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   I could taste the dust he raised when he rode the Chisholm Trail
   Pushing cattle into Kansas where the prairie met the rail
   I could feel the loneliness, and, Lord, I knew the pain
   And time that passed the cowboy by will never come again.....

Those lines from songwriter and musician Kerry Grombacher's "Never Come Again" exemplify the heart and the history that characterize his work.  Whether you see this versatile performer in solo performance, backing up a cowboy band, accompanying a cowboy poet, or singing his own ballads, the sounds you hear are true and deep; his appreciation of western life and the cowboy inform his performances and western recordings.  

It Sings in the Hi-Line is his latest new album of western songs.

About Kerry Grombacher

Selected Lyrics
Along the John Day River
An Old Cowboy Growing Older
Never Come Again
Who Set This Fire?
Crosses on the Side of the Road

Highway 281

Recordings and more

Performance Schedule

Contact Information

Kerry Grombacher plays guitar and mandolin and writes and performs contemporary western and folk songs. In the spirit of the troubadours and balladeers of old, Kerry's songs paint vivid portraits and tell fascinating stories.  You'll find him at Cowboy Poetry Gatherings and Folk Music Festivals, singing his songs, playing mandolin as a sideman, and picking in the jam sessions and around the campfires until the last song is sung.

Kerry has lived and worked among cattlemen for over 30 years and that's taught him to admire the men and women who still work cattle and to respect the traditions of the West. His songs have found great acceptance among the poets, musicians and fans who have heard him play, and they have been recorded and performed by well-known western artists, including The Texas Trail Hands, Duke Davis, Gary Prescott, and Ken and Phee Graydon. His song, "Never Come Again," was featured at the dedication of the last memorial marker on the Chisholm Trail in Oklahoma in 1997.

Bud Strom, the cowboy poet from Hereford, Arizona, "roped" Kerry into western music when they met and performed together twice in 1995. A songwriter who was already active in the Austin music scene, Kerry was invited to the February 1996 Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, Arizona, with which Bud is associated, and to the Arizona Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Prescott the following August. 

"My eyes and my ears were opened," Kerry says. " Western music has helped me find a more distinct voice for telling stories, and I've had some remarkable performing opportunities.  Plus, I've met the most wonderful people."

continued below . . .

Selected Lyrics


Along the John Day River

Sky streaked with wood smoke, the Malheur is burning
There's a dry wind off the Cascades and the storm clouds are churning
Pine Mountain Lookout, a voice on the wireless
Calls lightning strikes and fires along the John Day River

The blaze has crowned the Lodge Poles that grow along the ridgeline
Scorched the Ponderosas, Junipers and White Pines
Heat leaps out to hit you like a wind from Hell is blowing
But the firelines are holding along the John Day River

All through the summer with the forest dry as kindling
Watch the horizon for the signs of weather building
Storms move off the western ranges, leaving rain behind them
Thunder rocks the canyon walls -- they pound the earth with lightning

There's fire in the whiskey, peat smoke trapped in amber
Raise glasses all around to the ones whom we remember

Drink to the lookouts, the jumpers and the hotshots
Here's to the pilots who fly the slurry drops
Raise shovel and Pulaski to the ones who dig the firelines
With hearts heat-forged like iron, along the John Day River

Sky streaked with wood smoke, the Malheur is burning
Sunset like an oyster shell or autumn leaves a'turnin'
Starlight faintly shimmers, like glowing coals among the cinders
Above the fallen timbers along the John Day River

Starlight faintly shimmers -- glowing coals among the cinders
Above the fallen timbers, along the John Day River

© 2000 Kerry Grombacher (Ring of Fire Music - BMI) from the CD Sands Motel
These lyrics may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.





