Rick Huff’s “Best of the West Reviews,” Spring, 2019

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 and in other publications.

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

Find other recent reviews here and hundreds of previous reviews on CowboyPoetry.com.

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Selections from “Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews,” Spring, 2019, below:

•  A. K. Moss The Truth
  Tom Swearingen Language of the Land

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THE TRUTH
A.K. Moss

Beyond her convincing delivery and thoughtful verse, cowboy and poet A.K. Moss and producer Brenn Hill have obviously given a good deal of thought to production values for Moss’s release called The Truth. They frequently use (with permission) applicable clips and excerpts from other Western artists’ songs and verse, providing interesting atmospheric ushering. And acoustic guitarist Wes Aaasnes pops in periodically to finish weaving the sound tapestry.

Moss’s empowering “Wink Nod & Sigh” owes some of its inspiration to Georgie Sicking, and it features the voice of the late lady cowboy and poet in an excerpt from her own piece “Be Yourself.” Same goes for Joel Nelson, whose classic “Breaker In The Pen” is excerpted and serves a setting for Moss’s own “Soft Spoken Man.” In a gift from the effects department, an eerie wind speaks prescient volumes to the attuned in “The Mighty MC.” And a story extension worthy of O Henry stems from Tyson’s “Navajo Rug” in Moss’s work “The KT Diner.” Another CD pick (among the many—this one’s chock-full of ‘em) would have to be “He’ll Never Ride Again” that uses Brenn Hill’s “Into The Wind.”

If you haven’t yet done so, give a listen to A. K. (Kathy) Moss. From her own cowboy life experiences, in well-chosen and well-presented words, she does indeed speak “The Truth.”

Ten tracks. Highly recommended.

CD: available through akmossbooks.com

© 2019, Rick Huff

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LANGUAGE OF THE LAND
Tom Swearingen

Captured here for your enjoyment is another of the live performances from the Oregon cowboy poet Tom Swearingen.  In his latest release, Swearingen again shows his preference for gettin’ in and out quickly in verse, as most of the works make it in under the two-minute buzzer!  Present also is Swearingen’s believable, authentic style of presentation.

Collection picks this time include the title track “Language Of The Land” (one of the better descriptions of ‘range reading’ I’ve heard), “Ropin’ Mama’s Llama” (a yarn concerning his wife’s four-footed yarn supply), “Keep ‘Em Movin’ Slow Parts 1 & 2” (Part 1 is driving the herd into weather and Part 2 is driving them out…only fair), “Oh No You Don’t” (words of advice to a fleeing calf from his pursuer), “In The Shadow Of The Treeline” (a little cattle what-done-it) “Folks Who Do Know Horses” (why they will snow-roll…the horses, not the folks) and “Cowgirl From Nantucket” (talk about your real ‘me too movement’)!  The album closes with [a bonus track]:  Bruce Kiskaddon’s “The Gentle Hoss.”

Sixteen tracks.  Recommended.

CD:  $15 + s/h through oregoncowboypoet.com and downloads through iTunes, Spotify, CD Baby and others.

© 2019, Rick Huff

Rick Huff’s “Best of the West Reviews,” Summer, 2018

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 and in other publications.

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

Find other recent reviews here and hundreds of previous reviews on CowboyPoetry.com.

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Selections from “Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews,” Summer, 2018, below:

•  CowboyPoetry.com MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker
•  “V” The Gypsy Cowbelle TRIBAL PILGRIM
  Pegie Douglas & The Badger Sett Band THE MUSIC OF BADGER CLARK, Volume II
  Ron Secoy COWBOY PSALMS
  Chris Mortenson I’LL ROPE YOU IN THE SUNSET 
  Barry Ward COYOTES AND CATTLE

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MASTERS: VOLUME TWO, the poetry of S. Omar Barker
CowboyPoetry.com

The MASTERS of cowboy poetry series from CowboyPoetry.com showcases both the masters of writing Western poetic words and masters of delivering those words.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

MASTERS: VOLUME TWO brings us the poetry of S. Omar Barker (1894-1985) on two jam-packed CDs.  Included are the most famous of his works and plenty that may well become more famous now.  As for the caliber of the reciters, the attuned who read this will only need last names of most:  Hedges, Rieman, McMahan, Morton, Steiger, Nelson, Black, Beard, Swearingen, Zarzyski, Isaacs, Groethe, Snider, Hollenbeck and the list goes wonderfully on.

