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Rick Huff reviews Western music and cowboy poetry releases in his "Rick Huff's Best of the West Reviews" column in Rope Burns,The Western Way from the Western Music Association, the Backforty Bunkhouse Newsletter, CowboyLegacy.org, and at CowboyPoetry.com, We're pleased to have selected reviews below.

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.

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


Rick Huff has produced radio and TV ads and done TV hosting and deejay work for nearly 37 years.  He's had his own production company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, since 1978.  

His working interest in Western Music began in 1983, promoting and creating with Western Music Hall-of-Famer Hi Busse.  In 1986 they developed the radio featurette "Song and Story with Hi Busse" and Huff subsequently released two albums of Hi Busse & The Frontiersmen material.  He has co-produced CD's for Sons of the Rio Grande and Jim Jones. 

In 1999 he and Sidekick Productions' Mary Ryland formed Frontiersmen 2 to co-produce their radio show "The Best of the West Revue" and its publication "The Best of the West Digest."  In 2004 they released a double CD set, The Best of New Mexico Western: Big Surprises From Behind the Chile Curtain! and are currently working on Volume II - or as they like to call it Son of the Best of New Mexico Western!  


Huff's "Western Air" column appears regularly in the Western Music Association's magazine, The Western Way. He also writes for Classic Country & Western magazine and Rope Burns. The column is a regular feature of the Western Music Association's quarterly magazine, The Western Way, and we're pleased to have recent columns posted here.


Selected Reviews from Rick Huff's Best of the West Reviews


Reviews on this Page

Alphabetically by artist, below

This is page three

See page one for a complete alphabetical list of all reviews


Harmonicowboy by Gary Allegretto

Western State O’ Mind by John Bergstrom
Thirty Years Too Late, Volume 1 by The Blackbury Band
Song Man by Donnie Blanz
Lost Trails by Bob and Johnny Boatright
Saloon Piano Vol. V by Dave Bourne
Mending Fences by Marci Broyhill
Cowgirl Serenade by The Buckarettes

Twilight on the Trail by Call of the West
Follow the Trail by Carin Mari & and Pony Express
From Whence They Came by TJ Casey
Sixth Generation (tales of the west) by Allan Chapman
Winding Highways by Mickey Clark
Judy Coder Yodels! by Judy Coder
They're on the Wind by Richard Lee Cody
The Leather, The Dust by Maureen Joy Gale and Jesse Colt
The Right Five—Vol. 1 by Country Night Live
Route 66 by Cowbop
The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three from CowboyPoetry.com
Longing for the Range by Vince Crofts and Mindi Reid
Save The West by The Cross Town Cowboys
Wind Blow My Blues Away by Chuck Cusimano

Cowtown by the Diamond W Wranglers
Posterity by Dona Dillenschneider
Drinkin' Things Over by Cody Dodson
The Emigrant Trail by Ray Doyle
Compadres by Will Dudley and Evelyn Roper
Ten Winters & Ten Springs by Due West Trio featuring Rena Randall
Between Earth and Heaven, Volume Two, by Mike Dunn

Open That Gate by John England & The Western Swingers

My Adobe Hacienda by the Flying J Wranglers

Forever West by Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail
The Leather, The Dust by Maureen Joy Gale and Jesse Colt
This Cowboy's On His Own by Jim Garling
Sometimes, in the Lucias by Janice Gilbertson
Hank Did It This Way by Les Gilliam
Saturday Nite by Earl Gleason
Wanderers by Earl Gleason
The Ranching Way of Life by Peggy Godfrey and ScSeed
Poems Stories & Songs by Joe Green
My Father's Horses by DW Groethe
It Sings in the Hi-Line by Kerry Grombacher

Paul Harris, by Paul Harris

There's a Road by Interstate Cowboy

Different State of Mind by Jim Jones
Still Ridin' by Jim Jones

Autumn's On Its Way by Katy Creek
Hoofbeats, Heartbeats & Wings by Mary Ann Kennedy
The Rhythm of the Ride by Mary Ann Kennedy
The Trail Less Traveled
by Mary Ann Kennedy
 Rimrock (Where Memories Rhyme)
by Paul Kern
Cowboy Songs by Kristin Killion
Conflict In The Frio Canyon and The Mysterious Yellow Rose of Texas by Linda Kirkpatrick

A Cowboy's Life by Latigo
My Picture Window by Pete Laumbach
The 75th Anniversary Album—Bill Simmons Tribute by the Light Crust Doughboys

Reminiscin' by Slim McNaught

Jonah by Andy Nelson and Nikki Mann
Roads to Colorado by Liz Masterson
This is Tommy Duncan by Billy Mata & the Texas Tradition
Passin' it On, by Mag Mawhinney
I'd Rather Be... by Al "Doc" Mehl
Spirits Still Remain by Mike Moutoux
New Mexico Ranch Songs & Such by Doug Muchmore
Forever West by Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail

Jonah by Andy Nelson and Nikki Mann
Christmas Round The Campfire by Barbara Nelson
Home Ranch Trails by Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue

The Ghosts of Yellowstone by Myra Pearce
Anytime You Want by Ronnie Pfeil
The Call (More Songs from The Lonesome Prairie) by Rick Pickren
Back in the Saddle by John Pickul
Romance With The Range by Prickly Pair

Ten Winters & Ten Springs by Due West Trio featuring Rena Randall
1880s Cowboys by Jim Reader
Longing for the Range by Vince Crofts and Mindi Reid
The Land Where We Come From by Rockin' HW
Compadres by Will Dudley and Evelyn Roper

The Ranching Way of Life by Peggy Godfrey and ScSeed
The Missouri Matador by Jerry Schleicher
Cowboy Poetry by
J.D. Seibert
Measure of a Man by Sons and Brothers
Sons of the San Joaquin
Live Western Jubilee Warehouse by Sons of the San Joaquin
In a Texas Honky Tonk by Hank Stone
Ghost Riders, Searchers & Cowpokes by Keeter Stuart

The Cowgirl Way by Terri Taylor
Water, Weeds & Ghosts by Trails & Rails
Yellowhead to Yellowstone and other Love Stories by Ian Tyson

Music from Redwing Ranch by Tony Vice

Whispers of the West by Barry Ward
Just Another Songwriter by Mentor Williams
Hang-n-Rattle by Wylie & the Wild West

Playin' Cowboy Music by Yampa Valley Boys


Various Artists
The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three from CowboyPoetry.com


More reviews on page two and page four

See page one for a complete alphabetical list of all reviews


Yellowhead to Yellowstone and other Love Stories
Ian Tyson

In this new release you won't hear the same kind of musical experimentation you've found in the last three CDs from Canada's iconic Ian Tyson. Probably all concerned felt one principal component here was experiment enough...namely, what the reaction will be to Ian's new voice!

Ian says he lost a battle with a sound system at a show in Canada and then contracted a virus that finished the job. The promotional material (which always puts the positive swing on things) says audiences are responding in fresh ways to the effect. That seems to be true as I had a chance to
experience it firsthand last fall.

The new voice pretty much resides in Rod McKuen country, but the highs in particular and the expressive elements are solidly Ian. And his originals this time around should win over any doubters. In the title track, Ian again takes on the animal spirit...this time wolves relocated into Yellowstone Park... and gloriously runs with it. One of those superb, larger than life Tyson cowboy tributes made it aboard in "Bill Kane" and other songs here contain some of the most heartfelt images and lyrics since
those in his "Lost Herd" CD. But of course now all must await the verdict of the music buyers and Ian, his people and his label are aware it's a gamble.

Make what you will of it, but among the Love Stories this time out there are special songs for longtime trail and song mates. Cowriter, buddy and cowboy poet Ross Knox gets "Ross Knox." Cowriter and friend Blaine McIntyre gets "Blaino's Song." Purely a personal take, but in those songs and others I can't help but feel there's a drop of "here ya go just in case we don't go on" in the chardonnay.

CDs: www.iantyson.com

© 2009, Rick Huff

Hank Did It This Way
Les Gilliam

"Hank Did It This Way" of course, although for my money Les Does It As Well!

Les Gilliam (pronounced "gillum" for the few uninitiated) is The Oklahoma Balladeer and Oklahoma chose wisely!  You might take a guess who the "Hank" of the title is, and you'd almost certainly be right no matter who you selected!!  As his CD opener explains, it's all the most famous Hanks...Penny, Locklin, Thompson, Snow and Williams!  There are respectful takes of many of their greats here, including "Won't You Ride In My Little
Red Wagon," "I'm Movin' On," "Humpty Dumpty Heart," "Most Of All," "Kawliga"...fourteen tunes total with two Gilliam originals "Hank Was His Name" and "What's Right With America."

There is a more intimate, less produced effect in these tracks. After one very good album done in Wichita, Gilliam has returned to his friends at Studio Seven in Oklahoma City with producer/bass man Dave Copenhaver and
drummer Steve Short returning as well. And also returned is Les Gilliam's comfortable smooth approach to his material. Fans will warm to it, naturally.

In keeping with the theme here, I say we should give all concerned a vote of "Hanks!"  Sorry about that...

CDs:  (contact Lunacy Records for info at (405) 236-0643 or write Lunacy/Studio Seven, 417 N. Virginia, Oklahoma City, OK  73106); www.lesgilliam.com

© 2009, Rick Huff

New Mexico Ranch Songs & Such

Doug Muchmore

A new voice on the scene is New Mexico working rancher, singer and songwriter Doug Muchmore...and this CD is a good, honest debut.

Stylistically Muchmore's cowboy message in his songs reminds me of the "say it straight and git 'er done" approach of Leon Autry (a former "neighbor" of Muchmore's) and other contemporary traditional artists. Yet he leans toward more unusual melodies and rhythms in the presentation, and that might move him more into the Jim Reader camp. "New Mexico Cattleman's Blues," "Learned Too Young," "End Of The Line" and "Last Playin' Card" are some of his recommended originals here.

Muchmore is certainly an artists who draws his inspiration from reality. Some may feel he leans a little more heavily on the device of hummed instrumental bridges than necessary, but style is style. I'd say his debut CD shows him to be an artist to watch and (happily) listen to.

CDs: $9.99 ppd through www.cdbaby.com (www.cdbaby.com/dougmuchmore)

© 2009, Rick Huff

Poems Stories & Songs
Joe Green

In a marked departure from his last all-music release, this release is one third oral history, one third poetry about that oral history and the remaining third is cowboy music.  In other words, with Joe Green's new CD, what it's named is what you get! 

The musical portion is a mix of classics and three originals including one from his previous CD. As we said, this album differs in style and presentation from his last one Back To The Good Old Days. For one thing, it was recorded with an invited "studio audience."  In his delivery of the original poems here Green reminds me of the all-things-Texas showman/historian K.R. Wood, although Green takes it more toward the presentational side...halfway to the 19th Century bully braggart who'd stand at one end of town and yell "I'm wild 'n' wooly 'n' full of fleas and ain't never been curried below the knees!!!" 

Backing Green is a good acoustic Cowboy Swing combo made up of David Martin (upright bass), the award-winning Carolyn Martin (guitar /vocals) and "Doc" West (guitar/harmony vocals) that provides welcome support.  Carolyn Martin also handles lead vocal chores on "Vaya Con Dios" and provides one of the album's high points in so doing! 

CD:  $15 through www.backfortybunkhouse.com

© 2009, Rick Huff

Wylie & the Wild West

Seven of this CD's thirteen tracks are Wylie Gustafson/Paul Zarzyski collaborations! That alone will tell the attuned among you you're in for a wild ride. For the rest I'll just say Hang-n-Rattle! fits. If you do, you will!

I'll say up front I love the rowdier excursions down rocky roads Wylie takes. Of course I come from a different musical background than some do in the Western crowd. I suspect with this one Wylie will have once again left part of his herd of fans behind in the tick dip. That raises the old subject for debate again...what do we accept and why do we accept it?!!

You'll hear people talk about Wylie's free use of fuzz guitar and rock drum and say "Hey, that's just ol' Wylie! He does that!" I always suspect he gets away with it because he "does that" from the inside out. He's one of ours reaching into their country. On the other hand when a Garth Brooks (for example) has ridden into our canyon often as not he didn't get past the sentries.

On Hang-n-Rattle Wylie does have some of the more acoustic-based songs. The gorgeous "I Get High" (the way John Denver used it) is here, which he performed to acclaim at this past year's WMA International Western Music Festival in Albuquerque. And there's Wylie's quite Ian Tysonesque "Blue Mountain Serenade." But most prominent are those P-n-Z collaborations. I'm glad I wasn't expecting Zarzyski to appear on the title track. The surprise blend between Paul & Wylie was seamless. It and others here are worthy of blasting from the speakers at a PBR event, and I'll smile wickedly along with Wylie & Paul if the lyric "Aristotle, Plato, Jung and Freud—were philosophisin' good ol' boys" ever does!

CDs: $15 ppd through www.wyliewebsite.com and other sources (Western Folklife Center included).

© 2009, Rick Huff

 Gary Allegretto

The tall handsome stranger rode in and took the place by storm. If that sounds like a Western scenario, it was. Only it was the 2008 WMA International Western Music Festival, he was armed with a harmonica and he certainly knows how to shoot it!!

No stranger to blues and jazz festivals, Gary Allegretto brings influences of both to his style of Western Music. He's been a working ranch hand, a ranger, a "Hotshot" firefighter and a bouncer. Yep...I'd say he's ready for Western!! Make no mistake...the effect of Harmonicowboy is Fun with a capitol F. Some of his lyrics on this CD are salty and less than PC (politically correct) but his stuff sure is PC (pure cowboy)!

Those who find Allegretto's blues influence new and novel are forgetting the cowboy history of Leadbelly and fully a third of the drovers of the classic trail drive period. As you listen, I'm betting before long you'll just be riding with it. Tracks like the title cut, "Settle Down Blues," "Saddle My Pony," "Copenhagen" and others are infectious and irresistible.

For a final "genuine" bullet in his belt, try this. Allegretto also heads up Harmonikids, the music therapy outreach program for special needs kids worldwide. That level of caring is about as "cowboy" as it gets.

CDs: $15 through www.cdbaby.com/harmonicowboy or direct for $15 plus $3 s/h from Gary Allegretto, 2144 Beech Knoll Road, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Also visit www.harmonikids.org.

