Country singer Brenn Hill always makes a point of stopping in Steamboat Springs. He appears on our stages at least once a year.
The more he plays here, the more people he gets to know and the more we are reflected in his songs.
Key Points Brenn Hill Community Concert and Dance follows the Mountain Valley Bank Ranch Rodeo 7:30 p.m. Sunday Brent Romick Rodeo Arena Free
Hill is a messenger and a rural activist.
He sings about the rural way of life in hopes of preserving it. He sees it disappearing in all the Wyoming, Colorado and Utah towns where he performs.
In 2004, he released "Endangered," a 14-song tribute to the people of small-town, rural America.
"I wrote or co-wrote all those songs," Hill said. He chose individuals and small scenes to paint the larger picture. In "Buckaroo Tattoo," a song that received radio play in Steamboat Springs, he writes about a free spirited cowgirl who can out-cowboy the cowboys.
"She loves her lifestyle. She stands defiant and she isn't going to settle for any drugstore cowboy."
It's people like her that Hill considers "endangered."
"There's something special in the rural West," he said. "If I write and sing about it, I hope it will inspire someone to try to save it.
"I'm trying to stay focused on that. I write the songs as they come and record them in a way that allows the message to come through."
One of the most touching songs on his album is "Pickup Truck Cafe" in which he describes the people, the coffee and the conversation at the archetypical small-town diner.
"After being on the road all these years, I know you can go into Pickup Truck Cafes all over the country. Except for the wallpaper, it's almost the same faces and the same conversation. It's a little piece of Americana that still exists."
Hill tries to keep his music outside of the contemporary mainstream country tradition and more in the style of early country music.
"Country started as kind of folk music. It was about the working man," Hill said. "It was invented by men like Woodie Guthrie who traveled to labor camps of the Depression.
"His songs were romantic and political, and they painted a picture of his travels. To me, that's what country is."