An Old Cowboy Growing Older

I am lying in my bunk, startled from my sleep
Like I just heard daylight breaking, I'm afraid I'll catch the blame
I have just turned ten years old, an age when things won't keep
I fly off to the tack room for saddle, spur and rein

I am soaring like an eagle high above the grassy prairie
Hoof beats pound like thunder, I am riding on the wind
I have just turned twenty-one, life's an unfenced range around me
I am moving, ever moving on a drive that never ends

The radio says snow tonight, I can feel the wind blow colder
Mem'ry spins my thoughts right round, like a hand upon my shoulder
Dreams reach out and pull me in, stronger, ever bolder
The past is all that's left me, I'm an old man growing older
The past is all that's left to this old cowboy growing older

I am stretched out on my back, gazing at the Milky Way
How vast the universe must be to contain a cowboy's dreams
I look into her eyes, fumbling for the words to say
Her kiss tells me somehow she knows exactly what I mean

My left shoulder tightens, I'm still wincing at the pain
I thought I had that horse rode -- all I broke was cowboy pride
A wise man said only fools would wish to ride old mounts again
For we cannot ride them differently, no matter how we try

The radio says snow tonight, I can feel the wind blow colder
Mem'ry spins my thoughts right round, like a hand upon my shoulder
Dreams reach out and pull me in, stronger, ever bolder
The past is all that's left me, I'm an old man growing older
The past is all that's left to this old cowboy growing older

Every trail I've ever covered, every horse I've ever ridden
All the stories that I heard round the campfire or the table
They come back to me like visitors - some invited, some unbidden
Tracing that long pathway from this bed back to the cradle

The first time I saw Denver I swore it wasn't real
I'd never seen so many lights - stars paled though brightly burning
The simple mysteries of life in a moment are revealed
And there's just one light that shines tonight and I turn to it with yearning

The radio says snow tonight, I can feel the wind blow colder
Mem'ry spins my thoughts right round, like a hand upon my shoulder
Dreams reach out and pull me in, stronger, ever bolder
The past is all that's left me, I'm an old man growing older
The past is all that's left to this old cowboy growing older
There's just one light that shines tonight for this cowboy passing over


© 1999 Kerry Grombacher (Ring of Fire Music - BMI) from the CD Riding for the Brand 
These lyrics may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Never Come Again

He was bedded down in a tourist court outside Abilene
In the season when the work grows scarce and whiskey warms your dreams
A weathered man, a top cowhand, whose knots were worn and frayed
He told tales about his working life and the debts he'd left unpaid

His tapestry of stories, part real and part Zane Grey
Grew cold with repetition at the dimming of the day
'Til the customers and the waitresses in that truck stop restaurant
Were tired of hearing of the west that old wraith used to haunt

 I could taste the dust he raised when he rode the Chisholm Trail
 Pushing cattle into Kansas where the prairie met the rail
 I could feel the loneliness, and, Lord, I knew the pain
 And time that passed the cowboy by will never come again
 Never come again - never come again

Then his eyes they turned an inward gaze just like you might have seen
If you'd looked at the boarded storefronts on the streets of Abilene
And his leathered hands were chapped and raw from the years they'd held the reins
And he rode the cattle trails again in the silence of his dreams

In his dream the range was wide and free, there was room enough for all
Springs were running clear again and the grass was sweet and tall
You could ride to the horizon and your path was straight and true
And a man's word was his bond then and his name was all you knew

 I could taste the dust he raised when he rode the Chisholm Trail
 Pushing cattle into Kansas where the prairie met the rail
 I could feel the loneliness, and, Lord, I knew the pain
 And time that passed the cowboy by will never come again
 Never come again - never come again

Now the food we ate from the restaurant was filling, good, and hot
But my cattle truck was waiting on the truck stop parking lot
I'd listened to his stories and I'd stood the man a meal
I walked away with a cowboy's dream and I'd done well in the deal

I still recall that cowboy's face, but I never learned his name
And I look for him from time to time as I pass through Abilene
And I think about my cattle drive on this blacktop Interstate
And I envy that old cowboy, for I have come too late

 I could taste the dust he raised when he rode the Chisholm Trail
 Pushing cattle into Kansas where the prairie met the rail
 I could feel the loneliness, and, Lord, I knew the pain
 And time that passed the cowboy by will never come again
 Never come again- never come again
 Never come again - never come again

© 1996 Kerry Grombacher  (Ring of Fire Music - BMI) from the tape release Home to the West
These lyrics may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

 

Who Set This Fire?