With a total of sixty tracks here to amuse and educate, this collection makes me,  born and bred New Mexican, particularly proud to recall that Mr. Barker was one as well.  Highly recommended.  Lovers of content should be very contented!

CD:  2-CD Set $25 ppd through CowboyPoetry.com, PO Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450

 © 2018, Rick Huff

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V The Gypsy Cowbelle - Tribal Pilgrim

TRIBAL PILGRIM
“V” The Gypsy Cowbelle 

In the listening and the reading, releases from “V” The Gypsy Cowbelle are always trips to fresh new places, and CD number 5 for her is no exception.  She educates and entertains anew in this spritely collection of originals put together at various locations across the course of four years.

Top musical hands joining her include Ernie Martinez, John Magnie, Johnny Neill, Jon Chandler, saw man Robert Armstrong and “V’s” longtime friend and mentor, the late Liz Masterson, to whom the album is dedicated and who harmonizes on an Amelia Earhart-inspired song “Dawn In The Night.”  Each track has elements to recommend it, but other picks include the saga song “Resolve,” “Long-Legged Cowboy” and the song “East To Go West,” which may become for “V” what “If I Hadn’t Seen The West” has for Joyce Woodson.

It’s encyclopedically annotated in a booklet (and all sides of the cover), so settle back, read and listen.  “V” is a journey— for some still a discovery—well worth making.  Fourteen tracks, and recommended.

CD:  $20 ppd through gypsycowbelle.com, CDbaby or from Gypsy Cowbelle, PO Box 809, Thermopolis, WY 82443 

 © 2018, Rick Huff

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Pegie Douglas & The Badger Sett Band - The Music of Badger Clark Vol 2

THE MUSIC OF BADGER CLARK, Volume II
Pegie Douglas & The Badger Sett Band

In listening to this release, I was particularly struck by the skillfulness with which Clark’s poetry has been set to music.  Creating songs using classic cowboy verse is one of those classic slippery slopes, but Pegie Douglas just artfully skates along it.  The tracks here are perfectly thought through and well executed.  Now there are more successful Badger Clark-based songs from which to choose than just “Spanish Is The Lovin’ Tongue.”  And remember this is “Volume Two,” too!

The poems used here were drawn from the Clark collections Sun & Saddle Leather, Skylines & Woodsmoke and Cowboy Poetry:  Classic Poems & Prose by Badger Clark.  South Dakotan Douglas obviously created these works as a labor of love to fellow South Dakotan Clark who, incidentally, was that state’s first Poet Laureate.  Some are mixes of song and recitation nicely rendered by Ned Westphall.  In addition to him and Ms. Douglas (lead vocals & guitar), other members of the Badger Sett band (they do “sets” of Badger’s music: get it?) are Cheryl Janssens (bass), Marcia Kenobbie (lead/harmony vocals & mandolin) and Katie Lautenschlager (violin).

From inception to performance, this CD is Top Drawer all the way.   Ten tracks.   Highly recommended!

CD:  Contact Pegie Douglas, PO Box 925, Hill City, SD 57745 or visit pegiedouglas.com for information.

 © 2018, Rick Huff

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Ron Secoy - Cowboy Psalms

COWBOY PSALMS
Ron Secoy

Rather than being a specific statement of content, Cowboy Psalms is actually the title track of the newest release from Oklahoma poet Ron Secoy.  In truth most of these tracks are religious, some less so.  But all are lessons.

Picks here include the title cut “Cowboy Psalms” (equating herding herds and herding words), “Outlaw” (an O. Henry-worthy encounter at a campfire), the barroom braggin’ piece “Tall Tail” (his spelling not mine), “Adam & Eve” as cowfolk,  “Ol’ Bill” and “Mustang,” an unusual healing horse story set to Indian flute accompaniment.

Secoy’s delivery is straightforward, clear and deliberate, as are the points of the stories.  When I received it, I had first thought the CD must be an early release sent ahead of cover art and a tray card being ready.  But in phoning Secoy, I found this was not the case, or rather, I was looking at the complete case!  I fear it will hurt the album gaining radio/online airplay and certainly will knock it out of any award eligibility in the Fall.  But it’s listenable and orderable, and maybe that’s the artist’s main consideration.  Fourteen tracks.

