Steamboat Springs A bumper sticker on a pickup was the catalyst for Steve Jones to summarize the changing face of the West in song.
"There were just nine words on the sticker for me to see/ so listen to its message that I'm about to repeat/ it brought a smile to my face/ though not one of joy/ it said 'to hell with the whale, just save the cowboy.'"
Jones is the more contemporary half of the newly-formed Yampa Valley Boys, with folk music veteran John Fisher completing the duo. The pair put on a cowboy music and poetry show for groups and organizations throughout the area.
The two first met at a health fair several years back, when Fisher heard Jones playing at a booth operated by Jones' wife. Both had been performing as solo acts for many years Fisher on his Cowboy Minstrel label and Jones on Howling Coyote Music but were drawn together by a mutual interest in the history and songs of the cowboy, particularly in the Yampa Valley.
"A lot of the themes are the fading of our Western heritage and the need to really preserve the philosophy of the cowboy," Fisher said. "Everything has to change, but there's a basic value that ranch folk have where a handshake is the same as a 25-page document written by a lawyer."
Fisher has been involved in folk and old-time music since the early 1960s, playing everything from the guitar, mandolin, fiddle and auto harp. His specialty, however, is the five-string banjo, and a rare style of playing called "frailing."
"It's a style of banjo done without finger picks; the notes are struck with the back of the fingernail," Fisher said. "Your thumb lands on the high string, and plucks a note. It's a strike and pluck in a rocking motion, and from back a ways, it looks like you're frailing or striking at the instrument."
Jones plays the six- and 12-string guitar, as well as the six-string banjo, with music that might appeal to a more contemporary crowd. He often throws in John Denver songs in addition to poems, tall tales and original material like "Save The Cowboy."
Jones has decided to work full-time on the duo's upcoming album, which they hope to release by December.
"It's something I really want to do," Jones said. "I haven't had the time to write songs lately; this way I can get up to speed and do some more writing."
Both released solo albums last year. Fisher released "Banjo Buckaroo" in May, followed by Jones' "From This Valley..." in November.
The group can play nearly any venue, be it an intimate backyard setting or a packed auditorium. Although the duo comes in with a set list of songs, the performances will often be tailored to fit the crowd's energy, Fisher said.
"It really just kind of fit like a hand in the glove between the two of us," Jones said. "We kind of play the same kind of music, maybe a little bit different, but our focus right now is the same."
For more information, you can reach the Yampa Valley Boys at 846-4096 or 879-4746.