© 2009, Rick Huff

Between Earth and Heaven, Volume Two
Mike Dunn

This CD is drawn from Mike Dunn's book of the same name, and it's an excellent example of showcasing Cowboy Poetry and Poet!

The album is well delivered and well crafted with rustically appropriate music mountings from Ken & Lyn Mikell. Innovation isn't so much the issue here. It's your basic cowboy actions, humor, portraits and life lessons. But Dunn gives you a slightly different way to think about it all.

Just a few of the album's high points: "Don't Call A Cowboy A Sodbuster" moves off into the handles cowboys award to each other after each has passed muster, "Just Beyond The Clouds" is a sweet history and a passing, "Power Of Prayer" isn't what you'd expect and provides a switcheroo of perspectives, an unsubtle boffo piece called "T'was The Wind" may sneak up on you and "The Gift Of Honey" is a heartwarmer even if your stove's off. Twelve poems in all, it's another good collection to show friends who haven't discovered the genre yet!

CDs $15 plus $3 s/h from Linda's Letters & Publications, 3045 N. Lemon, Mesa, AZ 85215

© 2009, Rick Huff

Measure of a Man
Sons and Brothers

Making Western audiences sit up and say "howdy" is the Wolking family band Sons & Brothers, and their first mostly Western CD is a really fine "howdy" back!

Here the band has offered Western treasures from some songwriters who've issued cowboy songs before but aren't often credited for it by our community. Represented are Steve Earle with "Pilgrim," Townes Van Zandt with "Snowin' In Raton," Bill Staines ("Quiet Faith Of A Man") and Rodney Crowell ("Long Hard Road"). Great cover versions of songs from our firmly entrenched Western writers include the CD's title track by Mike Fleming, "Buckaroo Man" and "Cold High Mountain Wind" from Dave Stamey and modern classics like "The Ol' Double Diamond" from Gary McMahan, "Coyotes" from Bob McDill and "The Cowboy Song" by Roy Robinson (theirs being one of the best I've heard)! Also here is the moving "This One Belongs To Me" by John Swayze and Don King, Jr. Joe Wolking's instrumental "Valentine Waltz" is a welcome addition as well.

Sons & Brothers' vocal blend is mellow and rich even when they are at their most "up." This album should please those most demanding Western Music fan!

CDs: $15 with s/h calculated by zip code from Western Jubilee Recording Co., P.O. Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932 or through www.westernjubilee.com, 719) 635-9975

© 2009, Rick Huff

Sons of the San Joaquin: Live Western Jubilee Warehouse
Sons of the San Joaquin

Ahem...attention! A new in-concert CD from Sons Of The San Joaquin has arrived!! Western Music lovers the length and breadth of Cowboyland recognize that statement is enough to declare a national holiday! That there's also a DVD of it with extra features might turn it into a long weekend!!

This fine, rambunctious album won't disappoint anybody unless they're only looking for new Jack Hannah originals. The Sons are in their customary lusty voice for this selection of favorites from the Hannah pen ("Trail Drive," "Way Out Yonder," "Is It Because" and "Where The Very Same Cottonwoods Grow") and classic and contemporary standards they've adopted as their own over the years. This group continues to show what having your own stamp on your sound can do...if your "sound" measures up to theirs, of course!

Maybe there's no particular need to think about theme or romance of packaging anymore with Sons Of The San Joaquin products. As I said, the hungry fans will make a beeline for a new release from the group. But...' gotta say to not even make the title grammatical hits a new level of "generic!!"

CDs: $15 with s/h calculated by zip code through www.westernjubilee.com or directly from Western Jubilee Recording Co., P.O. Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932 and you can call toll free: (800) 707-2353

© 2009, Rick Huff

Spirits Still Remain
Mike Moutoux

Mike Moutoux is a cowboy (first) and a cowboy poet and singer and radio host from Pinos Altos, New Mexico (down south).

Moutoux's poetry is set up and capped off on his new CD with atmospheric music and effects, but his delivery of his verse is quite commanding on its own. The CD's namesake poem is a fine example of both the poetic art and the art of delivery. So are "Teenagers In The Pen," a good cowhand life lesson, and "Tack Room Charm." Moutoux also incorporates the "art" of tall tale tellin,' as in the novelty piece "Sam Faces The Truth"...concerning heading and heeling javelinas...and "Santa's Perfect Gift" (about a cowboy helping Santa on a flying musk ox and no, I haven't been drinking)!

Four of Moutoux's original songs round out the album. They are "Horses & Cattle," "For The Ones," "She Is" and "My Yodel Song." Skelly Boyd (guitar) and Rob Stinehart (mandolin) join in. It's a congenial little offering and, as Moutoux affirms in the liner notes, it's his best to-date.

CDs $15 ppd from www.cdbaby.com/MikeMoutoux or directly from Mike Moutoux, P.O. Box 53114, Pinos Altos, NM 88053 or call (575) 388-4994.

© 2009, Rick Huff

Wind Blow My Blues Away
Chuck Cusimano

This Western Swingin' honky tonk cowhand (real, by the way) shows his prowess with The Danceable once again! Chuck Cusimano's newest album is packed with the kind of songs folks love to move to and artists are moved to record!

Mr. C presents eleven boot shuffle specials here with a bus load (or at least a full-size van full) of musicians who know how the stuff's done. The bouncy title track will likely be picked up by others as will a neat waltz "I've Cried Til I've Run Out Of Tears" (title inspired by a real incident, Chuck reports) and the cute Louisiana-inspired "The Girls Showed Up."

There's a very nice cover version of the Johnny Rodriguez/Tom T. Hall weeper "Answer To Your Letter" that was included by request. Also "Tribute Track—Buck Owens & The Buckaroos" should make fans warmly glow with nostalgia...or whatever else they're drinkin'!!

Chuck Cusimano doesn't turn things out until he's darn good and satisfied with them. He wants it understood his last sampler did not please him at all. It was not able to be remixed because the studio lost his master. He's happy with this one, and that's your guarantee you will be too!

CDs: $15 from him in person at shows or $20 ppd from Cusimusico, 1608 Ross Ln., Springtown, TX 76082 or visit www.cusimusico.com, contact cusimusico@hotmail.com or call (817) 680-6609.

© 2009, Rick Huff

The Land Where We Come From

Rockin' HW

This group with the unusual name is unusual in effect as well. The trio poses quite an interesting departure from the regular "band" make up. The result is one of not being so much a group as they are a presentation of the historic and current West.

Rockin' HW is singer Alan Halverson (the "H"), poet and occasional singer Michael Whitaker and reciter Morry Walter (both "W" so take your pick...the "Rockin'" part probably represents the proverbial boat)!! There's power in the original verse they write and the verse and music they select to complete their message.

Humor is present in Aussie poet A. B. Paterson's "Geebung Polo Club" and Dean Cook's "Silver Spurs." Gail Gardner's classic "Dude Wrangler" and Herbert Knibbs' "Boomer Johnson" are here as is S. Omar Barker's "The Riders." Be forewarned they aren't afraid to be salty...in more ways than one ("Bacon Bits & Beans")! You'll get heartfelt originals like Whitaker's "The Sound Of New Leather," "It Still Amazes Me" and "The Land Where I Come From."

This collection is artful, literate, inspiring and very well performed. Here is a CD and a group that could only come from our Western Music and Cowboy Poetry genres. We can...and should...be proud.

CDs: $15 by contacting info@rockinhw.com

© 2009, Rick Huff

Whispers of the West

Barry Ward

Barry "Bear" Ward has issued CD #5 here, and although I'm not inclined to use a phrase like "fifth time's the charm" when considering the quality of his other releases, I have to say some things have really jelled in this one!

Ward's songwriting reflects a comfortable maturity that lets him stretch in subject matter to create a wide- ranging collection. There's the Spanish-tinted title track (a well thought-out paean to land and life), the cavalry is represented in "Sweet Wyoming Kiss," there's wild ridin' because "The Devil's Runnin' Again," the "Hills Of Ireland" shimmer green and we feel the heritage of "That Old Barn," and we can't overlook an absolute killer cover of "You're The Reason God Made Oklahoma" with The Bear and Branson's superb Canadian Eli Barsi! Twelve tracks in all.

In Whispers Of The West mellow-voiced family rancher Barry Ward scores with an exceptional CD in his collection. Flawless execution from Ward and the rest of the top players involved make this album his best yet.

CDs: $15 plus $3 s/h to Flying W Productions, 2782 CR 98, Elbert, CO 80106. Website www.FlyingWProductions.com and email flyingwproductions@msn.com or call (303) 648-3605 for info or bookings.

© 2009, Rick Huff

Mending Fences
Marci Broyhill

Self-branded "Prairie Poet" Marci Broyhill returns with effective if largely non-Western musical accompaniment by Chuck Beckler and offers a full basket of subjects for your consideration.

There is the humor of "No B.S. For Grandma" and a tone deaf cowboy hooking up with his tin-eared sweetie, the lore of "Two Gun Hart" (a true good brother bad brother tale with quite a payoff), the lessons of "With A Bucket On Their Back" (an appreciation of water), "An Apron Full Of Rocks" (hell hath no fury) and a section of works inspired by barbed wire. Also one piece called "Guernsey" may be enough to create a new generation of vegetarians!

This latest release shows Broyhill is finding her footing in delivery of her material. She's still expressive, but not overwrought. You might want to give the "prairie poet" a spin!

CDs: $15 ppd through www.backfortybunkhouse.com

© 2009, Rick Huff

Still Ridin'
Jim Jones

The Academy Of Western Artists' reigning Male Vocalist Of The Year Jim Jones jokes that he sings both knids of music...Country AND Western! Now he's put out two separate albums to prove that! First, the Western.

Still Ridin' serves up very interesting new material. Among the creative offerings is an absolute gem, the Jones/Susan Clark song "Lonesome Cowboy Heart." Jon Messenger's wonderful "Ballad Of The Irish Cowboy" is given both a great arrangement and artfully rendered brogue spizz by Jones, and "The Raven" from one of Ian Tyson's past co-writers Blaine McIntyre is also a fine addition. And Jones has put melodies and some lyrics as well to two new ones with Les Buffham, "Wildfire" and "Four J's." Alan "Hoot Al" Chapman and Jones have teamed to turn out the novel "Please Don't Help Me Anymore" and the serious multi-purposed "Lay Down My Guns (Song For The Warrior)." Jim has put iconic Cowboy Poet Ross Knox's words to music and added some of his own in "I Haven't Known You Long" to good effect and he renders the Ross Knox/Ian Tyson song "I Outgrew The Wagon."

Jim Jones' original song entered in the competition for New Mexico State Cowboy Song may have come in second, but as you'll see here "Cowboys Of New Mexico" will stand anyway as a strong statement of the state's ranching heritage. Add this CD to your library!

CDs: $15 plus $3 s/h from Jim Jones, P.O. Box 2264, Corrales, NM 87048 or for $12.97 through http://cdbaby.com/cd/jimjones6  and MP3 downloads are $9.99.

© 2009, Rick Huff

Different State of Mind

Jim Jones

This album offers Jim Jones in his more Country state of mind...with the drum and steel guitar mixed in.  However a couple of his popular Western tracks managed to gallop in anyway...in remixed versions. 

"Let The Best Man Win" and "Love You Til Wichita Falls" first appeared on his CD "The Western Take." Other pick tracks include "The One That Got Away," "Old Wedding Ring," "You Don't Know You're Fallin' " and the title track.  Jim's daughter Adrianne Morrow Jones is already proven as a vocalist, and she's featured with an original song of her own "Crosses And kd Lang" proving she's equally promising as a songwriter! 

You might find the song "When The Band Breaks" to be a point of interest.  It's writer...a certain CD reviewer of your acquaintance...put off finishing it for more than thirty years!  You might think maybe it took me that long to get into a different state of mind, but actually that kind of thing can happen when you write the second verse first! 

CDs:  $15 plus $3 s/h from Jim Jones, P.O. Box 2264, Corrales, NM  87048 or for $12.97 through http://cdbaby.com/cd/jimjones5 and MP3 downloads are $9.99.

© 2009, Rick Huff

The Cowgirl Way
Terri Taylor

There's always been something about Terri Taylor's voice that seems to be a time capsule sent from the halcyon days of Country (then called "Hillbilly") groups like The Skillet Lickers and The Fruit Jar Drinkers. I'll bet George Hay "The Solemn Ol' Judge" would have made a place for her at his fledgling "Opry!"

Once again with straightforward, unabashed yee-haw she romps through these fourteen tracks and an honorary fifteenth to boot. Nine of them are Taylor originals and the other writers are no slouches. Liz Anderson ("Wild Wild Women Of The Wild Wild West"), Rex Allen ("Queen Of The Rodeo"), Denver Darling (she's made it "I've Just Got To Be A Cowgirl") and Carson Robison/Carolina Cotton ("Cowboy Yodel").

The songs from among Taylor's originals I'd expect to be picked up by others include "The Cowgirl Way," "The West Is At Its Best In Wyoming," "Cowgirl Attitude" and particularly "The Wyoming Waltz." Oh yes, and the fifteenth track "Gasoline Blues!"

Hubby Steve Taylor guests with Terri on "Cowboy Yodel" giving a tongue-in-cheek and half-way-down-the-throat performance that's guaranteed to scare off your barn mice!

CDs: $15 plus $2 s/h from STAMPEDE!, c/o Terri Taylor, P.O. Box 944, Roy, UT 84067 or visit www.saddlepalmusic.com and you can call (801) 731-5859.

© 2008, Rick Huff

They're on the Wind

Richard Lee Cody

He's a DJ and a rodeo announcer. That he has the vocal singing chops as well is certainly not in question on Richard Lee Cody's release They're On The Wind. But the CD title could also describe the musical accompaniment of its songs!

Likely by design but at least in execution the instrumental backup on the tracks is echoing and ghostly. Occasionally beyond being key coordinated, it's not immediately evident what other instruments are being played beyond guitar and voice. That's not a criticism, just an observation.

Cody's originals include "Cabin Fever," "Western Wind" and the title song "They're On The Wind" and admittedly all three do have content that fits the ghostly mounting. There are some markedly different arrangement choices to be found here...one example being a whistled harmony line on "El Paso." But by and large the epic feel is maintained and my own creative choice issues with it are minor at best.

CDs: $15 ppd from Espinoza Enterprises, 3460 W. 3660 South, Heber City, UT 84032 or visit www.richardleecody.com and you can call (435) 671-8478.

