If I hadn’t seen the West
September 28, 2008
Aboriginal artists were the first to honor the sweeping beauty of the American West, paying homage with voice, drum, and paint. Ever since, man has attempted to capture its essence in song, on canvas, paper, and film. As a result, Western music and art encompass a range of styles as sweeping as the geography they seek to embody.
I count among my most memorable concert moments a brief five minutes last fall when California singer/songwriter Joyce Woodson performed “If I Hadn’t Seen the West.” Seated in the audience at the Western Music Association Festival in Albuquerque, NM, I was mesmerized by Woodson’s one song during the Barn Dance. Accompanying herself on a guitar, she sang with eloquence and heart, recounting her affinity for the West in a rich alto voice.
For whatever reason, our trails had not previously crossed. That was why I was in New Mexico, to get acquainted with artists I’d not heard or met. Far from being a newcomer to the festival circuit, Woodson has performed folk music from coast to coast – at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY; at the Autry Western Heritage Museum in Burbank, CA; in Nashville, TN – and as an invited guest at the Belfast Festival at Queen’s, Belfast, Ireland.
Woodson serves up pure Western melodies reminiscent of the Sons of the Pioneers (www.cmt.com/artists/az/sons_of_the_pioneers/bio.jhtml), but the words and melodies are her own. Famous for such classics as “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water,” Woodson says of the group founded in 1933 by Leonard Slye, better known by his stage name of Roy Rogers: “Those harmonizing voices brought the cowboy life and landscape clearly into focus for me – so much so that I felt like I was in the saddle with them, and I never wanted the trail or the song to end.”
To that end, Woodson wrote and recorded 11 tracks for her latest CD, If I Hadn’t Seen the West. Aside from the title track, I think she did a bang-up job on “I Heard about it in a Song,” “Waddie, Get Your Boots on,” “The Question,” and “I Don’t Want to be a Cowboy Anymore.” Listen to sample tracks under “discography” at http://www.joycewoodson.com, where you’ll also find lyrics to “If I Hadn’t Seen the West.”
To order If I Hadn’t Seen the West, send $17 to Joyce Woodson c/o Radish Records, 32158 Camino Capistrano #366, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675; reach her at (949) 493-4791.
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Aside from meeting artists at festivals and gatherings, I also meet them at my mailbox. CD shippers and padded envelopes show up every now and then, bearing addresses from across the United States and Canada.
It’s exciting to open a package and see what’s inside. I don’t take it lightly when I receive such a parcel. Whether it’s from a poet or singer, author, publisher, or film maker, I understand the time, effort, and expense that go into producing such a project. Unfortunately, space doesn’t allow me to tell you about them all.
Rich Flanders is one of those artists whom I met down at the mailbox. His album, Yondering: Songs of the American West, arrived with of all things, a New York State address. An address means little to me if the material inside is good, and Yondering is good.
Like Woodson, Flanders (www.richflanders.com) shares an enduring fondness for the Sons of the Pioneers. A former Broadway performer, he too tips his hat to the group in the acknowledgments, commenting that of the many kinds of music he’s performed, the songs on the album are the ones he most often sings to himself. A labor of love he contemplated for years, Flanders provides fresh lead and harmony vocals on the 16 tracks.
Songs were selected based upon their universal appeal. You’ll instantly recognize the majority of the songs celebrating the peaks and prairies. Five were penned by Bob Nolan, including “Chant of the Plains” and “Blue Prairie.” Other cowboy/Western classics include “Blue Shadows on the Trail,” “Ridin’ down the Canyon,” “River of No Return,” and “Song of the Trail.” For generous track samples, head over to http://cdbaby.com/cd/richflanders and take a listen. If you like what you hear, order directly from CDBaby. Yondering sells for $16 plus $2.25 shipping.
submit items for consideration to jeri dobrowski, 1471 carlyle road s, beach, nd 58621