Wild and West
Don’t Fence Me In rides into town loaded with American West entertainment.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Musicians love to invoke their roots, in sound and style, covers and collaborations, as the “sincerest form of flattery.” But it can be tricky to discern an imitation or homage from the true bloodlines of roots music.
Wednesday, at CSUMB, the National Council for the Traditional Arts presents some of the truest roots around with a new touring show called Don’t Fence Me In: Songs, Music and Poetry of the American West. The private nonprofit NCTA, founded in 1933 as the nation’s “oldest folk arts organization,” finds, presents and preserves traditional American music and culture via festivals, and TV and sound recordings, in partnership with the National Folk Festival, the NEA, the Blue Ridge Music Center and others. They’ve documented the country’s musical journey since the 1930s. The term “authentic” is as worn-out as an old saddle, but here it fits.
This tour of music and poetry from the “range, ranch, reservation and roadhouse” travels the West, leaving the stable last Saturday in Olympia, Wash. Its five acts include the cowboy songs and High Plains yodeling of Wylie & The Wild West, lead by the lanky Wylie Gustafson, a rancher with a deep discography, famed for his signature yodel for Yahoo!
The Quebe Sisters, from Fort Worth, Texas, are a fiddle and three-part harmony trio of young sisters Grace, Sophia and Hulda Quebe, with guitarist Joey L. McKenzie and bassist Drew Phelps. They do sweet country renditions of Western swing, have graced the Grand Ole Opry (though not as many times as co-hort Wylie) and jammed with banjo enthusiast Warren Buffet.
Los Texmaniacs are a conjunto band from New Mexico who channel the traditional Mexican music of rancheras, waltzes, polkas (imported in the 1920s from Germany) and cumbias, mixed with Texas rock and R&B, an upbeat and rootsy sound that won their Borders y Bailes album a Grammy for Best Tejano Album – also released by Smithsonian Folkways, a seal of authenticity.
North Bear blend old school Wyoming Northern Plains pow-wow drumming with new school hip-hop and R&B elements. When they sing, through Autotune, “Girl you know it’s true,” over a sparse pow-wow drum, the first reaction may be “Huh?” But their evocative chants pack a spiritual punch.
Paul Zarzyski is a former bareback bronc rider, taken out of the circuit by an injury, who turned to poetry to stay in touch with Wild West tradition, publishing nine collections of poetry, though he also employs music with his lyrics.
“Western music changes every decade, every year, every day,” says yodeler Gustafson. “[The tour] is today’s vision of Western music, in 2012.”
“What a show,” Max Baja of Los Texmaniacs says of that first Olympia show. “[We] collaborated on stage with each other, then everybody did a grand finale. It’s a beautiful show.”
That’s a confluence of Western culture that, like December’s annual Monterey Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival, sings our storied past, still alive and kicking and fun as all git out.
DON’T FENCE ME IN is set loose 7:30pm Wednesday, Feb. 29, at CSUMB’s University Center, Sixth Street, Seaside. $10-$50. 582-4580, http://csumb.edu/worldtheater