© 2009, Rick Huff

My Adobe Hacienda
Flying J Wranglers

The new CD from veteran chuckwagon supper club entertainers The Flying J Wranglers features Cindi Hobbs on many of the lead vocals, and that right there would make it one of the group's very best!  And, as the famous lyric of the album's title song puts it, "harmony is everywhere!"   

From Memorial Day to Labor Day or more than a quarter of a century, the Flying J's have served up terrific barbecue and cowboy entertainment at their popular Flying J Ranch high up in the mountains north of Ruidoso, New Mexico.  None do this stuff any better than they do...the serving AND the singing!!! 

The twelve tracks included are particularly well mixed and they accurately capture the true richness of the group's vocal blend.  All the songs are wonderfully rendered, but extra fine work is to be found on the spirited "Cabezon," the lilting "Fair Blows The Wind," a banjo-rich take of "Jesse James," a superb version of "Line Rider" and the Australian rouser "Wagon Wheels" really lets yodel champion Cindi Hobbs rip!!

This CD is dedicated to their late friend and longtime bandmember Lynn Campbell. You'll want this one, and you'll want to give this one as well.

 CDs:  $15 ppd from www.backfortybunkhouse.com and through www.flyingjranch.com.

© 2009, Rick Huff

Cowboy Songs
Kristin Killion

She's the 2008 Miss Rodeo Oklahoma and she's got a little homemade CD simply called Cowboy Songs. Judging by it, a producer might be wise to become a mentor and give her a fully fleshed out project down the line. Her talent merits it.

This album is essentially a demo disc with features like two versions of "Happy Trails"...one with accompaniment and one without to demonstrate she can do it. The remainder is no-frills...just Miss Rodeo Oklahoma and her guitar. She takes some melodic liberties with a couple of the songs, most notably "Blue Shadows On The Trail," and that may be by choice or it might be by chance. But even they work quite well. Another acappella performance is on "Along The Navajo Trail," and it shows her pitch security. Two hymns wrap up the package.

You might try it out. It's a nice little CD and it comes with a nice little price. If she becomes more famous, you'll have a collectible!

CDs: $10 plus $3 s/h from Kristin Killion, P.O. Box 1931, Chickasha, OK 73023

© 2009, Rick Huff

Autumn's On Its Way
by Katy Creek

Their name is taken from a stream that runs through their land in the Table Top National Wilderness area, but for their growing band of fans Katy Creek's music has a flow of a distinctly different kind!

Nancy Ruybal and husband Wes Ruybal together represent one of the more unique vocal blends in Western today. Nancy's structured precise vocal quality reminds me somewhat of Buffy Sainte-Marie or Melanie Safka, a similarity that is only heightened for me by the presence of the 12-string guitar in their sound. On the other hand Wes's voice is what I'd call the more direct "cowboy at the campfire" non-vibrato style of presentation. Believe it or not, the two work well together when they harmonize...and I bet few would ever have guessed it hearing them separately!

The Ruybals are joined on this CD by Trails & Rails' Bruce Huntington on bass. Pick original songs include "They Called Me A Cowboy," the CD's title track and an unusual song "Lawman Of The Trail" about Charlie Siringo that is narrated and sung to captivating effect. Also found here are covers of Tom Russell's "Hallie Lonnigan," Marvin O'Dell's "I Guess I'd Better Dig Another Grave," "Montana Lullabye" from Les Buffham (miscredited as "Buffman" but he'll likely forgive 'em) and a pair from Garland Hutchings "My King Ridge Mountain Home" and "Lonely Cowboy."

All together this album makes for an interesting outing. You might enjoy diving into Katy Creek!

CDs: $16 ppd through www.katycreekband.com and the contact email: katycreek@gmail.com

© 2009, Rick Huff

Cowgirl Serenade
The Buckarettes

The swingin' trio from along the "Rio" strikes with a sweet new CD!

D. J. Parker, Katie Gill & Susan Clark (a.k.a. The Buckarettes) have never been what you'd call "cowboy orthodoxy!" Their talent and sense of adventure sends them hopping the corral fence into close harmony boogie, some jazzier arrangements than the norm, some good ol' wicky-wacky-woo and, in this case, some swing revival feel. But what everybody would call them is "Crowd Pleasers!!"

Western and Western Swing fans certainly aren't left in the dust here by any means. "Adobe Hacienda," "Prairie Lullaby" and a couple of Pee Wee King things "Slowpoke" and "Birds & The Bees" swing by. More contemporary tracks include on-again off-again Western songwriter Chuck Pyle's "Stars" and Elena (Hot Club Of Cowtown) Fremerman's "Forget Me Nots." All are whipped along with The Buckies' standard precision. They are supported by a top team of supplemental musicians as well.

The originals on the CD will paste smiles on your ears and all of it is vintage-edged danceable fun. Joe Baker calls them "the best in the industry!" Who am I to argue with that??!

CDs: $15 plus $3 s/h from Buckin' A Records, P.O. Box 3515, Moriarty, NM 87035 or available through www.cdbaby.com (search The Buckarettes). email: buckarettes@cybermesa.com

© 2009, Rick Huff

Open That Gate
John England & The Western Swingers

Here again is one of those groups I'd heard plenty about before I actually got to hear! Now I have! Wow!!!

Another word occurs to me...superb! These "Nashville" boys are somethin' else. It's not just that they handle their musicians' tasks with finesse. Each does it with a sparkling creativity that still builds the whole effect rather than just showcasing personal performing prowess.

JE & TWS consists of Gene "Pappy" Merritts (fiddle/vocals), Tommy Hannum (steel/vocals), David Spicher (bass/vocals), Neil Stretcher (piano/vocals), Walter Hartman (drums) and leader John England (guitar/vocals). They are firmly in the Wills tradition and stylistically they do it his way with the "ah-ha's" and chatter (although they do boogie-up "Bring It On Down"). In a marked departure from the herd of bands that do likewise, ten of this album's thirteen tracks are originals. I'm happy to report the songwriting matches the performance level. There are great lines here like "Nashville tell Brownsville I'm gone" and "the closer I get to loving you the farther you get from me!" The CD's title tune is a great double entendre swinger. I dare say Wills would have wished he'd come up with some of these!

Living in Albuquerque I can tell you bandmember Tommy Hannum (who gives his steel that classic Leon McAuliffe fir) must have been here to write "Old Town!" Tommy, come back anytime...and if you don't mind, bring those other guys with ya!!

CDs: $12.97 through www.cdbaby.com/cd/jetws2 and the website is www.westernswingers.com.

© 2009, Rick Huff


Winding Highways

Mickey Clark

Forward-looking observers of the particular music scene we're around perk up at the appearance of artists whose work seems to provide a realistic intersection of Country and Western. Here's one of 'em now.

Mickey Clark is one of those players who have worked with and are known by plenty of prominent folks but not become household names themselves. By the very load of guest artists here (Sam Bush, Kinky Friedman, Tim Krekel, John Prine, Turley Richards, Jerry Jeff Walker and Robin & Linda Williams) you know this guy didn't just blow in from Altoona. The performances, arrangements and thought put into this product shows seasoned professionalism. Oh yes, and it was produced by Jim Rooney!

Among the very likeable fourteen tracks are Western tracks "Goodnight Loving Trail" (done lovingly as a slow waltz turning in one of the best versions of it yet), "Rodeo Fool," "Don't Piss On My Boots And Tell Me It's Rainin'" (it's a Texas thing...what can I say?!!) and "Night Rider's Lament" (again, one of the best covers of it I've heard with the final chorus correctly done as "why do THEY ride for their money")! That song is also properly credited to its writer Michael Burton. They just had to get that right since the original singer of it (Jerry Jeff Walker) was present for this project! Other songs that are justifiably present include "Wendigo" about a Cree-Ojibwa legend and "Wyoming Child" about hitchin' the roads of the west. This is superior stuff. Try it out!


© 2009, Rick Huff

The Rhythm of the Ride
; Hoofbeats, Heartbeats &
Wings; and The Trail Less Traveled
 Mary Ann Kennedy

Her subject is the horse.  Mary Ann Kennedy's songs celebrate them and her CD sales benefit them.  Needless to say her lyrics go straight to the heart and experience of every horse owner...or, at least the ones who deserve to own one.  She makes that distinction clear as well, such as in her song "Tennessee" decrying the techniques used in creating Tennessee Walkers.  It's a courageous stand she takes as she works as a Nashville songwriter!  She's written hits for Reba McIntyre & Lee Greenwood ("Ring On Her Finger Time On Her Hands") and Restless Heart (""I'll Still Be Loving You") among others. That's what she does. These CDs are part of who she is!

Ms. Kennedy is a new performer for me and a very nice surprise she is!  Her first two releases (still available as of this writing) are firmly in the Western acoustic mold (Hoofbeats, Heartbeats & Wings and The Trail Less Traveled) and her newest The Rhythm Of The Ride is more contemporary styled. There's something for everyone, and hopefully she will keep her acoustic CDs in print so the Western audience can discover them.

Focusing a bit on her newest CD, Hoofprints On My Heart should make any horse owner with feelings tear-up mightily. There's full-out steel guitar Western Swing in the song "Horse Addict."  Each song on the album seems to have a specific job to do and Mary Ann Kennedy does hers to perfection in delivering them.  The CDs from this talented singer/songwriter and Parelli Natural Horsemanship practitioner/advocate are perfect for any animal lover and just about any music lover as well!

CDs:  $20 with MP3 downloads for $9.99 available through www.maryannkennedy.com (where you can hear samples) and cdbaby.com (search Mary Ann Kennedy) or through Tonka Records, PO Box 120, Fairview, TN  37062. 

© 2009, Rick Huff

Slim McNaught

This one has to win the award for Anti-Slick Packaging, but man! Does it ever have "inner beauty!!!"

Poet (and leather worker, tall tale teller and free advice giver) Slim McNaught was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. That probably helps the verses here to bear the brand of reality. "Old Prairie School" and "The Job" in particular could only be written by someone who knew it.

This CD contains an intelligent mix of visions, cowboy grousing, memories and tales. Because of that and the general excellence of the presentation, this is a perfect album to show off to those who are new to Cowboy Poetry as an entertainment and a cultural connection. The works are very nicely delivered by McNaught, the production of the CD is tight with Lew Vasquez's effects and there are well thought out song fragments and original bridges by Joel Gothard. The flow is involving and in a way the mounting is neatly documentary-like at times. The extra effort taken here by all concerned places Reminiscin' several cuts above the norm. There are eleven tracks here. You won't be sorry you picked this one up.

CD: $18.50 ppd through Slim's Leather & Publishing, P.O. Box 274, New Underwood, SD 57761 and online through www.cdbaby.com and the website is www.slimscustomleather.com.

© 2008, Rick Huff

The Ranching Way of Life
Peggy Godfrey and ScSeed

If you ever wanted to feel what this "ranching life" is really all about, you'll never come closer to it without being there than this DVD. Actually, you may never come closer...period!

You are taken clearly and directly through the jobs and responsibilities that come with each season on a working cattle operation. The narration and feeling are enhanced but not romanticized with poetry from narrator and Cowboy Poet Peggy Godfrey and appropriate music from prominent southern Colorado producer/performer Don Richmond. It's a good education in what it's all about...and, whichever way you are prone to think of it, the stark isolation and desolation of these remote ranches. If you've only sat on the sidelines of the Western experience up to this point, as a reality check you ought to experience this.

DVD $11 ppd check or money order only made out to ScSEED, PO Box 393, Moffat, CO 81143. For information contact Kim Smoyer, Program & Development Director of "ScSeed." Phone number (719) 530-1124, email at development@scseed.org or visit www.scseed.org

© 2008, Rick Huff

Andy Nelson and Nikki Mann

This is quite an accomplishment!  A coffee table book that puts you, and leaves you, in a peculiar place.  It doesn't make you comfortable, but it doesn't make you exactly uncomfortable either! 

Photo Essayist Nikki Mann and Cowboy poet and radio host Andy Nelson have trained their mutual focus on a section of earth down the pike from them in Wyoming called "The Jonah Field."  It's a single piece of land where classic disputants and adversaries seem to have found some measure of balance for now.  Drilling with cowboys and cattle; industry with fawns, foxes and fields.  Some say it doesn't happen, but here it is.  Some further say such arrangements can't maintain their equilibrium and that, of course, is only proven over time...sometimes with differing outcomes...adding fuel to both fires. 

"Jonah" is a portrait painted with all elements present.  Each is placed on the canvas, and that's that.  Some images are intermixed.  Andy's "The Man My Dog Thinks I Am" starts with "I pray I'm the sort of cowboy that folks like to be around" and is offered with the photo of a roadgrader operator with his dog up in the cab.  His well known poem "I Sold My Saddle" is here with a haunting photo of an abandoned line camp shack with a ghostly oil derek in the background haze.  That kinda says you get what you trade for.  But another verse may sum it up.  "It's as if virtue and vice are drawn from the very same well; high lines traversing the skyline like Heaven has spilled into Hell." 

I've got to say I'm still not quite sure what to think of this book.  But I do think of this book.  Man do I think of this book!!! 

Book (hardcover) $38 ppd from Andy Nelson, PO Box 1547, Pinedale, WY 82941; www.cowpokepoet.com/publications.html

© 2008, Rick Huff

Will Dudley and Evelyn Roper


For those who will just settle down and roll with it, here's a very good Western Honky Tonkin' crowd pleaser from two singin' songwriters we haven't encountered for a spell!

This CD comes out of the southern Colorado/northern New Mexico creative pool that ripples around gifted producer and session man Don Richmond and his Howlin' Dog Studios.  Stylistically it wiggles away from being pinned down, but roughly it ranges from Western ballad to Country Honky Tonk.  There is some fuzz guitar on two of the rowdier tracks from Roper, but I wish you wouldn't let it throw you!

Vocally Will Dudley has a touch of "Willie" in his voice...if Willie could sustain a note!  He and Roper do a fine job, particularly with songs like Steve Fromholz's "The Man In The Big Hat (Is Buyin')"  It's well done and well worth some spins on your deck. 

CD: $15 through http://cdbaby.com/cd/dudleyroper

© 2008, Rick Huff

This is Tommy Duncan
Billy Mata & the Texas Tradition

Here's Volume One of a forthcoming trilogy honoring and fully chronicling Western Swing's vocalist of vocalists Tommy Duncan!

