cowboy adaptation of “Oceans Of Grass” is a high point, as is Waddie Mitchell’s Wrangler Award-winning “Trade Off” and a fascinating acapella performance of one the black cowboys sang “Ain’t No More Caine On The Brazos.” Eleven worthy tracks! CD: $15 or $9.99 download through www.cdbaby.com/cd/gillettebrothers COWBOY POETRY REVIEW 9-1-2013
4-15-2013 Bar D Roundup Volume 8
3-1-2013 – Sam Mattise “If Old Saddles Could Talk” Having encountered Sam Mattise’s poems in print with photographs, I can truthfully say, in my perhaps less than humble opinion, his words come off the best when you can hear him doin’ ‘em!! Mattise delivers his verse of the workaday world of the cowboy very convincingly. There is just the right sand in his voice to prove he has been in attendance and the right ratio of delivery to salesmanship without pushing our snouts in the trough. Underscoring the works are casually effective guitar licks that nicely enhance the proceedings. Sam Mattise is a performer who can really make his words breathe and move. Let him move you through pieces like “Is It Worth It,” “Long Canyon,” “If Old Saddles Could Talk” and “Contentment” and see where you wind up! Thirteen tracks total. CD: $9.95 (+ s/h) through www.sammattise.com (email email@example.com to inquire). Western Music Reviews 3-1-2013 Tumbleweed Rob & The Southwest Junction “A Fork In The Road” The Tumbling Tumbleweeds fairly burst into our Western Music consciousness a few years back and then they tumbled off in different directions. Now Tumbleweed Rob (Wolfskill) has tumbled back in with quite a different reinvention of himself! This new CD is certainly styled to allow different acoustic genre shows to find tracks to use. A wise move! Wolkskill has mixed original works with songs from “outside” sources. Bernie Taupin & Elton John’s songs “Dixie Lily” & “Roy Rogers” (yes they wrote one, and Wolfskill & company have the chance of making it more popular than its famous writer did)! Carole King’s “Home Again,” Joyce Woodson’s swingy “I Don’t Want To Be A Cowboy Any More” and Robert Lee Castleman’s “The Lucky One” shine brightly as well! Wolfskill has a very different vision and arrangement sense regarding his originals and it may take some aback a bit. But let’s give it time. I think he’s proven enough times he pretty much knows what he’s doing. Ten tracks total. CD: $15 + $4 s/h from Redwood Ranch Records, PO Box 1691, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352 or through www.tumbleweedrob.com. – Stuart Hamblen “Best Of ‘Birth Of A Song’” In an earlier review of a Hamblen re-release I wistfully mentioned the stories behind the songs that graced the original jacket of the vinyl record. They were missing on the notes of the CD. Looks like Hamblen’s grandson Bill Lindsay was just waiting to tease us!! Here in the master interpreter Stuart Hamblen’s inimitable style are tales behind the writing of (and then his performances of) “This Old House,” “It Is No Secret,” “Blue Bonnets,” “Big Wicked Bill” and four more. That sounds like not many tracks, but actually you get sixteen!! The elongated stories on the tracks between the songs are so thoroughly compelling they are well worth the price of admission on their own! This guy knew how to hold you captive like few have before or since. Spend some time with one of the most remarkable figures to ever grace the Western Music stage! You won’t regret a minute of it. CD: (cost depends on which of six online sources you buy through, but full details on CD purchases and downloads are available through www.stuarthamblenmusic.com) – Roger Ringer Song Of Wyoming (Revisited) This may be a first! An album is issued and withdrawn, reworked and then the reworking becomes a frank admission in the reissued CD’s title!! Since Roger Ringer has mentioned in his liner notes that I was consulted a bit, I will be equally frank in the review. Ringer’s delivery is more in control and melodic in his treatments of the title track “Song Of Wyoming” (which is quite nice) and “Darcy Farrow,” a song I make no pretense about liking. His take on it actually made me come close to enjoying the stupid thing, so I call that an accomplishment on its own!! Ringer also gives us respectable versions of “Cowboy Bill” and “Frank James’ Lament.” Original poems include “Golf Hunting,” “Day’s End” and “The Z Bar”. Two of the CD’s reworked tracks fare less well. John Denver’s “Whiskey Basin Blues” and particularly Glen Frey & Don Henley’s deceptively difficult “Desperado” are probably just not Ringer’s songs to do. Likely they should have been replaced. The project benefits from the production of Jim Farrell and musical support of the Diamond W Wranglers. Ten tracks total. CD: $15 + $3 s/h from Roger Ringer, 1374 NE Goldenrod, Medicine Lodge, KS 67104. – Richard Martin “Many A Mile” New Mexico cowboy & singer Richard Martin’s fourth collection of original songs once again showcases his and brother Glenn’s basic distinctive approach to song subject and somewhat unconventional construction. The CD benefits from the fact that Martin has pulled together some of the region’s top musicians for support. They include Wayne Shrubsall on banjo and Bob Goldstein on guitar with Ben Lucero on bass, Wayne Moore harmonies and standup bass and Edna Martin harmony & strings. Also on board again is Kurt Baumer on fiddle and CD co-producer Blane Sloan on harmonies, guitars, dobro and mandolin. Martin seems to like to be mixed back into the proceedings a bit deeper than some. His vocals are not in the forefront, but that’s a choice. Also you can usually find a quirky lyric or two on his albums. This one contains a few more than usual. The pick track may be “Festus,” a tribute to you-know-who. Everything old is new again, thanks to the Westerns Channel & TV Land! Twelve tracks total. CD: $15 + $1.50 s/h through www.richardmartinmusic.com. – Kristyn Harris “Let Me Ride” Now finally comes the proper showcase for one of Western Music’s brightest young talents. Now, not only in performance but in recorded performance, Kristyn Harris has arrived! This is due in no small part to the able producing talents of Rich O’Brien and Aarom Meador. The tracks