FEATURING: Dom Flemons, Pipp Gillette, Andy Hedges, R.W. Hampton, Brenn Hill, Hot Club of Cowtown, Elana James, Waddie Mitchell, Joel Nelson, Lauren Padgett, Randy Rieman, Dave Stamey, Denise Withnell, Lloyd Wright.
With more than 55 years of crooning, yipping, and picking under his belt, the legacy of cowboy balladeer and legend Don Edwards — a man who has devoted his life and career to carrying forward a multitude of cowboy musical traditions — is visible, vital, and revitalizing, as evidenced by the stirring homage by the many artists on this show.
Hosted by Joel Nelson.
From the 36th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
"Untitled" - Joel Nelson (poem by Joel Nelson)
"Minstrel of the Range" - Andy Hedges (words + music by Don Edwards)
“I’d Like To Be in Texas for the Roundup in the Spring” - Pipp Gillette + Lloyd Wright (traditional)
"The Cowboy Song" - Brenn Hill (words + music by Roy Robinson)
"Little Joe the Wrangler" - Pipp Gillette + Lloyd Wright (words + music by N. Howard "Jack" Thorp)
"My Window Faces the South" - Hot Club of Cowtown (words + music by Jerry Livingston, Mitchell Parish + Abner Silver)
"Cowboy Blues" - Randy Rieman (words + music by Randy Rieman)
"The Master's Call" - R.W. Hampton (words +music by Marty Robbins)
"Commutin'" - Waddie Mitchell (poem by Waddie Mitchell)
"Ridin'" - Andy Hedges (poem by Badger Clark and music by Don Edwards)
"Annie Laurie" - Denise Withnell (traditional)
"Man Walks Among Us" - Dave Stamey (words +music by Marty Robbins)
"Coyotes" - Lauren Padget with Elana James on fiddle + Matthew Purpora on guitar (words + music by Robert Lee McDill)
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Joel Nelson has been a cowboy since age six when he helped on a cattle drive to the railroad. For more than 30 years, Joel made his living working on cow outfits in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Hawaii, specializing in breaking colts. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Forestry and Range Management, has built custom saddles, and served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. He was a founder of the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, Texas, and a 2009 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship. Joel’s poem “Equus Caballus” was selected to be a part of the national Poetry Out Loud program for high school students. He and his wife Sylvia run Corriente cattle in the beautiful West Texas ranch country.
Andy Hedges is a songster, reciter, storyteller, guitarist, and collector of cowboy songs and poems. The son of an Italian schoolteacher and a rodeo cowboy turned preacher, Andy was born in Lubbock, Texas, in the spring of 1980. He grew up in the small community of Tokio, Texas, where his family paid rent on an old farmhouse by looking after a few head of cattle. It was there that Andy fell in love with traditional music by listening to his father’s cassettes of cowboy songs. Andy’s vast and varied repertoire includes classic cowboy poetry recitations, obscure cowboy songs, dust bowl ballads, and blues. He also hosts a podcast called "Cowboy Crossroads," which features in-depth interviews with fellow musicians and poets. Andy’s performance with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott at the 60th Newport Folk Festival was named one of the “10 Best Things We Saw” by Rolling Stone magazine.
Pipp Gillette lives and works on the family ranch near Lovelady, Texas, where his grandfather started raising cattle and cotton in 1912. Pipp and his late brother, Guy, received the Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Traditional Western Album of 2011 and the 2013 Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Original Western Composition for their performance of the Waddie Mitchell song "Trade Off.” Drawing on a lifelong interest in Western history and music, Pipp plays traditional cowboy music on guitar, banjo, harmonica, and bones. Pipp’s CD, Singing Songs by Waddie and Pipp, received the Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Traditional Western Album of 2016. Pipp is accompanied by Lloyd Wright.
Lloyd Wright is a fourth-generation Texan. He and his family were introduced to dulcimers and old-time string band music in the summer of 1994. In 2000 he won the National Mountain Dulcimer Championship at the age of 18. Now settled down with his wife and three kids in the heart of the Davy Crockett National Forest, Lloyd regularly performs Old Time and Country Gospel with his wife, mother, and brother. He first heard Guy and Pipp Gillette perform when he was a teen, and he has followed their music over the years. Lloyd combined forces with Pipp after the passing of Pipp's brother, Guy. This seemed to follow a natural progression as he was familiar with Pipp's repertoire. Lloyd and his family run two music festivals in East Texas, including his very own Old Mill Music Festival.
