Feeds:
Posts
Comments

An incredible ASL this month!  Jon (Dawson and the Jon Chandler Band) and Timothy P. Irvin (Timothy P. and Rural Route Three) were regularly featured at many of Denver’s legendary nightclubs, and they’ve put together a honky-tonk/western swing/rockabilly who’s who to recreate some of those fine times.  Dubbed Little TimmyJon & the Can’t Hardly Playboys, the band includes Ernie Martinez, Johnny Neill, Dana Vernon, Chris Stongle, Butch Hause, Kit Simon and some special guests.  ASL – Tuesday, July 19 @ 7:30…the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor in Arvada.  This will be a great ASL…don’t miss it.  The attached pdf file has all the info.  Hope to see you at the Pickin’ Parlor.

Thoughts on Kansas

Carl Sandburg dubbed Chicago the City of Big Shoulders.  Perhaps back then, when the growing cities of the Great Lakes and East Coast bustled with what can only be termed a uniquely American sense of promise, but I think not now.  It’s a mega-city of whatever northern and northeastern urban America has become; its soul (with minor distinctions) long-since melded with Philadelphia, Detroit and even the Big Apple.  No, such a heroic designation today should and likely would be bestowed by the great poet on what songwriter Michael McGuinness calls the middle of the middle west…Kansas.  The Land of Big Shoulders, surely.  Broad, flat, muscular, strong, vast, it’s a place where the concept of the land is omnipresent.  Even its urban areas are mere minutes from the fields, swales, gentle hills, creeks and rivers that combine to create much of the world’s finest farmland. 

Kansans think big.  Make that wide.  A 70-mile jaunt to dinner and a movie is unexceptional.  Farms seem limitless and ranches extend forever.  No mountains, no oceans, no 300 day-a-year moderate climate, it is instead a place where the horizons force you to look outward, a place where you don’t climb the ladder, you walk the line.  It’s a marvelous state to both ponder and realize life’s possibilities. 

Its history is fascinating.  Home to the Osage, Pawnee, Comanche, and Kansa, pivotal to the formation of today’s United States as a battleground between Union and Confederate philosophies, invaluable to the formation of the country’s livestock and rail industries, and, from my perspective, home to what have become romantic notions of the American Frontier.  Dodge City, Coffeyville, Wichita, Abilene, Fort Hayes, ad infinitum.  The Earps, the Mastersons, Doc Holliday, Wild Bill, the Daltons, Wes Hardin, ad infinitum. Kansas sends shivers down the Wild West aficionado’s spine. 

Politically, it leans right, but with the strong streak of populism found wherever people grow things.  It gave us both Bob Dole and Kathleen Sebelius, which tells us either everything or nothing.  Several of my Kansas friends and acquaintances (particularly the educators and entertainers) are hidebound liberals, and some (particularly the landsmen and merchants) are equally conservative.  They’re all Kansans…proud to be Jayhawks and Wildcats, and proud of the unique place they and their cousins, the Nebraskans, hold in America’s soul.  

Pat and I drove through Kansas in late February in the midst of a 300 mile-long storm of frozen rain and snow to attend a memorial service for my friend Dick Wellman.  (In fact, it’s 75 degrees outside on a late June morning as I write this, yet I’m cold as a St. Vrain trout just thinking about that winter sojourn across Kansas.) Even while concentrating on the road in horrible conditions, I could still feel the lure of the place.  Pat thinks it’s our age.  As a teenager, she couldn’t wait to get off the farm and out of small town Nebraska.  As an adult, there have been a thousand times she’d have given anything to go back.  Circumstance always prevented it, but I’ve always been lured by the rural Midwest, as well. 

Driving west to east across I-70 in a storm is pretty intimidating.  You try to take your place in line behind a semi…far enough back to be able to see, and hope the trucker can see, as well.  Idiots abound, and take to the left lane as if it’s a spring day in Guadalajara.  Infrequently, they’re seen stuck in the median, standing outside their overturned vehicles staring into the distance, or even at the next town’s diner, their steering wheel-molded hands clasping a hot cup’a joe.  Through the mist and the clouds, the churches of Kansas stand tall against the weather, and the height of the omnipresent grain elevators is rivaled only by the magnificent church steeples. Catholic, Methodist, Mennonite, Baptist.  Kansans take their faith seriously, and being a Kansas preacher is, by all accounts, a pretty good job.  And no, 99.999 percent of Kansans don’t have any love for the Westboro Baptist Church, either.  (Of course, it’s not really a Baptist church, having no affiliation other than appropriating the name.)  It’s a festering boil that’s only tolerated because Midwesterners actually understand the concept of free speech.     

We stayed in Hutchinson, Kansas the night before Dick’s funeral.  (Kansans call the place Hutch.) Our trip had taken about double its estimated time, and my pals from the Hole in the Wall Gang were in even worse shape, having left later, thus encountering the storm’s full wrath.  The Brunetti clan – Tony, Denise, John and Anthony – caravanned with Greg, Dale, Pineapple and Monty on the twelve hour crawl from Denver.  What’s more, they had to return the next day after the service.  (It’s the way western folks do things.  “If I don’t sleep and drive a few extra hours, I’ll get home in time to tan that buffalo hide or teach that new mustang how to count to ten.”)   We all hooked up the next morning in nearby Sterling, Kansas at a brunch/lunch put on by the American Legion in honor of Dick, and met a lot of people we knew, and a lot of people we’d heard about.  We also picked up a great recipe for baked pork chops. 

Dick’s children were charming, as we knew they’d be.  Of course, Brad’s already one of us, since he’s in the Hole in the Wall Gang, and it was a great pleasure – make that an honor –  to meet Greg, Alan, and Emily.  I already felt as if I’d known them for ages, just from talking with their father.  Since Dick’s death a few weeks earlier, I’d corresponded with Alan and Emily at length, as well as with Tricia Bridgess, a marvelous e-conversationalist. Alan’s wife Lora Lee is lovely, and seemed to take Dick’s death especially hard.  She, like her husband, is a fantastic musician, and it must have been tough for her to take up the piano duties at the funeral.  Some time after Emily, Greg, Alan and Brad’s mother Myrtle passed away, Dick remarried JoAnne, and it was a substantial pleasure to meet her children, as well.  Pat and I got to know JoAnne fairly well before she unfortunately succumbed to cancer, and it was moving to see how much they loved and respected Dick.