are annotated in the liner notes and provide nicely danceable variety. Harris does a fine job on the classics such as Autry & Whitley’s “Let Me Ride Down Rocky Canyon,” the Fiorito/von Tilzer/McPherson standard “Roll Along Prairie Moon” and worthy lesser known songs as well. There are modern favorites like Chuck Pyle’s “Endless Sky” and originals that fare very well beside them all (“What A Horse Has Gotta Do” and the McBride/Dawson/Harris goodie “Yodel Western Swing”). It seems “Let Me Ride” is both an apt CD title and a personal request this time around, and with solid trail markers, they have let her do just that! It’s top drawer! Twelve tracks total. CD: $15 + $3 s/h from Kristyn Harris, PO Box 6807, McKinney, TX 75071. Online through www.kristynharris.com/generalstore. As an MP3 through www.cdbaby.com. – Allan Chapman “Western Folk (Songs From The Prairie)” Here’s another of singer/songwriter Allan Chapman’s intriguing collections of mostly original works. Some of the songs have been recorded before by Chapman and others (“Boxcars Of Juarez” and a lyrically expanded “These Cowboy Boots”), but now all are in wonderfully pared-down acoustic arrangements on vintage instruments with sweet touches of clarinet, harmonium, accordion, pennywhistle and more…and all are played by Chapman! If ever there were an example of “less is more”… For an education on what can be done to create a mood with your arranging, listen to the opening track “The King Of Texico” or the slide blues tune “Ruby.” How simple, yet how simply astounding they are!! Take the beautifully textured treatment behind the poem “Quanah’s Ghost.” And the two traditional pieces included “Stewball” and “Polly” sport traditional but nicely new treatments. The title is double-barreled. It’s Western Folk you’re hearing about Western folk. Unless I seriously miss my guess, you’ll want to hear it repeatedly. Twelve tracks total. CD: (for information contact the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org) – LeeLee & Friends “Western Stars” Lee (“LeeLee”) Robert brings to the Western genre a rich, deep voice with stylings that reveal jazz and ballad sensitivities. Providing an unusual effect for swing is a plucked rhythm guitar. Part of me yearns for the exuberant swing strum one customarily expects from that instrument, but calling on Goethe’s Points Of Criticism, “what is the artist trying to say?” Robert specifically says it’s Cowgirl Jazz. Generally jazz guitar is not strummed. In twelve tracks Robert makes believers out of us with fine versions of “My Adobe Hacienda,” “Sugar Moon,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Along The Navajo Trail” and more with some originals that include the lyrically enigmatic “The Heart Of South Dakota,” “Date Shakes,” “Moonglow” and “Walls With Doors.” And she closes with a “medley” of Dave Stamey’s “May The Trail Rise Up To Meet You” and a kiss of Dale Evans’ “Happy Trails.” It’s a nice collection that can be fully previewed on cdbaby. CD: $15 (or $9.99 MP3 download and $.99 for individual songs) through www.cdbaby.com/leeleefriends. – Miss Devon & The Outlaw “Where In The Dickens R U?” I listened to this one driving across southern New Mexico and it worked! I got across southern New Mexico, and the CD got across to me. There is always a sense of frisky fun that comes across in Devon Dawson’s performances, and in this newest partnering with “The Outlaw” (Jesse Del Robertson), none of that is lost and a new kind of spunk has arrived. I have to say I am not completely sold on the lyric concept of the CD’s title track, but the pair still sells it convincingly. And I should give kudos to them for coming so perilously close and yet assiduously avoiding the gas humor potential of “Pinto Beans!” Some of the newer tracks here include Mike Blakely’s “Mejor Que Nada,” CD producer Rich O’Brien’s “Winds Of The West” and originals “Dancin’ Dan” and “On The Mesa.” Of course doses of “Pistol Packin’ Mama” and “Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas” don’t detract! Eleven tracks total. CD: $15 +$3 s/h from Sharin’ The Moon Records, PO Box 1996, Fort Worth, TX 76101. – Ken & Jan Harms “Back In The Saddle (In Pagosa Springs Colorado)” Professional photographers and entertainers Ken & Jan Harms have put together a congenial mix of poetry and some custom takes on well-known songs. Their spins on Tom T. Hall’s “I Love” for example, or Ray Whitely’s “Back In The Saddle Again” or the Terry Stafford & Paul Fraser hit “Amarillo By Morning” are quite different from the norm. The latter title is dedicated to their pro rodeo champion son-in-law Forrest Bramwell. On the technical side some lightly applied atmospheric effects are welcome and effective, but less so is a synthesized keyboard string section that is employed occasionally. Budget-wise it likely couldn’t be helped, but there are more subtle shadings of synth-string that might have been used. All in all the release should still find favor with their fans. Eleven tracks with a “Happy Trails Music Box” as a twelfth. CD: $12.95 + $3.46 s/h through www.cdbaby.com. George McClure “Playboy Swing 2” George McClure refers to himself as “a desert original” and “a borderlands writer and showman.” In every context you would care to take those claims, I assure you this guy does not lie!! The purveyor of the eccentric swing novelty “I Made Love To An Alien Last Night” is back with the CD “Playboy Swing 2” (although there’s no sign of a “1” I can find)! And swing he certainly can and does (at least two times), overlaying his breathy baritone “Whispering Jack Smith” style of vocals. But know ye going in if he wants to switch to a bullfight march “Dia de los Muertos (The Matador),” or an eccentric poem or two, or change keys or modulate in every measure of the meandering dance instrumental “Mood Time,” he’ll do it. Even lay two versions of one song on the CD…twice…fine! That’s just ol’ George!! To be sure, George McClure is an acquired taste. One heck of a lot of people seem to have acquired it, though, so he’s doing something (they feel is) right!! CD: $15 + $4 s/h from George McClure, PO Box 148548, Nashville, TN 37214-8548. Al “Doc” Mehl “The