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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, other publications, and at CowboyPoetry.com,

We're pleased to have selected reviews below. Find an index of hundreds of Rick Huff's reviews here; there are six pages of reviews to date.


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

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

From Rick Huff, February, 2012:

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

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


 

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

Page 7

See page one for a complete alphabetical list of all reviews

 



(All reviews listed alphabetically by artist in a list below)
 

Posted 6/1/16
The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten by various artists from CowboyPoetry.com
I Won by Andy Nelson (with Brenn Hill)
Rhyme 'Em Cowboy by Tom Swearingen

 

... more to come
 


Reviews on this Page

Alphabetically by artist, below

This is page seven; index for all reviews on page one

A
Rangers and Rebels by Alias Smith and Owens
Allegretto—Espinoza by Gary Allegretto and Ian Espinoza
A Remnant Gather by Jack "Trey" Allen
 

B
Cowboys’ Last Words by The Ball Family
Portrait of a Cowgirl by Eli Barsi
The Black Ace Yodellin' Hitch Hiker by The Black Ace and others
Eastern Western Cowgirl by Aspen Black
The Roy Black Collection by Roy Black/Flying J Wrangers
Lovers, Wives & Mothers by Almeda Bradshaw
From Where I Came by Scott Bragonier
Home on the Range by Riders in the Sky and Wilford Brimley
Party on the Prairie by Terry Brown
Buffalo Bill’s Holiday Roundup by Buffalo Bill (Boycott) & Dr. Jo
Old Guitar by Deb Bukala
Unsolved by Don Bullis
The Legend Remains by Teresa Burleson
Is She Country? by Marleen Bussma
Scrapin' By (and other poems) by Marleen Bussma



C
Western Folk (Songs From The Prairie) by Allan Chapman 
The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Nine by various artists from CowboyPoetry.com
Beyond Good and Evil by Mary Beth Cross

D
Kansas (Where the West Begins) by Jeff Davidson & The Trail Rider Band
Time Changes Everything
by Diamond W
Outlaws and Lovers by Diamond W Wranglers
Mountain Cowboy by George Dickey
Cowboy Songs
by Bodie Dominguez
 

E
Just Me and My Guitar by Don Edwards
The First Go Round by Thatch Elmer
Allegretto—Espinoza by Gary Allegretto and Ian Espinoza

F
A Cowboy Like Me
by Doug Figgs
Partners by Doug Figgs
Listen by Juni Fisher
Riding Home To Ruidoso by Flying J Wranglers
The Roy Black Collection by Roy Black/Flying J Wranglers
 

G
Granite Mountain by Belinda Gail
A Cowboy Tradition: Poems From the Heart by T.K. Galarneau
Meadow Muffins on the Trail
by T. K. Galarneau
Grandpa Lolo and Trampa by Nasario Garcia
Leavin' Cheyenne by The Gillette Brothers
Pipp Gilllette Sings Songs of Waddie & Pipp by Pipp Gilette
Bulls, Broncs and Barrooms by Del Gustafson

H
Cowboy Way by Greg Hager
Best of Birth of a Song by Stuart Hamblen
Back in the Saddle (In Pagosa Springs, Colorado) by Ken & Jan Harms
Down the Trail by Kristyn Harris
Trail Dust and Teardrops by Eddy Harrison

From Oregon to Ireland by Joni Harms with the Sheerin Family
Let Me Ride, Kristyn Harris
Blue Horizon by Sid Hausman and Washtub Jerry
Goodnight from Texas by Tom Hiatt
On the Trail to Where I Am by Buck Helton
Merry Christmas from Our House To Yours
by The High Country Cowboys
Songs of ---- by The High Country Cowboys
I Won by Andy Nelson (with Brenn Hill)
Rhyming the Range by Yvonne Hollenbeck
A Cowboy Spirit by Stuart Hooker
All I Need by Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band
War Horse by G.T. Hurley
Cowboys and Girls by Randy Huston and Hannah Huston
 

J
A Cowboy Jubilee by Judy James
Race with the Wind by Jim Jones
 

K
Moonlight Trails by K.G. and The Ranger
Kansas Cowboy by Kansas Western Music Association
Tales of the Perilous Trail by Johnny Kendrick
Saddle Songs of Idaho by Paul Kern
Sespe Lullaby by Andria Kidd
Sespe Sky by Andria Kidd
A Proud Land by Royal Wade Kimes
Colorado Cowboy Christmas by Allen & Jill Kirkham
Fillin' Tanks by Susie Knight
The Trails I've Ridden by Tim Krebs

L
Western Stars by LeeLee & Friends
Sassafras Roots by Brenda Libby
307 by Daron Little

Mc
Playboy Swing by George McClure

M
Merry Galldurn Christmas by Many Strings
As Good As My Dog Thinks I Am by Bob Marshall
A Platter of Brownies by Carolyn Martin
Many a Mile
by Richard Martin
Old Houses, Horses, Dogs & Friends by Richard Martin
The Dawn and the Dusk by Mary Kaye
Ride a Wide Circle by Mary Kaye
Always a Cowboy in My Dreams by Syd Masters & The Swing Riders
If Old Saddles Could Talk
by Sam Mattise
Doc & Tub Live (with the Littleton Chorale) by Doc Mehl & Washtub Jerry
The Great Divide by Al "Doc" Mehl
Blue Light Special #2 by Jon Messenger
Goodnight Goes Riding (and other poems) by Rod Miller
Rawhide Robinson Rides The Tabby Trail by Rod Miller
Where In The Dickens R U? by Miss Devon & the Outlaw
Rocky Mountain Hillbilly Girl by Jeneve Rose Mitchell
100 Poems by Waddie Mitchell
Cowboy Classics II and III by Dick Morton
Jane Morton Records Her Poems of the Old West and the New by Jane Morton
Red River Drifter by Michael Martin Murphey


N
North of 45 Degrees by Linda Nadon
December Stragglers by Terry Nash
How I Taught Bruno a Lesson by Andy Nelson
I Won by Andy Nelson (with Brenn Hill)
Santa's Hired Hand by Andy Nelson
Big Corral Roundup by Barbara Nelson
Bring it on Down! by Barbara Nelson
Cowboy Lonesome by Duane Nelson
New Day by Notable Exceptions
 

O
Fingerprints by Òga
What's Left of the West by Old West Trio
Hey, Wait! by the Oregon Valley Boys
 

P
Once We Were Kings by Dale Page  
A Cowboy's Journal by Gary Penney
Behind the Grease Paint by Poppa Mac
Under Western Skies by Prairie Moon
Tales from the Trail by the Prairie Rose Rangers
Traditions by Jean Prescott
The Call of the West by Purly Gates



R
The Complete Cowboy Bucket List by Slim Randles
Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide To Writing by Slim Randles
Tried and True by Luke Reed
Max Evans & A Few Friends edited by Ollie Reed Jr. et al.
Along The Chisholm Trail & Other Poems by George Rhoades
Home on the Range by Riders in the Sky and Wilford Brimley
Song Of Wyoming (Revisited) by Roger Ringer
A Treasure Trove of Memories by Gary Robertson
Palomino and the Misfit Drifter by Jerry Robinson
Dirt by Jared Rogerson
Songs From The Prairie by Camilla Rose
That Old Yellow Horse by Dennis Russell



S
Saddle Serenade by Saddle Serenade (Chris Mortensen, Mary Jo Hansen and Lindsey Oliva)
Cowboy's Wages by Trinity Seely
Old Poly Rope by Trinity Seely
Trails West by John Sidle
Travelin' Blues by Sourdough Slim
Songs from Cowboy World by Cindy Smith
Live at Santa Ynez by Dave Stamey
Cowboys, Heroes & Friends by STAMPEDE!
Horses and Happiness by Tom Swearingen
Rhyme 'Em Cowboy by Tom Swearingen
Always a Cowboy in My Dreams by Syd Masters & The Swing Riders


T
Sky & Water, Wind & Grass by Tallgrass Express String Band
The Things We Gave Up by Caitlyn Taussig
Kansas (Where the West Begins) by Jeff Davidson & The Trail Rider Band
A Fork in the Road by Tumbleweed Rob & The Southwest Junction
Roll On by the Tumbleweeds
Carnero Vaquero by Ian Tyson
 

V
Cowboy to the Bone by R.J. Vandygriff


W
Cowboy Poetry Plus
(or minus) by Dick Warwick

Blue Horizon by Sid Hausman and Washtub Jerry
Doc & Tub Live (with the Littleton Chorale) by Doc Mehl & Washtub Jerry

Y
New Home on the Range by Yampa Valley Boys
 

Various Artists
The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Nine by various artists from CowboyPoetry.com
The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten by various artists from CowboyPoetry.com
Symposium twentythirteen by the Cowboy Poets of Utah
Kansas Cowboy by Kansas Western Music Association

 


 


The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten

by various artists from CowboyPoetry.com


For the tenth annual volume of this famous series, it was decided that taking a look back at what has been accomplished in past releases might be in order. It has resulted in a best-of-the-best double CD collection that truly is one for the books!