Dick’s service was both humbling and moving.  It was held on what would have been his 90th birthday.  Despite the weather, just about everyone came.  The Methodist church in Sterling was packed to overflowing, and the pastor gave a fine treatise on the meaning of Dick’s life.  All too quickly…it was over.  In no time, it seemed we were at the frigid cemetery, where Dick’s remains were interred next to those of Myrtle.  An old friend of his whose name I’ve misplaced read a resolution in memory of Dick adopted by the Kansas State Legislature.   It noted his life as an exemplary Kansan, a warrior, farmer, rancher, father, husband, and adventurer.  It was, and is, a true family treasure. 

Following the service, Pat and I headed back to Hutchinson to spend time with Race and Marnie Proffitt.  Race’s mother Marse had been Dick’s friend and companion for a few years, and we’d gotten to know all three of them at Gang functions in Denver.  Race and Marnie had recently moved from Denver to Hutchinson, landing in a spectacular home that boasts stunning architecture and a pet chicken in the backyard.  Their dog and the chicken get along famously, and they don’t have to buy many eggs these days.  Race’s brother and sister-in-law joined us for cocktails before taking back off for Coffeyville.  Later that evening, we had a fine time as the Proffitt’s guests at the Prairie Dunes Country Club, and they had us about halfway convinced to go home, pack a trailer and move to Hutch.

The trip home was uneventful, but pretty somber.  Pat and I talked for hours about Dick and his world.  About the people that surrounded him, and how lucky we were to have become part of that circle.  My admiration of the Midwest was renewed, and I had the feeling that as long as there’s a Kansas, we Americans are in pretty good shape.

 

An exceptional America’s Soul Live is planned for Tuesday, June 21.  Bay Area favorites The Mild Colonial Boys join Jon and the boys for an incredible evening of original Americana and Celtic music.  The Mild Colonial Boys are John Caulfield, Rory McNamara, Fergus Feely, and Kyle Alden, each in their own right respected musicians and songwriters in America and Europe.  Together, their harmonies and musicianship are singular, indeed.  Plan to be at what will surely be one of the very best editions of America’s Soul Live on Tuesday, June 21….Hope to see you there.  All the info’s on the attached pdf file.  Remember:  Reservations are suggested.

If you’re in or near Colorado, there are a lot of things going on in the next few days….

 1.  Barbed Wire Books in Longmont, CO is hosting an incredible group of authors on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.  Thirty authors will be at Barbed Wire to meet, greet, talk about their work and, of course sign books.  I’ve performed at the store before, and it’s a wonderful facility.  Drop by and say “hey.”  Barbed Wire is at 504 Main Street in Longmont.  303-827-3620.   Since I’ll be hanging around for five hours with some amazing authors, at least drop by and bring me a cookie. 

 2. Tuesday’s America’s Soul Live will be one of our very best.  Gary McMahan is the quintessential cowboy poet/singer/songwriter and his pard Mike Hurwitz is a virtual “diversity program” of Americana styles.  Ernie, Johnny & Jeff will join us and Toby the Dog promises to refrain from unacceptable activities.  Call Kit at the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor for reservations…303-421-2304.

3.  I’ll be joining just about every cool artist in Denver on Thursday, May 19th at Red & Jerry’s in Sheridan, CO  (Hampden & Santa Fe) for an amazing benefit for Aaron & Katherine Lamana Banks.  This young couple suffered serious injuries in an automobile accident, and this benefit will help them face the enormous financial cost of their recoveries.  Timothy P. Irvin is putting this shee-bang together, and the line-up is pretty impressive…(besides me, I guess.).  Timothy P. Irvin (Timothy P. & Rural Route III, Flash Cadillac), Chris Daniels (Chris Daniels & the Kings), John Magnie (the Subdudes), string wizard Ernie Martinez (every band in the continental U.S.) , The 17th Avenue All-Stars, Jim & Salli Ratts with Butch Hause (Runaway Express), Chris Stongle (every great band in Denver, including Chris Daniels and the Kings and the Hazel Miller Band), Denver’s fiddler of choice Johnny Neill, Jeff Graves (Ouzo Project, Jon Chandler & the Wichitones), Dana Vernon (a million bands, and one of America’s finest guitarists) & many more…..6 to 9 p.m….303-789-2913. 

4. Saturday, May 21…THORNTONFEST!   I get to play my home town, Thornton, CO, during the day, no less.  Ernie, Jeff and I will be on the Marketplace Stage at Thorntonfest from noon to 1 for this great outdoors festival.  Grab a little lunch, come on by and soak in the sun…plus, if you didn’t bring me a cookie at Barbed Wire Books, bring one (or three) to us at Thorntonfest.  108th and Colorado Blvd.  Get the whole scoop right here.  http://www.cityofthornton.net/festivals/thorntonfest/Pages/default.aspx

5. The following week is one of the most important of my life.  My oldest son Ben is marrying Miss Savannah Janke, and Pat & I will be hosting family and reflecting on how fine life can be.    

Take care, everyone……

Jon

My wife Pat’s birthday is May 5, (We call it Cinco de Patty) and we’re going to do something nice.  Not sure what, yet, but nice nonetheless.  We’ll probably meet friends and family at a Northglenn bar and grill called The Glenn, and celebrate the fact that she’s still here.  Literally.  I was searching on the computer last night for a few lines I’d written a couple of years ago pertaining to a book I’m finishing, and ran across a missive I wrote in 2005 on the first anniversary of Pat’s catastrophic ruptured brain aneurysm. Sometime in 2006 or 2007, I was asked by Dr. Kooken, a neurological psychologist who chaired the meetings of the Colorado chapter of the Brain Aneurysm Foundation if I’d ever written about Pat’s near-death experience from my perspective, and I said I had.  I sent it to him, and he published the following on a wiki-site for survivors and care takers. But other than that I’ve never shared it.  Seems like a good time to do so on this birthday, since the whole story turned out so well….

 

 

December 1, 2005      

 

At five minutes past eight o’clock in the morning one year ago today, Pat walked into our bedroom from her office, said something seemed wrong, and began forgetting the next three weeks.  She had just suffered a hemorrhage in a blood vessel situated directly above the roof of her mouth and behind the bridge of her nose, and approximately 10cc’s of blood was fast spreading out, beginning to bathe the lower reaches of her brain. A caustic irritant outside the vessels, the blood caused excruciating pain and placed her in a category that included death and permanent disability as statistical probabilities.  As the blood filled what I would learn was the subarachnoid space between her brain and its first outer membrane, the brain itself went into survival mode and neglected to make memories. 