I'm Standing at the grave of Smokey the Bear, patron saint of Capitan
A firefighter on a pilgrimage from the Malheur Forest of Oregon
Haze yellowed a sky of New Mexico blue, I tasted smoke in the back of my throat
Pictured Arizona and Colorado fires, Sat down on a bench and then I wrote

            Who set this fire? Who set this fire?
            Spreading like a cancer across our land
            The inferno leaps from an evil hand
            A heart of stone, a soul that's damned
            Who set this fire?

There's a splendid violence when the fire crowns and smoke roils high as thunderclouds
But you don't see it from the line, Pulaski in hand, 'cause your back is bent and your
      head is bowed
You're digging like you're praying for a miracle but the miracle is rain that never fell
So you just hope that the fool who lit the match spends eternity in the flames of hell

            Who set this fire? Who set this fire?
            Spreading like a cancer across our land
            The inferno leaps from an evil hand
            A heart of stone, a soul that's damned
            Who set this fire?

            Bridge:

            Back in 1950 when the Lincoln burned
            They found an orphaned cub with scorched black hands
            Now after all these years of Smokey the Bear
            What part of "Only you" don't you understand?

We build monuments to the ones we've lost, caught in the line of fire
But we never expected that one of our own would carry the torch to the funeral pyre
It's the driest summer, the worst fire season in over a hundred years
There's not a drop of rain falling across the west, we're just soaking the ground with our
     smoky tears

            Who set this fire? Who set this fire?
            Spreading like a cancer across our land
            The inferno leaps from an evil hand
            A heart of stone, a soul that's damned
            Who set this fire?

I'm standing at the grave of Smokey the Bear
Asking "Who set this fire?"

© 1996 Kerry Grombacher (Ring of Fire Music - BMI)
These lyrics may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


 

Crosses on the Side of the Road

Iíve seen the crosses on the side of the road
Souls that haunt the right of way
One racing moment, when grief is exposed
Drivers look and then weíre miles away

And Iíve seen the pictures at those roadside altars,
Locks of hair, and votive lights
Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters
Keep the memories strong and burning bright 

            Somebody stopped and put those flowers there
            Somebody stopped and said a little prayer
            Somebody stayed as long as he could stay
            Somebodyís heart ached as she drove away

The night is dark and the wipers are slashing
Doors are locked, the windows closed
Through the rain, a stark apparition
Looms beyond the wet, black road

Caught in the headlights, an owl or a spirit
Pirouettes in an aerial ballet
Gliding low, where no one can hear it
Among the flowers that are new today

            Somebody stopped and put those flowers there
            Somebody stopped and said a little prayer
            Somebody stayed as long as he could stay
            Somebodyís heart ached as she drove away

Iíve seen the tears streaming down mournersí faces
Each one facing loss alone
A scar that time never completely erases
An epitaph thatís carved in cold gray stone

Give them the roses while theyíre still living
There are lessons hard to learn
Give all the love thatís yours for the giving
You never know whatís round the roadís next turn

            Somebody stopped and put those flowers there
            Somebody stopped and said a little prayer
            Somebody stayed as long as he could stay
            Somebodyís heart ached as she drove away

© 2002 Kerry Grombacher (Ring of Fire Music - BMI)
These lyrics may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

Highway 281

Shining white above the treetops, overlooking its domain
A grain elevator, the cathedral of the Plains
As the sun comes up, the farmer prays for the crop thatís in the field
All his dreams, his hopes and fears, lie in the yield
I see a clothesline strung from an old caboose to a car thatís up on blocks
The door to the feed and seed is closed with the sheriffís lock
Now thereís a gallery and a coffee shop inside the western store
Nothingís quite the same as it was before

         Before you see the trucks, you can hear the air brakes sound
         Main Street is wide enough to turn a wagon Ďround
         The sign at Daylight Donuts is flashing off and on
         Traffic picks up early on Highway 281 

I have an ojo de venado to ward off the evil eye
A brujo from South Texas gave it to me for the drive
Thereís a low black hearse and a line of cars on a farm road driving west
The ancient prayers and amulets can never hold back death
Fog from the bottomland shrouds the prairie grass
Itís hard to recognize the towns as I pass
But the roadís a long black ribbon thrown across the Gypsum Hills
The songs of New Jerusalem echo out there still