Hear the actual voices of legendary figures from the genre delivering masterworks of theirs including Robert O. Service (a ghoulishly intense delivery of “The Cremation of Sam Magee”); Gail Gardner (“Tyin’ Knots In The Devil’s Tail”); Charles “Badger” Clark (“A Cowboy’s Prayer”); and several late contemporary masters who include Buck Ramsey (“Anthem”); J. B. Allen (“The Medicine Keepers”); Larry McWhorter (“Waitin’ On The Drive”); Sunny Hancock (“The Horse Trade”); Wallace McRae (“Reincarnation”) and others. Of course many poets who are still with us are with us here: Zarzyski and Rieman and Sicking and Steagall and Hollenbeck and Snider and Richardson and…and…and…

Two CDs with fifty-five tracks. Obviously this one is a must-have!

2-CD set: $25 ppd from Center For Western and Cowboy Poetry, PO Box 1107, Lexington, VA 24450 or through CowboyPoetry.com.

© 2016, Rick Huff


(Find more about The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Ten here.)


 


I Won
by Andy Nelson (with Brenn Hill)

 

This time it’s a nice Andy Nelson/Brenn Hill collaboration that greets us! What works here works wonderfully well, and the experiments were worth trying.

Big successes include the reflective “Waiting On The Thunder”; “Family Cemetery”; “Will They Write Songs About Us”; a minor miracle about parenthood called “His Baby Girl & Her Little Boy”; and Andy performs Brenn’s eerily beautiful verse “Cottonwood” with conviction. For me the jury’s still out on laying “The Horse Sale Catalog” over a custom-extended track of Leroy van Dyke’s “The Auctioneer.” Fans of Nelson nuttiness will enjoy “I Won,” “Feline Orthodontics,” “What Are They Thinking” and “Cowboys On Facebook.”

Three tracks are poem-with-song combos. They include Andy’s “Worst Winter Ever” (a not-all-that exaggerated Wyoming winter’s tale) with Brenn’s “Fair Weather Cowboy” (call me when it’s nice out) and another that struck me as being a bit overbalanced in the ratio of poem to song: Andy’s “Be The First” with Brenn’s lyrically dominant “Single Winter Rose.” The third is religious.

All-in-all, it’s enjoyable and done by two guys who know how it should be done. Fifteen tracks.

CD: $18 postpaid from cowpokepoet.com.

© 2016, Rick Huff
 

(More on Andy Nelson here.)

 

 




Rhyme 'Em Cowboy
by Tom Swearingen

 

The verse of Tom Swearingen is characteristically brief, always to the point, effective and (most often) optimistic. And once again he has chosen to record his CD in front of appreciative living beings, which I generally find to be a plus.

Whether he is operating in the realm of novelty (“Teddy Franke is One Tough Hand”) or he is leaning more toward the thought-provoking (“The Visit”; "One to Ride The River With"; or “Dogies in Our Band” are human dogies and their “misfortune none of our own?”); Swearingen spins a fine tale and his expert delivery is comfortably conversational in its cadence. Other picks in the collection include “Scotty’s Christmas Tree” and “When a Horse Hoof Hits the Ground.”

Tom Swearingen is most certainly one of the poets folks might want to point out when they are trying to explain or typify the genre of cowboy poetry. His style and body of work make him one of the most approachable cowbards workin’. Recommended. Seventeen tracks plus the opener.

CD: $18 postpaid from oregoncowboypoet.com and other outlets, including those with downloads.

© 2016, Rick Huff


(More on Tom Swearingen here.)


 


 


Tried and True
(Observations from the Big Circle)
by Luke Reed



“These are songs about me, what I’ve learned and what I believe.” That’s the inscription on this album by its creator, the renowned songwriter Luke Reed. Following a fifteen year songwriting hiatus, you bet he’s learned a thing or two!

Reed’s song “Adobe Walls” is frequently listed among the favorites of Western Music fans. On this CD, a “live” solo performance, those same people are bound to find more favorites. Guaranteed there are future standards in this crop. “The Boys On The Bell,” “The Man On The Buffalo Nickel,” “Texas 287” and the poem “The Hat” may well be among them.

For those not immediately familiar with Luke Reed’s vocal style, he operates basically in the Michael Martin Murphey sphere with a bit more grit. But Reed can move rather startlingly into other registers as the need arises. Witness his acapella Irish saga song “An Gorta Mor!” Compelling stuff.

Recommended. Twelve tracks.

CD: $15 + $3 s/h from Luke Reed's Music Box, Box 242, Cerrillos, NM 87010

© 2016, Rick Huff



 




Is She Country?

by Marleen Bussma

 

Frequently Utah poet Marleen Bussma will catch me off guard. Just when I’m expecting a “regular” sort of cowboy poetry rhyme or image, she’ll do something like she does in “The Broken Spur Café” (“…Zeke fills his mouth with salty cuss words plentiful and cheap…tho’ dunked young as a Baptist water hadn’t sunk too deep!”) or, describing the retired cowhands, “…they look around and see the morning café crowd has thinned…and rise up slowly just like smoke that’s not sure of the wind!”

In her book, Is She Country?, Bussma often works with historical figures and visions from past and present. The majority of the collection is done in sort of a “Casey At The Bat” rhythm. But one work (“Slow Burn”) is notable due to an intentional break in the pattern as a set-upon ranch wife contradicts in rebellious prose her husband’s rhythmic, rhymed edicts. In “White Out” a stagecoach emerges from a blizzard with its driver frozen in place. Another stagecoach verse “Old Joe” comes with an O. Henry-worthy twist. Recommended.

Trade paperback: $13 ppd from Marleen Bussma, 1094 Homestead Dr. E., Dammeron Valley, UT 84783


© 2016, Rick Huff

 

(More on Marleen Bussma here.)




 




Cowboy's Wages

by Trinity Seely


Here’s yet another thoroughly polished release from one of the stronger voices in Western Music, and we mean in singing and songwriting!

One of Trinity Seely’s specialties is making the workaday seem mythic. She draws on the deeply personal and the biographic, both done to thoughtful and pleasing effect. This time around she has set to music Waddie Mitchell’s popular poem “The Hand,” and it’s an album pick along with the title track “Cowboy’s Wage,” “Strawberry Roan” (her own, not Curly Fletcher’s), the old home tribute song “Chilanko,” the spritely novelties “Little Things” and “Low Maintenance Girl,” “The Middle Of It All” and “Ranch Beauty Queen.”

I would be interested to see her begin to branch out in musical structure…more styles. Some of the songs seem as if they could be laid end to end and, save for a change in subject, could be accepted as parts of one multi-part work. Twelve tracks.

CD: (order through www.trinityseely.com)

© 2016, Rick Huff

 




The Things We Gave Up
by Caitlyn Taussig
 

In listening to Colorado singer Caitlyn Taussig’s new release of predominantly original songs, I was taken by the fact that certain lines seemed to emerge with lives of their own. An example: from “Cowgirl’s Lament” comes “we’re all buildin’ walls ‘cause it’s all that we know!” Torn from the coming headlines…

Taussig’s ringing alto voice is well suited to her material. On this release she has also chosen wisely her musical support system in Ernie Martinez (mandolin, steel & dobro); CD arranger/engineer Butch Hause (guitar & bass) and him with Andi Weber (vocal harmonies).

From her originals we’ll single out the intriguing “Cowgirl’s Lament;” “Dad’s Song” (great notion of spreading his ashes high up so he can return with the spring run-off); “The Things We Gave Up” (for miles, sky and fast horses); “Sierras & The Rockies;” “Fence Fixin’ Girl” and the anti-abuse song “Stagger Hill.” I began to hear ‘tell of this young lady before her CD graced my player, and now I can affirm there was a reason for it. Recommended. Twelve tracks.

CD: caitlyntaussig.com

© 2016, Rick Huff

 

 


 


A Cowboy Like Me
by Doug Figgs

 

The 2015 WMA Songwriter of the Year Doug Figgs returns with a saddlebag full of fine new writes and co-writes.

In this release Figgs comes up with more performance bravado than he has displayed on past recordings, which is a definite positive. He is backed by buddies Jim Jones (harmony & mandolin) and co-producer/engineer Mariam Funke (harmony, electric & acoustic guitars, bass, dobro, accordion, drums, percussion and on into the sunset)!

All songs here are worthy, but I’ll pick the bilingual numbers “Old New Mexico Moon,” “Wild Horses” and “Viento del Sur,” the strong and joyful title track “A Cowboy Like Me,” “Those Old Days,” “ the sardonic “Bein’ A Cowboy” (written with Todd Carter) and “Play It For Me” (written with Mariam). One cover song that was a hit for the Marshall Tucker Band is here (Toy Caldwell’s “Can’t You See”).