Great Divide” Folks have come to realize and appreciate something about Doc Mehl. He is generally going to give you something out of the ordinary. He has done it here again. This collection of his “rhyming” (he is quick to point out) poetic efforts contains literate, thoughtfully put together works that can stand beside any in the Cowboy Poetry catalog. For my money there may be some honest-ta-gawd masterworks here! I say “The Bearded Buffalo” is one. “The Brand New Year” is another. And of course you get those curious Doc Mehl visions those in the know have come to count on in pieces like “Old Man Akers,” “Mouse” and “The Train Back To Ne’ Orleans.” At cdbaby you can give him a try, musically and poetically. Unless I miss my guess, a try is all it will take. Seventeen tracks total. CD: $18 ppd from Al Mehl, 9140 W. 107th Place, Westminster, CO 80021 or through www.docmehl.com or www.cdbaby.com/cd/almehl7. Judy James “Cowboy Jubilee” Originally only available on cassette, this release from 1995 was Judy James’ first recording. It is now available on CD for the first time, by popular demand. Favorable comparisons to Dale Evans’ “glory voice” of the 1940s can be drawn, though I am inclined to say if they had actually been Dale’s recordings, she would have needed to pitch them up a couple of keys! But the feel is definitely there. Ken Carson’s famous title track is given the royal treatment as are each of the standards here…favorites like “Zebra Dun,” “ Empty Saddles,” “Mariah,” “Jesse James,” “I’d Like To Be In Texas When They Round Up In The Spring” and more. Stan Jones’ “Lilies Grow High” and Stephanie Davis’ “Prairie Lullabye” are along for the ride too. It’s a fine collection, now able to be freshly appreciated. Eleven tracks total. CD: $15 + $3 from Judy James, P.O. Box 953, Weatherford, TX 76086 or through www.judyjames.com. ……….November 2012 Tom Angle “Tough Times” Tom Angle has cowboyed and ranched for many a year. He is currently settled in the small cowtown of Jordan Valley, Oregon, happily running his own custom saddlery shop and giving out with his own Cowboy Music and Cowboy Poetry whenever the opportunity presents itself. Angle’s CD is divided between musical offerings and poetic ones. For pick poems I’ll name “Winds Of March” and “Cook With The Bedroll Eyes.” From the songs I’ll pick “Winds Of March” and the title track “Tough Times,” but there are additional songs that are solid enough to be covered by other artists (particularly “Sittin’ On The Wind,” “Nevada” and “Cold Wyoming Wind”). Now for the technical portion, and you know that’s where I frequently have issues. In the notes Angle thanks his engineer for “making this album what it was supposed to be.” Hopefully Angle next works with someone who will make it what it truly CAN be! Here he has been mixed in a Westminster Cathedral sized reverb that occasionally even covers some of his words. Save that for the church choir. Let him stand on his own. Twelve tracks total. CD: $12.97 CD or $9.99 MP3 through www.cdbaby.com. The Time Jumpers (self-titled) The Time Jumpers’ name is slyly derived from these top Nashville session people being able to compensate for the rhythm and counting deficiencies of some of the “stars” they are called on to make look good! Each artist belongs to this group for the fun of it as the eleven members are all giants in their fields with successful individual careers. Their Monday night jams (formerly at the Station Inn, now moved to a larger space) are the stuff of legend. Members are Paul Franklin (steel guitar), Kenny Sears, Joe Franklin & Joe Spivey (fiddles), “Ranger Doug” Green (vocals & guitar), Billy Thomas (drums), Vince Gill (vocals & guitar), Dawn Sears (vocals), Dennis Crouch (acoustic bass), Jeff Taylor (accordion) and Andy Reiss (guitar). This self-titled debut album on the Rounder label could very possibly rank among the most cherished dance albums of all time! The Time Jumpers have no particular need to release frequently, so best get it now! You will then own some of the smoothest and sweetest Western Swing ever committed to disc and, needless to add, it is a must-have for fans of the genre. Twelve tracks total. CD: $9.99 through www.rounder.com (amazon.com) The Rifters “The Great River” Here’s one of those CDs that was late in catchin’ us, so we’re slowin’ down to let it hop aboard. It was released in 2011. The group called “The Rifters” is a hugely popular northern New Mexico acoustic dance band consisting of real life Cowboy and Cowboy singer Rod Taylor (vocals & guitars); Howlin’ Dog Studios’ amazing Don Richmond (vocals, a whole slew of guitars, banjo, mandolin, dobro, fiddle, bazouki, accordion, pedal steel, trumpet & snare) and…if there’s any space left to continue here…Jim Bradley (vocals, electric bass & string bass)!! Five additional artists are nicely utilized to finish fleshing out this wonderful CD, the band’s second. Six of the fourteen tracks are originals. As the liner notes inform us, the Rio Grande leaves in its “rift” (note the name “The Rifters”) much of New Mexico’s wealth of both particulates and culture, and the band works to leave such wealth as well. They’re succeeding. “The Great River” is a delight, lyrically and musically. Thirteen tracks total. CD: $15 through www.howlindogrecords.net. Book Review – The Autobiography Of Billy The Kid as told to Ralph Estes (Black Rose Writing) Since Ralph Estes is a Chatauqua performer who created the Western Music-integrated “Me & Billy,” and in acknowledgement that songs will likely continue to be written about The Kid, we offer this review as a potential source of inspiration. Plus, it’s a short book! The premise might arch an eyebrow…Billy The Kid survived the Pat Garrett ambush and, dying of cancer in 1951, he chooses to dictate his memoir into the recorder of a young historical writer Estes! But this book is copiously researched, sprung from the accounts of those who described Billy after personal contact and bits of The Kid’s correspondence we have. Before long you will find yourself listening to the credible voice and thoughts of Henry “Billy The Kid” McCarty! It’s a remarkable literary achievement, endorsed by