         When Coronado rode these plains, the grass was six feet tall
         Now the quest for El Dorado has overwhelmed us all
         What Coronado set in motion cannot be undone
         Itís strung out along Highway 281

Thereís a song here for my father, Iíve written it more than once
Each day I put new words down, Iíve been doing this for months
Thereís an empty feeling in my throat where my fatherís name once dwelled
And an icy numbness in my chest that I fear may never melt
I lived in the shadow of the Leavenworth jails
I walked in the ruts of the Oregon Trail
Now Iím out here on the highway with the songs my father loved
Golden Rocket and El Paso, Wings of a Dove
Iíve seen this at a siding on the railroad right of way
A sign still stands to mark the spot though the town has blown away
Iíll pull into the breakdown lane until my tears are done
Then Iíll be driving out on Highway 281

        The roadís a ribbon of moonlight, when the day is done
         Iíll be driving out on Highway 281

© 2009 Kerry Grombacher (Ring of Fire Music - BMI)
These lyrics may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


About Kerry Grombacher, continued

About his growing reputation as a western songwriter, Kerry says,  "I think that the key to the acceptance of my songs is that I get the details right. I listen closely to folks who know what they're talking about, I read widely, and I use my imagination to put myself into the situations that I write about.  Of course, it helps that I love the west and that I've worked outdoors, under big skies, as an archaeologist in New Mexico, as a historian documenting farms and ranches in Texas, and fighting forest fires in Eastern Oregon."

 "But the closest I've come to anything that might be called 'day work'," Kerry says, "Is stacking hay for my friend, rancher/poet Peggy Godfrey, when I pass through the San Luis Valley in Colorado on my summer concert tours. One day I did help Peggy round up a llama that she'd been trying out as a
sheep guard, an incident that truly challenged my non-existent roping skills. I don't suppose that handling llamas does much for my rep as a cowboy, though."

In the course of his nationwide tours, Kerry has sung his songs on stages as varied as the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering (Sierra Vista, Arizona), the Newport Folk Festival (Newport, Rhode Island), Cowboy Songs & Range Ballads (Cody, Wyoming) and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (New Orleans, Louisiana). He's played mandolin as a sideman with performers at the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Durango, Colorado), the Wet Mountains Western Music Festival (Westcliffe, Colorado), the Napa Valley Folk Festival (Napa, California) and many other music festivals.  In addition to Cowboy Gatherings and Folk Festivals, he performs regularly at arts centers, house concerts, coffeehouses and other music venues. Kerry is also known for the workshops on creativity and songwriting that he conducts with high school students, and the seminars on booking that he's presented at some festivals.

Kerry's recordings include the CDs It Sings in the Hi-Line (2008), Sands Motel (2001) and Riding for the Brand (1999), and the tape releases, Dreams of New Orleans (1998) and Home to the West (1996). He's a member of the Western Music Association, the North American Folk Alliance, the Academy of Western Artists and the Austin Performing Songwriters' Group, and he participates in the endorsement program for Elixir Guitar and Mandolin Strings.  When he's not on the road, Kerry Grombacher divides his time between Austin and New Orleans.

His concert and festival schedule is kept up to date at his web site, which also has a sales area and the world-famous gallery of Sands Motel photos.




"The things that interest me in the world are things that are on the
margins, not quite in the mainstream."  Kerry Grombacher, quoted in The
Albuquerque Tribune
.


"Riding for the Brand," according to Baxter Black, is the only song ever
written about a brand inspector.


"Along the John Day River," (included in Sands Motel) a tribute to wildland fire fighters, may be the
only song that mentions the Pulaski, the essential forest fire-fighting tool
whose head is a combination ax and grub hoe.


Sands Motel -- the album, the song, and the hand-painted necktie -- was
inspired by the motels that Kerry passes while driving about 45,000 miles a
year for concert appearances.  You can see photos of Sands Motels at
www.kgrombacher.com/museum.cfm.


