CD a tribute to local western lore
November 22, 2001
Steamboat Springs — The Yampa Valley in 2002 would never be described as a hotbed of musicians performing original popular music. There were more homegrown bands in Steamboat Springs 20 years ago than there are today.
Yet, if there is a “Steamboat sound,” Greg Scott and his compadres in Smokehouse own the franchise.
The guys have just released “From Douglas to the Blue,” a follow-up to 1998’s “Friends Around the Campfire.”
Scott and bandmates Dave Allen, Willie Samuelson, Jon Gibbs, Randy Kelley, Pat Barrett and Gordon Burt have put out a CD that is carefully grounded in Northwest Colorado not just Steamboat Springs the resort town, but the entire valley from Douglas Mountain in Moffat County to Storm Mountain in the east.
On one level this is a collection of unabashed cowboy music, but people who aren’t drawn to songs about “doggies and cow ponies” will still want this CD in their collection for its significant contribution to the history and lore of the Yampa Valley. On the other hand, if you’re among those who think “Chisolm Trail” and “Streets of Laredo” are among the most important examples of American folk music, you’re really gonna dig this CD even more. Those old cowboy chestnuts aren’t on the CD, but this collection certainly pays homage to them.
The music is made more accessible by instrumental leads that remind me of Dan Fogelberg’s bluegrass classic “High Country Snows.” If that old Fogelberg CD holds down a place of honor in your CD wallet, you just might become enamored of “From Douglas to the Blue.”
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Scott’s baritone dominates the CD, but instrumentally, Gibbs’ acoustic flat picking on guitar sets the tone. The rhythm section of Allen (who co-produced the CD with Scott) and bass guitar wizard Willie Samuelson is spiced up by Gordon Burt’s fiddle work and Pat Barrett’s topnotch resophonic guitar licks. Randy Kelley, easily Steamboat’s most versatile string musician, is all over this CD with his tasteful playing on fiddle and mandolin.
Don’t be afraid to crank the stereo up for this CD, it sounds great played loud. Allen’s engineering of the recording is lets all the players come through.
The CD kicks off with a song Scott has performed a thousand times, “Yampa Valley” which was written by his old sidekick, Randy Warmuth. It still sounds as fresh as it did years ago, and it’s ready to find a new Steamboat audience.
The second track is a shuffling western song, “Doggoned Cowboy,” followed by Gibbs’ strong vocal work on a lesser-known Bob Dylan song, “Se”
Scott follows up with a song about his West Texas roots, then pays tribute to Willie Nelson on “We Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way.”
There was no way Scott wasn’t going to include the Nelson song on this CD, after all, Willie taught him to play it! The two musicians were introduced by longtime former Steamboater Ron Dahlquist at Willie’s home in Maui, and they stayed up late one night, pickin’ and singin’.
The real heart of this CD can be found in three consecutive tracks beginning with the title song. Backed by Burt’s mournful fiddle and Gibbs’ Spanish-style guitar, the lyric draws a picture of a vanishing way of life in the sagebrush and juniper covered mountains of western Moffat County.
“Little Elmer and Ace High” is dedicated to one of Hayden’s late leading residents, Bobby Robinson. It tells the story of a legendary bronc ride made at the Moffat County Fair in 1919. The cowboy was Little Elmer Mack, and the horse was Ace High, whose bloodline could be traced to the great bucking horse, Steamboat.
The third of the core songs is “Tread of Pioneers” penned by Thom Ward, Scott Flower and J. G. Whittier along with Scott to commemorate Steamboat Springs’ 100th anniversary as an incorporated city in 2000.
The authors have managed to pack the song with authentic moments in local history without compromising its pleasing melody. A handful of the songs on this CD, like the events and historical figures they recall, are destined to reserve a lasting place in local lore.