the likes of John Nichols (“Milagro Beanfield War”) and renowned BTK collector/historian Paul Sutton. In 128 pages Estes gives you the narrative, a history of the Lincoln County War, historical sidebars, profiles of players and places, reproductions of pertinent documents, maps, photos and more. It’s a unique and worthy work, highly recommended and deserving of a place in your collection! Book: $14.95 through sales@blackrosewriting . Retail sites and stores include Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Amazon, Baker & Taylor, Books-A-Million, Kindle and others. Susie Knight “Leather Wings” Bigger than life and sure-as-shootin’ here’s Western Music belter Susie Knight back for another go! But there’s some honest-ta-gawd tender stuff in there too! And this time around I think the “tender” trumps the “thunder.” For my money the ballad “Fallen In Love” is the pick track of the album. Knight has a different and gently eccentric delivery of her material, both musically and poetically, whether she’s belting bigger than Merman (“Rodeo Chasin’ Girl” and on Duke Davis’ “Rodeer”) or pressing the pedal easy on the aforementioned “Fallen In Love.” Among the six poems included I would pick “Here To Remember” for its different perspective on Cowboy love. I have to say I felt a little control was lost in some of the broader interpretations this time. Mike Blakely and Larry Nye provide harmony and instrumental support along with the CD’s producer and arranger Duke Davis. Other players are fiddler Kurt Baumer and dobro/steel guy Kenny Grohman. Thirteen tracks total. CD: $15 ppd from Susie Knight, 7377 S. Brook Forest Rd., Evergreen, CO. 80439 or through www.susieknight.com . Royce Smithey “Just Plain Cowboy” Here’s a new CD from Royce Smithey, a congenial, downhome performer who I would label a “talk-singer” in the Ernest Tubb mold. Four of the songs are originals…three of them religious and the fourth with religious content. For my ear Smithey’s rangy kind of delivery works the best on the lightly rambunctious-toned tracks, such as his and Lanny Joe Burnett’s “Poet & Picker,” and I would name that one the album’s pick track among the originals. From the cover songs I’d say possibly it’s Donnie Blanz & Ed & Patsy Bruce’s “Can’t See Him From The Road.” Other supporting performers on the CD include Judy James (harmony vocals) and Brooke Wallace (fiddle & mandolin). Rich O’Brien handles the lead guitar duties on R. W. Hampton’s “Sunset Trail.” Being offered through cdbaby does afford prospective buyers the convenience and the opportunity to listen a bit in advance of their purchase. Ten tracks total. CD: $15 through www.cdbaby.com . Rick Pickren “State Songs Volume Three” Once again the erstwhile balladeer Rick Pickren tackles some of the tougher tunes to ever tangle the tongue! It’s Volume Three showcasing that treacherous thee-thy-thou laden, bounteous harvest flaying, glory unfurled world of our official State Songs!! Covered (well and respectfully, as always) this time are the songs of Alaska, New Hampshire, Maryland, Wyoming, Virginia, South Carolina, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Missouri and Wisconsin. He breaks the straight-faced sincerity only with the addition of a whoopee slide whistle to the “On, Wisconsin” march! But, hey! A guy needs a little R & R!! These albums are fascinating fun and a fine addition to the general library of Americana. The project is funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council. Rick tells us the final volume will be out in the spring, and the previous two modestly priced albums in the series remain in print. CD: $13.50 ppd to Big Strike Productions, 122 Ashland Ave., River Forest, IL 60305. Available through cdbaby, Amazon and itunes. Many Strings and Company “Rusty Old Horseshoes” Here’s the second release to come my way from these folks, and it provides even more positive proof that they really “get it!” Tony & Carol Messerly ladle on the fun in all-original novelty songs, ballads, rags and romps with highly creative acoustic arrangements that still maintain a thoroughly homespun vintage effect. The CD contains thirteen pristinely performed tracks that fairly crackle with inspiration from Many Strings’ Tony (banjitar, “juice” harp & vocals); Carol (vocals & bass) and “Company” man Ben Winship (mandolin & guitar). Get ready to take a cowboy’s trip through vegetarian “Boulder Colorado,” meet the “Beauty Of The Mountain” and be darned glad somebody else got there first, dine with a cocinero very scare-o in “Cockroach Stew” and discover many other wild rags and rides. It’s almost scary how much variety they get into what they do with what they do it…with…(?) Got it?!! Get it! You won’t regret a note of it! CD: $15 ppd from Tony Messerly, 570 Logan St., Green River, WY 82935 or through www.cdbaby.com where you can preview the tracks. John Bergstrom “Butterfield Stage” John Bergstrom is, by his own admission, a teacher. He seeks to provide some history lessons through his songs. Each recorded effort from Bergstrom has picked up steam, or maybe that’s the wrong analogy here! On his “Butterfield Stage” CD he is given particularly able support from Tom Corbett (mandolin), John Nelson (classical guitar & banjo), Gency Brown (vocal), Dave Jackson (bass & accordion), Eric Bergstrom (violin)…and there is a brief sample of his late father Al on accordion in “The Last Song” honoring his memory and near eighty year performing legacy! Other points of interest on the route include a new version of “Throw Down The Box” (which features newly discovered Black Bart information), “James Dolan” (covering another aspect of Billy The Kid’s saga), “Friends Forever” (for the Heads Up Therapy On Horseback program) and two traditional songs from The British Isles “The Fox” and “The Water Is Wide.” Just draw the curtains if the trail dust gets to ya and settle back for the ride! Thirteen tracks total. CD: $15 + $3 s/h through email@example.com or from John Bergstrom, 27676 Caraway Lane, Saugus, CA 91350. Jan Thomas “Let’s Sing A Lullaby With The Brave Cowboy” (Simon & Schuster) In this engaging “big” book for 3 to 5 year olds, writer and artist Jan