Monterey Cowboy Poetry And Music Festival 12/12/2002
Monterey's Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival serves up romance and song.
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Photo: Round 'Em Up--Performing this weekend at the Monterey Conference Center are (from left) Tish Hinojosa, RW Hampton and David Wilkie.
There are as many reasons to attend this year''s edition of the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival as there are cow patties in a feed lot.
On Sunday morning, right after the Cowboy Church service at the Monterey Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival, some of today''s cowboy singers pay a musical tribute to Marty Robbins--the man whom I largely blame for my romanticized notions of cowboy life.
I blame John Wayne, too, but he came later. Before I was old enough to sit through anything but cartoons, there was Marty Robbins and his album, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. We didn''t have many albums; Gunfighter Ballads and a couple by Johnny Cash are all I remember. I spent hours staring through the gray, mesh grill at a glowing tube inside our little cardboard phonograph and listening to Marty Robbins sing about the desperadoes and cowboys who lived, loved and died inside my head.
In retrospect, given the flock of real cowboy singers who give voice to cowboy music and poetry, it''s tempting to dismiss Robbins'' smooth style. But even if a person fell prey to that temptation, there''s one line, in one song that''s so damned perfect that it captures the entire cowboy myth.
In what became his signature song, "El Paso," Marty Robbins, the grandson of a Texas Ranger, sang of a young cowboy who gave his life to die in the arms of the woman he loved. After killing one of the woman''s suitors, the cowboy goes into hiding until he can''t stand being alone anymore. Making a mad dash back into town, with the posse on his tail, the cowboy is shot and Robbins sang "something is desperately wrong for I feel/a deep burning pain in my si-aye-ayeaye-ide..." and in that one word--halfway between a yodel and desert wind, ripping through cactus needles--one could hear all the loneliness, courage and unexpressed emotion of the romantic cowboy.
On the other hand, for the purists, the people who want their music performed by guys and gals who''ve lived the life, who can call or curse each kind of barbed-wire by name, there are plenty of representatives. There''s Wylie Gustafson who heads up Wylie and the Wild West and who still runs a ranch in Dusty, Washington, when he isn''t doing his blend of Western Swing music. And there''s Stephanie Davis, the fourth-generation Montanan, who works her ranch in between performing and writing songs (which have been recorded by Garth Brooks, among others). And there''s RW Hampton, the award-winning, city-born singer/songwriter/ playwright, who left the city to live the cowboy life in his youth.
For the musicologists who like to connect the dots between one form of music and another, there''s the Saturday evening concert with Don Edwards, perhaps the reigning king of cowboy singer/songwriters, who teams up with Peter Rowan, the newgrass legend, for a concert titled "Appalachia to Abilene." And there''s the band Cowboy Celtic, that moseys down another path turning up musical roots.
Tom Russell (on Saturday afternoon) and Tish Hinojosa (Sunday afternoon) have both had their music cross over into other, more visible genres, while still resting firmly on their musical foundations. Russell grew up on and around the ranches and movie studios in California''s San Fernando Valley and Hinojosa in the Texas border town of San Antonio.
And, of course, throughout all three days of the gathering, the Western Art & Gear Show & Sell offers all kinds of stuff for both real and wannabe cowpokes.