CD:  $15 + $5 s/h from Ron Secoy, 272826 Gatlin, Duncan, OK 73533 and through ronsecoy.com

 © 2018, Rick Huff

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Chris Mortenson - I'll Rope You The Sunset

I’LL ROPE YOU IN THE SUNSET
Chris Mortenson

In a past review I drew a comparison between Chris Mortenson’s vocal styling and that of Neil Young, which Mortenson writes he finds “a bit puzzling.”  Well, puzzle onward!  For me it still holds true.  To my ear on most of the tracks, something in Mortenson’s swoop onto and casual glide over notes still evokes a bit of Neil Young, particularly in Young’s more recent material where he sings closer to Mortenson’s vocal range.  And a certain rock sensitivity on Mortenson’s part is suggested by the presence of the track called “Missing Glenn Frey.”

Basically this release is a mix of ballads and saga songs.  Picks include Bob Parson’s “When His Eyes Are Closed,” Randy Abel’s unusual and compassionate “Sgt. Eli’s Silver Mine,” Mortenson’s own “Shawn Wayne” and his “Eight Second Blues.”  The offering is enhanced significantly by the instrumental support on varying tracks of Ryan Shupe (fiddle), Bob Parson & Josh Ward (electric guitar), Scott Olson (harmonica & guitar), Ernie Sites (mandolin & acoustic lead guitar), Kelin Gibbons (banjo), Karl Gibbons (dobro), Greg Forbush (pedal steel), Tony Messerly (banjitar) and Zan Summers (drums).  Fifteen tracks.

It definitely should please Mortenson fans.

CD:  $15 ppd from Chris Mortenson, PO Box 405, Paradise, UT 84328

© 2018, Rick Huff

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Barry Ward - Coyotes & Cattle

COYOTES AND CATTLE
Barry Ward

The newest from The Bear strikes me as containing more first person reflections and End-of-Life’s-Trail songs than usual.  Am I mistaken, or is he trying to tell us something?  What am I saying.  Barry Ward frequently tries to tell us something!

Seven of the tracks here are Ward originals.  Picks among them include “Ruts Of The Santa Fe Trail,” the wistful title track “Coyotes & Cattle,” “That Old Barn,” “Saddle Up” and the rousing voice and guitar showpiece “Bandito,” even though its religious U-turn ending might otherwise make me veer off.  Among the covers we’ll name as picks are Marvin O’Dell’s “Keep A Candle In The Window,” the Indian-intoned “Wayfaring Stranger,” fellow Kansan Larry Hannon’s 1995 Will Rogers paean “The Man From Coo-Wees-Coo-Wee” and Gordon Mote’s “Wake Up Dancin’.”

Barry Ward is a former WMA Male Performer of the Year and his CD Coyotes & Cattle will still give you a good indication why.  All in all, it’s another solid horse in his string!  Thirteen tracks.  Recommended.

CD:  $15 + $3 s/h from Barry Ward, PO Box 185, Eureka, KS 67045 and through BarryWardMusic.com

 

Rick Huff’s “Best of the West Reviews,” Spring, 2017

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 and in other publications.

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

Find other recent reviews here and hundreds of previous reviews on CowboyPoetry.com.

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Selections from “Rick Huff’s Best of the West Reviews,” Spring, 2017, below:

CowboyPoetry.com MASTERS
Sam DeLeeuw COWBOY SEASONS
Almeda Bradshaw TRIBUTE
Sam Mattise SHADOW DUST
• 
Mary Kaye TAKE ME BACK TO TEXAS
• Joyce Woodson LIVING THE COWBOY DREAM
• Rich Price WESTERN SONGS
•  Panhandle Cowboys COWS, HORSES & COWGIRLS
•  Lone Chimney Films HOME ON THE RANGE
•  Wall-Eyed Moles WALL-EYED MOLES

 

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MASTERS
CowboyPoetry.com (Larry McWhorter, Sunny Hancock, Ray Owens & J.B. Allen)

In reviewing some releases, you really feel you should write a book! This is one of them.