Thomas takes us out to the lone prairie with a crew that’s guaranteed to make little ones giggle. It’s nighttime and that means time for the cowboy to sing to calm the herd. But what if it were up to the herd to do the calming instead?? Each time the cowboy starts to lull the bovines, with a giant “EEEEK!” he freaks…first at what he thinks is a spider, next a snake and then a bear. None of these pan out, so when a fourth shape menaces him he admits he woulda thought it’s a wolf if he hadn’t wised up. You guessed it. Good thing the wolf likes lullabyes! The bright cartoon artwork has a retro Rocky & Bullwinkle kind of feel and appeal. The concepts of a Cowboy singing to and working with cattle are planted, even if the “Cowboy Up” part isn’t!! It’s all good fun and reading it aloud might give parents a chance to act a bit. Book: $12.99 US ($14.99 CAN) is generally available in children’s book sections and an ebook edition with the book’s lullabye done by Doug Figgs & Mariam Funke (replete with EEEKS) is available. See KIDS.SimonandSchuster.com. George Ensle “Small Town Sundown” The new George Ensle (pronounced “Enzlee”) CD is subtitled “a movie in song” and, happily, he decided to shoot in some Western locales! In a convincing, expressive baritone Ensle delivers his heartfelt heartland lyrics. Specific Western songs in the group include “Grandma’s Apron & Grandpa’s Vest,” “Hired Hands,” “It’s A Texas Thing” and “Cowboy Church.” But other tracks such as “Faces In The Sun,” “Hill Country Moon” and “Give Me Flowers While I’m Livin’” certainly have the Western feel and sentiment. At times it’s almost like the songs are the stories from a small town paper…a young man has inherited part of Grandpa’s farm, but the other siblings want to sell out to a Big Box store, hurting the local family owned businesses. He meets a lady, wants to stay and the songs cover elements of the conflict, the people and the land in the journey toward the conclusion. The story is told only on the jacket, incidentally, and is supported by the music. Sixteen able musicians make it a nice, fully worked-out project in twelve tracks. Some of the music can be heard at www.smalltownsundown.com as well as www.cdbaby.com. CD: $14.97 CD or $10.99 MP3 through www.cdbaby.com/cd/georgeensle. Gene Culkin “Thereby Hangs A Tale” We lost one of the strong proponents and producers of Western Music when “The Tunesmith” Gene Culkin passed from us not long ago. But happily in his recorded output we can recapture his joy in performing and creating Cowboy Music. Many of the arrangements on this final album of Culkin’s are the showy vocal type employed by Western artists of the 50s and 60s. The style is heard on Rex Allen’s releases and those later ones from Stuart Hamblen. It’s a bigger than life effect with studio singers from the Anita Kerr mold, and with this album we may be seeing the passing of that style along with one of Western Music’s very good friends. Culkin entertained on cruise liners and clubs, but he was particularly active in Musical Industrial Shows done for corporations such as General Motors, Bell Telephone, ABC Broadcasting and Exxon. He put our music in front of new audiences and did it the way we would want it done. This release features eight Gene Culkin originals plus covers of “River Of No Return,” “Wagon Wheels,” El Dorado,” “Apache Rose” and Rodger Maxwell’s “Western Lullabye.” Able musical support here comes from the show band Wooden Nickel from the Pines Dinner Theatre in Allentown, PA. Thirteen tracks total. CD: $15 from Outwest Marketing, 24265 Main St., Newhall, CA 91321 or through www.scvoutwest.com. G.T. Hurley “Tough Horses” Vocally G.T. Hurley rides the trail somewhere near Marvin O’Dell and Wylie Gustafson, but this album was also done to showcase Hurley’s considerable songwriting skills. He is supported in that effort by such as Dave Stamey, Terri Taylor and Gary McMahan, so ‘care to bet he might be worth a listen? The only cover songs on the CD are from two of the aforementioned performers…McMahan’s “Big Enough” and Taylor’s “Born To Ride.” Some of the arrangements lean toward Wylie’s more rocky Country feel (which also helps encourage the comparison to Gustafson’s delivery), but most of the pieces presented here are acoustic Western in character. Personal picks include “Oh Montana,” “Montana Skies,” “One Less Horse,” “Granite Mountain Fire” and “He’s A Vaquero.” An interesting sidebar…Hurley currently hails from Big Timber, Montana. That was also the birthplace of Western Music Association Hall Of Fame member Hi Busse, founder of The Frontiersmen. Eleven tracks total. CD: $15.99 CD or $11.99 MP3 through itunes and www.gthurley.com. Ed Stabler “Fast Freight” Ed Stabler was one of the early mainstays of the Western Music Association. He has worked on his own and he also collaborated with Katy “10,000 Goddamn Cattle” Lee on a trailblazing project that set the works of Henry Herbert Knibbs and Badger Clark to music. A number of those notable songs still show up in Western artists’ repertoires today. But these days “Happy Trails” for Stabler is as much “Happy Rails!” At least I didn’t say he’s a writer of the rails or a singer in training! “Fast Freight” is a fine collection of not-as-often heard train songs from the likes of Carson “Carry Me Back To The Lone Prairie” Robison, Utah “Goodnight Loving Trail” Phillips and Terry “Cry Of The Wild Goose” Gilkyson. There’s a smattering of Western images in the album’s content and two songs that specifically qualify as Cowboy…’Haywire’ Mac MacClintock’s “The Trusty Lariat” (a.k.a. “The Cowboy Fireman”) and Kerry Grombacher’s “Harvey Girl.” The latter is done as a wonderfully effective H-Girl & Rancher duet by Stabler with Lorrie Newman Keating. Take a break from the cow horse and hop aboard the iron horse for a bit! Fourteen tracks total. CD: Likely $15 + $3 s/h (but info not furnished) from Topplerock Recordings, PO Box 1030, Mertzon, TX 76941-1030. Cowboy Poetry Review Deanna McCall “Riding” Deanna McCall is an able storyteller in verse. Her presentation is straightforward and non-acted. She states the title and does the piece. And she is among the Cowboy Poets who provide a positive example of the old adage “less is more.” Within the commonplace subjects on McCall’s CD entitled “Riding” you still get uncommon takes and perspectives. You get the feeling you are on solid cowboy turf. Particularly memorable and haunting for me is a poem called “Death At Cornudas.” Another of my favorites, because of its nice O Henry turnabout conclusion, is “The Hired Hand,” but each of the pieces has its place and point. These are short works making for a relatively brief visit with their creator, but I am prone to say of such albums they get in, they get done and they get goin.’ Deanna McCall would be one of the poets I could recommend to neophytes curious about the genre. But I’ll recommend her to you too!! Thirteen poems total. CD: $15 ppd from Deanna McCall, PO BOX 376, Timberon, NM 88350-0376. CowboyPoetry Review …………… David Carlton “Poetry Of A Florida Cowboy” David Carlton is a 7th generation Florida “cowhunter,” as cowboys are known down there. He actively worked it in his youth, and even now from his home in the dry Texas flatlands he still recalls it well. A good deal of Florida Cracker (from whip use) culture and cowhunter history is presented here, mostly in the introductions which precede each poem. Much of the material is drawn directly from Carlton’s life experiences. Some of the fresher Cowboy views are to be found in the Florida-based poems like “Mosquitos” or “Everglades.” The universal Cowboy job is clear in a piece like “Dust Covered Rider” and in heartfelt works like “The Dash” or “If Only Walls Could Talk.” For those familiar with the Cowboy Poetry genre, his subjects and means of expressing them may not appear daringly, glaringly different…but his unassuming works are frank expressions of the feel, the work and the life. A technical note: working with a publisher who proofreads might have filtered out some consistent misspellings or usages that likely weren’t included here simply for the cowboy talkin’ effect… Book: $23.99 hardcover or $14.95 softcover through www.authorhouse.com. Country Night Live “Words You Can Understand” Ah, that great eau de stale beer! Finger the chicken wire! Folks, you are in Texas dance hall country! And here’s one of those groups that can make you want to sashay all night…even if you can’t dance! The enthusiasm is infectious from these top Texas Swing beat boys. They rotate vocal chores and the song tempos are laid out in just the right fast-to-medium-to-slow ratio. Country Night Live consists of Buddie Hrabal (vocals & steel); Billy Martin (vocals, harmony & bass); Danny Adams (drum); Reggie Reuter (fiddle); Chuck Cusimano (vocals, harmony & guitar) and Chip Bricker (acoustic rhythm guitar & piano). If I’ve misspelled some names, ‘sorry. The jewel case card print is blurred. But it’s called “Words You Can Understand,” not “Words You Can Read!!” Hit the floor, dancers! You won’t hear this Bob-Willsy sort of stuff done any better anywhere! Twelve tracks total. CD: $20 ppd from Cusimusico, 1608 Ross Lane, Springtown, TX 76082 or contact Chuck Cusimano at 1-817-680-6609. Carolyn Martin “Tennessee Local” Carolyn Martin is one of contemporary Western Swing’s bigger draws, and her recorded product is always…always…spot-on perfection. In “Tennessee Local” she once again ranges from Swing to Pop Jazz to Boogie to Ballad and blows the lid off of each with musicians that are her equal, led by hubby Dave Martin. From her great originals “Swing On” and “Talk To Me” through classics of the chosen genres like “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Beat Me Daddy 8 To The Bar,” “You’re From Texas” and others, Martin and company handle things with unarguable command. Two other original songs from players on the project are also worthy of praise…Nora Jane Struthers’ “Cowgirl Yodel” and Chris Scruggs’ “Change Your Made-Up Mind.” If the so-called “bar” is set by artists like these, a pack of Western Swingers have some serious stretching to do to jump it! Fourteen tracks total. CD: $15 + $2.50 s/h (check or money order) from Carolyn Martin, PO Box 274, Joelton, TN 37080 or through www.carolynmartinmusic.com, www.cdbaby.com, www.amazon.com and individual tracks through itunes. Carol Markstrom “Vision Across The Range” While they are often more complex than your standard Western material, Carol Markstrom’s original songs (largely based on the Indian side of the Western story) are generally and lyrically compelling. She comes at what she does from the standpoint of the writer/historian who sets facts to music for a new audience. Sources for the songs are revealed in the liner notes. Markstrom’s delivery is direct and without pretense. There are also two nice cover versions (Patsy Montana & Lee Penny’s “Old Nevada Moon” and, from the film Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”). One of her own songs “Peace & Love” is a fresh blend of a star-crossed 60’s cowboy hitched to a hippie girl, and one of the CD’s pick songs “Tucson Twilight” is a beautiful, Navajo-inspired work. “Jeffords’ Secret” is a new take on the Indian Agent Tom Jeffords final relationship with Cochise. This debut album is a pleasant entry and it will be interesting to see what follows. Eleven tracks total. CD: $15 + $3 s/h through www.carolmarkstrommusic.com or www.cdbaby.com. Buffalo Bill (Boycott) “Wyoming Cowboy Far From Home” Bill Boycott is a former New Christy Minstrel (among other things) and as “Buffalo Bill” he has been gathering speed in the Western way! Two of the tracks on this release have a specific personal connection for Boycott. One of them is the CD’s title track which was written for his son, now safely back from deployment into two war zones. This marks the first album appearance of his singing partner Dr. Jo “The Flower Of The Prairie” (a.k.a. Joanne Orr). Bill & Dr. Jo won the 2011 WMA Harmony Duo contest with “Cowboy Lullabye” which is included here. Other vocal and harmony work is provided by Clarence Treat (another former Minstrel), Kathy Kuhlin and Oakley Boycott. The album is folk-influenced and features several straight out folk tracks with Western content. Technically there is noticeable room-ring at times, suggesting a