Recommended. Thirteen tracks (labeled as fourteen, as inspired by a hotel elevator that omitted the so-called “unlucky” number).

CD: DougFiggs.com, CDbaby, iTunes
 

© 2016, Rick Huff




 




Meadow Muffins on the Trail (Dodging Life’s Little Disasters)
by T. K. Galarneau


From what I can ascertain, T. K. Galarneau seems to be rather unique in Cowboy Poetry circles. Famously Montana’s Paul Zarzyski works in what some incorrectly term “blank verse” (prepare to be harshly corrected…it’s “FREE verse”)! But Galarneau goes them one better, frequently using rhythmic stanzas that don’t rhyme, or maybe will as she feels like it. And she also does write some rhyming verse…when she feels like it.

In case this all sounds purely capricious on her part, I encourage you to try something. She closes this collection with two thoroughly absorbing and well-crafted short stories “Home” and “It Is The Right Thing To Do.” Read them, then re-read the poems ahead of them. I think you will find she is very much in control of what she’s doing.

The theme here is, as the title should suggest to you, the minor…and sometimes more than minor…adversities one is apt to encounter along the path. Step lively, and try these out for yourself.

Trade Paperback: gusgus.bedazzledink.com

© 2016, Rick Huff







 


 


Fillin' Tanks
 by Susie Knight

Knight is in her element when she’s telling stories poetically, and this time around she forsakes none of her energy by backing off in volume. This one is her best release so far.

Her well-crafted poems benefit from her delivery and some particularly artful and intuitive guitar support from Jimmy Lee Robbins. Picks include “Bein’ A Neighbor”; “Cliff” (as fine an elder cowboy portrait as I’ve heard in the last decade); the celebratory “Cookie Lockhart – Queen Of Auctioneers”; “When Riders Come To Call” (a gritty story of a frontier soiled dove and my personal favorite in the collection); “Three Saddle Horses”; and “Bring ‘Em Home” (an unusual poem-song delivered by an outlaw’s suffering wife).

There’s plenty to recommend about this release. But I’ll just recommend you bring it home. Thirteen tracks total.

CD: (info through www.susieknight.com, calling 303-495-4869 or by emailing lassothecowgirl@yahoo.com).
 

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Susie Knight here.)
 

 



Lovers, Wives & Mothers
by Almeda Bradshaw


Almeda Bradshaw is on a mission. All profit from this CD’s sales goes to organizations that work with victims of sex trafficking.

Featured are five Native American singers and eleven supplemental musicians, so you know immediately this release wants to say what it says in a special way. Almeda begins with a launch from a platform of safety. “Heavenly Here With You” is the song she wrote to express the love and trust she and her husband both feel. Then she plumbs deeper. This isn’t to say the album’s effect is a downer…anything but! It’s hopeful in its reflection.

Two of Dave Stamey’s probing portraits “Rosa May” and “Crazy Mary” are here and a third is answered with Almeda’s “Davy Don’t You Know.” Some of Tom Russell’s tough-minded creations inspired this CD, and one of them (“Hallie Lonnegan”) rests here. So does Ian Tyson’s “Somewhere In The Rubies.” Also Almeda’s originals are top notch, so whether you measure by content or performance, this stands as her best release to date. Eleven tracks.

CD: (info through www.AlmedaM2Bmusic.com)

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Almeda Bradshaw here.)
 

 



A Treasure Trove of Memories
by Gary Robertson


Surprising to me was an information bit included in Gary Robertson’s cover note accompanying his book of poetry. Apparently it’s this well known poet’s first book of all-original verse!

As I went from page to page in the volume, I began to become aware of something. Gary Robertson has the gift of knowing how to allow moments to fulfill their promise. It’s a rarity that deserves celebration. He is able to magnify occurrences for closer examination that otherwise might be totally overlooked…not in any forced or overstated way…and allow them to stand with simple nobility. Works like “I Saw Him Check My Cinch” present a moment on perceptions of aging, or “The Horseman” with its campfire conversation on the place of a cowboy “…when you’re sittin’ horseback, son, you don’t look up to any man.” It’s a fine collection with a positive tone maintained throughout.

Trade Paperback Book: (info from Gary Robertson, 1482 Hidden Valley Rd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91361)

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Gary Robertson here.)
 



Colorado Cowboy Christmas
by Allen & Jill Kirkham


If it’s late for the season (someday folks will send these releases in late summer when I can promote them in time), at least you can order this pleasantly homespun holiday album for use next year.

For the most part it’s the selections you would expect, but there are some nice originals from the Kirkhams as well. Those are the title track “Colorado Cowboy Christmas” in two versions
a “radio mix” and the good ol’ extended play versionand “Christmas Eve in Colorado.” Former Flying W Wrangler Scott Vaughn’s “Pot Bellied Stove” has been fired up for the occasion, and another one-time Flying Dubber Joe Stephenson is playing on the CD.

If you can’t make use of the album immediately, maybe you can pop it on during all those Christmas in July sales that show up!

CD: (info through KirkhamMusic.com )
 

© 2015, Rick Huff
 




Buffalo Bill’s Holiday Roundup
by Buffalo Bill (Boycott) & Dr. Jo


A little late is better than never, and I wouldn’t want to miss reviewing something from these two!

Buffalo Bill (Boycott) and partner “Dr. Jo, Flower Of The Prairie” (a.k.a. Joanne Orr) were videoed in performance by Wyoming Public Television at the new Lander Community & Convention Center. After much negotiating, the 2014 show was finally released by the station on DVD for all to enjoy. The show captures the live concert performance of the duo admirably, and the expanded effect added by our ol’ friend Les Hamilton (fiddle, harmonica & jingle bells); Joe Lefevre (stand-up bass); Tom Wilson (bodhran & penny whistle) and Willie Leclair (traditional Native American sign language) adds to the enjoyment. The songs offered are basically Christmas “light” and novelty in nature, and therefore are more able to be enjoyed by all. Note: There is a rocky mountain oyster song, but hey…this is Cowboy after all!!

DVD: Call or text 1-307-349-7197, email wfboycott@hotmail.com or get info through buffalobillboycott.com.

© 2015, Rick Huff
 




Merry Christmas from Our House To Yours
by The High Country Cowboys
 

If you prefer your holiday standards (and others) done in tight three-part Western harmony, the Kosel brothers may just have what you’re looking for.

In addition to the obligatory standard fare one finds on holiday releases, here we also find a few other Christmas decorations for color. “Blue Christmas,” “Out Of The East,” “Still” and “Christmas On The Plains” brighten things up for you. These guys made quite a favorable impression on stage at the November WMA Convention in Albuquerque, so if this CD gets you into the mood to collect The High Country Cowboys, so much the better.

I yearn for the day when I receive holiday offerings in time to actually tell you about them ahead of the season for which they are intended, but maybe that time will yet come.

CD: (info through www.thehighcountrycowboys.com)
 

© 2015, Rick Huff




North of 54 Degrees

by Linda Nadon


I don’t recall coming away from hearing a CD by a poet who focuses on family ranching with more of a clear-cut sense of the family than this one provides. That’s a convoluted sentence, but it’s a big concept to try to put across.

Linda Nadon pretty much writes about the kind of workaday ranching experiences that Yvonne Hollenbeck embraces. She has a feisty, credible delivery well suited to her perspectives. As we move from experience to experience and memory to memory, we get a feeling of place, neighbors and tempo. We know her husband Larry, her adult kids (who make appearances). We hear about and then meet her son “The Rodeo Man” when he chats with us and sings (well) Marty Robbins’ “Cowboy In The Continental Suit.” The music accents and live audience clips provided by brother/producer Rocky Lackner provide interesting coloration. It’s an intriguing visit. Note: The numbers don’t line up with the list on the jacket…and one poem isn’t listed there at all. Nineteen tracks.

CD: (info through l.lnadon@hotmail.com or write PO Box 2521, Meadow Lake, SK, CANADA S9X 1Z6; (306) 236-6790)

© 2015, Rick Huff

(More on Linda Nadon here.)
 





That Old Yellow Horse
by Dennis Russell


“Dennis Russell” has professionally dropped the surname “Nazelrod,” but rest assured. It’s still him!

Most of the works included here are originals. Guest poems come from Bruce Kiskaddon (“Old Western Town”), Terry Nash & Mike Moutoux (“Cowman’s Lot”), Joel Nelson (“Inside War”) and J.B. Allen (“A Better Job”). Russell’s delivery occasionally runs toward a Ross Knox-style chant, and at other times is more toward the conversational.

For musical support on most of the tracks Jim Jones provides guitar, dobro and piano support and Randy Huston adds fiddle. One of the offerings is an unusual mix of recitation with singing (“I Will Ride Smokey Today”) and the title track “That Old Yellow Horse” is a sweet portrait of horse loyalty. Additional picks include “Bitter Sweet,” “Just His Life” and “The Last Gather.” Eleven tracks with two introductions.