 

Kerry Grombacher's Performance Schedule

 

You'll find Kerry Grombacher at the top festivals and gatherings. His web site displays his schedule.

 

 

Some of Kerry Grombacher's Recordings

 

It Sings in the Hi-Line

Kerry describes his 2008 CD:

It Sings in the Hi-Line is my new album of western songs. They're stories set in the landscape that I travel, from my home on New Orleans' Bayou St. John to the Hi-Line of Montana, the desert Southwest and the Northwest forests where I fought fires in my younger days. The album was recorded at Flashpoint Studio in Austin with Kerry Grombacher (vocals, guitars), Kenny Grimes (guitars), Lynn Daniel (bass), Chip Dolan (accordion), Paul Pearcy (percussion), Warren Hood (fiddle) and the Eastside Flash (dobro). Here are notes on the twelve songs:

 1. "It Sings in the Hi-Line"óthe Hi-Line is Northern Montana where US Hwy 2 and the Burlington
     Northern RR parallel the Canadian border, and it's where Chief Joseph surrendered to the US
     Cavalry
 2. "Never Come Againa chance encounter with an old cowboy in an Abilene truck stop
 3. "Almas Perdidas (Lost Souls)memorializes the 2002 discovery of the bodies of 11 Mexican
     migrants in a freight car in Iowa
 4. "Wild West MamboBuffalo Bill brought the Wild West Show to New Orleans in 1884 and Plains
     Indians met Mardi Gras Indians
 5. "Moonrise, Hernandez NMinspired by Ansel Adams' October 31, 1941 photo
 6. "Blue Pony (Dream of Leaving Havre)a young woman longs to leave the Hi-Line town of Havre
     (pronounced hav-ur), whose high school's mascot is the Blue Pony
 7. "Crosses on the Side of the RoadI've been photographing roadside crosses and altars for several
     years
 8. "Bison Winddown-on-his-heels cowboy heads south for the winter
 9. "Valley of Shadowsthe Spanish Inquisition, active in the New World in the 18th Century, causes
     Jews to flee Monterrey, Mexico
10. "Cajun CowboyLouisiana cowboy (there are lots of them) finds work in Wyoming
11. "Rock SpringsWyoming residents have laughed and told me that every word rings true
12. "The Edge of the Worldwritten after a day of working horseback on a ranch owned by the
      Acoma Pueblo, west of Albuquerque

It Sings in the Hi-Line is available through www.kgrombacher.com and at www.cdbaby.com/cd/grombacher3, or for $17 postpaid from: 812 North Carrollton Ave. New Orleans LA 70119; kgrombacher@yahoo.com.

 

Riding for the Brand

Includes: The Old Cocinero, Will Cowboy for Food, A Wolf's Come Down from the Mountains, The Old Trailer, Morning Comes to Mission Santa Fe, Close 'em on Up, Riding for the Brand, The Devil's in the Details, Ol' Jake, The Western Swing of Ray Reed's Day, Bell County, and An Old Cowboy Growing Older.  You can listen to selected clips on Kerry Grombacher's site.

  Sands Motel

Includes:  Muscle and Will, Along the John Day River, Second Hand Smoke, Territorial Prison, Sands Motel, I Was in the Presence of an Angel Tonight, Whose Coat Was This?, Dreams of New Orleans, The End of Love, Down From Norfolk, Take Her Back to Tulsa, and These Memories. You can listen to selected clips on Kerry Grombacher's site and visit the "Kerry Grombacher Museum (of Sands Motel signs)."

 

Also of interest: 

Click for Cowboy Miner  In 1998, Kerry Grombacher wrote "The Old Cocinero" (The Old Cook).  He and Duke Davis reworked the song and Duke Davis recorded it on his Chase the Wind album.  (It is also on Kerry's Riding for the Brand.)  The song is included in a book of Duke Davis' poetry, published in 2000 by Cowboy Miner.  You can read more about the book and read the most recent version of "The Old Cocinero" at the Cowboy Miner site.

 

Contact Information

Visit Kerry Grombacher's web site, and you can contact him:

812 N. Carrollton Avenue
New Orleans  LA   70119
512-296-7833     
kgrombacher@yahoo.com

 

 

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