I've enjoyed western music for a long time. Built on ancient traditions that were reborn in the landscape of the American West, it's a genre of American music that has seen a rise in popularity over the last 20 years.
Even so, it's not something you're likely to hear on the radio yet -- you have to seek it out. Because of this, I didn't know anything about Dave Stamey until a friend brought one of his CDs along on a driving trip three years ago.
Overnight, Stamey became my favorite western songwriter and performer. In voice and spirit, he's become a companion on nearly every trip we've taken since that date. His songs have enriched my enjoyment of the wide open spaces of the American West and this Saturday he's bringing his music and stories to the Merced Theatre.
If you've heard his music already, then there's probably nothing else I need to say. If you haven't -- especially if you're thinking "Cowboys, horses, and ranching ... that's not really my thing" -- I think you'll be surprised. Dave's songs convey an attitude about life that transcends vocation and place. To Dave, the American West is "both a place and a state of mind."
If I ever write a country song, it's going to be called "Not Another Cheatin' Song."
Every genre of music has themes that have become tired through overuse, despite being near-universal elements of human experience.
Stamey has helped to bring new life to western music by blending tradition with the experience gained through a lifetime of working with cattle, horses, and people.
I may not be a working cowboy, but his music conveys an attitude about life and a respect for history and hard work that resonates deeply with me.
There are many musicians who are still performing, despite being well past their prime. Nostalgia and habit may keep them on stage, but it doesn't mean that the years have been kind to them. Dave is the opposite -- he performs with an energy that electrifies his audience and the years have seasoned his voice with a gravity that reinforces the experiences and life lessons that he sings about.
A skillful songwriter and interpreter of songs, Dave sees his mission as telling the story of the West, a tale that is made up of individual people with unique lives and experiences. His characters include Joaquin Murrieta, a Tonopah nightclub singer named Ruby, pioneers and homesteaders, California vaqueros, Sierra mule packers, Chumash Indians, and his own father, just to name a few.
In one of my favorite songs, Stamey says "a land shapes its people, but the people give it flavor." Every song has a story behind it and one of the best parts of a live concert is hearing Dave tell the stories that inspired the songs.
Dave has recorded nine albums and we're eagerly waiting for his second live album. The Western Music Association has three times awarded him the honors of "Entertainer of the Year" and "Male Performer of the Year." Twice he's been awarded "Songwriter of the Year" and last year he received the "Album of the Year" award for Twelve Mile Road.
On Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Merced Theatre, Annie Lydon will be harmonizing with Dave and local cowboy poet Pat Richardson on the same stage.
Cowboy poetry developed along with western music as a form of entertainment and storytelling enjoyed around campfires and has continued to grow in popularity.
Like western music, it tends to fly under the radar unless you're actively looking for it. Far too few people know that Merced County is the home of one of the most acclaimed cowboy poets of this century.
Pat Richardson's humorous, cleverly written poems often have surprise endings and they're laugh-out-loud funny. In 2003, Pat was named Best Male Poet by the Academy of Western Artists. Baxter Black, probably the best-known cowboy poet of our age, has said about Pat: "If you boiled cowboy poetry down to what's worth savin', this is what the stew would smell like."
We are lucky to have the beautifully restored Merced Theatre as a historical and performing arts cornerstone of our downtown. We are doubly lucky to have Dave, Annie, and Pat honoring it with their performances. It will be a memorable show and I hope to see many of you there. You can get your ticket at: mercedtheatre.org or by calling (209) 381-0500.
Adam Blauert is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fishing, backpacking and exploring the western states. He can be reached at email@example.com