Heartfelt tribute to the cowboy song from a leading exponent
The origins of the cowboy, amazingly, originate in Spain – it derives from vaquero, a Spanish word for an individual who managed cattle while mounted on horseback. The first printed mention of the cowboy came from none other than Jonathan Swift in 1725. Musically, the cowboy has been an integral part of American music, with the likes of Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Asleep At The Wheel and Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen using the life of cowboys as a rich creative source for their music. In recent years, Lubbock based Andy Hedges has been one of the leading exponents of cowboy songs – his vast repertoire includes classic cowboy poetry recitations, obscure songs, dust bowl ballads and blues. He also hosts a podcast – ‘Cowboy Crossroads’ – he’s the ‘real deal’ when it comes to this style of music. He first got to know and ,love the genre from listening to his father’s extensive cassette tape collection of cowboy songs. Just the best sort of musical education.
He’s now curated and appears on a lovingly assembled, two disc, 22 track collection of collaborations and solo renditions of classic cowboy songs. The list of luminaries taking part includes Tom Russell, Dom Flemons, Corb Lund, Waddle Mitchell and the folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
It’s a fascinating collection and all feature Hedges solo or with a guest and highlights include Lund on ‘Little Joe the Wrangler‘ written by Jack Thorp on a cattle drive on a paper sack back in 1898; Pipp Gillette on Henry Herbert Knibbs’s camp cook song ‘Punchin’ The Dough‘; Russell guesting on the traditional ‘Root Hog Or Die’; Woody Guthrie’s 1937 ‘Philadelphia Lawyer’ with Elliott, based on a story of lawyer being shot in Reno Nevada; and ‘Dodgin’ Joe‘ another traditional song which Hedges and Andy Wilkinson have added additional lyrics and is here co-performed by Flemons.
There’s a lovely set of invaluable liner notes included in the set, where you gain some more insight into the background and history of these songs. Whilst this is a real passion project by Hedges – it’s also a genuinely interesting set and shines a spotlight on a style of music we should all know a little more about. Incidentally, Hedges and Elliott performed at the 60th Newport Folk festival in 2019 and they were singled out as one of the “Ten Best Things We Saw” by Rolling Stone.