Cowboy Jam Session: New(s) from Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering
February 25, 2011
Strains of old-time, saloon-style piano music spill out the double doors of the historic Pioneer Building during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Located in downtown Elko, NV, the Pioneer is home to the Western Folklife Center and the headquarters of the popular annual event that draws folks from across the country and around the world.
Holding court at the back of the room, past the information table, past the handsome mahogany-and-cherry back bar, past old friends laughing and catching up is Dave Bourne, itinerant piano player extraordinaire. As much of a fixture at the gathering as any poet or singer, Professor Bourne churns out the festive music that adds a bit of magic to the Elko experience.
You’ve likely heard Bourne’s music; maybe even caught a glimpse of him on television. Along with projects on the History Channel, he was cast as the piano player in the Gem Saloon in episode #9 through #12 of HBO’s Deadwood. (Watch a video of Dave at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwXQTjBRP1M)
Bourne has a variety of CDs, each priced at $17 (postpaid). There are six volumes of Saloon Piano, plus 19th Century Favorites and Rarities and The Lobo Rangers Campfire Music Best of the Early Years: 1990-1995. For track listings or to order, go to http://www.saloonpiano.com. To order by mail, send check or money order payable to Dave Bourne, PO Box 173, Agoura Hills, CA 91376-0173.
Canadian poet and emcee Doris Daley was among those at the Pioneer enjoying the music and camaraderie. She is out with a new book: West Word Ho! The western poetry of Doris Daley (2011, 96 pages, 17 photos, paperback ISBN 978-0-9684530-5-6).
Known as one of the genre’s most disciplined writers and most polished stage performers, Daley selected some of her all-time, crowd-pleasing favorites for inclusion in this, her second book. Among my personal favorites are “Bones,” “Hands,” and “The Answering Machine.” If you’d care to take a bit of a test drive, read these selected poems at http://www.cowboypoetry.com/dorisdaley.htm.
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Nestled within the book is an excerpt from Daley’s great grandmother’s journal. Mary Selves Daley came to Fort Macleod from Ontario in 1887, planning to live with her aunt for a short time. Mary’s uncle was stationed at the Royal North West Mounted Police barracks in Fort Macleod. But, Mary fell in love with a Mountie-turned-rancher and spent the rest of her life building a ranch and raising a family in southern Alberta. “From Mary’s Window” is Doris’ salute to the hardy pioneer women who came to a harsh frontier and stuck it out.
West Word Ho! The western poetry of Doris Daley sells for $25 (U.S.), $22 (Canadian) postpaid from Doris Daley, Fiddle DD Enterprises, Box 103, Turner Valley, AB Canada TOL 2AO; http://www.dorisdaley.com.
Standing head and shoulders above the crowd at the Pioneer, Hal Cannon made his way to the G Three Bar Theater next door for a show that debuted his first all-original self-titled album, Hal Cannon. As Founding Director of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Cannon is more often found working behind the scenes. On this occasion, he was joined on stage by Kate MacLeod and Phillip Bimstein for an enchanting set of history and mystery, jubilant celebration and soulful melancholy.
The playful tune of “Desert Home” still dances in my head from that evening. As I told Hal, it reminds me of something the Mission Mountain Wood Band might have recorded back in the mid-1970s. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Cannon delivered a tribute to soldiers affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Entitled “Soldier’s Heart,” the term was used during the Civil War to describe the changes brought about by the traumas of battle. (For liner notes and lyrics: http://www.okehdokee.com.)
There is great depth, vitality, and variety in the album’s 12 tracks, both in terms of the subjects and in the instrumentation. Kudos to Phillip Bimstein for the stellar arrangements which include fiddle, guitar, piano, bass, violin, oboe, English horn, mandolin, banjo and drums. This is top-shelf Americana/Folk.
Hal Cannon sells for $16 (postpaid) from Hal Cannon, Okehdokee Records, 1257 E. 100 S. Salt Lake City, UT 84102; http://www.okehdokee.com.
The Western Folklife Center broadcasts shows from the Elko Convention Center auditorium during the Gathering. Watch cybercasts from the 27th Gathering free of charge at http://www.westernfolklife.org.
Applications are currently being accepted for poets and musicians interested in performing during the next Gathering (Jan. 28-Feb. 4, 2012). Submissions must be postmarked no later than March 31, 2011. For more information, contact the Western Folklife Center, 501 Railroad St., Elko NV 89801; 775-738-7508; http://www.westernfolklife.org.