Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews |

Cowboy Jam Session: Western Culture News & Reviews

Superman and my cousin Cassie celebrated a birthday this year. Both were born on February 29. Though Cassie was born three years after I was, she’s technically only 12. I sent her a vintage Leap Year postcard early in January, wanting her to have the fullest opportunity to celebrate the big day. Things get turned a bit upside down in a Leap Year. I figured I’d get into the spirit with this month’s selections.

by Joel Mabus is not cowboy, nor especially Western by today’s standards. But it is magical, historically significant, and completely entertaining. Mabus plays a 5-string banjo in the clawhammer style, sharing tunes and tales from his family’s career as professional hillbilly musicians. The Mabus family barnstormed the Midwest in the 1930s with road shows for the , parent company of WLS Radio, which produced the popular . It was a good gig during the Depression. Through Joel’s yarns you’ll meet, among others, Gerald Mabus and his twin brother, Jerald, interspersed with licks from “Cindy.”

Head on over to CD Baby for generous two-minute clips of the 18 tracks: Besides “Cindy,” give a listen to “Uncle Joe,” “Three Nights Drunk,” and “The Uncloudy Day/Leonard Lively.”

Purchase as either a CD or MP3 file from CD Baby for $15 (postage extra). If you prefer to order directly from Joel Mabus ($16 postpaid), send requests to PO Box 306, Portage, MI 49081. Stop by Joel’s Web site at for an assortment of other titles, including , songs for the holidays with (mostly) guitar accompaniment, and , songs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

John Reedy describes his musical style as Western-Americana. It’s a fitting assessment.

John sent me his last fall. I took it with me on a road trip to South Dakota, among an assortment I saved specifically for the drive. Being alone in a car with several hundred miles of road allows me to focus entirely on the subject at hand.

I was stunned at what I heard. The sound was fresh, eclectic, and skillfully presented. It made me sit up and take notice. When I’d finished listening to the 12 tracks, seven written by John, I listened again. When I met up with friends in the Black Hills, I loaned them the CD, and they listened to it. One vehicle after another, John’s CD made the rounds. The response was the same from everyone: WOW!

This isn’t your grandfather’s Western music. It’s frisky, edgy and smartly written. It’s a kick in the pants.

John’s CD and book of poetry by the same name (with stunning black and white photography) are available from CD Baby: Give a listen to three of my favorites: “Buckaroo Girl,” “That Buckin’ Song,” and “Combover Blues.” Buy the CD alone for $13; the CD and book for $25 (plus postage.)

Order from John’s Web site at Prices are the same, but postage is free. Send orders to Twisted Cowboy Music, 2905 N Montana Ave. #113, Helena, MT 59601; (406) 465-0468.

Properties along the U.S.-Mexico border are at ground zero in a debate over economics and national security. In an attempt to keep illegal aliens from crossing into the United States, a 700-mile fence is being built to aid border enforcement.

You know where you stand on the issue. But, do you have any concept of what it’s like to be a border patrol agent? I didn’t until I read by Robert Lee Maril (Texas Tech University Press, 2004, 368 pages, softcover, ISBN: 978-0-89672-594-2).

A professor of sociology at East Carolina University, Maril spent two years doing field work among 300 agents at the McAllen Station, McAllen, Texas. He followed 12 agents in particular, riding with them on their 10-hour patrols along the border. Maril describes in detail the risks and frustrations faced by agents; the reactions and situations of the apprehended aliens. It provides enlightening insight into the situation.

Order directly from Texas Tech for $24.95 (plus postage):; (800) 832-4042. It is also available from online wholesalers.

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