            I made enough for both of us.  I see her lying on the bathroom floor, unresponsive.  I see the paramedics carrying her down our stairs in a makeshift sling to the waiting ambulance.  I see her in the emergency room at St. Anthony’s North hospital in Westminster, Colorado, sluggish and pain wracked, as she’s carted in for a CT scan.  I see the Flight for Life medics readying her for a helicopter ride she would not remember.  I see her in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at St. Anthony’s Central Hospital in Denver, wires and tubing everywhere.  I see the radiologist explaining the concept of a “subarachnoid bleed” to me in a small room off to the side of the angiogram area.  I see the resident doctor explaining a course of treatment to me and our sons Ben and Tyler, using the term “exquisite blood pressure management” time and time again, and I see the obnoxious woman standing a few feet away chatting on her cell phone and morbidly trying to eavesdrop on our conversation.  I see the neurosurgeon explaining to us that Pat is critically ill, that fifty percent of those who’ve endured what Pat has will not make it, and the majority of the rest will have long term disabilities.

            I see that first day, December 1, 2004, as the most awful day of our lives.       

            I’m thankful for her amnesia.  Her suffering was beyond the pale.  For three weeks I watched her eyebrows screw up in constant, unbearable pain, and helped nurses rub her down with alcohol to help lower her rampant fever. I watched her slowly answer the doctors’ cognitive questions, and watched her nod off in the middle of sentences from the powerful sedatives she was given.  I watched as doctors and nurses micromanaged her blood pressure to minimize the possibility of spasms, and thus stroke, in the nest of tiny vessels where the rupture had taken place, and I watched her muscle tone disappear.  I held her hand and rubbed her shoulders because there was nothing more for me to do.  I tried to mentally picture the escaped blood succumbing to gravity and migrating down her spinal cord as her body tried to absorb it, and I tried to comfort her each time new pain appeared in her back or legs.  I met with hoards of health care professionals and shook my head in both amazement and irritation at the Hispanic fiestas that appeared each evening in the ICU waiting room.  I watched her heart rate and blood pressure readings for hours upon hours, and I sat in the hospital’s darkened chapel in the evenings after visitors had left.  I was astonished and touched at the professionalism and dedication of the nursing staff.   I received and placed over $1,000 worth of calls on my cell phone, and forgot to pay bills.  I watched her try to comprehend what was happening, and I tried to comprehend it myself. 

            Of course, at the beginning I had no idea what a “brain aneurysm” was, or that the ill-used term generally refers to the rupture of such an aneurysm.  I’d heard about people having them, and thought it was probably a stroke. Blood in the brain.  Stroke.  It must be the same thing.  It wasn’t.    

            I’d seen her like this before, when she suffered a minor stroke a few years before; unsure, confused, retreating into herself to manage the pain and fear.  (That’s one thing I’ve learned from the two times Pat’s brain has rebelled.  You either can’t or don’t reach out for help. You flow -for lack of a better term – inward and lock yourself in some place that’s all smooth steel or stone – impenetrable. It’s a very liquid process, it seems, like trickles of water flowing downward through porous earth to a protective cistern.  There is a fundamental aspect of humanity, and perhaps life itself, that has never been adequately explained or understood; how personality differs from mundane consciousness, how mere living meat houses awareness. It’s often called spirituality, and perhaps that’s so.  Philosophers, theologians, film makers, writers, seers and prophets have all sought to explain it, disagreeing on what “it” is.  But I have realized something I feel is profound:  Fighting to live goes beyond definitions.  It’s what we do.  It is our essence.)

            I look back in frustration at the decision by the neurological team to forego surgery based on what they felt was unsure data from Pat’s CTA scans and MRIs.  The lead neurosurgeon was impressive and competent, yet talking with other physicians who are friends gave me pause to question the treatment. 

            Pat was released without surgery on December 23, and frankly was in terrible shape. Christmas was a chore, with our family’s traditional Christmas Eve gathering at our house being held at my brother’s home instead.  She couldn’t exercise for fear of raising her blood pressure and causing a re-rupture.  It was a godsend when Dr. Lloyd Mobley attended one of my holiday performances.  His father-in-law, Bill Patterson introduced us, and he offered to have the doctors in his practice look at Pat’s films.  I waited for nearly two weeks, and couldn’t take Pat’s pain, lethargy, dejection, depression and general malaise any longer.  I asked for Pat’s films from the group of neurosurgeons that was treating her and delivered them to Dr. Mobley.  He took the films to a staff meeting where they were reviewed by Dr. Paul Elliot.  His office called immediately with a request to see us at Swedish Hospital.  When we arrived, he explained that her ruptured aneurysm was quite visible and should be addressed immediately.  She was admitted on the spot.  Two days later, January 12, Dr. Elliot performed a craniotomy on Pat and “clipped” the aneurysm, actually repairing the affected artery with a titanium clip.  Following her five hour surgery, I walked into the recovery area.  She opened her eyes and smiled, and despite her assurances that we were at her family farmhouse in Nebraska that had been demolished 30 years prior, I immediately knew she was better.  I was exhilarated.

            Pat’s never-ending recovery has been remarkable.  She told me recently she never once thought she would die, which I feel is the only thing that really kept her alive…pure will.  She returned to real estate – too soon, I believe – and is trying desperately to be “normal.”  Despite the aches and pains associated with major surgery, she has only intermittent bouts of short-term memory loss, and we’re both learning to deal with the condition.  She’s back to her exercise program, and is looking forward to Christmas Eve at our house.  Her blood pressure fluctuates wildly, often tanking until she feels faint and must hydrate herself to bring it up.  

I’m not as kind or understanding to Pat as I should be, and grow frustrated too easily when she calls my name from upstairs for the tenth time in an hour.  I apologize often, but just as often fail to control my irritation.  It makes me feel small and petty, yet I know I’m just trying to absorb and understand all that’s happened.  It doesn’t help my confusion when I ruminate that I was nearly killed last December 6 when a punk in a stolen car rear-ended me at over 70 mph while I sat at a stoplight on Federal Boulevard.  Pat’s brother Rob and I were on our way home from spending the day and evening with Pat, when it happened.  Our new car was totaled, and I somehow walked away with a small bump on my head.  Rob was unharmed, and became somewhat of a TV star on the local news for the next couple of days.  The punk rolled the stolen car several times and somehow got out and ran.  When the police caught him, handcuffed him and put him in the back seat of a cruiser, I walked over and looked at him.  His eyes were no different than those of a caged Pit Bull.  Our sons were almost orphaned twice in the same week.

            Things have changed around here in the past year.  Ben found that true love is an oxymoron for most.  A girl broke his heart and I’m proud of him for not hiding what happened.  He seems to have an understanding of what his mother has endured and accomplished, and makes an attempt to treat her with more respect.  He’s still cavalier with his own life, and can be difficult.   If he decides to sell yachts instead of widgets, he’ll be rich. 