For the occasion, award-winning vocalist Billy Mata effects the vocal style of Duncan and the beloved classic Wills/Duncan arrangements here move into full fidelity!  Mata and his musicians in Texas Tradition (never more appropriately named than here!) are augmented by the likes of Herb Remington and Johnny Gimble in case there would be any doubt of the authentic stamp of it all!

Also appearing to positive effect are the Jim Cullum Jazz Band and the Converse Judson High School Jazz Ensemble...the latter making me keenly aware of a passing of the Western Swing torch.  Nice touch, that.  Spoken interludes by Hall Of Fame deejay Larry Scott and personal recollections offered by Remington and Gimble are welcome condiments here as well.  Many of the tracks included are instantly known ("San Antonio Rose," "Misery," "Stay All Night," etc.) and many are more rarely heard ("Black Rider," "Ride On My Prairie Pinto," "Cotton Patch Blues" and more). The album closes with a quick seventeen- second teaser to watch for the next CDs from Duncan's brother Gwynne!

Needless to say, the performances are pristine. This Is Tommy Duncan is not only a highly enjoyable album...it's also an important one.  This first volume heralds a classic series in the making.  Simply, it's a must-have!!

CD:  $15 ppd through www.backfortybunkhouse.com

 © 2008, Rick Huff

Water, Weeds & Ghosts
Trails & Rails

You get the feeling...or I do, anyway...that the frequent reappearance of certain Western classics in collections means that groups believe their fan base will settle in exclusively with them if they make sure to have those warhorses covered!!  Or maybe it's just what Trails & Rails says here...they're responding to requests.  Makes sense either way!! 

At any rate, here's the one that will let Trails & Rails fans settle back and enjoy twenty one of the all-time-most-heard Cowboy songs done by their favorite group...actually more than twenty-one if you examine the CD's two medleys!!  My pick on the album is "Streets Of Laredo," which the T & R musicians give a decidedly different twist to in the arrangement....plus it's shorter than usual.  Most of the tracks are tried and true, but adding the elements that will give their fans the sound that distinguishes Trails & Rails as a group. The folk-leaning arrangements with some bluegrass banjo and autoharp is part of it, of course.

To see the full list of contents (in other words, to see if the one you kept requesting they do is here), look on Trails & Rails site: www.trailsandrails.net.

CDs:  $15 plus $2 s/h from Trails & Rails, 5750 Amaya Drive Unit 9, La Mesa, CA 91942, and it's also offered through www.cdbaby.com where you can listen, and iTunes where you can download.

© 2008, Rick Huff

Ten Winters & Ten Springs
Due West Trio featuring Rena Randall

Western Music's Peter Paul & Mary have arrived with a fresh offering of musical delights and renewed proof positive that Rena Randall remains one of our genre's best vocalists!

The new album from Tucson's Due West Trio entitled "Ten Winters and Ten Springs" includes the new one "Pony Express," which was voted a Top 5 song in popularity by Heartland Public Radio listeners! That's just an indicator of what awaits. Other terrific originals like "Let My Pony Run" and "What Happened At Red Rock" along with exceptional covers of "Doney Gal," "Salt River Valley" and much more will make this smooth CD welcome in your library.

For those who are counting (or counting on it), they also pay a third curious visit to "the continuing story" of the mythical Houston McKay in "Houston's Desert Rose."

Here you'll find fifteen tracks in a CD product that is well worth your investment of money and time! So invest, already!!

CD: $15 through www.cdbaby.com and www.duewesttrio.com

© 2008, Rick Huff

Lost Trails
Bob and Johnny Boatright

Apparently this project has been in the planning stage—or at least the someday-we-oughta stagesince 1993!! Everybody will be glad they finally stopped talkin' and started makin' music!

Aficionados may have some expectations seeing the "Swing' names Bob Boatright, Rich O'Brien and Tommy Allsup in the mix, let alone Western Swing Hall of Famer Billy Dozier, the great swing bass man Mac MacRae, steel marvel Maurice Anderson and the like. They'll be right about the level of performing excellence, but after that they're going to be in for some real surprises here!

This CD is terrific "Cowboy" and "Cowboy Swing" all the way with solid vocals from Johnny Boatright and the female trio Riata (mother/daughter Vickie Cherry and Lori Rider with Brandi Boatright!) recorded around the classic standup mic for additional vintage authenticity. Multi-tracked twin and trio fiddling from "Bob, Bob and Bob!!"  In content there are some novel additions to the cowboy standards including Jimmie Davis' "Nobody's Darlin' But Mine," Tim Spencer's sentimental "Worried & Blue" and Johnny Bond's "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight."  Stephanie Davis' "Prairie Lullaby" gets a nice treatment, too.

They deftly retain a vintage effect and yet they keep the arrangements bubbling with subtle innovation throughout. They might have called this CD "Lost Trails" but nobody lost their way here.  It's simply magnificent.  One of my "minor liner note notes" for the record..."Allsup" is spelled with two "L's" and it should be "La Golondrina," a Spanish Sephardic song about a lass from those Golon Heights we hear about in the news...

CDs:  $15 ppd through www.backfortybunkhouse.com

© 2008, Rick Huff

Thirty Years Too Late, Volume 1
The Blackbury Band

When I first heard the sound of The Blackbury Band's lead singer Garry Bury, I was immediately at home with it. I knew he sounded very familiar, but I had a heck of a time placing it.  Finally it hit me...he's got a tone that's very close to a singer friend of mine in New Mexico by the name of Auge Hays. Even if you don't know Auge, I think you'll find your own comfort zone with these guys!!

It's written right there on the album.  "They create a comfortable atmosphere in which you can just sit back and enjoy yourself!"  With a mission statement like that, why am I even bothering to review them??!!  The self-appraising statement is very true.  Nice, laid back easy-goin' harmonies on an interesting variety of songs. 

Principally it's a trio made up of L.B. Taulbee (lead guitar/mandolin/vocals), Garry Bury (vocals) and Bob Black (guitar/vocals). They are augmented on the CD by bandmembers Kelly Werts (fiddle), James Allbright (bass) and three additional folks.  Western is represented with songs like "Ridin' Down The Canyon," "Blue Shadows on The Trail" and Roger Brown & Luke Reed's "Down At The Old Corral."  Ride with Country classics like "Hey Good Lookin'," "Stewball" and "Abilene" or Western Swing in the form of "San Antonio Rose," "Misery" and others.  lso there are some long shots to keep you "comfortably" awake like Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" and John Denver's "Back Home Again," for example. And thank you, Ray Amerine, for bringing them to our attention!  You were right again!!

CDs:  $15 ppd through www.cdbaby.com or through garrybury@yahoo.com, and you can order using PayPal.

© 2008, Rick Huff

The Missouri Matador
Jerry Schleicher

You might find yourself wanting to call this collection "Ranchin' Rhymin'" rather than "Cowboy Poetry!"  These observations in verse from Missouri Cowboy Poets Association member Jerry Schleicher may strike the most resonant chord with folks who live the life depicted.   

The daily realities of rural existence, ranching and tradition are here ("When Big Red Joined The Herd," "Leadin' The Tour," "Legend Of The Missouri Mule"). Some will find it humorous and others perhaps a bit sobering at times ("Kitty Farmer").

There are the requisite tall ones ("Cowboy Bug Tales," "Invasion," "The Scott's Bluff Cowboy County Fair") and all the works are produced with music and sound effects.  Over all these are rather different perspectives shot to you in a friendly and approachable delivery.  Give it a try. 

CD: $15 ppd from Jerry Schleicher, 8515 Lakeview Drive, Parkville, MO 64152 or for information call (816) 741-2773 or email gshleicher@kc.rr.com.

© 2008, Rick Huff

Sixth Generation (tales of the west)
Allan Chapman

The well-known "Hoot Al" from The Texas Trailhands steps to the solo microphone and puts his full name on an album that is certainly worthy of it! 

This isn't a musical biography per se. Rather, this collection of songs contains splashes of color (literally..."Red Silk Bandana," "Blue Marfa Lights," "Carhartt Browns") and portraits drawn from and inspired by Allan Chapman's long family history of Texas ranching dating from "Amos Muckleroy" in the 1820s.  As the tales move through time and territory, the styling is artfully rustic when appropriate and fluidly smooth when that is called for as well in this very "Western" album. 

Three musicians: Chapman, his wife Rodeo Kate and CD co-producer The East Side Flash...play an 18-wheeler load of instruments. 

Along with the new material there are some Texas Trailhand covers and a couple of songs from Chapman's Nashville songwriting time (the reality check "American Dream" and "Never Loved A Woman.)"  But there's a saga song here called "Blood On The Sand" that just might haunt you for the rest of your life!!  Saddle up with this CD!

CD:  $17 ppd (check or money order only) from Allan Chapman, 949 CR 4481, Decatur, TX 76234; www.allanchapman.net.

© 2008, Rick Huff 


My Picture Window
by Pete Laumbach

The former mayor of Hope, New Mexico is silky-voiced singer/songwriter Pete Laumbach, who has just delivered his best CD since Two Wraps and a Hooey

This new album is a package of twelve original songs nicely produced by Rich O'Brien.  It also bears the most intricate cover art yet!!  For those who may not yet be familiar with Laumbach, tonally he's in Burl Ives territory.  Favorites of mine on the new CD include "To Hear The Coyote Sing,"  "Cowboy Hall Of Fame" and in the Western Swing arena "Forever Lovin' Me."  Customarily Laumbach's albums contain some evangelical material, and this one is no exception.  

If an occasional plotline or the word game of a song like "Santa Rosa Rita" stretches the credulity a tad, what of it??!!  It's gentle, danceable and musically absolutely unarguable!!  Try it out! 

CDs $15 ppd from Latigo Thunder Music, 100 Lecheguilla Road, Hope, NM 88250; cdbaby.com/cd/petelaumbach.

© 2008, Rick Huff  

Music from Redwing Ranch
by Tony Vice

Tony Vice records his cowboy songs like many might like to do...in a little hand-hewn cabin up on the hill with the windows open, letting a bit of the outdoor sounds in.  The problem for most of us is all we'd get would be sirens, traffic and fighting neighbors (which I'm getting as I'm writing this!) 

Vice's set of original contemporary and classic-style cowboy, trail drive and old west songs is done with subdued backup instrumentation (occasionally with drums...one never knows what one might find hauled up a hill to his cabin, does one?!)  The final effect is not sheeny smooth nor is it intended to be.

The song "Good Friends Met Along The Trail" is my own personal favorite here, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it be picked up by other artists. You get some history in certain songs like "Joaquin Murrietta," just about the complete history of Mr. Goodnight and Mr. Loving's association in "Ballad Of Oliver Loving" and a novelty bit in the little song "Land Of Four Seasons" which is the ultimate illustration of the old saying "if you don't like the weather, wait a minute!"

The CD contains ten songs and the poem "Goldilocks."  It's a horse, not a fairy tale.

CD:  $10 plus $5 s/h from Tony Vice, 9700 Pine Grove Rd., Tehachapi, CA  93561; www.tonyvice.wud1.com.

© 2008, Rick Huff 

Dona Dillenschneider

In the spirit of full disclosure, Dona (rhymes with "own ya!") Dillenschneider (hence the "D") consulted me to help uncover some less often heard titles, so a number of the selections chosen for her new CD Posterity are there due to my influence.  Beyond that she also included some of her own favorites, and it makes for quite an eclectic mix! 

It's not often I'll list all of the titles on a CD, but in this case I feel it's part of the review. They are "(I'm Leavin') Cheyenne," "Desert Sands," "Chopo," "160 Acres," "Doney Gal," "Ride My Pony," "Utah Carol," "Home On The Range," "King Of Spades," "You Can't Ever Go Home Again," "Greensleeves," "My Mother Was A Lady" and "Night In The West!" As I said...electic!

Tonally Dona D. sounds a little like Dale Evans in her recordings from the 1960s forward. At times Dona's throaty, full-voiced delivery combined with arrangements by Joe West & Josh Martin suggest the World War Two Vera Lynn "singalong with the soldiers" recordings.  This is particularly true of the old gaslighter "My Mother Was A Lady" and also a little on "Greensleeves."  And 2008 AWA Male Vocalist of the Year Jim Jones joins her on two of the songs..."Chopo" and "Home On The Range."

It's a different kind of product from a different kind of cowgirl singer...who is a cowgirl. She owns the Little Hoofprints Riding Stable for kids in Santa Fe!

CDs:  $12 plus $3 s/h check or money order from Dona Dillenschneider, 33 Apache Rd., Santa Fe, NM  87508

© 2008, Rick Huff 

 From Whence They Came
TJ Casey

A friendly feeling cluster of classics is the story of TJ (no periods) Casey's newest he's called From Whence They Came.

The instrumental support this time is happy-go-lucky and rustic with a bit of the good ol' jam session vibe. Casey's performance on these very familiar tunes is his best since his very popular debut CD from 2002. Listening you get the feeling this one was done strictly for fun and the fun comes through on all levels.

Casey presents a cowboy-up'ed adaptation of "Corrina Corrina" (dating from early 1900s minstrel days, in case you didn't know)!  "Tom Dooley" gets hung again and the Brazos gets Crossed at Waco, if you catch my drift. That one has an overtly electronic brass opening that's a little much, but it's brief. The remainder of the songs are standard Western fare, which Casey and crew do better than "fair!"  Said crew consists of Dwite Johnson (harmonica/dobro), Tom Robison (fiddle), Dennis Downing (mandolin), Steve Zediker (classical guitar/bass/keyboards) and Carl Larsen (bass guitar).

It's a goodtime CD and worth some of yours.

CDs:  $12 ppd US check to Cowboy Enterprises, Inc., PO Box 31676, Billings, MT  59107 and through www.cdbaby.com where you can also listen for yourself.

© 2008, Rick Huff  


Forever West
Curly Musgrave and Belinda Gail

Obviously a new CD from (arguably) the best known duo in Western Music is going to be well done!  But another aspect of this newest release from the multi-award winners is impressive in its own right.  More than ever before, I was struck with the feeling it's not just a display of performing prowess.  There are specific and appropriate reasons for the intricacies to be used...which means, even as good as they are, Belinda & Curly still have more they will show us! 

