Jeri Dobrowski: If you ever plan to motor west
For the past year, I’ve been making a monthly trip west to Miles City, Mont. The outing provides a glimpse of ongoing construction projects and seasonal farm and ranch work along the way. The last trip out, I listened to three CDs for this column. A vehicle is an excellent venue in which to gauge mastering–the process of taking a studio mix and preparing it for distribution. If you’ve ever had to turn the volume up because one song was too quiet, then turn it down because another was too loud, that CD could have benefitted from a more thorough mastering.
Johnny Kendrick’s Tales of the Perilous Trail passed the road-trip test, yielding approximately 60 miles of traditional songs and stories reminiscent of the American West. The 13 tracks, including one original, share the theme of trials, troubles and joy found along the trail. Kendrick wrote “Echoes of the Trail” for a cowboy poetry gathering by the same name in Fort Scott, Kan. (For more on Kendrick, see http://www.cowboypoetry.com/johnnykendrick.htm.)
Having said that, this album has an earthy-folk feel. It was a pleasure to discover several tracks that were new to me, including “I Wish I’d Stayed in the Wagonyard,” recorded in 1929 by Peg Moreland. “We Were Buddies” by Maybelle Carter, and “On the Banks of the Old Pontchartrain” by Ramona Vincent and Hank Williams, are two other stand outs in my estimation. (Find track listing/notes under STORE at http://www.johnnykendrick.com.)
I was taken by the simple acoustic instrumentation–guitar, piccolo banjo, tenor guitar and fiddle–on tunes by the Carter Family, Hank Williams, and Tex Owens, among others. Providing accompaniment for the western Missouri farmer-stockman, are his sons Jackson and Samuel.
Tales of the Perilous Trail sells for $14 postpaid from Johnny Kendrick, RR Box 25, Richards, MO 64778; 417-484-3344; http://www.johnnykendrick.com. Downloads are available at http://www.cdbaby.com/johnnykendrick.
Halfway through my westward travels, I popped singer/songwriter Eli Barsi’s Portrait of a Cowgirl into the disc player. With that, I was transported to the Canadian Prairies. The title track from Barsi’s 13th album is a touching tribute to her prairie-born grandmother. “A Real Partner,” co-written with Doris Daley and sung with Brett Kissel, tells of the husband/wife team that started the Calgary Stampede. To get the full impact of the song, complete with vintage and contemporary photos, watch it on Barsi’s Facebook page.
Having worked as a professional musician for the past 25 years, Barsi is known throughout the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. She’s also familiar to Branson visitors who saw her during the eight years she played with the legendary Sons of the Pioneers. This album, with the dance-able western swing “Prairie Skies” and “Country Music Was Made for Saturday Night,” is representative of her own five-piece grandstand show that combines a variety of standards and originals. (Watch the album trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-qCCZlb5FU.)
The 12-track Portrait of a Cowgirl sells for $20 postpaid from Copper Star Productions, PO Box 1843, Moosomin, Saskatchewan S0G 3N0 Canada; (888) 941-4149; http://www.elibarsi.com. Downloads are available from iTunes.
Kristyn Harris, in the form of her 2013 release Let Me Ride, rode shotgun with me on my return trip. I was glad to have her cheerful, upbeat company after a long day. The second album from the 18-year-old western artist, it includes her favorite traditional cowboy and western swing songs, one by Randy Huston, and one that she wrote. Harris won the 2012 Western Music Association Crescendo Award and was also the group’s Female Yodeler of the Year. As you might expect, there’s yodeling on the album.
Three of the 12 tracks are garnering attention from, and air play by cowboy/western diskjockeys: “Yodel Western Swing”; “Let Me Ride Down in Rocky Canyon”; and “Texas Bluebonnet Waltz.” Add to these my favorites, “Mockingbird Yodel” and “Roll Along Prairie Moon.”
Playing rhythm guitar and standup bass, Harris, who hails from Collin County, Tex., is as comfortable on stage as she is horseback. She successfully trained two mustangs and competed in the 2012 Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Worth.
Let Me Ride sells for $18 postpaid from Kristyn Harris, PO Box 6807, McKinney, TX 75071; 214-901-6391; http://www.kristynharris.com. Downloads are available at Amazon.com, iTunes, and cdbaby.