This masterful (no pun intended) collection demonstrates not only the cowboy savvy and writing skill of this quartet, but also consummate storytelling ability in the delivery of their words and those of others. Here’s Larry McWhorter taking your emotions on a tearful trip with “Black Draught” and your face in a broad grin with “The Red Cow.” Plus his “Waitin’ On The Drive” and “Advice To The Traveler” are here and he closes with H.H. Knibbs’ “Where The Horses Come To Drink.” Then Sunny Hancock feeds you his magic with “The Horse Trade,” “A Bear Tale” and “The High Steppin’ Kind” with dessert being S. Omar Barker’s “The Cowboy’s Heaven!” While (by his own admission) Ray Owens might not have had quite the prowess of delivery his album mates possessed, his wonderful, often-covered words live on as his strength in “Color Blind,” “Tracks That Won’t Blow Out” and “The Saddle His Granddaddy Rode” and he earnestly recites J.B. Allen’s “A Rare Treat” (which this collection surely is). And Allen himself closes the collection with “The Medicine Keepers,” “Reasons For Stayin’, ” “Kindred Spirits” and Buck Ramsey’s “Anthem.” For many, each of these is a poet’s poet. Listen and you’ll know it! Seventeen
works.

CD:  CowboyPoetry.com

©2017, Rick Huff

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COWBOY SEASONS
Sam DeLeeuw

On this, Ms. D’s third release, some tracks are cowboy season-specific, some are all-season, but all of these poetic portions are seasoned to the cow culture taste.

Album picks include the cowboy lack-of awareness poem “Waitin'” and what could be the other side of it (“Cussed Old Cowboy”) or its all-too-plausible companion work “Dear John!” Also pick-worthy are the title track “Cowboy Seasons” and the sweet verse about girl and horse called “Jack.” Appropriate and pleasant guitar support for a number of the tracks is provided by David Anderson.

DeLeeuw takes serious turns in “The Rancher” (watching his life be auctioned away), “The Long Haul” (about commitment to the ranching life for better or worse) and “Prairie Phantom” with its sound effects of storm and stampede. You’ll find interesting perspectives in works like “Smell Of Horse” and a couple of tall tales (a lady Pecos Bill stars in “Hilda & The Tornado” and you’ll meet a giggling, hiccuping cow in “Big Windy”). And there’s a true O.Henry ending waiting in “Blue-Eyed Stranger.” A confession: I’m partial to Sam DeLeeuw’s cow noises. Twenty-one tracks.

CD: cowgalpoet.com

©2017, Rick Huff

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TRIBUTE
Almeda Bradshaw

As a rule I have not reviewed two- or three-song ETs, but the ever-increasing popularity of downloading individual songs has prompted a re-think on it.

Almeda Bradshaw won kudos across Cochise County in Arizona for her tribute song to slain sheriff (and cowboy) Larry Dever called “Larry Dever Did.”  She was inspired to create it after reading a book on the subject of his death that asked if it was accidental or murder.  Almeda fell into the category that believed the latter was true, and has now released the song for its eager fans to own.  Also on the ET is the poem “Cowboy” (by John Antrobus) which she adapted slightly in setting it to music.  Both songs feature sterling production values and performances from Almeda and players Lance Bendiksen (keyboards, accordion, harmonica, harmony vocals);  Ernie Martinez (banjo, dobro);  Johnny Neil & Nancy Steinburger (fiddles);  Dave Janssen (bass guitar) and Christian Teele (percussion).  Both of these “tribute” songs are worth your time and money to download.

(Song downloads available through almedam2bmusic.com/tribute)

©2017, Rick Huff

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SHADOW DUST
Sam Mattise

In his note accompanying the CD, singer/songwriter/poet Sam Mattise (rhymes with “ice”) said, “It’s a little different from most albums you hear and you may not care for it.” Trust me, Sam. I care for it, a whole bunch!

Vocally Mattise is somewhat reminiscent of Cat Stevens. He and his fellow musicians have proffered New Orleans style blues in Idaho for seventeen years under the name The Bitterbrush Blues Band, and the influences are brought to their Western material. It’s a great effect. Gotta say just hearing the swinging funky opening notes of the album’s first song “All Strung Out” brought a smile to my jaded face. All of the collection’s Western tracks (ten of the sixteen) I would call “picks,” but some I would elevate to “superb.” They are “Drover’s Camp” and “They Come Prancin'” (both written with A.K.
Moss), “Grandpa’s Saddle” (written with Tony Reed), “Echoes” and the spoken “Dreamin'” (both written with Charlie Camden). The other two co-writers on the CD are Mike Rupert and Gordon Peterson.