New visions and perspectives abound in this one.  There are strong cowboy images in "The Old Waxed Jacket," (Diane Tribitt's moving poem given melody and set to music), Ray Kraft & Jack Hannah's contemporary classic "Silver Spurs" and there are acknowledged classics like "Texas Plains" and "Roly Poly" here.  And they've "claimed" yet another song for the Western side (Tom Paxton's "Last Thing On My Mind").  But some nicely startling medley work (1859's "I'll Twine 'Midst The Ringlets"...basis for "Wildwood Flower"...hooked to Gordon Lightfoot's "For Lovin' Me" and "I Gave My Love A Cherry" dating from the 18th century teamed with "Twelfth Of Never!") will keep you on your toes.  And if they don't, try "Mule Ears In The Sand," or the portrait of Silkville and Kansas/French immigrant "silk ranching" called "La Fille de Valeton!!" 

There's much more in this CD to recommend than we have space for, which is a huge reason you should snap this one up! 

CD:  $17 ppd from Curly J Productions, P.O. Box 512, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352 and also available through www.cdbaby.com.

© 2008, Rick Huff

A Cowboy's Life

For their second album the boys of Latigo round up their own originals and others from the likes of Curly Musgrave, Bob Nolan, Brenn Hill, Teri Taylor, Utah Phillips, Ray Holbrook and Curly Syndergaard!

Plenty of gusto and folksy fiddlin' add a geuine dimension to the proceedings.  Latigo's chosen material definitely paints the idyllic, romanticized view of the Cowboy and the West, but hey!  That's largely what propelled him into our laps up to this point, right??

From the more contemporary Western Music catalog, they give a particularly nice treatment to Curly Musgrave's "Boys Of The Old Rockin' R" and Brenn Hill's "Burnin' Hair."  Teri Taylor's award-winning "Colors (Of The West)" is handled reverentially and Utah Phillips' "Goodnight Loving Trail" (although Mr. Loving's name has become "Lovin' " here) comes off nicely.  There is an unusual mounting of one instrumental with keyboard ("Prelude") that serves as an intro to the wild mustang song "Let 'Um Be" but basically acoustic Western fans will...and should...take this one in and bed it down!

CDs:  $17 ppd from Ken Stevens, P.O. Box 56, Elsinore, Utah  84724, CD Baby, and the Latigo web site

© 2008, Rick Huff

This Cowboy's On His Own
Jim Garling

It's like the title indicates. This time it's Jim Garling and guitar without the layers of singers, backup musicians and high production values. In an accompanying note Jim wrote that he worried a bit sending this one out for review. He needn't have.

Jim Garling's honest musicianship is clean and crisp and holds this frisky little CD together just fine, thank you!

Garling gives snappy, fresh spins to classics such as "Ghost Riders In The Sky," "Whoopie Ti Yi Yo," "Blue Shadows On The Trail," "South Of The Border" and more. The somewhat more contemporary category here includes "The Wayward Wind," "Old Red," and "Cowboy Blues" on up to "Doggone Cowboy," "Night Riders Lament," "Buckaroo Man," "R.W. Hampton's "Sunset Trail" and Ranger Doug Green's "The Arms Of My Love." Garling even takes on Dave Stamey's showstopper "If I Had A Horse" and rides it in perfectly.

Jim Garling is one of those performers who make it sound easy. We're fortunate artists of his caliber work so hard at it!

CD: $15 plus $2 s/h from Cowboy Jim Garling, 6906 Bill Doolin Trail, Guthrie, OK 73044 or visit www.cowboyjimgarling.com

© 2008, Rick Huff

Judy Coder Yodels!
Judy Coder 

If you're feeling a sense of impending loss over the announcement of the planned break-up of Judy Coder & Pride Of The Prarie at year's end, maybe the fact that they are all here together will serve you as a security blanket.  Not only the PotP guys!!  The group Bluestem from her first album is present, as is The Faris Family for some Bluegrass clippings and multi-instrumentalist Randy Klingbeil!! 

If you couldn't guess by that lineup, let's just spell it out.  This CD is a tightly produced, wonderfully rendered marvel!  For the yodel-hungry among you, there's a banquet here!  It includes the nearly physically impossible piece called "Marathon Yodel" that won Coder the WMA International Yodeling Championship!  But there's some good old swing and ballad content as well.  Particularly notable is what Les Buffham calls their "collaboration" (but Judy calls "his") entitled "The Mourning Dove Song."  I doubt if you've ever heard anything quite like it.  If it represents even a hint of what's to come in Judy Coder's new solo direction, folks let me assure you truly exciting things are in the offing!! 

CD:  $15 through cdbaby.com/cd/judycoder4

© 2008, Rick Huff



Sometimes, in the Lucias
Janice Gilbertson


Sometimes poets, like other writers, seem to forget what made Zane Grey work so well.  With his words he could give you such a picture of a place that even reading about spotting a rider loping across a far away clearing would become an adventure of trees, mountains and full colors.


In her own way Janice Gilbertson gives you a good sense of place and occurrence in that place—the Santa Lucia Mountains of California.  She does take some side trips but we tend to do that in life, y' know!  Although she frequently introduces the poems by giving their historical context, in the verses themselves her life in her beloved "Lucias" makes for a poetic read you can live, see into and ride with.  In one instance we literally ride with her through a nerve-wracking storm, very aware of the loud rain on the canyon walls and the impending urgency of our situation.  Having come through it on the other side we understand the thrill of being strangely willing to do it again and we can appreciate why someone would want to!


Portraits of ranch life, favorite horses and experiences on them have been "painted" by poets since Cowboy Poetry began, but less often are we given the cradle of location for a collection of poems.  We get more of that here, and it's a welcome element.


Book (softcover) $17 postpaid from: Janice Gilbertson, 43345 Canyon Creek Rd., King City, CA 93930; email. 

© 2008, Rick Huff



Roads To Colorado
Liz Masterson

Here (finally!) is the new musical treat from Liz Masterson, one of the bona fide charter members of the Western Music Association!

When many Western performers didn't seem all that concerned, she and her late performing partner Sean Blackburn were consistently issued top quality recordings. How good it is to hear that is still very much the case with Liz!

It's wonderfully annotated, too. This gem of a CD is a must-have for fans of sweet Cowboy Swing, Western rarities like Patsy Montana's "Give Me A Home In Montana," and contemporary acoustic music. It represents some of the best work yet in her solid career of "best work."

The title track Roads To Colorado comes from Michael Fleming, who's a California fella, but he provides a nice final track garage for this vehicle to pull into!! You won't regret letting it pull into your Western Music collection!

CD: $18 ppd from Liz Masterson, P.O. Box 12699, Denver, CO 80212 and from www.cdbaby.com (search Liz Masterson).

© 2008, Rick Huff


I'd Rather Be...
Al "Doc" Mehl



I would say Al Mehl marches to a different drummer, but he doesn't use one!


"Doc" does novelties, parodies ("happy trail mix to you...we're eatin' meat again!!"), ambitious commentaries and observations perhaps only he has ever made ("paniolo don't need no barb wire cuz I run cattle between the silver sea and the mountain of fire!")  He'll make you laugh and then suddenly think and laugh some more and cry.  Don't strip your gears!!


The title track line caught my attention as being one of the toughest old spent cowboy in retirement images I've come across yet.  The whole statement is "I'd rather be well than ill, but I'd rather be ill than old.  I'd rather be old than dead, I fear...but I'd rather be dead than here!"  And then he'll pop a cherry on top of the musical dessert with something like "nothin' smells like a wet dog 'cept a wet dog!!"  It's a love song, by the way...


Washtub Jerry (tub bass and ukelele) and Eric Christianson (harmonica) are along for the unpredictable ride this time.  There doesn't seem to be another artist working in Western Music (or maybe any music) quite like "Doc" Mehl.  You figure out exactly what that means for you.  As for me, I recommend him!!


CDs:  $15 plus $3 s/h from Al Mehl, 5656 Cascade Place, Boulder, Colorado 80303 and through www.cdbaby.com (search Al Mehl).  His email is theasphaltcowboy@comcast.com 

© 2008, Rick Huff


Tumbling Tumbleweeds


Okay, all you 2007 Western Music Association Festival attendees who were bowled over by them and scrambled to get their CD only to find they didn't have one out yet!!!  They've got one now!


None other than Suze Spencer Marshall, grand niece of Sons Of The Pioneers co-founder Tim Spencer, was among those folks who suddenly "discovered" The Tumbling Tumbleweeds, a young California group fashioned in the Golden Age four-part harmony tradition.  Her devotion to nurturing their efforts has brought about this album.  It was recorded a little over two months after the 2007 Albuquerque festival.


Many of the Sons Of The Pioneers' great songs are here for a new generation to discover, such as "Hold That Critter Down," "The Timber Trail," "Pecos Bill" and the one from which their name is drawn.  The Autry/Rose/Whitley classic "Lonely River" and Billy Hill's "Empty Saddles" are given a turn.  Curt & Louise Massey are represented with "(So Long) Old Pinto" and kids can get an idea of context since the Alan Menken/Glenn Slater song "Little Patch Of Heaven" from the animated Disney film Home On The Range is here too.


I have a technical issue with part of the recording process I will take up with them as there's no reason to hammer it in print. This CD is a worthy start out of the gate.  It should please their new legion of fans and it's certainly sufficient indication of the terrific potential of the group.  The Tumbling Tumbleweeds definitely have the chops and the charm to be Western Music standard bearers to a new audience.


CD:  $16.50 plus $3 s/h from The Tumbling Tumbleweeds, P.O. Box 1008, Sierra Madre, CA  91025-4008 and the website is www.thetumblingtumbleweeds.com


© 2008, Rick Huff

Playin' Cowboy Music
Yampa Valley Boys

Indeed they are!!  Steve Jones & John Fisher, aka "The Yampa Valley Boys" of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, strike with another nice acoustic addition to their catalog!

The CD opener is "Colorado Swing," which is sort of the duo's resume set to music ("they said 'boys, you weren't born here'...well that's understood, but don'tcha know we got here just as fast as we could")!!  The remainder is an efficient mix of classics ("Tumblin' Tumbleweeds," "Cripple Creek," "Colorado Trail," etc.), contemporaries like "The Cattle & The Train" and "Canadians" from Brenn Hill and Eagles bandmembers Don Henley & Glen Frey's "Desperado."

Beyond "Colorado Swing" The Yampas' own contributions also include "Wyoming Wind" (drawn from Steve's poem) and "A Montana Cowoby's String" (from a Tim Nolting poem) and "Last Campfire."  There's a total of fourteen tracks here for fans to roll with!

The Yampa Valley Boys' experience is an authentic pickin' & grinnin' fest.  Their string of CDs are good rides with a certain neighborly nostalgic quality and this one will slip in comfortably into an adjoining stall with them! 

CD:  $18 ppd from Yampa Valley Boys, P.O. Box 773611, Steamboat Springs, CO  80477 or visit www.yampavalleyboys.com

© 2008, Rick Huff



Cowboy Poetry

J.D. Seibert



Here's a new fella on the scene with his first recorded offering.  His literal and direct CD title seems to say this cowpoet doesn't believe in messin' around with what it is, just git after it!


J.D. Seibert's CD "Cowboy Poetry" is mounted with nice guitar intros and sound effect enhancements that work as both setup and counterpoint to his dramatic, emphasized delivery.  Seibert poetically spins some very tall tales ("An Allergic Reaction," "Jerry The Geriatric" and "The Great Heeler," for example) and he offers own cowboy observations in poems like "Spurs" and "A Cowboy's Lot."


Several of the poems offered are done in a set-up and punchline style, which has certainly worked for many of the most famous buckaroo bards (including the first one to be so-named!).  It will be interesting to watch and see how his style evolves and what choices he will make to broaden or extend his poetic vision.  This one is certainly a worthy start out of the gate.


CDs:  $15 by check from J. D. Seibert, 35417 Anthony Rd., Agua Dulce, CA  91390

© 2008, Rick Huff

Follow the Trail
Carin Mari & and Pony Express

It's self-produced (with Mama Lechner as the "Executive"), self-recorded (Colin), self-arranged and a wow of a product it is!

Carin Mari & Pony Express have ridden in fast with a special delivery. Carin Mari (and once and for all it's "ka-RINN ma-REE") Lechner (ok, "LECK-ner!") along with brothers Colin and Evan have matured into A-List performers. That assessment is made joyfully as some young phenoms tend to lose their "phenom" as the young wears off, not to say these folks are ancient!  But they're showing where they're going and the trail looks very bright indeed. 

Leading off this CD is an absolute showstopper version of the Joe Henry & John Denver song "Eagles and Horses" so another one from the "pop" roster pops into the Western file! The early Tin Pan Alley warhorse "Pride Of The Prairie (Mary)" gets a snazzy fresh coat here and we certainly can't ignore the seven Carin Mari originals on the album!  Any one of them might be a candidate for others to cover.  Five different CDs that arrived recently for review happened to contain versions of "Cattle Call," and Carin Mari's near flute-like yodel makes hers one of the most interesting.  Good job! 

CDs:  $15 plus $2 s/h thru www.carinmarimusic.com or P.O. Box 4146, Buena Vista, CO 81211  (719) 395-4104

 © 2008, Rick Huff


Twilight on the Trail
Call of the West

Here's the one Call Of The West fans have been waiting for!  And the musicianship, the humor and the calm yet swingin' spirit are intact. 

Always anchored by Jeanne Cahill and Jerome Campbell, Call Of The West has gone through associations, reconfigurations and conflagrations and has now come around to being "Jeanne Cahill and Jerome Campbell!"  Trust me...that's all that's ever been needed. 

You'll find welcome vigor put into classics like the CD's title track. Their originals include a marvelous and ambitiously mystical piece called "The Mesa Ridge," a fresh take of their theme song "Call Of The West" and they solidly claim "Seven Spanish Angels" and "Snowbird" for The Western Team!  As if there were any question about how or why Jeanne Cahill would receive nominations for Instrumentalist Of The Year, this album will put that to rest. 

From the standpoints of performance, artistic choices and esthetics, "Twilight On The Trail" is a rare polished gem.  If the right folks are paying attention, this one should be a major contender for awards next year.  Buy it, buy it, buy it!!! 

CDs:  $13 plus $3 s/h from Call Of The West, P.O. Box 333, Strang, OK  74367.  If possible, please use the order form downloaded from www.callofthewest.net.