home set-up with mics a bit far from the vocalists, but their fans should still be satisfied. Thirteen tracks total. CD: $12.97 CD or $9.99 MP3 through www.cdbaby.com. * * *August 2012 – Les Buffham & Friends “Writes & Co-Writes Volume III” Here is the third wonderful collection from the prolific Mr. Buffham and his cohorts! For those not in the know, Les is a Cowboy Poet extraordinare who gets with top Western singer/songwriters and collaborates and collaborates and collaborates!! We’re all the richer for it, and more on that in a minute here… Songs from him and his co-writers in performance this time include Devon Dawson (“West Of Santa Rosa”), Trails & Rails (w/Walt Richards “Train Back To Texas”), Suzy Killman (w/Sally Harper Bates “Simple Sound Of Rain”), Richard Elloyan (w/Juni Fisher “Three Days & Forty Fires”), Hank Cramer (“Irish Cowboy’s Lament”), Patty Clayton (“Wanda Walker”), Jon Messenger (“Jornada del Muerto”), Prickly Pair (w/Les & Locke Hamilton “Fiddler’s Legacy”), Marvin & Austin O’Dell (“Trail Of Dreams”), Mary Kaye (“No Wilder Place”), Chuck Cusimano (“Man In The Moon”) and Dave Stamey (“We Rode Away”). Through these assembled collections we may well be witnessing the building of this generation’s Western Music Catalog of Record here, and I intend to defend that assertion in print very soon. Get in on the action! CD: $15 ppd through www.lesbuffham.com, www.cdbaby, www.amazon.com or order toll free by calling 1-866-240-1233. – Tallgrass Express String Band “Clean Curve Of Hill Against Sky” Subtitled “Songs Of The Kansas Flint Hills,” this wonderful Western Music release features all-acoustic renderings with a Bluegrass/Folk feel and very rich harmony work. At the time of the release (back a little ways but it’s just catching up to us) the group consisted of Annie Wilson (vocals & guitar); Charlie Laughridge (vocals, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica & concertina); Loren Ratzloff (vocals, banjo, mandolin & dobro) and Carl Reed (vocals, bass, guitar). This CD was the band’s first all-original music effort and features a booklet that is particularly striking in layout, photography and annotation. When budget allows, this is the ideal way to present yourself as an artist…especially as an introduction! In this case it certainly helps that the sparkling, top notch performances match it. Now here’s a word about lead vocalist Annie Wilson’s songwriting. Material that describes the rocks, rills and hills of a place can easily turn pedantic or clumsy. Not so here! Wilson adroitly marries the lyrical with the physical and sends them off to honeymoon in the historical. She should conduct workshops! This is superior throughout. You won’t regret getting it. 16 tracks total. CD: $14.99 plus $3.46 s/h through www.cdbaby.com/cd/tesb with downloads $9.99 for the album or $.89 ea for individual songs. Sam Mattise & Michael Luque “Cowboy Dreamin’ – Sunrise To Sunset” To me this collection contains more fully developed and artfully realized Mattise works than ever. Some of the poems here were in Sam Mattise & (photographer) Michael Luque’s preceding volume of poetic thoughts and photographic images. Mattise uses the surprise payoff technique in a number of his verses. Concerning them one style suggestion I would make is to abandon the occasional use of all-capital letters for revealing the point or punch of the piece. Not needed. Mattise handles the heart-tug stuff well, and effectively brings home the goods in poems like “Take Care Of My Boys” or “Someone’s Old Friend” and reflective pieces like “Old Memories.” There’s also a section dedicated to veterans and the active military. It says on the cover of the oversize book that Mattise is a “poet, musician, horse trainer, cowboy biologist and wild horse manager!” If that doesn’t give you some kind of cowboy insight, there’s simply no hope! Sixty-two poems on 101 pages. Book: $16.95 US ($18.95 CAN) from Sam Mattise, 8807 Esterbrook Pl., Boise, ID 83714. – Mag Mawhinney (& Others) “Western Spirit” One of the marks of true art is when it inspires others to make art of their own. This collection says “Mag Mawhinney is an artist.” The mounting of book and music CD provides a nicely contextual product. You get a chance to see and find what others have, and then hear for yourself what they have done with it. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find something others have rushed past. Mag Mawhinney can present you with a simple idea and make it stick with you for months, perhaps years. She did it to me with “The Horse Auction.” Doggone it, Mag!!! Here are the Canadian & American artists on the CD who had Mag “stick” with them: Kathie Arnold (“8 Second Memories”); Almeda Bradshaw (“Western Spirit”); Alan Cayn (“Crazy World”); Stephen Harrington (“The Homestead My Grandpa Used To Own,” “I Dream Of Riding Fast Horses” & “Land Of The Navajo”); Larry Krause (“You’re Still There”); Al Owchar (“Foothills In Alberta,” “Hoof Prints In The Snow” & “Re-Ridin’”); Jim Peace (“Out Where The Bald Eagles Fly”) and Abe Zacharias (“Grandpa’s Spurs” & “A Cowboy’s Romance”). Quite a collection!! Book & Music CD: $30 Canadian funds (US purchasers need to research the conversion) through www.magmawhinney.com or by check from Mag Mawhinney, 835 Chapman Rd., Cobble Hill, BC V0R 1L4 Canada. Janice Deardorff “Just A Horse” Singer/songwriter Janice Deardorff has a different kind of vocal presentation than is generally found in Western. I’d say she could be called as unique to her genre as Maria Muldaur was to hers or Phoebe Snow to hers. In other words, it’s simply a new effect for us. Ten of the songs are originals. The remaining two are Dave Stamey’s “Come Ride With Me” and “Cowboy Blessing” from Les Buffham & Michael Fleming. The subject of the CD is mostly the needs, thoughts, gifts, predicaments and trials of horses…notably rescued animals. Depending on her mood and mode, Deardorff’s voice is blues-toned at times, occasionally lyrical and Folkish and at other times straight and projected with no vibrato. In the song content, as was alluded to earlier, her subject perspective doesn’t vary as much as her delivery of it does…but that’s