            Tyler has withdrawn somewhat from us, at the same time trying to accomplish or extend some sort of adolescent rebellion.  He smokes and refuses to finish a 3-hour class that would allow him to receive his degree from CSU.  He spends most of his time with a sweet, pretty girl we like very much and seems to be trying to find a balance.  He was terribly hurt by Pat’s attack, and questions why she doesn’t appear more thankful for her recovery.  He is searching for his way. 

            I’m more fatalistic.  I’m sad and angry, and sometimes elated.   I haven’t had a night’s sleep in memory.  I pray more than I have since I was a child, careful never to ask for anything, but rather to just open a line of communication.  I’m different.  Pat’s different.  We’re all different.  I hope we can become better.  I think we will become better.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

 

 

In the five and a half years since I wrote the passage, Pat’s recovery has been miraculous.  Her occasional bouts with short term memory loss are no worse than anyone else our age, and she works as hard and effectively as ever. She’s been a realtor for over ten years now.  She’s really good at it, and her clients are lucky find her.

We’ve learned from the Brain Aneurysm Foundation Group that the term “recovery” is relative, and is pretty much a lifelong process. The things that continue to bother Pat – those tiny things that only she can feel – she tries to work on and master.  At times, she tends to get frustrated, as well.  Tyler had a point…sometimes she doesn’t seem as thankful as you would expect, but with the event being over six years ago now…well, time changes everything. 

            A little over four years ago, we moved to a new home and continue to host our family’s Christmas Eve celebrations.   

Our sons have become men not only in age but in actions.  Ben’s experience with lost love became the best thing that ever happened to him, as he’s found a marvelous girl he’s about to marry in a few weeks.  Her name is Savannah. 

Tyler quickly found his balance and got his degree shortly after I wrote my missive.  Best of all, the sweet girl turned out to be more than just sweet.  Last September, they were married in a beautiful ceremony in the foothills above Lyons, Colorado.  Her name is Amanda, and she will, in September, become the mother of the most anticipated baby boy in history. Well, ours, at least. 

I’m no longer as fatalistic, but I’m still pretty manic in my emotions.  And although I’m not as good a person as I’d hoped to be by this time in my life, I keep trying.  Pat’s always had what Lou Grant called “spunk” and that will never change. She tries to bring order to the universe, attempting to set straight even the uncontrollable, and worries too much.  Our expanding family is a joy, and as always, I think we will become better.

Happy birthday, Pat.  I love you. 

 

A SPECIAL AMERICA’S SOUL LIVE ON TUESDAY, MAY 17…The very best of the West joins Jon and the boys when the legendary Gary McMahan returns to the Pickin’ Parlor stage along with his pal Mike Hurwitz.  Gary is truly one of America’s finest performers, songwriters, storytellers, poets and humorists…a combination of Will Rogers and (as Chris LeDoux said) Bob Dylan.  Mike joins us again from his home in northwestern Wyoming, bringing his marvelous blend of cowboy and cajun, rockabilly and country.  It’s shaping up to be one of the best shows in America’s Soul Live history, so we sure hope to see you there.

I’ve had the chance to appreciate some fine works from friends and acquaintances over the past few months, and thought I’d pass along my recommendations.  A few of these “reviews” have appeared in Roundup Magazine, and a few haven’t.  They’re all projects I really like, and not things you’re likely to hear about on Entertainment Tonight.   

 First of all, congratulations to my pal Max McCoy.  His Damnation Road (a damn fine western, indeed) won a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, Max’s third, fourth or maybe tenth Spur, I don’t know.  If you’re a fan of westerns, pick it up at your local book store, or check out www.maxmccoy.com.  The next time I post a collection of these musings, I’ll have a full report on his hero, Jacob Gamble.

 Also, Lucia St. Clair Robson won a Spur for her fantastic novel, Last Train from Cuernavaca.  It’s a marvelous read, and I’ll cover it soon, as well.  You can find it at www.luciastclairrobson.com.

 So, here’s what I think:

 Recordings

 HAL CANNON

Hal Cannon

Hal Cannon’s appropriately titled Hal Cannon is a soundtrack for the West.  Not the Wild West, not the New West, but the West proper; the Grand Idea that is constructed from both dreary reality and glorious myth.  It’s impossible to listen to Hal Cannon and not have visions of the more elegant aspects of the great Western films flash through your mind.  This is an extremely visual collection, as such a grouping should be.  It brings to mind dusty clapboard churches, rough gin mills and frontier music halls, all the while incorporating musical and lyric elements that resurrect with flawless accuracy the essence of an era. 

 Cannon fairly creates a 19th century parlor in several of the songs, its inhabitants dying of cultural thirst and hanging on every note from a group of banded-collared minstrels.   In other tunes he goes further, conjuring up images of an eastern-European immigrant violinist or pianist providing a touch of respectability and sophistication to an 1890’s Kansas Opera House, or perhaps even a well-appointed Montana brothel.   Musically, Cannon utilizes not only the more familiar aspects of Celtic compositions, but adds diverse period melodies and instrumentation that owe as much to Austrian waltzes or Czech folk songs as they do Irish jigs.  Not that he’s ignored the campfire;  That’s How It Is on the Range and Desert Home provide enough instrumental trail dust to make any cowboy music aficionado happy.  

Lyrically, Cannon brings his West alive, full of historical and contemporary people and places, yet focused on stories that define the term Western.  His observations can be tiny sermons, really.  Soldier’s Heart and Love the Place You Live, while miles apart conceptually, both serve to instruct the listener, to bring the ear closer to the storyteller’s wisdom.  The catchy, humorous Alone Town explores the concept of modern day societal evolution while sounding like an 1860’s minstrel banjo ditty, and The Blizzard is an epic, and ultimately frantic, interpretation of a long lost frontier poem.  From a personal perspective, the graceful period instrumental Poet’s Waltz has quickly become a favorite used to set the mood while preparing to write.

 Produced by the legendary Jim Rooney (Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Don Edwards, Townes Van Zandt), Hal Cannon’s songs are less guitar-oriented than most cowboy/western projects, a welcome development.  The generous use of strings and horns, keyboards and woodwinds brings a unique lushness to the recording, and contributes to the historical texture of the compositions, as well.   Of course, Cannon’s friend William Matthews provides his characteristically brilliant illustrations and design to the project.  Hal Cannon’s absolute love of the West is obvious, and it’s also infectious.  His unique take on Americana music is highly recommended.  In fact, looking back from a few years down the road after allowing the collection to cure a bit, it may become essential.

 Find out more about Hal Cannon at http://www.okehdokee.com.