© 2008, Rick Huff


In My Spare Time Vol. 5
Brady Bowen

Here's another happy swingin' entry in Brady Bowen's string of guest-bedecked trotters!  Arguably it's the best one yet!

The series title In My Spare Time refers to Bowen's other occupation of famed cutting horse trainer that supports his music habit.  Since the names of the assembled players are synonymous with excellence, here the very roster is the review!  Brady Bowen and Bob Boatright (fiddles), Tommy Allsup, who produced (bass & guitar), Billy Dozier (guitar & fiddle), Bobby Koefer (steel), Chris York (drums), Wayne Glasson (piano), Larry Reed (sax) and we haven't even hit the vocalists!  Tommy Allsup himself, Leon Rausch, Durwood Strube, Joe Paul Clark, C.B. Sutton and Neal Butler!

Here are fifteen classic dancehall favorites like "Raining In My Heart," "Makes No Difference Now," "Take Me Back To Tulsa," "Heart Of A Clown," "Maiden's Prayer," "Ding Dong Daddy" and on and on and joyfully on!  Pick it up if you're a sucker for twin fiddle swing.  It's a shining example of what's still being done by true artists in the field.

CDs:  $15 ppd from www.backfortybunkhouse.com

© 2008, Rick Huff


Save The West
The Cross Town Cowboys

There's a certain frenetic winning bravado to the Cross Town Cowboys' presentation that pushes their novel act across the finish line! I can honestly say I haven't heard anything exactly like this before!

There's a curious cuddly goofiness to a lot of it and a bit of nostalgia as well. It's got some of the raggy sass of Sourdough Slim with the audacity of Igor's Jazz Cowboys! Take a rustic (but jazzy) acoustic Western duo of Dusty Hart (lead vocal/guitar) and Buffalo Bryan Marr (vocal/bass fiddle/banjo) and add Dixie blues clarinet, flute and fiddle in the person of Dave Gilman (who also adds vocals) and there you are! Honestly, I have to say occasionally pitch is "optional," but this is the first time I've ever found myself saying I don't really mind it!!

Favorite tracks are some of The Cross Town Cowboys' kooky originals like the title track "Save The West," "Cowboy Fop," "Brother To Brother," "Plan C" and even the slightly wacky gospel number "Lasso My Soul!" And as I do just for the record, I'll mention a miscrediting on one song. "Along The Santa Fe Trail" is a Harry Warren/Al Dubin song, not Jimmy Wakely.

It's brash, kind of in your face and a direct copy of absolutely no one. A tongue-in-cheek disclaimer is offered on the CD's back: "No electronic instruments were used in the making of this album." You might enjoy plugging into it, though!

CD: $15 ppd "for a limited time" by check or money order from Cross Town Cowboys, P.O. Box 284, Acton, CA 93510

© 2008, Rick Huff

Ghost Riders, Searchers & Cowpokes
Keeter Stuart

If we're to take literally the quick mention of it in one song and an allusion to it in his printed material, Keeter Stuart is the nephew of the legendary Stan Jones! But either way, Stan's songs benefit from his thoughtfully original treatments on this stimulating new CD!

Here find eleven songs (actually twelve tracks, with "Cowpoke" getting both a full arrangement and a heartfelt solo rendering) that snap with fresh musical input from Stuart and friends. And also her is Stan Jones' own vinyl recording of his "Burro Lullabye" The CD title spills the beans on the "news flash" that some obvious must-haves are included like "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky" (with fresh rhythm and flute!), "The Searchers" (rhythmic and more uptempo that is often heard) and the aforementioned "Cowpoke." Also here are "Hannah Lee," "Wedding Day," "The Lillies Grow High," "El Diablo," "Buffalo," "The Hunter's Return" and "Wringle Wrangle." The arrangements are slightly jazzed with the inclusion of percussion, flute, horns, soprano sax and more but don't be put off! It works to put this particular fresh coat of polish on these dusty gems, and you will recall Jones wrote largely for the movies. He counted on his songs receiving arrangements!

Stuart vocally shows a fairly prominent Elvis intonation that further moves the songs into a popular context without sacrificing the Western heritage. I'm betting all but the fiercest steak purists will embrace this very well done salute to the legendary Stanley Davis Jones!

CD: $16.50 ppd through www.hitchinpostsupply.com or www.cdbaby.com. Directly from Keeter: keeter10@comcast.net

© 2008, Rick Huff

Christmas Round The Campfire
Barbara Nelson

Oregon's Barbara Nelson brings her jazzy, big band singer styling to a collection of basically secular favorites including "Blue Christmas," "Here Comes Santa Claus," "Winter Wonderland," "Let It Snow" and many others.  The lesser known "Christmas In Kilarney" is here and, of course, a couple of Cowboy Christmas numbers loped in as well ("My Little Buckaroo" and "Christmas For Cowboys"). 

As we've mentioned before in critiquing Nelson's releases, her vocals and guitar arrangements are reminiscent of the way Dale Evans might have handled the material back in her heyday of the '40s and early '50s.  I do think Nelson may not be fond of "long goodbyes" as on some tracks when she's through, she's through and just stops cold.  No namby-pamby comfort zone chords out for her!!  But you definitely don't listen to Nelson's CDs for the times she quits singing...and that may be the most positive review of all!! 

CD:  $15 ppd from Barbara Nelson, 72521 Tutuilla Creek Rd., Pendleton, OR  97801 

© 2008, Rick Huff

Just Another Songwriter
Mentor Williams


Here's a very rare release from Mentor Williams, one of the successful writers in Nashville who doesn't have to live there to do it. That's when you know they're successful!!

In addition to providing a platform for launching an exceptional new Western song about separation of souls and reuniting called "Rio Grande," this CD is also a darned effective retrospective of what brought the ultra-deep voiced Williams to the dance. You get to hear a number famous song creations delivered by their papa! Included among them are the multi-platinum ditty "Drift Away" ("give me the beat, boys, and free my soul..." and who among us couldn't finish that line??), the monster hit for Alabama "When We Make Love" co-written with his buddy Troy Seals and "A Few Old Country Boys" (first rendered by old country boy George Jones and gettin' there country boy Randy Travis)! Mentor's "Love Lives That Way" gets a nice outing here and when his lifemate Lynn Anderson joins him on "You've Got Me Singing" the love between them is palpable in their performance. And there's a fine song here called "Lonely Appaloosa" that's very worthy of being covered by Western artists.

This is a fine, tightly produced album that deserves to get more attention than "pop" country sources will probably give it. And one thing is definitely shown here. Mentor Williams is not "Just Another Songwriter!!"

CD: $15 + $3 s/h from Mentor Williams. P.0. Box 267, Taos, NM 87571

© 2008, Rick Huff

Drinkin' Things Over
Cody Dodson

Bring master chef Tommy Allsup in with musicians who know how to cook, and just look at the cake you bake!!

Cody Dodson is a developing honky tonker who benefits from the Allsup recipe here. His newest release is a definite step forward. The CD title track is from longtime successful songwriter Whitey Shaffer and Rusty Adams. "Miss Molly" and "When You Leave Amarillo (Turn Out The Light)" from Cindy Walker are here and handled with verve. Ohter tracks that work are "Let Me Go Home, Whiskey" and "Think Of Me (When You're Lonely)."

Dodson comes off the best on the fast tracks with good vocal support. Folks who like Cody Dodson should find more than ever to like here. Of course Tommy Allsup and his players are a rich group to karaoke to!!

CD: $15 ppd through www.backfortybunkhouse.com

© 2008, Rick Huff

Diamond W Wranglers

Here is the much anticipated first album from the newly christened "Diamond W Wranglers!" Hopefully it marks the final time we will ever need to mention they're the former Prairie Rose Wranglers!! 

As usual the original songs from the group that used to be called somethin' else are nothing short of terrific. From the fertile mind of Jim Farrell comes a staggeringly great Nolan/Spencer-inspired piece called "Trail Dust" that must...must...get Song Of The Year nominations next time around!  The "Cowtown" used here refers to historic Wichita and, in another context, the living history museum where the Diamond W's have found a home playing music and serving up great chuckwagon suppers.  The CD's Stu Stuart-written title track is a tribute song that will bring chills. Other writers' contemporary tracks include Roy Robinson's modern masterpiece "The Cowboy Song" and the Donnie Blanz/Ed & Judith Bruce great "You Just Can't See Him From The Road." 

I love for artists to utilize songs from other musical genres revealing them to be Western at heart. Here the Diamond Dubs offer "Fire On The Mountain," first released in ' 79 by The Marshall Tucker Band, and "Poor Wayfaring Stranger," done by every Folkster from pre-Woody Guthrie on up!  And as it happened I first heard their reverently slow arrangement of "Cattle Call" later in the same day I'd heard of Eddy Arnold's passing.  I defy you to have the man in mind while it plays and keep a dry eye.     

In monitoring the album, I started off scanning for high points as I usually do before listening to the complete CD. Not here. I listened to this one all the way through twice!  I think I'll go listen to it again!

CDs:  $16 plus $3.25 s/h from Diamond W Wranglers, 229 Main, Towanda, KS  67144

© 2008, Rick Huff 

The Right Five—Vol. 1
Country Night Live

Sometimes bands aren't formed just to make a go of it. They hook up because their individual members are already recognized masters of their music. They are together for the fun and the flight they take each other on. Groups like the Time Jumpers and the Lucky Tomblin Band fit the mold and most certainly the magical assemblage of Fort Worth's finest called "Country Night Live" slides comfortably in there, too!  This album's very name speaks to the chemistry, and their self-assessment is right on the mark!

Country Night Live consists of Chuck Cusimano (vocals/guitar), Buddie Hrabal (vocals/steel), Dale Morris, Jr. (vocals/fiddle), Billy Martin (vocals/bass) and Danny Adams (drums). Chip Bricker sits in on piano and yep, that makes six, but stop counting and enjoy!

Some top tracks include "I've Got A New Heartache" with Dale Morris, Jr., "The Rose For Today" and "Another Day In The Life Of A Fool" with Billy Martin and everything Chuck Cusimano touches!  It's a sleek little Honky Tonk winner.  Real Country lives! Really!! 

CDs: $20 ppd through www.countrynightlive.com or from Country Night Live, 908 Bradbury Ct., Arlington, TX  76014

 © 2008, Rick Huff


The 75th Anniversary Album—Bill Simmons Tribute
Light Crust Doughboys

This one slipped through the reviewing cracks at the time of its 2007 release. Because of who they are and were, that can't be allowed to happen! 

Here are the Light Crust Doughboys, the sole remaining seminal Western Swing band!  They launched Bob Wills' Texas Playboys and other organizations.  Beyond the commemoration of seventy-five years of music making, this album was issued to honor their late keyboard legend Bill Simmons. Performers include Smokey Montgomery, Jerry Elliott, Bill Simmons, John Walden, Art Greenhaw, Jim Baker and Dale Cook...but these particular tracks were chosen to showcase the mighty contributions of The Bearded One! In fact, upon his passing in 2005, it was decided to not replace him. Rather, steel great Maurice Anderson came aboard.

It's sheer fun to hear the guys do Simmon's famous m-i-crooked letter-crooked letter-i song "M-I-S-S-I-S-S-P-P-I" and "Pine Top Boogie," here humorously renamed "The BS Boogie" for Bill!  Musically the Light Crust Doughboys focus on moving forward, but doing so without Bill Simmons...let alone Smokey Montgomery...must have been some tall mountain climbing.  A must for collectors. 

CDs: $14.99 through www.thelightcrustdoughboys.com and music outlets that stock Western Swing such as the Ernest Tubb Record Shops.

 © 2008, Rick Huff


In A Texas Honky Tonk
Hank Stone

This release features top musicians and production values that see it home comfortably.  The session players’ names pop out at you…Hargas “Pig” Robbins, Bobby Flores, Buddy Emmons and others. 

Hank Stone and his Texas Honky Tonk Swing Band have been fixtures in the top emporiums of drinkin’ music delights for many years, and this album should delight his loyal fans.  Dottie West’s “What’s Come Over My Baby” is here, as is Harlon Howard’s “I Wish I Felt This Way At Home.”  Johnny Bush drops in to sit in on his own “An Eye For An Eye” (an event that points up some similarities in vocal style between Him and Hank)!  

Hank’s song “Your Jealousy” topped the British music magazine Country Music People’s chart when it first made the rounds.  In critiquing it, the publication said “it doesn’t get any more Country than this.”  Righto, Govenor! 

CD:  $15 ppd from www.backfortybunkhouse.com  

© 2008, Rick Huff


The Call (More Songs from The Lonesome Prairie)
Rick Pickren


His Western Music and Cowboy Swing may be made in some far east land called “Illinois,” but Rick Pickren comes with a legitimate Western pedigree.  He’s a descendant of Buffalo Bill Cody!

Pickren’s new release is The Call – (More Songs from the Lonesome Prairie). If staying lonesome gives him the time to come up with efforts like this, let’s hope he stays out there a good long while! This entire production is impressive. In his more projected vocals, Pickren has an edge of Frankie Laine about him, but at other times he can put more of a tender lilt on it than Laine ever managed.  His original songs like “Tombstone, Arizona,” “Molly Mae” and particularly this CD’s title track “The Call” are definite winners.  As far as the classics he’s chosen, he puts an interesting spin on “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie” using the original melody in a uniquely palatable way.  He offers up Gail Gardner’s seldom done “Old Bach” (sorry, ladies, it’s one of those bashers)! 

The arrangements are frisky, fun and intelligent making the oldest material like “My Darling Clementine” line up just fine with the new.  Enjoyable on many levels!  Also recommended is Pickren’s terrific CD of original and classic train songs Rails, Rogues and Wrecks! 

CDs:  $15 ppd directly from Big Strike Music, 122 Ashland Ave., River Forest, ILL 60305 or online through www.cdbaby.com/pickren5 for “The Call,” or www.cdbaby.com/pickren7 for Rails...

© 2008, Rick Huff


Anytime You Want
Ronnie Pfeil

Honky Tonker Randy Pfeil is well showcased and produced in this true Country offering from “the Bobby Flores team!” 