CD: (info through www.cimarroncowboypoet.com)
 

© 2015, Rick Huff

(More on Dennis Russell here.)
 

 




Cowboy Lonesome
 by Duane Nelson
 

This one was recorded with the continuity of a performance, which is a nice touch. Plus Nelson has a very listenable, comfortable delivery.

The covers of other’s works include Sunny Hancock’s wonderful “Horse Trade,” Stephen Vincent Benet’s “Mountain Whippoorwill” (inspiration for “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”), Howard Norskog’s “Old Campfires,” Will Ogilvie’s “Pearl Of Them All” and Badger Clark’s “Commuting,” “Glory Trail” and the famous “Annie Laurie/Bad Half Hour” with singing from Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band leader Lauralee Northcott. Another effective mounting is the one done for “Texas In The Spring” that is both recited and sung (by Coyote Joe Sartin & Little Joe McCutcheon).

Nelson’s own works stand up admirably against the formidable competition, with “Cowboy Lonesome,” “Requiem,” “Softer Ground” and his first-ever poem “Shortcut” being particular standouts. Fourteen poems on twenty-three tracks.

CD: (info through calling 1 541-296-5953 or emailing shortcutpoetry@hotmail.com)

© 2015, Rick Huff

(More on Duane Nelson here.)
 




Pipp Gillette Singing Songs by Waddie & Pipp

by Pipp Gilette

 

Occasionally when I’ve used the term “rustic,” I will confess it’s been a synonym for something else. With the ol’ master Pipp Gillette, I mean it to say “true,” “authentic” and “Undisputed King Of It” to boot.

As The Gillette Brothers, Pipp and his late sibling Guy became two of the real cowboys’ go-to guys for music that gave voice to their thoughts and lives. For this first solo release since Guy’s passing, Pipp could not have teamed with anyone creatively better attuned than Waddie Mitchell. The effect is that Pipp was just casually recorded somewhere by a John A. Lomax type, singin’ up a storm. No fuss, no muss. Picks include “It Could Have Been Worse,” “Myrtis,” “I’m Happy,” “Middle of Nowhere,” “Dogs Bark In The Night” and the spoon rhythm-accompanied “Sentimental Toast.” I feel like giving one to these guys.

Ten tracks.

CD: $15 + $4.95 s&h (TX orders add $1.24 state tax, please) from Big Daddy Records, 215 S. 3rd St., Crockett, TX 75835.

© 2015, Rick Huff
 




New Day
 by Notable Exceptions


Lordy! What a fine album this one is!

It’s both the range of material found here and the sheer conviction of delivery that really sets apart this debut release from the ladies known as “Notable Exceptions.” Longtime favorite Judy Coder joined Washington’s Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band and, from it, has found true harmony with one of its longtime members Jennifer Epps. The result is a treasure. Friendly or forceful, joyous or cautionary, the harmonies of Coder & Epps embrace it the full gamut.

A key to the adventure is found in the liner notes for one Western warhorse they did see fit to include: “There’s risk in covering such well-known material.” When did you last hear THAT sentiment expressed around the WMA?

Picks include Patty Clayton’s marvelous “Red Buffalo”; the Quantrill Raider tale “What Jacob Reilly Saw”; Richard Elloyan’s “The Weaver”; and basically the remainder of the CD.

CD: (info through NotableExceptions.com)

 

 

© 2015, Rick Huff




Rawhide Robinson Rides The Tabby Trail
by Rod Miller


Hope yer hankerin’ fer another of award-winning poet/author Rod Miller’s tall tales…or should that be “tails?”

If anyone could be up to actually herdin’ cats, who better than Miller’s redoubtable creation Rawhide Robinson? Described as being not-too-tall, not-too-short, not-too-fat, not-too-thin…here Robinson is also not-too-gun-shy, not-too-allergic to take on a CAT—tle drive to Tombstone to rid ‘em of rodents! Along the way we get more of the kind of campfire wild ragging from Rawhide we discovered in his previous volume. He can out-run Bunyan, out-think Fink and out-everything else Pecos Bill! The plot gets deeper (well, somethin’ sure does) as we pussyfoot down the trail with the crew (and one crewette).

Suffice it to say Rod Miller has again concocted a saga worthy of John Ford…who, upon reading it, doubtlessly would have proclaimed “I’ll have what he’s drinkin’!"

Hardcover, (251 pages): $25.95 with 48 chapters, a prologue, epilogue AND a postscript!


© 2015, Rick Huff

(More on Rod Miller here.)
 




The Black Ace Yodellin' Hitch Hiker

by The Black Ace and others

 

Allan M. Kirby travelled across western Canada…writing and playing theaters, rodeos and shows across the course of forty-two years as “The Black Ace, Yodeling Hitch Hiker.” Were it not for the dedication of his daughter Nola, his life’s work would remain underappreciated to say the least.

Vic Anderson’s tracks “Yodellin’ Hitch Hiker” and “Yodellin’ Cowboy’s Last Yodel,” Buddy Gale’s recitations of several Kirby poems and the tracks from Two Bit Cowboys (“Canyon Blues”) and Dry Town Drifters (The Lonely Guitar”) are welcome additions. Sorry, but I’m not sold on the enhancements someone applied to The Black Ace’s vintage tracks. The guitar overlay seems to run despite the singer. Kirby’s own instrument work is all but lost. And on “B’ar Hunt Reprise” Kirby’s words are recited while he sings them…an unfortunate choice. Yes, his tracks have a public address speaker sound. But if that’s all we have from him, let it stand. Still, it’s an important contribution.

CD: $25 ppd (money order or certified check only) payable to Marie Kirby, Box 368, Magrath, Alberta, CA T0K 1J0; theblackace@shaw.ca.

© 2015, Rick Huff


(More on The Black Ace here.)




Goodnight from Texas

by Tom Hiatt

This newest release from Tom Hiatt is in honor of the great Charlie Goodnight and those who similarly spend their time ahorse, and we see clearly that Hiatt remains one of Western Music’s very best balladeers and songwriters.

Hiatt’s writes and co-writes include the title track “Goodnight From Texas”; “ “Monte, The Night Calver” (you’ll never find a better cowboy portrait); a trilogy dedicated to Nevada buckaroo and author Mackey Hedges consisting of “Last Buckaroo,” “Shadow Of The Wind” and “Cow Work”; and finishing with the lighthearted boogie “Cowboy Up.” The intelligently selected covers to go with them include “Every Horse I Ever Rode,” “Dodge City,” “Pretty Painted Ladies,” and on “Below the Kinney Rim” the song’s co-writer Michael Fleming lends a harmony voice.

It’s superior stuff all ‘round, and definitely worth your investment of time and bucks. Ten tracks total.

CD: (info through tomhiatt.net)

© 2015, Rick Huff




Behind the Grease Paint
by Poppa Mac

 

Admittedly we’re going back a little farther in time than usual to pick up this 2013 release for review.

Canadian poet “Poppa Mac” Mackay has been a real life rodeo clown or, more accurately, a bullfighter or rodeo protection athlete. Called the most dangerous job in the world in the world’s biggest sport on dirt, the occupation this guy chose meant he saved lives every time he worked. Even ER doctors can’t make that claim.

The perspectives given here were gained up close. REAL close! As is his wont, Poppa Mac most often prefers to bring chuckles or at least smiles of recognition in poems like “Cattle Baron,” “Cowboy Hats” or “Old Friend.” Then he gets down to business in others, such as “Crashin’ The Gate,” “Scars” and “Hung Up.”

Fourteen tracks. The liner note numbering is off due to an introduction occupying Track One but, as they say around the ring, “don’t let it throw ya!”

CD: (info through poppamac.com)

© 2015, Rick Huff

 



Songs of ----
by The High Country Cowboys


This tight harmony Western trio made up of the brothers Kosel was pretty much the talk of the 2015 WMA Convention.

Very much a nod to the Sons Of The Pioneers, the High Country Cowboys now offer an album of “Yodelin’ Marty” Kosel originals. They easily could have come directly to us from the era of the B-Western singing cowboy. Most of the famous Nolan-Spencer-Carson kind of subject matter is present. In the liner notes, Kosel admits to the derivative inspiration for a number of the songs, so if they have a familiar feel, there’s the reason. It’s good to find young folks who embrace the classic harmony style and the Kosels handle it with conviction.

A note…we’re getting close to being able to offer an entire evening made up solely of songs entitled “Stampede!” With the one here, I now count six!

CD: (info through thehighcountrycowboys.com)

© 2015, Rick Huff

 




Big Corral Roundup
by Barbara Nelson


With this CD the ever jazzy and swinging Ms. Nelson has done what other frequent releasing artists might consider doing. She has released a CD to bring certain tracks back to the attention of DJs and fans.