At least by subject content, some of the tracks would fall more into the Americana slot. Some of the picks there include the previously mentioned “All Strung Out,” “El Niño Blues” and “Me & Jack.” If Western is to grow, it will happen partly through other elements being brought intelligently and carefully into it. I hope we get to hear much more of this! Highly recommended!

CD:  sammattise.com

©2017, Rick Huff

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TAKE ME BACK TO TEXAS 
Mary Kaye

The title track is not the “Take Me Back To Texas” you might be thinking it is. This one is Mary Kaye’s all the way. Of course she makes “Streets Of Laredo.” “Leavin’ Cheyenne” and “Git Along Little Dogies” hers as well, just as much as she does her musical adaptation of Frank Desprez’s “Lasca.”

If all of that seems to have a familiar ring to it, it could be because this collection “takes you back” to releases from Mary Kaye’s earlier albums, some tried and true tracks with the main emphasis being on danceability, be it Swing, Waltz, Two-Step or You-Name-It. It will be particularly appreciated by late-comers to the powerful performance skills of Mary Kaye. She uses the word “sass” to describe her attitude songs. I’ve used it as well. That term works big-time to impart the effect of “Fringe,” “Girl Meets West” or “Grit Grace & Balin’ Twine”…not to mention her early career song “The Real Thing” and
even “The Prairie Preacher.”

Whether Take Me Back To Texas marks a re-visit for you or a new discovery, this Mary Kaye replay will be welcome. And—surprise, surprise—I’m recommending it! Fourteen tracks.

CD:  mary-kaye.com

©2017, Rick Huff

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LIVING THE COWBOY DREAM
Joyce Woodson

Once again Joyce Woodson “smooths” you along the trails of her own personal Western dream!

One of the consistently interesting aspects of Woodson’s releases is her ability to expand the territory covered by Western—not through experimentation, just following natural rivulets. Examples here are “Don & Diane,” “Souvenir,” “Girl On A Pony,” “Thank Jack,” “She’s In Love With Her Horse” and “You Couldn’t Buy That View.” And watch how many of these you will wind up hearing done by others.

For those who want to watch for Woodson to issue more songs for like “If I Hadn’t Seen The West,” check out “The Hidden Trail.” And two of her newer “most-requesteds” are here (“He Sang For Me” about Roy Rogers coming to see a kid in the hospital—something Roy touring with Hi Busse and the Frontiersmen managed to do at nearly every booking, and “That’s What A Pal Would Do”). Plus you’ll find some fresh views of classic Western scenes in “A Cowboy Far From Home” and the title track “Living The Western Dream.” Her many fans will eat it up.

Recommended, as always! Twelve tracks.

CD: joycewoodson.com

©2017, Rick Huff

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WESTERN SONGS
Rich Price
Here is the newest collection of big production writes and co-writes by “The Singing Sierran” Rich Price. Once again Price is shored up by an executive cadre of veteran performers the likes of which you will seldom see! Former members of Elvis Presley’s legendary back-up singers, The Jordanaires, bring rich harmony to the plate; Joey “The Cowpolka King” Miskulin has brought his considerable talents to it; harmonica legend Charlie McCoy, longtime player and producer Jimmy Capps with Harold Bradley; Brad
Alpin; Andy Reiss; and Bob Mater round it out. The mind boggles!

The “Big West” feel pervades, even on some decidedly non-Western tracks on this CD entitled “Western Songs,” such as “NashvilleTennessee” and “Blue Caribbean.” At least cowboys are in attendance lyrically on tracks like “Fast Lane” and “Baby’s Love.” More in line thematically are the CD’s pick tracks “Santa Fe Special” and “Lone Star Over Texas.” Vocally Price drifts leisurely onto and around the pitch, but his folks—both players and buyers—appear to be used to it. Twelve tracks.