Musicians the caliber of Flores, Jim Loessberg, Randy Reinhardt and Leighan Cortes help out the effect.  There are firm, intuitive arrangements of classics like “It’s All Over But The Crying,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” “End Of A Long Goodbye” and the swinging “I Love You Because.”  And the steel work on “Funny How Time Slips Away” ranks as high art!  We’re talking the kind of perfection that can send chills.  I only wish I knew which of the talented steel men here…Randy Reinhardt or Bobby Flores…was responsible for it. 

The seasoned people on this project prove real Country lives on and has a place.  If that place is a honky tonk, someday we may have admit Country was preserved in alcohol!

CDs:  $14.95 ppd from www.ronniepfeil.com/music_mp3.htm  

© 2008, Rick Huff


Western State O’ Mind
John Bergstrom 

From the same Cowboy Rustic page the Glenn Ohrlin's and Hal Cannon's occupy comes California’s John Bergstrom.  That’s not to say the three are stamps of each other or anybody else.  In fact, far from it.  But rustic they certainly all are. 

In this kind of presentation, the cowboy messenger rides in, opens his mouth, says…or sings…his piece, and rides out again. So here we find traditionals like “Red River Valley” “(Goodbye) Old Paint,” “Jesse James” and “Yellow Rose Of Texas” (done to a snare drum tattoo with the song’s original 1840s soldier lyrics).  Eight of the CD’s fourteen tracks are Bergstrom originals, and picks there are “Red Rocks Of Sedona” and a rather eerie historical song about the “St. Francis Dam” that failed in the 1920s drowning five hundred sleeping souls and its effect on the man responsible.  And I have to say I was taken by one lyric from “Latchkey Cowboy,” Bergstrom’s song about 1950s kids watching western heroes on TV:  “The red bench was Trigger, my sidekick rode the chair!”

That’s it.  Ya git what ya git!  No attempts to dust it off to make it ready for city folks.  What do they know, anyway?!!

CDs:  $15 from cdbaby.com/cd/bergstromjohn or by check or money order from John Bergstrom, 27676 Caraway Lane, Saugus, CA 91350   

© 2008, Rick Huff


There’s A Road
Interstate Cowboy

To me, this Colorado band’s name is also its genre!! Interstate Cowboy produces an interesting jazzy swing, sorta honky tonk and Countrified Western kinda somethin’ else mix of styles that definitely works! 

Some of the jazzy swing tracks include “Old Cowhand,” “Frankie & Johnny” and instrumentals “Take The A Train” and “Lady Be Good.”  One of the Western tracks among the originals penned by lead vocalist/guitarist Tim Champlin is “The American Way,” a wry vision of having your cake and eating it too!  Other band members have some strong credits, like Dick Meis (pedal steel/vocals) who’s toured with Roger Miller and Loretta Lynn and Grant Gordy (lead guitar/mandolin) who’s been called as a sub on numerous major gigs.  Rounding out the group are two-time Grammy winner Gene Libbea (bass/piano) and Oscar Dezoto (drums) with some noted guest artists joining in too.

CDs with music you (I) can’t pigeon-hole make you (me) work harder.  Or…you (I) can just shut up, sit back and accept.  I prefer the latter, and you should too!

CDs:  $15 plus $2 s/h through www.interstecowboy.com or from Ranch Ruckus Records, P.O. Box 418, Masonville, Colorado 80541

© 2008, Rick Huff


Paul Harris
Paul Harris

Singer/songwriter and Salisaw, Oklahoma bootmaker Paul Harris is obviously out to show that coming from a Country and Bluegrass background doesn't have to be a hindrance in Western!!   

All kidding aside, creative big production values add an additional exciting dimension to these tracks that clearly reflect his musical influences.  Several songs on this CD also nicely show that you can be acoustic and "commercial!"  Harris' "Rancher's Daughter" is a fine uptempo romance novel of a song, his "Molly" is an uptempo Cowboy and Bluegrass romp and his more Country tracks still bear the Western brand.  Ranging from Contemporary to electrified "frontier" in feeling, it's a happy new entry into the Cowboy and the Country catalogs. 

Harris has included some earnestly delivered Cowboy Poetry as well ("Forever," "Begin Again," "Grey Shandy" and "I Have Lived").  So, here you have footstompers, ballads, verse and an artist stylistically going home with what brung him to the dance.  A word, though...if you want to read the liner note lyrics, bring your best magnifying glass.  I mean whoa!! 

CDs:  $18 ppd from Wood Western Music, HC 63 Box 18 C, Saratoga, WY  82331 or through www.myspace.com and his website is (or soon will be) www.outsidecirclemusic.com

© 2008, Rick Huff


1880s Cowboys
Jim Reader

One of the most interesting performers of cowboy music in the new century is Canada's Jim Reader.  From his material to his gritty delivery of it, he's an original.  I'd be tempted to call him cowboy music's Bob Dylan or Neil Young, but Reader hits more of the notes!  Seriously, the depth of thought and guitar technique equate to such artists. 

As was the case with Reader's debut album from a few years back, many of his songs have sort of an experimental or push-the-envelope edge in lyric content and arrangement. Never fear!  It's all still true "Cowboy," but let's just say this cowboy's not afraid to hose out the stable. 

Borrowing a page from the Gatlin Brothers' "Broken Lady," Reader gives a harmonized a cappella intro to "We Got Us A Trail Drive" that sets it off nicely.  Probably more than one of his songs will be picked up by other adventurous performers.  Likely candidates should be "The Gather," "One Top Hand" (a dying Top Hand wants his herd to get into the right hands), the swinging "Cowboy Music Soothes My Soul," "Custer's Eye" (a unique close-up perspective) and "Traildust," but there are others.  Give Jim Reader a spin. 

CDs:  $14.95 through www.cdbaby.com or call cdbaby direct 1-800-289-6923

© 2008, Rick Huff



The Ghosts Of Yellowstone
Myra Pearce

This new one from Montana's smoky-voiced singer Myra Pearce proves it is still possible to put out a true Country Western album.  And it's a truly fine C & W product to boot!  It's co-produced by Mike Noble and Royal Wade Kimes, who definitely knows the refinements and parameters of both "C" and "W!" 

The album's title track, "The Ghosts Of Yellowstone," is an enigmatic Kimes song that reflects on the spirits of Red Star and Buffalo Bill Cody stepping back into the Irma Hotel lobby each night. Another original Western track co-written by Myra Pearce (with Bobby Boyd) is an intriguing Indian rhythm and chanting-inspired song "The Journey," a spiritual trip into the high country. Also there's a helping of sheer Country fun here, with offerings like "Redneck Man Of Mine" and "Goodbye, Adios" (in which she's saying goodbye in both languages and would cuss him out that way as well but "my Spanish ain't that good!").

Myra Pearce's releases from a couple of years back showed her to be a performer worthy of an audience's attention. This newest will only enhance her portfolio!  The CD walks a fine line between full-out Contemporary with deferential nods to what's thought of as Western Contemporary.  In other words...the "grill" here has enough sizzle for Country critics and meat for Western tastes. 

CDs: $11.95 plus $4 s/h through www.myrapearce.com or contact Myra Pearce (406) 855-8183  email myra@myrapearce.com

© 2008, Rick Huff

Longing for the Range
Vince Crofts and Mindi Reid

Because of the way this album is put together, it's obvious that what you get here is exactly what you would get from Vince Crofts & Mindi Reid in concert. In this case, the choice was a masterstroke. 

With superb harmony, Bob Wagoner's not often enough heard "High Country" is here. There are great takes of "Along The Navajo Trail," "I'm Longing For The Range," "I Leave My Troubles At The Old Corral" and ten more. And wait 'til you hear the guitar work on "Song Of The Bandit!"  Frailing banjoist Rick McCracken joins in on "Spotted Pony/Over The Waterfall," but otherwise it's just Vince and Mindi on the album, and that's quite enough. 

So few duo CDs really explore the possibilities for arrangement without overdubbing, or perhaps musicianship prohibits. No such limits of vision or ability exist here. You can take rapturous rides on these arrangements!  The album is seemingly unprocessed, no reverb, intimate and pristine.  I'll be as direct as it is.  For the type, this is just about the best I've ever heard. 

CDs:  $15 plus $4 s/h from Vincent Crofts, 617 E. 700 N, Firth, ID  83236  Contact Number:  (208) 680-7500

© 2008, Rick Huff

Saturday Nite
Earl Gleason

New Mexico's Bell Ranch is further immortalized with Earl Gleason's title song tribute to it (and it's cowboy musical legacy) "Saturday Nite." The Bell's late owner Jeff Lane would have loved it. 

Cut to the chase.  Earl has hit his stride with this CD, which is in simultaneous release with a second new album called Wanderers (no slouch itself)! There's a nicely even balance of performance, production and artistic choices. His original songs, particularly "Black Diamond" and his performance of it, compare favorably to Marty Robbins. The disc also includes versions of "Utah Carroll" and "Windy Bill," two songs I have never cared for, yet Earl makes both actually work for me here.  Plus there are very good versions of "Ridin' Down The Canyon" and others along with newer offerings such as R. W. Hampton's "Born To Be A Cowboy."

A gripe I have expressed to Earl in person is that I have long felt his past recordings failed to present the true effect of his "live" performances.  Earl, my friend...I state it now for all to read.  This one caught you!!

CDs:  $16 ppd from Earl Gleason, P.O. Box 1871, Belen, NM  87002-1871

© 2008, Rick Huff

Earl Gleason

The ever-working Mr. Gleason has released two Cowboy CDs at the same time, the other being Saturday Nite. Let's see if his fans will be sated for at least a while now!!  It's not exactly two for the price of one.  Think of it more as double the Earl double the fun!  

Earl Gleason is one of those honest-ta-gawd campfire entertainers. Wherever two or more of you are gathered...there he may well be! Some new originals grace this CD, like "Durango," "Hurtin' Cowboy" (which Tony Lama or somebody oughta pick up on) and "Cowboy Prayer" (using the Badger Clark poem). Classics here are both the familiar songs like "Wanderers Of The Wasteland," Bob Campbell's "Roll On Cowboys" and Glenn Spencer's "Born To The Saddle" as well as less known songs like "Root Hog Or Die!"  

You might have noticed when I spot them I point out miscreditings on CDs...not to criticize, just to set the record straight.
"(There's A) Goldmine In The Sky" is credited here to Robert "Frizz" Fuller, a different writer than I (at least) have ever seen connected with it. Pretty famously it came from the songwriting brothers Charles & Nick Kenny, but it's a small point.  Wanderers is about the best one yet from Earl, the other being the previously mentioned Saturday Nite. His many fans should be walking on water over them.

 CDs:  $16 ppd from Earl Gleason, P.O.Box 1871, Belen, NM  87002-1871

© 2008, Rick Huff

Back In The Saddle
John Pickul

Back In The Saddle we go with this pleasant collection of Cowboy favorites. The fourteen-song collection from Texas balladeer John Pickul and friends reminds me somewhat of what I call the "entry level records" for kids that got a lot of us oriented toward cowboy music way back when. "Home On The Range" is here, so are "Red River Valley," "Old Chisholm Trail," "Streets Of Laredo," "You Are My Sunshine" and other standards.

Listening, you're struck by the deceptively "simple" accompaniment provided by Billy Curtis (vocals/fiddle/mandolin), Bill Lucas (stand up bass) and Mike Stroup (vocals/guitar).  Nothing flashy...just very right in the execution and arrangement.  It definitely builds the effect and value of the product.

One note on the tray card crediting...a few variations on the actual names of certain songs slipped through. These include "I've Got Spurs That Jingle," "Boots and Saddle" and "Rovin' Cowboy."  But you'll recognize them!

CDs:  $15 plus $2 s/h from John Pickul, 6508 Kenyon Ln., Bellaire, TX  77401-3705 and online through www.mytexasmusic.com

© 2008, Rick Huff

The Leather, The Dust
Maureen Joy Gale and Jesse Colt

This Canadian Western album really proves what can be done to showcase cowboy poetry in a fitting musical frame, and that there’s a kind of poetry in doing it. 

Beyond the renowned Jesse Colt’s intelligent verse itself and Maureen Joy Gale’s fine ballad voice, the overall effect is taken up five or six notches by the efforts of producer/performer (and cartoonist!) Ben Crane.     

The choices of musical selections to run under the poems add even more interest and atmosphere to the project.  Jesse Colt is a poet/reciter who is in firm control of his craft, and the gems contained herein will give you a fresh perspective that may have you coming back to listen again and again. To do that, of course, you’ll have to acquire it in the first place, now won’t you?!!

For ordering information, contact Jesse Colt, Box 25, Site 4, RR 1, Priddis, AB T0L 1 W0) 

© 2008, Rick Huff

It Sings in the Hi-Line
Kerry Grombacher

For his newest album Kerry Grombacher has returned to mostly Cowboy and Western source material and a welcome return it is!

Here you'll experience twelve originals with the winding stories and thought provoking images you'd expect from Kerry. From his basic Folk mindset with bayou spices, he's one of the artists who smoothly integrates other musical styles into Western with a positive effect. "Wild West Mambo," for instance, recounts Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show playing The French Quarter! And his "Cajun Cowboy" cocinero wrangles chuck with cayenne in Cheyenne. The Spanish Inquisition's effect in the New World moves to a snaking subtle samba in "Valley Of Shadows." From firsthand knowledge I recognize in his "Edge Of The World" he accurately captures the vibe around the oldest constantly occupied North American settlement (Acoma, the sky city) inhabited since the tenth century, A.D.

Riding with Kerry Grombacher makes the miles go by faster. And Kerry...in "Rock Springs" I did pick up that single mention of a Sands Motel room...

CDs & MP3 format downloads: $16 (plus $3 for CD mailings) online through www.cdbaby.com/cd/grombacher3

© 2008, Rick Huff

Song Man
Donnie Blanz

He calls his output “Americana Music with a hat!”  Donnie Blanz weaves Western threads into the fabric of his songs, with very durable results.  Furthermore, he does it with song construction sensibilities others should seek to emulate.

This latest release’s most easily categorized “Western” selections include “Little Piece Of Ground,”  “Old Friend Of Mine” (his take on the historical horse) and “When The Hammer Falls” (the one on a Colt 45 and that moment of inevitability for the projectile’s recipient)!!

Alright, there’s some drum and some electrification and some pretty straight ahead Country.  As Don Edwards has told me, “it always used to be Country and Western…there’s no reason you can’t like both!”  Donnie Blanz tends to make that task an easy one.