Drawn from earlier releases comes this collection of predominantly swing favorites. The Western content includes “Ghost Riders In The Sky”; “Ragtime Cowboy Joe”; “My Little Buckaroo”; “Ridin’ Down The Canyon”; and the curiously miscredited “Blue Shadows On The Trail” (Johnny Lange & Eliot Daniel, not Randy Newman); and “Out On The Western Plains” (Huddie Ledbetter, not Rory Gallagher). Swingers and other standards include “Miles & Miles Of Texas,” “Crazy,” “St. James Infirmary” and more. “What A Wonderful World” is miscredited too, but that’s somebody else's genre job. Sixteen tracks, and a nice representative set for fans of Barbara.

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

© 2015, Rick Huff

 




Sassafras Roots
 by Brenda Libby
 

According to the liner notes, this CD was inspired by remembered story fragments from (and about) people who have gone on. Most of Brenda Libby’s songs are not specifically Western by subject, but her tales of land and happenings on it can superimpose quite easily onto a Western setting or scene.

The specifically Western tracks here are “Saloon Girl’s Lament” and the James Gang saga song “Sundown” (with Irl Hess as “Doc”), but others are defendable…such as “Runs Like A Scar,” “Where The Dandelions Grow,” “Cool” or “When May Came To Be.” Libby is one of those expressive singers who can tip you to the existence of a back-story behind the words you’re hearing. Also I’ve said before she reminds me tonally of Belinda Gail, and that still holds true for me. Ten tracks.

CD: $15 + $3 s/h US (brendalibbymusic.com) from Brenda Libby, PO Box 447, Roach, MO 65787.

© 2015, Rick Huff



Fingerprints
by Òga

Òga is Hailey Sandoz (fiddle & harmony vocals) and Joseph Carmichael (guitar, Roland V6-88, bass & bodhran). Lead vocals here are provided (when called for) by guest artists Mikki Daniel & Seth Russell (on mandolin as well). Four additional fine musicians complete the assemblage: Kendall Rogers (piano & piano-accordion), Blaine Russell (harmony vocals), Martin McCall (drums & percussion) and Nathan Phelps (upright bass).

Fingerprints is a wonderfully sophisticated Gypsy Swing album, particularly for young performers (a caveat they are doubtlessly growing sick of hearing). Just let the people play, for cryin’ out loud! And, brother, how they play. They take Jazz, Swing & Irish/Scottish reels to new fields. It is a listening and dancing joy from stem to stern. There are only nine tracks on the album, but with the extended lengths and the sheer astronomical quality of the performances, no way will you feel cheated with this one. Highly (or “Hailey”) recommended!

CD: (info through www.oga-music.com or www.HaileySandoz.com)

© 2015, Rick Huff
 



Under Western Skies
by Prairie Moon

The latest from the Western harmony group features five nice originals, including two of the album’s pick tracks “Singing My Way Down The Tucson Trail” and “Pokey.”

Picks among the collection’s cover songs include David Ball’s “Texas Echo,” Joy Gray’s “All The Old Cowboys,” the Samuels/Powell/Whitcup classic “Give Me My Boots and Saddle,” Red & Danny Steagall and Ace Ford’s “Red River Rose,” Nat Vincent & Fred Howard’s “When The Bloom Is On The Sage” and “Dear Old Western Skies” (omitting its principal writer Smiley Burnette in crediting Gene Autry). Also “Cross The Brazos At Waco” is attributed to Billy Walker, who hit with it, but it’s actually a creation of singer/songwriter Kay Arnold).

Here is a nice collection with smooth harmonies and tight production. What more do you need?! Twelve tracks.

CD: $15 ppd from Prairie Moon, 4505 Nassau Dr., Wichita Falls, TX 76308.

© 2015, Rick Huff
 




The Call of the West
by Purly Gates

Susan “Purly” Gates has basically listed herself as “a poet.” As this very pleasant little offering attests, she is considerably more than just that! On her release “The Call Of The West” she also demonstrates her chops as an interpreter, as an obviously seasoned singer and as a multi-instrumentalist.

As a writer Gates wields a mighty pun, too. Leaning toward the comedic, she includes novelty songs like “Hippo Loose In Hutto” (wherein a lady wrangler saves the day, as inspired by an old newspaper clipping and a dose of literary license); “Roundup Time In Roswell” (ever see a little green dogie?); and poems such as “A Curious Sight” (gotta see that to believe it); “Changes At The Ranch” 'and the classic “Gol Durn Wheel.” Her
a cappella tight harmony work on “No Well” and “Way Out West In Texas” is impressive as well. It’s a good ‘un.

Ten tracks total.

CD: (info through www.purlygates.com)

© 2015, Rick Huff

 



The Complete Cowboy Bucket List
 by Slim Randles

 

The author admits you’d need lots of time and a bucket suitable to feed Babe The Blue Ox to carry the funds required, but if you visit the Will Rogers Memorial in Barrow, Alaska and ride a Lipizzaner in Vienna, Austria, the rest are more centralized! Okay, there’s also touring Iceland and Mongolia by horse of course.

The book is serious fun, and even if you can’t accomplish a single one of the tasks, at least there’s a quick education about them in one handy source as Slim count’s ‘em down. Personal anecdotes abound on everything from choosing a hat or boots; going to farrier, bull or bronc riding schools; or cooking on a Dutch oven (which doesn’t require a trip to Holland, tenderfoot)!

Full disclosure: Your humble servant was asked to furnish the list of Western songs for the book. Much had to be omitted, but I gave it my best shot!

Trade Paperback Book: $15.95 (U.S.) from Rio Grande Books (www.RioGrandeBooks.com), 925 Salamanca, NW, Los Ranchos, NM 87107-5647.

© 2015, Rick Huff
 


 

Jane Morton Records Her Poems of the Old West and the New
by Jane Morton

 

A biographical lineage thread runs through Jane Morton’s work on this CD release. You’d best listen from beginning to end as I did.

Her first two poems deal with her Arizona friend Rusty Calhoun and the gift from her horses. Then we go to the historic family ranch, now gone, and how you are “Grounded” by place. Moving on the sense of place ran to the community around it. Her grandfather Harry Ambrose, the “Trail Driver,” would have spun in his grave to know the place had been sold…as would her father, “Connected” as he was…but “What Would I Have Done,” Jane asks in verse, had the decision been hers. She poetically covers that her family was made up of savers and lauds one final gift of canning. And later comes her admonition to get “Memories” down in words lest they be lost too. It’s effective and quietly moving. Fifteen tracks total.

CD: $13 ppd from Jane Morton, 12710 Abert Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80908

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Jane Morton here.)
 

 

 



Cowboy Classics II and III
by Dick Morton

 

Reciter Dick Morton has released two CDs of his (and just about everybody’s) favorite Cowboy Poetry classics including many of our cherished Barker, Knibbs, Clark and Kiskaddon works.

Musical support comes from Rex Rideout and Mark L. Gardner. Morton adapts his delivery as the material demands…from a cowboy’s private reflections in Badger Clark’s “Lost Partner” to the hypnotic chant of Buck Ramsey’s “Anthem.” Also present are such gems as Sharlot Hall’s “Drouth Time” and “Beyond The Range”; Rod Nichols’ “Yep” (possibly the ultimate illustration of less-is-more),;interestingly Gail Gardner’s “Cowboy Love Song” (rather than the beat to death “Tyin’ Knots…”); and an effective recitation (as would have been the original form) of Jack Thorp’s “Little Joe The Wrangler.”

There’s much to recommend about these releases! Thirteen tracks total on Volume II and fourteen on Volume III counting one of Morton’s own, “City Kid.”

CDs: $12 each postpaid from Dick Morton, 12710 Abert Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80908

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Dick Morton here.)
 

 

 



Bulls, Broncs and Barrooms by Del Gustafson

 

In fine style long-time cowboy poet Del Gustafson offers remembrances one might expect. He gives us horse chases and catches, moments of awe and beauty, friends gone and admirable cowboy traits. But he is not afraid to depart from that norm.

Sometimes Gustafson’s cowboy protagonists are not all that admirable. Sometimes they’re caught, sometimes not. And, to the possible chagrin of plaster saint fans, Gustafson freely admits with the cowboy it ain’t all cattle. He also responds to that lonesome carnal call! His cowboy appreciates good bodies, sneaks peeks, has one-night stands and sometimes there’s a cash transaction. In Gustafson’s poem “Rodeo Romance” the cowboy digs into his jeans to see if he “can pay the entry fee”…double entendre intended. In “The Buckle Bunny” she says “you can bet your hide your wildest ride will be the night you spent with me!” On the subject Gustafson’s tactful, but frontal.

This collection is highly recommended to all but the lily-livered.

Book: (contact Del Gustafson, 30504 NE Big Rock Rd., Duvall, WA 98019-7313 or email delgustaf@gmail.com)


© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Del Gustafson here.)
 