CD:  iTunes and other outlets

©2017, Rick Huff

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COWS, HORSES & COWGIRLS 
Panhandle Cowboys

After a three year hiatus (at least from recording), the duo known as the Panhandle Cowboys has returned. Better engineered and mastered this time around, this album pretty much lets them be them.

Farmer Dave Fulfs is an accomplished Burl Ives-type singer on these original tracks. J.B. Barber contributes poetic narrations on eight of them, with nice support from Bodie Dominguez (guitar, bass & harmonica) and Elliott Marks (fiddle). The traditional style songwriting here strikes me as being particularly intelligent and suits Fulfs’ delivery well. One technical puzzlement: I don’t fully understand why Barber’s EQ (tone on his voice) and presence varies from one track to the next, but, whatever.

Picks include “Prairie Waltz,” “Coyote Swing,” “Blackfoot Joe,” “Cowboy Trail,” “The New Outfit,” “Thirty & Found” and “A P{lace Called Idaho.” It’s a nice little collection, and should find favor with the folks who take their Western Americana straight. Sixteen tracks.

CD: $15 ppd through farmerdave@turbonet.com or by calling for arrangements (509) 336-1616 and downloads are available through cdbaby.com.

©2017, Rick Huff

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HOME ON THE RANGE
Lone Chimney Films (various artists)

Here is the kind of film and soundtrack people keep hoping will appear: a movie about a Western subject that actually uses Western Music. Of course the subject actually is a Western song, but that wouldn’t stop some people from using Hip Hop!

The song in the spotlight appears a number of times, reasonably. Film actor Mathew Greer, Michael Martin Murphey and Sons Of The Pioneers versions of it are present, plus a finale featuring an “ensemble” of Mr. Murphey; Barry Ward; Rex Allen, Jr.; Hot Rize; Riders In The Sky; Cherokee Maidens; Uche; Bobby J. Edwards and Jesse Friesen…and KANSAS! The original song “Western Home” from Noah Trammell and Elena Henry should be lauded, and other notable contributors include the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s John McEuen. Individual tracks of interest include Connie Dover’s “I Am Going To The West,” Skip Gorman’s “When The Work’s All Done This Fall,” “Prairie Home Lullabye” from the outstanding harmony group Cherokee Maidens, the Diamond W Wranglers’ “Rolling Kansas Plains” and a rare home recording of “Zebra Dun” from one of radio’s early singing cowboys Roy Faukner.

It’s a monumental achievement, done in tribute to what is arguably the most important cowboy song of them all. Proceeds help support the maintenance of the original “Home On The Range” cabin in Smith County, Kansas. Fifteen tracks.

CD: lonechimneyfilms.org

©2017, Rick Huff

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WALL-EYED MOLES
Wall-Eyed Moles
In truth the musical collaboration of these folks predates their name by about a decade and a half. But enter now the Wall-Eyed Moles!

Like all good moles, they’ve given themselves names. Jeannie Cahill is “Victor Mole,” Jerome Campbell is ” Vance Mole” and Jon Messenger is—(whoa, horsey)—”Vivian Mole(??)” So fitting. And then they get down to serious music making! In fact this represents some of the absolute best work yet captured on a recording by Jon “Vivian” Messenger! The rowdy attitude that marks The Moles (is there a “Mark” Mole too?) is all over Tom Russell’s “Tonight We Ride” in lingo and delivery, and I swear Messenger’s
delivery of Russell’s “The Sky Above & The Mud Below” rivals, if not surpasses, Russell’s original.

There is a thoroughly cool a capella version of Tim Spencer’s “Over Nevada.” Some of the more familiar songs covered are provided with fresh coats, but most intriguing is the inclusion of songs not commonly thought of as Western. Cases in point: Steve Earle’s “Me & The Eagle,” Van Morrison’s “Moondance” or opening and closing “Ghost Riders In The Sky” with part of Led Zepplin’s “Stairway To Heaven.”

The CD closes with Messenger’s heartfelt recitation to music of Buck Ramsey’s “Anthem.” It’s line “we’ll be good and we’ll be free” could stand as a Mole Mission Statement. Recommended all over the place! Thirteen tracks.

CD:  www.facebook.com/walleyedmolesjeanneandjerome.com

©2017, Rick Huff

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

__________

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

 

ahrh

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