Brenn Hill is a singer/songwriter who doesn’t just sing about the West, he reveals its heart to anyone who will take the time to listen. He is not only an observer or narrator of Western lore, but one of its strongest interpreters. The cowboy’s trials and tribulations are his raw material. Brenn’s career spans 12 recordings of mostly self-penned music more than two decades on the road. His most recent release is How You Heal. Like all of his prior recordings, it serves as a pathway through his own personal journey. Brenn is an artist who gives great insight into the West that he calls Heaven. He lives with his wife and three children in Hooper, Utah.
Silver Springs, MD
Dom Flemons is an award-winning musician, singer-songwriter, and slam poet. Carrying on the songster tradition, Flemons strives to mix traditional music forms with a contemporary approach to create new sounds that appeal to wider audiences. He began his career as a performer in the Arizona music scene, where he produced 25 albums for singer-songwriters and slam poets in Phoenix. In 2005, Flemons co-founded the Carolina Chocolate Drops; he released his first solo album, Prospect Hill, in 2014. His album, Black Cowboys, was released in 2018 through Smithsonian Folkways.
Hot Club of Cowtown
Hot Club of Cowtown has been stunning audiences worldwide for over 20 years. Their trademark blend of hot jazz, western swing, Gypsy music, American songbook standards, and music from 1930s Paris and the American West, is unmistakable. Vocalist and classically trained violinist Elana James is a sometime-Montana and Colorado horse wrangler. She discovered Western swing with bandmate Whit Smith (vocals, guitar), whose first memories also include folk and acoustic blues music. Jake Erwin (bass) completes the trio with tight vocal harmonies and jaw-dropping double bass lines.
Randy Rieman has had a love affair with the spoken word for over 40 years. He has shared his passion for poetry with audiences as a regular performer at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, where he is considered one of the foremost reciters of both classic cowboy poetry and traditional Australian bush poetry. He has also been known, on occasion, to pick up his guitar and share a song from his life with horses and stockmen. Randy is currently headquartered on a ranch at the base of the Big Belt Mountains, near Cascade, Montana. He spends a fair bit of time conducting horsemanship, ranch roping and cattle-handling clinics around the United States and Europe. When the snow flies, you'll likely find him inside braiding fine rawhide reatas and hondos. Randy has released two CDs as well as the DVD Four Strands Of Rawhide featuring legendary horseman and braider Bill Dorrance.
R.W. Hampton has lived and worked on ranches throughout the West. Whether driving cows, shoeing horses, singing around the campfire, or leading horse rides in the high country, R.W. knew it was the life he was destined for. He performs traditional and original cowboy songs. He lives with his wife Lisa and their family on the Clearview Ranch at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains south of Cimarron, New Mexico. In 2011, R.W. was inducted into the Western Music Association’s Hall of Fame.
Twin Bridges, NV
Waddie Mitchell was immersed in the cowboy way of entertaining as a boy on the Nevada ranches where his father worked. The art of spinning tales in rhyme and meter about a rich lifestyle of pushing cows and living off the land came to be called cowboy poetry. Waddie recites the older classics as well as his own works, eloquently expressing moments grand and common, humorous and tragic. In 1985, Waddie helped organize Elko’s first Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Since then, he has kept busy writing, publishing, and recording.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Denise Withnell is best known at the gathering as a member of the band Cowboy Celtic, with Denise on guitar and vocals. For nearly 25 years, her lilting voice has anchored Cowboy Celtic's extensive catalogue of traditional songs that celebrate the bond between chaps and tartan. Denise (and Cowboy Celtic founder David Wilkie) live in Victoria, British Columbia.
Orange Cove, CA
Dave Stamey has made it his life's work to celebrate the rural American West. In the past two decades he has recorded 11 albums of original music, travelled literally hundreds of thousands of miles and performed thousands of shows doing just that. He lives in the farthest northeastern corner of Tulare County, and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains begin just outside his back door.
Lauren makes her home in northern Maryland, performing alternative indie and folk music with a four-piece band, Ebb + Nova. She is joined onstage by fellow Ebb + Nova band member Matthew Purpora.
Vocalist and classically trained violinist Elana James is a sometime-Montana and Colorado horse wrangler. She is also well-known with her band Hot Club of Cowtown. Hot Club of Cowtown has been stunning audiences worldwide for over 20 years. Their trademark blend of hot jazz, western swing, Gypsy music, American songbook standards, and music from 1930s Paris and the American West, is unmistakable.
Filmed in front of a live audience at the Western Folklife Center’s G Three Bar Theater in Elko, NV, on Jan. 31, 2020.
Made possible by Santa Cruz Guitars and by the multitude of staff, artists, volunteers, and community members working behind the scenes to make this show happen.
Brought to you by the Western Folklife Center, using story and cultural expression to connect the American West to the world.