 


 


Carnero Vaquero

by Ian Tyson
 

The Ol’ Master’s newest was mostly recorded in the 100-year-old stone ranch building he works in every day when not on the road. Ian says “I think the ghosts of all the songs I’ve written here approve of the new ones!” Well if they’re good enough for them…!

One song here is in fact one of “them”…a new spin on Ian’s popular “Will James.” He goes back further to pick up the Ian & Sylvia stocker “Darcy Farrow.” He covers Will Dudley’s “Colorado Horses,” a song definitely from the Tyson mold, and herein he’s done for “Doney Gal” what he did years ago for “I Ride An Old Paint.” The remainder of the release consists of Tyson writes (“Shawnee,” “Chantell” & “Cottonwood Canyon”); a co-write with Tom Russell (“Wolves No Longer Sing”); and two with Calgary’s Kris Demeanor (“Jughound Ronnie” & “The Flood”).

Carnero is Spanish for “ram.” The CD is dedicated to the Canadian bighorn that possessed the world’s biggest curl, killed by a vehicle, March 2015.

CD: (for ordering email info@stonyplainrecords.com or Amazon and other online stores)

© 2015, Rick Huff
 




Ride a Wide Circle
by Mary Kaye
 

Here we have arguably the strongest release yet from the award-winning Mary Kaye. For those unaware (somehow), Mary Kaye’s voice ranges from expressively plaintive to all-out gut powerful. You will find that nobody from our genre…male or female…handles romping, bluesy attitude material any better than this lady.

Know that everything about the CD is top notch, but it’s nice to see “Buckskin Joe” rescued from an earlier album. Other picks include her title track, the bilingual “Que Vaquero”; “The Wild Of The West” (a showpiece of contemporary Western Music concepting); “Big Enough”; the swing novelty “Horse Lover”; “A Cowboy’s Soul”; and the swinging, quasi-autobiographical “Girl Meets West.”

There are also some Western classics covered, and they include the a cappella opener (Harry Stephens’ 1909 “Night Herding Song”),  “Leavin’ Cheyenne,” and Kent Lewis’ beautiful “Song Of Wyoming.” Highly recommended. Sixteen tracks total.

CD: $20 postpaid through all major online stores & from Mary Kaye Knaphus, 1410 S. Jefferson St., Salt Lake City, UT 84115.

© 2015, Rick Huff
 


 


Cowboy to the Bone

by R.J. Vandygriff

Presenting yet another winner. done with the production ear of the renowned Rich O’Brien, The Cowboy-Ain’t-Dead-Yet vet R.J. Vandygriff proves here that he ain’t either!

Personally I have always thought of R.J. as Western Music’s Kenny Rogers. One major difference is the fact that R.J. can wonderfully originate his music as well as sing it to perfection. From his originals our picks include “Mr. Jimmy Bussard”; a good new Billy The Kid song “William Bonney”; “Ain’t Dead Yet”; and “Chasing Rainbows” (R.J.’s story of pursuing the music business dream). Related to that are two “bonus tracks.” They are R.J.’s first two recordings, done forty-five years ago!

R.J. has also covered a pair from Randy Huston (“Hurricane Deck” and “Way Of The Cowboy”); the title track “Cowboy To The Bone”; the contemplative “What A Cowboy Was”; and, for good measure, “The Auctioneer.” You’ll like it! Twelve tracks plus two spoken intros.

CD: (available through www.cowboyaintdeadyet.com)


© 2015, Rick Huff


 


 


Down the Trail

by Kristyn Harris


Kristyn's originals on this fine, highly danceable release  include "The Mustang Waltz"; "Acres Of Nowhere" (a pick); "Diesel & Dust," "Guitar Man" (a pick); a bonus track "Yodelin' Fever" (a pick); and a Randy Huston co-write "Texas & You" (a pick)!

Covers on Ms. Harris' newest include "Thank Heavens For Dale Evans," a creation from the earliest incarnation of The Dixie Chicks. The performances of the nine support musicians are of the high caliber you've come to expect from the team of Rich O'Brien and Arom Meador. All in all this one provides more justification for the lauds and applause that have been coming Kristyn's way in recent years.

As is my pattern, I need to point out a crediting error in the liner notes, especially since it does involve a WMA Hall of Famer. "When The Bloom Is On The Sage" was written (during a live radio broadcast) by The Happy Chappies Nat (not "Matt") Vincent and Fred Howard. Thirteen tracks including two bonus tracks.

CD is available through www.kristynharris.com.

© 2015, Rick Huff

 


 


All I Need
by Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band

Occasionally on CDs the technique and details are so stringently hammered the fun seems to have been chased away. No worries about that here…at all!

Every bit of this new release is inspired. At points along the way it even hits “thrilling!” Dang, ladies…ya brought tears! Wonderful little touches in the instrumental accents and performances with genuine flair make this CD something special. Songs include Ric Steinke’s “Swingtime In The Rockies”; Nancy Thorwardson’s “Paint The Town”; and it was nice to see Ken Graydon’s “Three Quarter Time” covered. I spotted and responded to their adept political correction of the “warpaint” verse in “Pecos Bill” and enjoyed the variety of lead vocal work throughout. Hats off to their newest band mate Judy Coder for her handling of superb harmony arrangements and arranging for those eight wonderful support musicians. Twelve tracks total.

This one is wholeheartedly, enthusiastically and did I mention 100% recommended!

CD: $18 postpaid from Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band, PO Box 276, Winthrop, WA 98862 or through horsecrazycowgirlband.com.

© 2015, Rick Huff

 


 


A Cowboy's Journal
by Gary Penney
 

This CD offers effects by Arom Meador and incidental music on guitar, fiddle, mandolin and accordion performed by Rich O’Brien…so cowboy poet Gary Penney is halfway home already! But he also is possessed of a very solid delivery and command of his medium.

Some of the highpoints include “Rose and Dolly” (a sweet remembrance of two donkey playmates from his childhood); “Beneath The Midnight Dome” (the nighttime symphony of the desert and cowboy snores can be part of it); and “Beer Stains In The Wood (the scientific explanation of what turns a violin into a proper fiddle). Penney offers a profile of the mighty bucker “Steamboat” and the ride that became immortalized on every Wyoming license plate; “Reflections” on the past; and some dog-to-cowboy “Talkin’ Eye To Eye.” “The New Hand” made me think of Georgie Sicking, for one…and “Muley Cow” shows certain cantankerousness is genetic. “A Handshake is Enough,” of course, says it all. Sixteen tracks, four are religious.

CD: $17.50 postpaid from Gary Penney, 398 Bullhide Trail, Lorena, TX 76655
 

© 2015, Rick Huff

 


 

 


A Remnant Gather
by Jack "Trey" Allen
 

First I should say I found the performances and writing of this predominantly cowboy poetry CD to be first rate. Pithy entries like “Lost & Never Found” and “A Story With Several Morals” keep you alert and guessing while fresh takes on old Cowboy themes like those found in “As Close As You Can Get” or “Roughstock Toast” keep it authentic. Please know I do like this album very much. But now I really have to address the packaging.

Believe it or not, nowhere on the surface, spine or label of the CD itself are the performers’ names to be found! I had to scan the fairly fine print inside. The contents are laid out in such a way that the sealed CD reveals only the final six tracks, concealing ten more within! And nowhere is there a copyright notice. Despite the problems, it’s worth your time and trouble to seek out. Sixteen tracks total.

CD: Available for $18 postpaid from: Trey Allen, 10660 Lwr McDowell Crk Rd., Junction City, KS 66441; treyallen44@gmail.com; www.trey-allen-amigos.com.

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Jack "Trey" Allen here.)
 




Cowboys and Girls
by Randy Huston and Hannah Huston
 

Some of Randy Huston’s most requested songs are reprised and plenty of new material is present in this Wrangler Award winning CD. For 2014 the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum saw fit to award it top honors for its portrayal of things Cowboy, so who the heck am I to argue?!

Fan favorites include the header-heeler anthem “Hole in Daddy’s Rope,” “Lucky” and “Day of the Cowboy.” The collection is made up of originals and co-writes (with Ted Hoffman and Paul Harris) and is very well produced. The subjects range from serious and heartfelt to lighted-hearted and comic. “Cowboy Magazine” is sort of a latter day Western answer to “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” “Lucky” is a song of Cowboy optimism pushed to the max and “Got in it for the Romance” says it all! Daughter Hannah takes the lead on “Guardian Angel,” “Rides Like A Girl” and “Thanks For Today.” She’s not just here ‘cuz she knew somebody, either. She’s got legit chops!

Huston’s talent for making fresh observations and ten additional support musicians keep this one sparkling. Recommended! Thirteen tracks.

CD: www.RandyHuston.com

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

 




On the Trail to Where I Am
by Buck Helton
 

Mostly made up of re-releases from the past fifteen years or so, this congenial collection of originals and covers is delivered with baritone-bass authority by Mr. Helton.