Check out this likeable new one from one of the longtime proprietors of “Contemporary Western Americana R Us.”

CDs:  $16 plus $3.25 s/h through www.donnieblanz.com or from DBlanco Music, 134 Mark Twain Drive, Boerne, TX 78006

© 2008, Rick Huff

Saloon Piano Vol. V
Dave Bourne

Dave Bourne has a unique history with Western Music.  As a member of the legendary Knott's Berry Farm stage group The Wagonmasters with Billy Beeman and others, he helped fan the very flame that was kept lit by few others performing some 13,000-plus shows!  In the 1990s with The Lobo Rangers he, wife Patty and Mike (New West) Fleming blazed on.  His Kenny Rogersian countenance and piano stylings graced the acclaimed HBO series "Deadwood!"  He's also no stranger to the Single Action Shooters Society meets.

More than just goodtime rinky-tink albums, Bourne's releases are preservationist treasure troves.  For "Vol. V" he takes twenty-three more melodies out for a stroll.  Some are familiar and others are little known works from between 1800 ("Bluebells Of Scotland") through 1914 ("When You Wore A Tulip").  And each delivers a nice little howdy-do from the past through Bourne's faithful renderings.  Listening straight through can transport you to simpler places and times.

Of interest to Western Music Association members should be the following historical tidbit.  Dave Bourne founded and, for its early years, wrote the WMA's newsletter that became the current Western Way Magazine.

CDs:  $17 ppd from Dave Bourne, P.O. Box 173, Agoura Hills, CA  91376-0173 

© 2008, Rick Huff

Romance With The Range
Prickly Pair

This latest fine CD (the seventh) in the "Pair's" catalog introduces Norman Winter, bass player and singer as "The Cactus Chorale" since you can't have a trio in a pair without a professional seamstress.  It all "seams" easy when Les & Locke Hamilton hold sway! 

The festivities this time open with a superb and intricate a cappella "Home On The Range," followed by one of their best album title tunes since "Rendezvous With The Moon!"  "Romance With The Range" is the kind of song that will likely be picked up by others, right along with their other originals "Calloused Hands and A Soft Heart" and "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid."  An Ivan Kershner poem set to music by Locke Hamilton called "The Ranch Sale" is one of the best on the subject since Gary McMahan's "Old Double Diamond" (which was in the Hamilton's neighborhood)!  Also featured on this CD are stepped-up tempo versions of "Call Of The Canyon," "Let The Rest Of The World Go By," "Cow Cow Boogie," "Ridin' Down The Canyon" and a neat medley of Kennedy & Carr's "Ole Faithful" with Billy Hill's "The Last Roundup" wherein they overlay the melodies!  Works like a charm!

The guys' ringing, clarion-clear harmonies with Locke's lead vocal remind me somewhat of the WWII recordings of Vera Lynn ("We'll Meet Again" and "White Cliffs Of Dover").  Of course I heard them as a twinkle in my father's eye!!!

CDs:  $17 ppd from Prickly Pair, 605 East Fork Rd., Dubois, WY  82513, or through the website www.thepricklypair.com/music.html or credit cards by phone: (307) 455-3338

 © 2008, Rick Huff

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Three
various artists


Where Hollywood tends to fall flat with continued installments, The Bar-D Roundup series just keeps getting better!

With this third release, collaborators Margo Metegrano and Andy Nelson have done a particularly fine job of displaying the universe of the Western experience…occurrence, attitude, lineage and legacy. Part of that roundness is achieved by having some of the top reciters perform some classics specifically for this collection. Bill Siems (Curly Fletcher’s “Strawberry Roan”), Jerry A. “Brooksie” Brooks (Badger Clark’s “The Free Wind”), and Jay Snider (Luther Lawhon’s “Good Old Cowboy Days”) are among them, but there are classics and modern classics from Joel Nelson, Red Steagall, Wally McRae, Georgie Sicking, Randy Rieman, Yvonne Hollenbeck and others.  The hypnotically eccentric delivery of Ross Knox is included and the shock value of having Paul Zarzyski aboard is intensified with music and drums on Track 15 after we’ve been lulled into an a cappella security up to that point!  The late Buck Ramsey presents a third installment from his masterpiece “Grass” and the special dessert to the feast is a rare and thoroughly eerie 1948 rendering by Robert Service of his classic “Cremation of Sam McGee!”

If you ever hear someone ask about the why of the “cowboy way” and particularly Cowboy Poetry, here’s the answer to all questions.  This collection says what this important and artful communication of the heart conveys at its best.

CDs:  $20 ppd through cowboypoetry.com or by check or money order to Center For Western and Cowboy Poetry, P.O. Box 330444, San Francisco, CA 94133 

© 2008, Rick Huff

Passin' it On
Mag Mawhinney

Being a lifelong Westerner and observer, Canada's Mag Mawhinney is "passin' on" images she's seen, known and thought about in this 31-track collection.  Two of this group are award winners and deservedly so ("Those Who Have Gone Before" and "Winter Range"). 

It strikes me her dramatic, instructive delivery might possibly make this album a good one for introducing somewhat younger folks to Cowboy Poetry.  All have music backing and four of the works have been nicely converted to songs and are sung by award-winning balladeer Abe Zacharias ("Dust On His Saddle," "Singing The Songs Of The West," "Run Ponies Run" and "Good Old Country Music"). 

The CD includes tributes to the late Rod Nichols and Glen Rafuse.  Everyone will have selections that grab them, but some that struck me include a gently mysterious winter encounter called "The Stranger," "The Cowboy and The Butterfly," a dance that's wilder than some rodeos, "The Viking Cowboy," a grumpy agreement between horse and greenhorn to not go another round and "Molly," where the mule does the pickin'!

CDs:  $20 ppd US & Canada by check or M.O. from Mag Mawhinney, 835 Chapman Rd., Cobble Hill, B.C. Canada V0R 1L4 or by emailing mvmawhinney@shaw.ca

© 2008, Rick Huff

 Rimrock (Where Memories Rhyme)
Paul Kern

Paul Kern subtitles his CD Rimrock with one of his lines "Where Memories Rhyme," then goes on to further define the collection as "Hopelessly Romantic Cowboy Poetry!" I'd call it more "hopeful and art-filled!"

This CD is the recorded companion to Kern's book of the same title. The crafting of these verses shows Kern to be wonderfully in command of what he wants to say, and his low key but involved delivery draws you in so you care about the message. More poets and reciters would do well to take notes on the Jay Sniders, the Joel Nelsons and the Paul Kerns...and, yes, in drawing the comparison I am indeed placing his work on this CD in those ranks (as well as revealing a bias of mine against "theatrical" delivery of Cowboy Poetry)! He understands in recording he's not addressing an auditorium.

Kern's words frequently present lingering thoughts and lessons that transcend the workaday cowboy life. "From a horse camp with its rhythm of chores, you learn the needs of others come before yours" is a good example. His poem "As I Bridle In The Morning" and others are rich with observations. "On Smokey Before I Go" is one of the best I've encountered depicting an old cowboy's last ride. Particularly effective music pads from Scott Harris Studios used throughout enhance this product.

And one nitpick. Perhaps it was done for the Yellowstone Song Contest or something and they needed a place to park it, but the voice and piano Off-Broadway Musical treatment by two other people of Kern's "As Evening Sets On The Yellowstone" doesn't work and doesn't fit, and I was a "Theatre" major! Don't be put off! The remaining fifteen tracks on the album more than make up for it!

The CD can be ordered here.

© 2008, Rick Huff

The Emigrant Trail
Ray Doyle

Before hearing it I made an assumption about this album that couldn't have been further off. Emigrants? Irish? Cowboy Celtic's on hand for the recording? The Western Folklife Center's Yellowstone Song Contest winner "The Jewel" is here, and it's a calming poetic portrait. I figured sweet Western visions and thoughts of the Irish homeland. Wrong. This thing has teeth!

Disarmingly pleasant in its musical presentation, the words sneak up and chew on your conscience! Ray Doyle is a longtime player with Wylie & The Wild West, but here he takes his distinctive vocal delivery and goes off in directions Wylie never took, tackling a rough Western reality that is both dream and nightmare for many.  He draws on the experiences of more than just the Irish as shown in Dave Stamey's "Vaquero Song," "The Cowboy Life" (also called "The Dreary Life") and Gordon Lightfoot's "Canadian Railroad Trilogy." 

The title track sets things in motion, with the singer heading out "for a brand new beginning or a desperate end" on a sea that's "a churning, black, bottomless well 'mid the moaning and screaming..."  And yet still "there's hope at the end of the emigrant trail" unless you're caught digging the Erie Canal.  There "The Jigger Boss" keeps men whiskeyed-up so they'll shun the cholera-causing water.  The dancing lyrics that bounce by include "every thirty feet we go, we plant three men six feet below, all down the Mohawk Valley!"  For me, the big stunner is "Mick Ryan's Lament," a Robert Emmett Dunlap song done to a dirge-like "Garryowen" about a ghostly Irish soldier's horror at what he did under Custer.  Ray Doyle's "The Emigrant Trail" is a courageous, diverse statement and an outstanding achievement.  All concerned should be commended.

CDs:  $18 ppd from Ray Doyle, Emigrant Trail Records, P.O. Box 661111, Mar Vista, CA  90066

© 2008, Rick Huff

Route 66

These folks are serious swingers!  On "Back In The Saddle Again" Cow Bop gives you a jazzy, swing romp. The Stan Kentons, the Count Basies and similar Jazz arrangers would be proud to claim their "I'm An Old Cowhand" and "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" from Cow Bop is steamy kissin' kin to Peggy Lee's "Fever!" 

The main Cow Boppers are Bruce Forman (guitar), Pam "Pinto Pammy" Forman (vocals), Dan Robbins (bass) and Mike McKinnley (drums) with many sit-ins!  Dave Jackson (late of New West) lends his bass larynx to "Time Changes Everything" and "When The Bloom Is On The Sage."  Dan Hicks (of Hot Licks fame), Richard Chon (Saddlecats and Sons Of The San Joaquin) and six others are guesting on the album.  Don't miss their track called "Merry Go Roundup!" 

Cow Bop is one of those groups who can move the genre forward if given a chance. It's Western, it's Swing, but it ain't Texas Swing.  These cows have "mooooved" into salon society!  In the jacket, they wryly cite Gene Autry's line "it'll never sell...too many notes." This one deserves to sell, Mr. Autry notwithstanding. 

CDs:  $17 ppd from Cow Bop, P. O. Box 73, Carmel Valley, CA 93924

© 2008, Rick Huff

Home Ranch Trails
Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue


Take a splash of Dude Ranch dash and a generous scoop of Yippie-I-Yo and you come up with Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue! "Nevada" and "Cimarron" are from Washington State!  Those cowboys do drift, don't they??! 

A.k.a. Bruce and Susan Matley, the pair are seasoned state fair performers across a good chunk of the western U.S.  Their latest CD is Home Ranch Tales, featuring old favorites ("Tumbling Tumbleweeds," "Cool Water," "When It's Nighttime In Nevada"); old old favorites ("Little Joe The Wrangler," "Billy The Kid," "Goodbye, Old Paint") and old old old favorites ("Danny Boy," "Green Grow The Lilacs," "Westward Bound Medley")! 

Some of the saga songs are performed in that mixed sung and acted style designed to get kids up on stage and involved.  Bruce Matley's delivery reminds me at times of early recorded art songs that were done in an open throated and semi-operatic fashion, but he can just as quickly buckaroo it up with Sue (whose character is rawhide cowgirl to the hilt)!  One interesting track included here is from "Nevada's" dad Wayne Matley, obviously accomplished in the singing department.  It's a 1946 rendering of "Carry Me Back To The Lone Prairie" done with a parlor recital style piano backing.

As I always do for the record and not to be critical, I'll mention a crediting omission. Authorship of "Bad Brahma Bull" is cited on the jewel case notes simply as "unknown."  Words and music are by Curley Fletcher. 

CDs:  $15 ppd payable to Nevada Slim & Cimarron Sue, Slim Chance Records, 8780 Hart Road, Prescott, WA  99348. The website address is www.nevadaslim.com

© 2008, Rick Huff


Conflict In The Frio Canyon and The Mysterious Yellow Rose of Texas
Linda Kirkpatrick

My Father's Horses
DW Groethe


Several observers of the Western scene have noted with excitement a reappearance of the interesting little publications known as "chapbooks." No, they weren't called that because they fit into cowboys' "chaps" (how would that work, anyway?)! Rather the name is drawn from a Middle Ages bookseller named "Chapman" who handled the wee tomes. They are soft cover buff-jacketed little volumes with faux-yellowed pages, most often on a single subject or theme, and always well under a hundred (usually under fifty) pages. Don Edwards issued one a while back, a New Mexico poet and former BMI executive John C. Abernathy tried his hand at one and others are following suit. Here are some samples in "mini-review":

Conflict In Frio Canyon - The Incident At The McLauren Ranch (Vol 1 No. 1)—Through her own company Frontier Books, Texas poet/essayist Linda Kirkpatrick has begun publishing chapbooks in a series she calls Somewhere In The West. With her strong talent for storytelling and presentation, Kirkpatrick covers here what may have been the final Texas conflict between Indians and settlers...a ruthless occurrence that time might otherwise mute...and lays it out before you with suspenseful, unnerving clarity. Her poem drawn from it and a bibliography of sources are included. $10 ppd from Linda Kirkpatrick, P.O. Box 128, Leakey, TX 78872.

The above address and price also apply to Vol. 2 No. 1 in Kirkpatrick's Somewhere In The West series entitled The Mysterious Yellow Rose Of Texas. In this one she explores some (shall we say) inconvenient facts concerning what some prefer to see as the two stories of the "Yellow Rose." She's the lady who inspired the enigmatic "H.B.C." to first compose the famous song. Those who care to ford the twin streams may do so. Those who don't care to get wet don't have to. Stellar stuff!!

From poet/songwriter DW Groethe comes the chapbook My Father's Horses. With artful economy of words, Groethe makes you laugh, cry and (best of all) think within his volume's forty-four pages. These poems are little gems that you'll read again and again. It deserves a place in your library. $
15 postpaid from D. W. Groethe, PO Box 144, Bainville, MT 59212; 406/769-2312.

© 2008, Rick Huff


See page one for a complete alphabetical list of all reviews






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