 

 JIM STRICKLAN

Blues for Stephen Foster

 Jim Stricklan is the old-timey variety store of Americana Music.  Down this oak-planked aisle you’ll find some fine blues, while two aisles over earnest folk and gritty country share counter space.  Classic rock is unplugged and all wrapped up in C.F. Martin wood tones under the glass case near the store’s entrance, with story songs set against the back wall next to the catchy ditties.  Traditional melodies are, of course, in the polished maple rack behind the register, stacked on top of the minor chord outlaw ballads.  All this aural separateness is housed in the same venerable building, and carries the same Stricklan brand.  It’s really country…well, kinda, but it’s everything else, too.  And it’s terrific.

 Stricklan’s Blues for Stephen Foster continues his decades-long fascination with both the Old South and the New West.  His original songs are paeans to the Western life combined with a full dose of that wild blend of South and West that is Texas, and the covers he chooses are, as usual, surprising and effective.  Wish I Knew is a knockout ballad, a duet with Texas legend Sara Hickman that’s everything an acoustic lost-love song could hope to be.  Stained Glass Heart, a compelling two-step written by Stricklan’s late pal Larry Rothwell, is given the full Lone Star treatment, and would be at home on a classic Jerry Jeff recording, while Stricklan’s own tribute to Rothwell, Our Little Man, is a moving remembrance.  George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps is reborn as a jazz-tinged instrumental, with Procol Harum’s classic Whiter Shade of Pale becoming a fingerpicker’s dream.   The emotional piano-driven Small Betrayal would do Jimmy Webb proud, and Muddy Water’s Got My Mojo Workin’ brings visions of Dr. John meeting Little Feat.

 And then there’s the title cut.  American music historian Mark Gardner contends that the minstrel music of the mid-19th century was in reality the first pop music, with the first “hit” being Old Dan Tucker.   The purview of white northern songsters who paraphrased black songs of the south, it became enormously popular in pre-Victorian parlors and cow camps alike.  Throwing traditional melodic elements into the homegrown, southern mix, Pennsylvanian Stephen Foster became the genre’s superstar, its Hank Williams…flawed, often asocial, and brilliant.  The irony of a northerner penning songs that came to define the South notwithstanding, Foster’s gorgeous melodies and smart lyrics were adopted by the southern states as their own.  Blues for Stephen Foster is Stricklan’s homage to this enduring legacy.  He seemingly channels Foster in this unique medley, a moody and gorgeous tribute utilizing the amazing talents of the world-renowned Acoustic Eidolon (cellist Hannah Alkire and her guitarist husband, Joe Scott). This amalgam of Foster’s songs is simply stunning, and is kept in that little section of the Stricklan store that’s reserved for only the best customers.  After all, it’s a jewel.

 Find out more about Jim Stricklan at www.frontroommusic.com.

 

 GARY McMAHAN

Goin’ My Way

 Daydreaming agricultural types throughout rural America don’t imagine themselves performing on American Idol (a little frilly around the edges for those boys), or see Bruce Springsteen staring back in the mirror (it’s hard to sing Born to Run when you really were born to run).  No, more than likely, those folks we all term “cowboys” have fantasies about standing before the adoring crowd and regaling them with songs built of dust and sweat sprinkled with humor, pathos, campfire talk and deep meaning…just like Gary McMahan.  Gary’s Goin’ My Way is his latest gift to cowboy music lovers, and his first studio creation in nearly a couple of decades. Gary’s not just your run of the mill homespun philosopher.  He’s more of a cross between Festus Hagen and Mark Twain, if ol’ Sam Clemens could yodel, that is.  He could have just hung up his spurs after conjuring up the best western song ever written, The Old Double Diamond, but thankfully cruising through life’s not in his nature.  Goin’ My Way’s selections are each mini-westerns crafted to elicit joy, or laughter, or tears, or contemplation.  Big Enough & the Cheyenne Mare, co-written with Gene Randels, is a monster western ballad, a minor-key mood piece that brings the Colorado/Nebraska frontier to life.  One of the most moving recitations in recent memory, Goodbye is a lump-in-the-throat tribute to the empty saddles in Gary’s life, written for his late dad as well as his fast and true pards.  Looking out the window at a foot of snow makes Waitin’ for Spring even more poignant, and the concert favorite Okeechobee Joe is just as good on digital media.  You even get to hang with Gary during his wild and rowdy Nashville days with his blast from the past Leave My Jack Daniels Alone.  Speaking of Jack, a couple of fingers sipped slow and easy while Goin’ My Way slides outta the stereo speakers is a heck of an idea.  

 Find out more about Gary McMahan at www.singingcowboy.com.

 

 SANDY REAY & FRIENDS

I Wanted to Fly

 So, while America tunes in each week to watch extravagant productions aimed at creating flamboyant “stars” who have plenty of moxie but absolutely no soul, there are hundreds of singer/songwriters (if not thousands) who fly under the radar, plying their trade with purity and intelligence.  It’s a true pleasure to discover one.  Sandy Reay is a fixture in Colorado’s acoustic music scene, playing upright bass and singing in venues ranging from dusty watering holes to elegant amphitheaters.  She’s also an exquisite songwriter.  Several years ago, she shared the lyrics to a song entitled Sandstorm From Sedona with me, and I was struck by her lyrical integrity and insight.  Well, actually I was struck by how fun the lyrics were.  When I heard the jazzy-swingy recorded version, I was surprised and delighted at how Sandy had taken a western theme, rejected its minor-chord stereotype and given it a new, intriguing, and yes, purely western aspect.  Her vocal is answered by Bill Barwick’s thundering bass warbling, a flute twitters around the edges, and the whole thing works.  On this CD, she lends several of her songs to lead vocalists who do them justice.  From the opening track (I Wanted to Fly), with Christy Wessler singing like Emmylou in her prime, the songs are captivating and ultimately interesting.   The good time folk song blast from the past of Already Gone features an iconic vocal from Bob Turner and has the listener unconsciously looking for the car keys, ready to hit the road.  Sandy’s songs rank with those penned by many of the best western songwriters…Chris Wall comes to mind.  I love Red Shoes, and I love Car Full of Collies.  I’m humming Maybe This Time as I write.   In the spirit of full disclosure, I also love my harmonica part on One Lonely Rider.  But that’s just my opinion. 

 Find out more about Sandy Reay at www.slreay.biz.

 

 Books

FRANK MAYNARD/JIM HOY

Cowboy’s Lament.  A Life on the Open Range

 

As I rode down by Tom Sherman’s bar-room,

Tom Sherman’s bar-room so early one day,

There I espied a handsome young ranger

All wrap(p)ed in white linen as cold as the clay.