pretty much the point of the exercise. Equines are cool and abusing them is not. Picks include “Just A Horse” and “Hoofprints On My Heart.” Oh yes…there’s a song about wranglers and tattoos. But that’s another story… CD: $15 ppd through www.cdbaby.com or from Janice Deardorff, 7155 E. Luana Pl., Tucson, AZ 85710. James Michael “Beyond The Divide” James Michael is possessed of a smooth and powerfully expressive voice, easily in the realm of Marty Robbins, and the performing and production skills of Jeannie Cahill and Jerome Campbell definitely push this CD across the perfection line! Call me a late bloomer, but I was not aware of what the WMA’s own president of the Youth Chapter could do! In the rush of helping with the November Awards Show & Showcase in Albuquerque, I had never managed to catch one of James’ showcases. This release is an eye and ear opener in a number of regards. I also never realized that Lennon & McCartney’s “Rocky Raccoon” was a Western ditty! It’s just part of the freshness of the song selection here. Six superior originals from the enigmatic “Mike Hosea” (‘zat you in there, James?) shine in the collection as well as great takes of Jon Messenger’s stirring “Old Peloncillos,” Les Buffham & Mike Ley’s “Hour Before Dawn” and others. Don’t miss making the discovery of James Michael (assuming some others are as slow as me)! CD: $17.50 ppd through www.jamesmichaelmusic.com , www.cdbaby.com or from James Michael, 4980 Baylor Canyon Rd., Las Cruces, NM 88011. J Parson “The Outlaw Trail” J Parson delivers another strong release with expressive, solid vocals and literate (if dour) songwriting! Here we find grimly fateful saga songs like “Bourbon County,” “The Outlaw Trail” and, in its own way, “Song Of The Last Real Cowboy!” There’s a nice Western slow dance song “In Care Of The Old Blue Moon.” There are two fine horse tributes (“Old Bay” and the Cowboy conditions for earthly departure set down in “I Ain’t Leavin’ Without My Horse” satisfy nicely). Another of J Parson’s talents is taking ownership of cover songs rather than just rendering them. It’s not the easiest thing to do…to make them your own without carting them off to territory outside of their familiar and popular contexts. On this CD “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” “Big Iron,” “Sonora’s Death Row” and Pancho & Lefty” are comfortable and his! J Parson is one of our best and this is one of his best. ‘Enough of a hint? CD: $17.50 ppd through www.jparson.com or from J Parson, 360 Renfro Road, Bakersfield, CA 93314. Ian Tyson “Raven Singer” Ian is jokingly referring to himself in the title, but he has obviously come to grips with his new voice and, on one track in particular, he may have taken up residence with it down Rod Stewart’s road! “Saddle Bronc Girl,” the single pre-released from the CD, at times evokes a bit of the Stewart “thing,” but Ian Tyson is no copy of anyone. He’s found a practical way to use the voice, created material to fit and it works perfectly with the contemporary mountings prevalent in this mix of new and newly recorded material. Songs premiering include the aforementioned “Saddle Bronc Girl” and the nicely mysterious “Winterkill.” Old Eon favorites in new garb include “The Circle Is Through” and “Charles Goodnight’s Grave” (Southwesterners may wince a bit at his pronunciation of “Llano”). Songs that are likely new to some listeners are the musically autobiographical “Blueberry Susan,” “Back To Baja” and “Under African Skies.” Remaining songs on the album are “Rio Colorado” and “Song In A Dream.” It’s nice to have Ian back with us any time he elects to pass through. The CD features nine vocals and one instrumental track (The Yellow Dress”). CD: $18 through www.hitchingpostsupply.com. Doug Figgs “All Because Of You” Here’s a real-deal singing/songwriting contemporary rancher and paint pony breeder who prefers to use contemporary instrumentation and arrangements to convey his Cowboy messages. And if you use it this well, who’s to say a cowboy shouldn’t?!! For those who warmed to Doug Figgs’ last CD…rich in Country classics with some Western content…we have news. This time Western tracks outnumber Country and the quality remains high! There are two appreciation songs (“Old New Mexico” and “I’m Still From Arizona”) in keeping with those states’ 2012 Centennials. Figgs’ personal experience plays a big part in the creation of originals like “It’s All About The Horses” and “N Bar.” “All Because Of You” is Doug’s song for wife Cathy who is responsible for the CD’s fine photographic images. You’ll also find five great co-writes with Doug’s extraordinary (deep breath) producer-engineer-multi-instrumentalist-singer friend Mariam Funke, whose contributions take this project to the top rung. Also adding to the effect are Mary Templeton (flute) and Jaymie Williams, co-lead vocal on one of the CD’s best tracks “Dancing With Matilda.” Here’s an artist and a project that deserve your attention. 12 tracks total. CD: $15 through www.dougfiggs.com or from Doug Figgs, PO Box 3, Lemitar, NM 87823. Doris Daley & Bruce Innis “One Hundred Years Of Thunder” This album honors the centennial of The Calgary Stampede, billed as the world’s biggest outdoor show. This is a full immersion proposition verging on full body contact! Doris Daley’s poems work well, in a way acting as a nostalgic set up and narration for the proceedings. Ten terrific songs from the internationally acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Innes are interspersed, including one of my personal favorites. I first heard “Hold It On The Road” on a Brenn Hill CD about ten years back and subsequently had Jim Jones do it on a 2003 CD of his. Listen to the recordings while reading the booklet containing historical essays from Wendy Bryden as you revel in Neville Palmer’s “photographic art.” Follow these steps and then don’t be surprised if you seem to experience actual dust from the action drift up toward you! It’s a well thought out tribute and one that certainly tells people who haven’t experienced the Stampede a bit about what they’ve missed and why they shouldn’t have! CD w/companion booklet: $25 through www.100yearsofthunder