Picks include Cindy Walker’s infrequently covered “Jim I Wore A Tie Today” and the old classic “Aura Lee.” Also of interest are medley arrangements of Western standards combined with their “source” songs. Cases in point: “Bard of Armagh/Streets Of Laredo,” “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean/Cowboy’s Dream” and the somewhat puzzling (to me) “Bury Me Not In The Deep Blue Sea/I’m Going To Leave Old Texas Now.” For them Helton uses the more familiar melody from Carson Robison’s answer song “Carry Me Back To The Lone Prairie.” I had always heard the melody for the previous pair to be the dirge used by Tex Ritter in his recorded version of “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie!” Hmmm…a puzzler…

Three Helton originals are religious and a poem “Keeper Of The Fire” rather supports his reasons for doing his “Golden Nuggets” column! Ten tracks.

CD: www.BuckHelton.com

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Buck Helton here.)
 


 


Race with the Wind
 by Jim Jones

The newest Jones release is intended to present the WMA’s 2014 Male Vocalist of the Year to new domestic and international audiences. Therefore the CD contains some fresh mountings of previously released songs…a couple of them on their third go ‘round!

There are some discoveries to be made, such as the Jim Jones/Andrea Renfree song “Common Ground,” “On The Wings Of The Wind” and “True Texas Treasure.” The Jones collaborators who have been deemed worthy (Bruce Huntington, Alan Chapman & Randy Huston) are represented with Jones & Chapman’s “Smoke Of The Branding Fire,” Jones & Huntington’s “Race With The Wind” and Jones, Chapman & Huston’s “You Can’t Get There From Here.”

Due in large part to the efforts of engineer and multi-instrumentalist Mariam Funke, this album stands as the Jones showpiece of the last ten years. Thirteen tracks.

CD: $12.97 through cdbaby.com for the disc or $9.99 for the MP3 download and $.99 per song download.

© 2015, Rick Huff

 




Songs from Cowboy World

by Cindy Smith

Not to say she should remain exclusively in this niche, but the somewhat pixie-like tone of Cindy Smith’s voice certainly does lend itself to a project aimed at the younger set!

The Cowboy World shows Smith performs are aimed at giving school aged children an awareness and appreciation of their Western music heritage. Cute pieces like “Crickets On The Moon,” “When I Grow Up (Cowboy World)” and
the Lone Ranger tribute “Who Was That Masked Man Anyway” are geared to spark imaginations. But at the same time the CD doesn’t shy away from a bit of love interest in songs like “Cowboy Kisses,” the Cindy Smith-Dennis Knill duet “Moonlight Ride” or even what must be the only love song ever inspired by comic B-Western sidekick “Fuzzy Q” Jones! (She has a Jones look-alike onstage in the shows!)

The performances are solid and production values are high, making it that much more of an enjoyable little romp. Ten tracks total.

CD: $10.99 + $3.99 s/h from cowboyworldatlanta.com and also through amazon.com.

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

 




Old Houses, Horses, Dogs & Friends

by Richard Martin

The brothers Richard and Glenn Martin have apparently found an audience for their direct and very literal lyric writing, or maybe it’s the production values that sell it. Regardless, they’re back for Round 7 and the formula is in place.

Stylistically the content of their newest is again a mix of Western, Folk and Country. The point is made through songs like “Horse Power” (stating we have horse power from cars and horses), “Old Houses” (plus Horses, Dogs and Friends are things we should appreciate) and “Spit Me Out” (saying “you may chew me up, but I’ll bet you”…get the idea).

The support musicians add a lot to the project. They include Edna Martin (vocals/rhythm guitar), Blane Sloan (bass/electric & acoustic guitar/mandolin/harmony), George Langston (acoustic & electric guitar), Frank Howard (pedal steel), Susan Clark (harmonies/keyboards), Roger Baker (keyboard), Lee Taylor (saxophone), Kurt Baumer (fiddle) and Wayne Shrubsall (banjo) with Wayne Moore (bass/guitar/dobro/mandolin on the track “Daddy Juan”). Twelve tracks.

CD: $15 ppd from Glenn Martin, 4979 Country Road 250, Durango, CO 81301-8620. Also through Amazon, iTunes or
cdbaby.com.

© 2015, Rick Huff

 


 


Rhyming the Range
 by Yvonne Hollenbeck


One way to appreciate the difference between “cowboy mythos” and “cowboy reality” is to contemplate the distance between Roy & Dale’s movie “The Cowboy & The Señorita” and Yvonne Hollenbeck’s “The Truth About Cowboy Laundry!”

Sudden unexpected truth is the core of humor, but among ranching folks listening, Hollenbeck also gets the nodding recognition of, “Oh boy here it comes!” It comes from her ratio of comic to serious, even in a comic piece. As she puts it, “It wasn’t so funny at the time!” And she can really get to the gut of it. From "Hometown Shopping": “Do you know who you are buying from when you shop cyberspace? When your little league needs sponsors can you call upon their place?” Or from "Rancher Wannabe": “…to just become a rancher is a challenge as we know it, but you can pretend you are one and become a cowboy poet!”

The book features 72 poems, the CD has 22 of them, with fine guitar stagings from Butch Hause.

CD: $15 ppd and Book (hardcover): $25 (both for $35 ppd) from Yvonne Hollenbeck, 30549 291 St., Clearfield, SD 57580-6205; www.yvonnehollenbeck.com.

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Yvonne Hollenbeck here.)
 


 


 


100 Poems
 by Waddie Mitchell


So here’s a collection of one hundred poems of Waddie Mitchell to peruse and peruse again. And you will. Indeed you will.

These days there are wonderful, intriguing poems being written by stars and rising stars of the cowboy ooetry genre. But returning when you get a chance . . . like you will with this volume . . . Suddenly it hits you. Nobody does what Waddie Mitchell does. Whether it’s a little thought or a grand concept, a humor hit or a sucker punch…the ol’ bard can handle it all as he glides from tried and true poetic forms to wonderfully new structure, and does it perfectly and appropriately for the subjects at hand. Check out “Who But The Horse” along with “Bill Maupin” for range of observation. Try his Spur Award winning “Still There” beside “The Gift” for span of concept and thought.

This volume simply has to be on the shelves of all who value Cowboy Poetry. Or any poetry. Period. Two hundred fifteen pages.

Book (softcover): $24.95 + $5 s/h (Order #23) from Western Jubilee Recording Company, PO Box 9187, Colorado Springs, CO 80932 or through www.westernjubilee.com 

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Waddie Mitchell here.)
 



 


 


Dos Amigos
 by Daron Little
 

In his cover letter, Daron Little says he was aiming at a full album, then fussed and fretted over the tracks, and then realized most CDs only have six or so tracks that “measure up” anyway, so he took the ones he felt did, did ‘em with guitar and voice (and Butch Hause filling in some good, subtle stuff), and here you are!

This release of original songs includes “The Outside Circle” (my personal favorite), “Cowboy Standard Time,” “Dos Amigos,” “Where The Sagebrush Touches The Sky,” “Good Case Of Gone” and “This Old Horse.” All could be classified as CD “picks” under normal circumstances. I’m also inclined to name “Cowboy Standard Time,” “Good Case Of Gone” and “This Old Horse” as particular “picks.”

What we find here is a perfect example of the adage less is more…when “less” is done this well. Total of six culled, fretted over, fussed with and non-fluff tracks!

CD: $10 + 4 s/h through www.ranchcowboymusic.com, iTunes, Amazon or www.cdbaby.com/cd/daronlittle 

© 2015, Rick Huff
 

(More on Daron Little here.)
 


 


 

The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Nine
various artists, from CowboyPoetry.com


Three generations of McCalls are featured on this newest volume in the legendary
Bar-D Roundup series. The late poet Rusty McCall (pictured on the cover) does “Last Gather,” the award winning Deanna Dickinson McCall performs “For Rusty” and young Ila-Jane Owen offers Kiskaddon’s “Alkali Ike’s Zippers.”

The superb CD opens with poet Joel Nelson’s intensely believable version of Frank Desprez’s “Lasca” and DW Groethe with “Hooves Everlasting.” It ends with Jerry A. Brooks doing H.H. Knibbs’s “Bronco Shod With Wings.” In the center is a section of comic poets Yvonne Hollenbeck, Rodney Nelson, Pat Richardson and Andy Nelson…so
Volume Nine could be a chocolate with a soft center, I guess! Like its predecessors, Volume Nine will raise the bar again.

The classic recording this time comes from the John A. Lomax files. It’s one of the famous recordings that alerted the world to “Home On The Range.” Twenty-nine tracks including the song. Highly recommended.

CD: $20 ppd from www.Cowboypoetry.com, Box 695, St. Helena, CA 94574.

© 2014, Rick Huff
 

(More on The BAR-D Roundup here.)
 