 

Virtually every aficionado of the American frontier will instantly recognize this lyric stanza and be able to hum the centuries-old Celtic melody that provides its bed.  The tune we call either The Streets of Laredo or The Cowboy’s Lament (based on the 18th Century ballad, The Unfortunate Rake) began its popular life in an 1870’s Kansas cow camp as The Dying Cowboy, its lyrics jotted down by a remarkable frontier range rider, drover, herder (terms that all gave way to “cowboy”) and amateur poet, Frank Maynard.   Maynard’s story had been relegated to dusty trunks in attics, a newspaper morgue in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and scant mention in a few historical documents.  Through the wonder of serendipity, Kansas historian Jim Hoy has been able to track down Maynard’s unpublished memoir of his cowboy days on the Kansas open range during the decade of the 1870’s, as well as rediscover Maynard’s published collection of what can only be termed early cowboy poetry.  Together with a few other tales and poems published in Maynard’s later life, they provide an unprecedented look at post-Civil War life on the frontier’s edge.  

There’s a great body of notable western fiction, perhaps best personified by Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man, in which protagonists stand on the edge of history, interact with legendary characters, observe and occasionally participate in historic events, and generally influence modern views of their long-gone eras.  The novelist can pick and choose celebrated personalities and accounts, insert an interesting central character, and reimagine the flow of history.  The discovery of Maynard’s memoirs gives us one of the very few nonfiction accounts of the Wild West era that measures up to fiction’s finest efforts.  Maynard was either witness to or in the proximity of literally dozens of important frontier events, ranging from the wounding of Ed Masterson to the Cheyenne breakout of 1878.  As stressed in David Stanley’s forward and Hoy’s prologue, Maynard’s account reads like popular fiction of the day, and the young cowboy with a minimal education was obviously well-read and thoughtful.  And he could spin a good yarn.  Western legends Dave Rudebaugh, Bat Masterson, Ed Masterson, Bill Tilghman, Charlie Siringo, Dull Knife, Prairie Dog Dave Morrow and Buckskin Joe Hoyt come alive through the eyes of this common cowboy who would, in later life, correspond with Jack London and Belgian royalty.  

Maynard was obviously a fantastic horseman, and his various descriptions of the frontier cowboy’s horse culture alone make his memoirs a valuable discovery.   Similarly, his accounts of buffalo hunting are thrilling, and will no doubt serve as source material for myriad future literary works. 

His interaction with the Plains Indians is particularly interesting, with his mixture of fear, fascination, admiration, hate, and ultimately sympathy perfectly capturing the mindset of the time.  In fact, the final pages of his memoir can be viewed as the literary equivalent of Fraser’s famed sculpture, The End of the Trail. 

Calling a new work “important,” is high praise.  In this case, Maynard’s memoir and Hoy’s meticulous editing and research define the term.   Frank Maynard’s long lost observations of an iconic era in America’s history place him in rare literary company he would never enjoy during his life.   It’s about time.

 Find out more about The Cowboy’s Lament at www.ttupress.org.

Find out more about Jim Hoy at www.emporia.edu/emlj/english/hoy/hoybio.htm

 

 BILL JONES

“Heel-Fly and the Wily Wapiti” and other Wyoming Tales

Anticipation Press, Cheyenne, Wyoming

 Three decades or so ago, a co-worker and I flew into Casper, rented a car, and headed northeast, toward Gillette.  We stopped at the Rimrock Inn in Midwest, Wyoming for a burger and a beer on our way to meet our clients from Atlantic Richfield in the new company town of Wright.  We slid into a red naugahyde booth and began finalizing plans for a celebration in the town’s honor that would be emceed by the legendary journalist Red Fenwick.  The door opened, a cowboy type walked in and made his way directly to our booth. 

“You Chandler?” he asked.”

I nodded.

“Red sent me.”

That’s how I met Bill Jones.

It was a couple of years before Jonesy let on as to how he found me.   Since Midwest, Wyoming is the middle of nowhere for people who are from the middle of nowhere, how in the world could he have known someone he’d never met would be in that red-flocked wallpapered dive? 

“It’s the only bar between Casper and Gillette,” was his answer.  Sound thinking, indeed.

Bill Jones has always used fewer words to describe bigger concepts than anyone in my experience.  He’s a deep thinking, wide ranging, hell raising, give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back fella, and now he’s written his first book, Heel-fly and the Wily Wapiti and other Wyoming Tales.  It’s pure Jonesy, and manages to instantly position him as a unique western writer of non-fiction/fiction, meaning some of his adventures are related in journalistic fashion, and some are, um, augmented a bit… a little stretched to fit the narrative’s flow.  Jonesy’s a master storyteller, as much a part of the West as the Hole in the Wall’s red dust or the Wyoming wind.  His stories, recollections, poems, narratives and big windies are related with dry humor, and often breathtaking prose.  A case in point:  His Hole in the Wall essay, Run That By Again, contains an almost Homeric passage he shared with me a few years ago that’s become one of my favorite pieces of western writing.

“The Dipper slipped on, then gradually  vaporized as quiet dawn once again came on shift, snuffing fireflies, nudging nocturnal scavengers, readjusting shadows and embryo auras of light, releasing bird sounds, allowing the deer time for the perfect terrestrial blending through which to pick their way safely upwards from the meadows and streams into the cover of the timber to shade-up and ruminate.

Then the imperceptible spreading of solar luminescence flowed across the big valley, spilled off the edge of the Red Wall and suddenly penetrated into the evergreens on the mountainside, and colors bloomed; It was a magic time.  It was purity.  It was conception.  It was simplicity. It was incredibly complex.”

These tales of hunting camps, saddle bronc riders, hardscrabble ranchers, oil rig workers, accidental near-drownings, horse wrecks, and Denver dudes have an authenticity that can only be found around the campfire or the cracker barrel.  While giving the reader a peek at what it means to be from the rural West, Jonesy’s a local, and he speaks for the locals.  (Only once does he step outside the purely western circle with Hell If I Know, his harrowing autobiographical chronicle of his B-24 Liberator bomber’s crash in 1945, and his ensuing imprisonment in a German stalag.) 

As a bonus, Jonesy has also released a CD, Great Great Great Grandfather Stories, that includes his performance of Gransel & Hetel, his slightly confused retelling of a famous fairy tale that has caused uproarious laughter around a million campfires throughout the west.

All in all, Heel-fly and the Wily Wapiti and other Wyoming Tales is a delightful collection of stories from one of Wyoming’s treasures.    Bill Jones is western in the same way Lewis Grizzard was southern.  Wyoming flows in his veins, and readers of western lore are lucky it flows from his pen, as well. 

