Rick Huff’s “Best of the West Reviews,” Fall, 2016

Rick Huff reviews Western music and cowboy poetry releases in his “Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews” column in The Western Way from the Western Music Association, other publications, and at CowboyPoetry.com.

Rick Huff considers Western music books and recordings; cowboy poetry books, chapbooks, and recordings; and relevant videos for review. For other materials, please query first: bestofthewest@swcp.com.

Please be sure to include complete contact information, price (plus postage) and order address information.

From Rick Huff, February, 2012:

Policy of the Column: It should be understood by artists sending material that it is being done for review consideration. Submitting such material does not ensure that it will be reviewed. Also, predominantly religious material is not accepted for review in the column. If further clarification is needed, contact Rick Huff, PO Box 8442, Albuquerque, NM 87198-8442.

Rick Huff
P.O. Box 8442
Albuquerque, NM 87198-8442

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Selections from “Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews,” Fall, 2016, below:

Andy Hedges,  Cowboy Songster Vol. 2
Jared Rogerson, Heaven
Floyd Beard,  Short Grass Country
Teresa BurlesonThe Calf Book
Curio Cowboys, Rose Of Old Pawnee
J. J. Steele, Just Passin’ Thru|
Jerry Bell, High Mountain Memory

 

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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:  yellowhousemusic.com and  andyhedges.com

©2016, Rick Huff

 

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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 tales 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!

Hardcover Book:  ISBN 978-0-939343-62-1; $21,95 + s/h through baxterblack.com or call 1-800-654-2550.

©2016, Rick Huff

 

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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.

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 jaredrogerson.com, downloads through most online sources or mail order from Roughstock Records, PO Box 2071, Riverdale, WY  82941.

©2016, Rick Huff

 

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Floyd Beard,  Short Grass Country

A fine writer and reciter, Floyd Beard offers us another collection of top-drawer cowboy thoughts and delivery.

“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; floydbeardcowboy.com.

©2016, Rick Huff

 

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Teresa Burleson, The Calf Book

Poet Teresa Burleson is no stranger to either the Western life or to Western audiences.  Her newest release offers more of her views of the former to the latter.

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:  teresaburlesoncowgirlpoet.com

©2016, Rick Huff

 

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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 its 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 curiocowboys.com.

©2016, Rick Huff

 

 

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J. J. Steele, Just Passin’ Thru

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 – ISBN  978-1-4787-7220-0, US $14.95;  outskirtspress.com and jjsteele.com.

©2016, Rick Huff

 

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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.

©2016, Rick Huff