Santa's Hired Hand
 by Andy Nelson


This Xmas delivery kinda got lost in the bottom of Santa’s bag, so we’ll cover it late!

Once again the traditional Nelson stocking is stuffed with relevance, irreverence and rear evidence. We begin with a very sedate reading of “Luke Chapter 2,” but (of course) this is Andy Nelson we’re talking about. You’d better prepare to get your jingle jangled somewhere along the trail! We learn “Santa Must Be A Shoer,” and it’s a shoer bet “Santa’s Hired Hand” is a feller few would handle. You’ll learn “How To Tell Santa Is In Upper Management” and get some “Cowboy Tips For Holiday Gift Giving.” And there’s still a sweet moment or five to put you in the spirit if Andy doesn’t spear it. Ho-ho! Thirteen tracks total.

CD: (contact Andy Nelson, PO Box 1547, Pinedale, WY 82941 or through www.cowpokepoet.com or (307) 360-8776.

© 2014, Rick Huff
 

(More on Andy Nelson here.)
 



Goodnight Goes Riding (and other poems)
by Rod Miller
 

This time for sure. According to his notes Rod Miller is expecting to be ambushed by Cowboy Poetry purists. Sometimes he has written with no rhyme, broken meter, and dang well done what he pleased. But this award winning poet knows what he’s doin,’ so don’t tell him what he did. He’s way ahead of you.

More so than with some in the genre, you know that when you’re starting on a Miller ride you will arrive somewhere. There is a payoff, be it a truth, view, impression or realization. There is a justification for your having invested the eye energy. How he’s chosen to reach each this time is just so-much cowboy stretching room.

Picks include “Preliminary Aftermath,” “Goodnight Goes Riding,” “The Colorful Pageantry of Rodeo,” “Lamentation For A Living Legend” and just about all the rest of ‘em! Enjoy!

BOOK (softcover) 104 pages: $12.97 (Kindle $3.97) through www.Pen-L.com

© 2014, Rick Huff
 

(More on Rod Miller here.)




The First Go Round
by Thatch Elmer

I had a chance to talk with the father of the eleven-year-old cowboy poet Thatch Elmer at this year’s WMA Convention. He was certainly the proud papa, devoting his attentions and efforts to helping launch his son. But I’d heard proud papas and mamas before. What I hadn’t heard, until this CD, was anything…and I mean anything…like Thatch Elmer himself.

I was taken with the level of maturity of his writing…the literacy…the thought in it. Couple that with Thatch’s subtleties of delivery. If he sticks with it, this cat is going to be one of the “majors!” I will say his delivery is very brisk, possibly not allowing the audience complete time to savor what he’s brought with him. And he’s still somewhat a slave to cadence, which may be a function of the muscle memory that lets him bring the lines to mind. But Thatch Elmer will hopefully be in it for many “go rounds” to come!

CD: $15 ppd from Thatch Elmer, 120 Elk Dr., Bear River, WY 82930; www.cowboythatch.com

© 2014, Rick Huff

(More on Thatch Elmer here.)

 




Scrapin' By (and other poems)
by Marleen Bussma

Historical happenings are the poetic goldmine of Utah poet Marleen Bussma. A North Dakota native, Bussma’s title track deals with the wild and wooly life of Poker Alice. Bussma’s delivery is what I would consider to be the spot-on mix of reciting and interpretive acting.

In literate and wonderfully descriptive verse, Bussma tells of “The Outlaw,” a legendary 1900s saddle bronc (“the rodeo grew claws and snatched my carefree life away”). From “The Phantom’s Lure,” about a mustang now penned, we get “teasing thoughts of freedom flicker, fade and fall behind.” From “Slow Burn” she shows a damaged pen and its contents with “like the hull of the Titanic wood has sprung a gaping hole…movement heads in that direction as bulls think about parole!”

Give this one a try. You won’t be disappointed. Fourteen tracks.

CD: $14 ppd from Marleen Bussma, 1094 Homestead Dr. E., Dammeron Valley, UT 84783.

© 2014, Rick Huff

(More on Marleen Bussma here.)

 




Doc & Tub Live (with the Littleton Chorale)
 by Doc Mehl & Washtub Jerry
 

If a washtub bass backing a heavenly choir and a certified nut sounds like a novelty to you…bingo!

Recorded during Western Welcome Week in Littleton, Colorado, we find Doc Mehl and Washtub Jerry have stumbled upon a giant choir to perform with, just when they need one! Make sure you’re listening over speakers that can find the deep notes Tub hits or you’ll miss part of the action. Interesting additions in repertoire include Doc’s popular “I’d Rather Be” and the enigmatic “Jupiter & Mars.” Non-credited light percussion support helps things along and Sid Hausman “magically” appears on the album bonus track “Blackened Blues.” Compared to material on Doc Mehl’s previous releases, this one includes some also-rans, but his devotees will still run “pehl-mehl” to snap this one up. Thirteen tracks.

CD: $18 ppd from Doc Mehl, 9140 W. 107th Pl., Westminster, CO 80021 or through www.DocTubFun.com.

© 2014, Rick Huff

(More on Al "Doc" Mehl here.)
 


Saddle Serenade
by Saddle Serenade (Chris Mortensen,
Mary Jo Hansen and Lindsey Oliva)

 

Right from the opening title track (done a capella), this first release from the trio Saddle Serenade features very strong harmony. Chris Mortensen and mother and daughter Mary Jo Hansen and Linsey Oliva make up the group, and Mortensen's and Hansen's songwriting chops are consistently solid as well.

I will say I prefer the ladies' lead vocal work to that of Mortensen, freely admitting to a bias against anything anywhere near the vocal tone of Neil Young! Tenors beware. Seriously this group displays great skill in what they do. Picks include the more rough and tumble ("I Ride With Gus McRae" and "A Cowboy's Home") to the romantic ("My Vaquero," "Dance with My Cowboy," and the lightly comic "You Can't Miss Me" and "I'm Leaving My Heart with You"). This one's a keeper. Eleven tracks and one poem.

CD: $15 ppd from Chris Mortensen, PO Box 405, Paradise, UT 84328 or through www.cdbaby.com/cd/saddleserenade.

© 2014, Rick Huff

 

(More on Chris Mortensen here.)

 


 

Once We Were Kings
 by Dale Page

The freshly elected President of the WMA’s Western Wordsmiths chapter brings his enthusiastic, big stage delivery onto his latest CD…or perhaps we could call it a classic campfire delivery.

Dale Page renders very thoughtful poetic portraits that were drawn from his personal experiences, his friends and his extended family biography. He is supported nicely by the playing and subtle sound texturing of musician and album engineer Ken Davis. This album could provide a good teaching aid on how to vary the effect of music and atmospherics.

Picks include “Brush Poppers” (besting that constant no-show brindle cowbrute), “Lodgepole Lullaby” (a homesteading life story), “Just One More Day” (an old cowboy imparts memories to kids who’ll never fully know) and the CD’s title track “Once We Were Kings” (self-explanatory). Ten tracks total.

CD: $16 + $3 s/h through www.dalepage.com or www.cdbaby.com.

© 2014, Rick Huff

 

(More on Dale Page here.)
 




Sespe Lullaby
by Andria Kidd

She calls her performance pieces “Musical Cowboy Poetry,” and by any barometer you choose Andria Kidd’s is a different act.

Stylistically she bounces her word cadences off the rhythms of the accompaniment. In this case that support comes in the form of contemporary, rather rockish music beds created by Canadian composer Joey Stebanuk from Medicine Hat, Alberta. Not all the material is Western (witness “Call You A Cab” about her motorcycle wreck or “Somebody Said I Said” about somebody saying she said something), but all of it comes from her personal experience. Entry points to the effect are “The Pink Moment” (about Ojai’s Topa-Topa Mountains in the sun’s fading blush) and the title track “Sespe Lullaby” (riding the land where condors fly). Then move into “Once Upon A Daydream” (a girl’s dreams of barrel racing) and you should be acclimated. Twelve tracks total.

CD: Available through www.AFIRMRecords.com

© 2014, Rick Huff

 

(More on Andria Kidd here.)
 




Partners
by Doug Figgs


Doug Figgs is one of those genuine workers in the cowboy trade. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier, the highest recognition offered in that esteemed Western profession. And as he continues to “fire-up” as both an artist and a songwriter, we may well see him hit impressive heights in music, too.

His style is a mix of Western with a contemporary edge and Country. And on this album (as on his previous two), he continues to benefit from the production and performing gifts of his buddy Mariam Funke.

Western picks include “Life Of An Outlaw,” “Charlie & Evangeline,” “Runnin’ With The Wind” and the cover of the Dylan & Secor song “Wagon Wheel.” For rompin’ Country picks I would name “One More Thing” and “She’s Gone.” Fourteen tracks.

CD: $15 through www.dougfiggs.com or from Doug Figgs, PO Box 3, Lemitar, NM 87823.

© 2014, Rick Huff