 Contact Bill Jones at bing1943@yahoo.com

 

RED SHUTTLEWORTH

Roadside Attractions and Drug Store Vaquero

Red Shuttleworth’s Spur Award-winning Western Settings sits between two brass bookends in my office with about 15 other well-thumbed books that mean a lot to me.   His two newest works have now joined the tiny library. The trick is to read these short chapbooks at the right time, in the right place; Roadside Attractions in my office late one evening under the influence of Rocky Mountain Spring Water, and Drug Store Vaquero on the deck of a cabin on El Poso Creek in the Sangre de Cristo’s above San Luis, Colorado, this time under the influence of cutthroat trout and hummingbirds.   Both are campfire-satisfying, simultaneously deep and revealing odes to the American West.  Ti-Yay. 

Roadside Attractions is an open notebook of the road, a daily, yearly and lifelong diary; a memory-poem that in a mere five pages imparts the essence of what it means to be capital-W Western.   A literary Burma Shave tour of back roads and fast-maturing frontier towns punctuated by Shuttleworth’s unique rhythms and subjects (some of whom belong in David Lynch films), Roadside Attractions is compelling for its counterpoints…the West as a place of big dreams and lost expectations, its people subject to the Old West’s excitement and tedium and the New West’s opportunity and trepidation.

Drug Store Vaquero is a collection of Shuttleworth’s poems culled from a variety of literary journals.  In damn-near stream of consciousness style, he rips through Western legends from Kansas to California, observing bad marriages, young mothers, and cynical waitresses who are “ice rain on warped corral boards.”  Minneola, Kansas (1916) is a frontier Eleanor Rigby while The Holy Grail conjures up visions of Spoon River.   His poems are the furthest thing from intellectually effete or culturally correct verse.  Rather, they’re true and razor sharp, formed from a weathered eye’s look at a singular American society that is iconic, mythic, and pragmatic; a culture where the door is never closed…you just have to figure out where to go once it’s opened.  As Shuttleworth puts it,

“Whiskey days are behind

And probably ahead.”

Note:  Just learned that Roadside Attractions has won the 2011 Spur Award for Poetry.

Find out more about Red Shuttleworth at www.redshuttleworth.com.

                       

 ANDY NELSON

Riding With Jim:  Adventures with Cowboys and Farriers

With select stories by James F. Walker Nelson

A few years back, there was a striking music video released.  It featured old footage of Hank Williams singing one of his compositions.  The next thing you know, due to digital wizardry, his son Hank Williams, Jr. was alongside, both men crooning the famous song.

Andy Nelson’s Writing with Jim is the video’s literary equivalent, with the reader’s mind’s eye imagining the impossible – a larger-than-life western character and his son at roughly the same age sitting in the tack house or ranch kitchen, writing furiously and reading each paragraph aloud to each other, their efforts punctuated by raucous laughter; a father and son singing the same songs, writing the same words; keepers of the same flame.

Writing with Jim is Andy Nelson’s tribute to the influence, integrity and creativity of his father, Jim, who passed away in 1993.  It is a fine collection of Nelson’s poetry and prose, sprinkled with liberal doses of wry and often comedic cowboy observations and big windies jotted down by his father over the years.  A cowboy’s cowboy, Jim’s weathered eye took a long look at life and found it both interesting and funny.  He was a thoughtful, clever writer, and he taught his son well.  

Andy Nelson’s a premier cowboy poet and a premier cowboy, period.  He’s the most personable human on the planet and as entertaining a performer as you’ll ever shell out hard-earned cash to experience.  He’s hilarious and often poignant.  He’s a Renaissance Farrier, he is, a man tied to the land, to horses and to the western life, but at the same time someone who thinks large and writes deep.  He’s a writer, a radio personality, a poet, a brother, husband and father.  And, as this fine collection illustrates, he’s his father’s son.  Jim’s tales of man-eating horses, Idaho and Wyoming wilderness, unforgettable dogs, cowboy veterinarians, and looney advice columnists are answered and expounded upon by his son with gut-busting humor (Sensitivity Training and Shoeing Fees Unbundled are favorites) and unabashed empathy.  (Try reading My Father’s Anvil Rings or A Visit with an Old Friend without getting choked up.)  He also doses out pure western reflection, as in the book’s marvelous finale, Doing Winter Work.

 To some it sounds odd, living here with God,

But there is no place I would rather be.

 Andy Nelson’s in a fine, fine place, all right.

 Find out more about Andy Nelson at www.cowpokepoet.com.

 

COLLEEN SMITH

Glass Halo

 In her terrific first novel, Colleen Smith provides the portal to a moving, near-parabolic examination of a woman’s capacity for love, fear, anguish and responsibility.  Glass Halo’s protagonist is Nora Kelly, a glazier of vast talent devastated by a dark, angry past.  Nearly ruined by a degrading and terrifying relationship with her late husband, she has crawled into one of life’s dark corners and stayed there.  Her Catholic faith has lapsed, as has her ability to undertake the simplest interaction with those around her.  She is slowly fading away until a freak tornado hits downtown Denver with devastating force and she is thrust into the world of Father Vin DiMarco. He tries with little success to crack her mysteries, but slowly convinces her to take on the massive job of repairing and replacing the church’s stained glass windows, in the process forming a relationship that stretches the boundaries of both his spiritual devotion and Nora’s erstwhile faith. 

Smith is an exceptionally visual writer who provides touchable flowers, foreboding gargoyles, bloody glass-sharded fingers, and a genuine feel for the contemporary West.  Like Anne Tyler’s Baltimore, Smith’s Denver is an ancillary character, shaping the story through its neighborhoods, shops, churches, avenues and history.  Those who know Denver will be delighted, and those who don’t will feel the urge to walk its streets.

Glass Halo’s plot is driven by Smith’s remarkable grasp of glass making’s minutiae, and an even more impressive understanding of the rituals, rites and ultimate humanity of Catholicism.   She intertwines the physical aspects of creating stained glass with the spiritual aspects of coming to terms with a nearly-wrecked life, creating in Nora a classically compelling character. 

Smith’s abundant use of the physical world surrounding Nora is a particularly satisfying. Throughout the novel, the weather shepherds the storyline, a powerful force nudging Nora and Vin toward circumstances that sometimes define and often challenge faith, dogma and taboos. Theirs is a relationship born of a tornado, intensified by a blizzard, and resolved by the incomparable Colorado springtime. 

Read Glass Halo first for its story, and again for Smith’s marvelous prose.  Nora’s ruminations on the vagaries of her life and Father Vin’s heartbreaking prayers for guidance and strength stay with you, more than just pretty words; rather, glimpses of a powerful new novelist’s ability to eloquently capture the heart’s intricacies.  

 Find out more about Colleen Smith at www.fridayjonespublishing.com.

 

We have a fantastic ASL coming up on Tuesday, April 19.  Two of the country’s very best Americana singers and songwriters, Rebecca Folsom and Liz Barnez, bring their marvelous voices and songs to the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor in Arvada, Colorado for this month’s edition of America’s Soul Live.  This show promises to be one of the best in ASL’s seven-year run, so if you’re in the Denver area, don’t miss it.  Oh, you might want to call Kit at 303-421-2304 for reservations. Looking forward to seeing you at the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor.

It often takes dire circumstances for us to evidence our better natures.  But every now and again, we show, even on a small level, that faith and empathy are singular human qualities.  A hundred twenty or so great people gathered at the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor in Arvada, Colorado last evening to celebrate the life of western singer-songwriter Locke Hamilton, from Dubois, Wyoming.  Locke’s battle with cancer is going to end very soon, and her husband Les is pragmatic.  I talked with him briefly this morning when he called to thank the Colorado Western Music community for being involved in staging last night’s benefit concert/event /silent auction for Locke.  He’s remaining strong for her, and that he called at all during such an unthinkable time is beyond admirable. 

Many of the people attending last night’s show, and even some of the musicians themselves, don’t know Locke personally, but they know of her music and jumped at the chance be part of such a fine event.  The Colorado Cowboy Gathering’s (CCG) Diana Raven spearheaded the evening, enlisting her posse (Vicky, Jane, Pat and more) to help things run smoothly through three hours of pretty good picking, bad jokes, auctioneering and good will.  Volunteers did everything from baking tons of the world’s finest cookies to setting up tables, from stacking chairs to contacting artists.  Of course, Bill & Linda Patterson were there to document the event through Bill’s marvelous photographs, and Jeff Graves did his always fine (and physical) job of setting up the P.A., monitoring sound and playing bass. 

Kit Simon’s generosity in hosting the show at the Pickin’ Parlor was above and beyond.  Not only did he donate the use of his shop and facilities, he worked his tail off.   Although this wasn’t an America’s Soul Live event, it sure seemed like it, and Kit was invaluable to its success. 

The musicians were, as usual, marvelous.  CCG’s Liz Masterson (a close friend of Locke’s) and I hosted the show, which also featured Kit, Barry Ward, Bill Barwick & Roz Brown, Mary Huckins & Don Pinella from Dakota Blonde, Al “Doc” Mehl, Rex Rideout, Pam Hawkins, Almeda Bradshaw, the inimitable Timothy P. Irvin and the incredible licks of Ernie Martinez and Johnny Neill.  Exceptional cowboy poets John Schaffner and Zeb Dennis rounded out the group.  Many of the songs that were performed were attached to Locke, with Bill & Roz’s Old Double Diamond and Cowboy’s Prayer, and Ernie & Pam’s Song of Wyoming being particularly poignant. (Sorry to those who requested that Mary and I do  the Greg Brown tune Early, but time went away.  I’d love to have done it, as well, just to hear Mary sing.)

The silent auction was a major success, with donations from corporate entities like Providence Hospitality Partners and Wet Mountain Western Days joining those from individuals like Ralph & Barb Melfi and Victoria Ward.  Dozens of donated items were sold ranging from books (Colleen Smith, Corinne Brown) to recordings (Juni Fisher), to genuine professional ear plugs (Dr. Al Carr), to fine photography (Catherine Lilbit Devine and Susan Sutherland), and each of the evening’s artists donated CDs toward the effort.  Diana, Jane and Pat tallied the proceeds, with our very own Pat Chandler commandeering the stage to announce winners and letting the assemblage know exactly how much money was raised for Locke.  I’ll get around to posting a full list of contributors in a subsequent missive.

The evening’s highlight came as a truly iconic banjo once owned by Denver folk music legend David Feretta (and dubbed by both Rex Rideout and Ernie Martinez as “priceless” ) was auctioned by John Schaffner who, wouldn’t you know it, is a genuine auctioneer.  In two amazing instances of pure generosity, the banjo was donated by my new friend David Hard, and purchased by my old friend and banjo picker extraordinaire Hereford Percy.   And it is a beauty.

The audience…so many of its members America’s Soul Live regulars…was amazing.  Any group of people who could put up with Ernie’s jokes and Toby the Dog’s questionable digestive system (a story for campfires and whisky-swapping, for sure) is surely worthy to ride the trail with. 

I should mention that every item in the silent auction was donated, that every musician donated their time, travel and products, as did the volunteers, that Kit donated both his store and his overhead, and that every dollar that was taken in last evening is going directly to Locke and Les to help them fight this battle.  

We ended the evening as we always seem to in such circumstances, with Timothy P. taking the stage to lead the performers and audience through a rousing and moving Will the Circle Be Unbroken.  The song’s title is an appropriate metaphor for the continuity of our little western and acoustic music community (both performers and audiences) that stretches, albeit thinly, throughout this country and beyond.  It is indeed a circle, and it is filled with fine people.  Last night, that circle sent its heartfelt blessings to Locke and Les. 

 

Benefit for LockeDear Friends…A reminder of the benefit for Locke Hamilton coming up next Tuesday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m. at the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor in Arvada.  Les and Locke (pronounced Lock-ie) Hamilton have spent the past couple of decades entertaining audiences throughout the country with their unique brand a western music and humor. Being from Duboise, Wyoming, they exemplify the state, and are magnificent people, simply put.  In the past few months, Locke was diagnosed with cancer, and a heart condition has complicated matters.  She won’t be able to tolerate either surgery or chemotherapy/radiation.
Several of us in the Colorado music community are holding a benefit and silent auction for Lockie on Tuesday.  I’ll be joined by Bill Barwick, Roz Brown, Ernie Martinez, Barry Ward, Liz Masterson, Mary Huckins, Rex Rideout, Jeff Graves, Al “Doc” Mehl, Johnny Neill, Kit Simon, Timothy P. Irvin and many more in this effort to help with the staggering financial aspects of Lockie’s illness. Hopefully, those of you in the vicinity of Denver can attend or provide items for the silent auction.  If you have a donation, please get in touch with Diana Raven at 720-242-7971.  Others can help by accessing the Pricky Pair website at www.thepricklypair.com and contributing.  Thanks to all, and hope to see you Tuesday at the Pickin’ Parlor.  Blessings to Lockie and Les.
 
Reservations are suggested.  Please call the Olde Town Pickin’ Parlor at 303-421-2304 for reservations.