Western Music, Books, Poetry and Cancer

This past weekend I participated in the Silver Spur Western Gathering in Spokane, WA. This was a fundraiser for “Because There is Hope,” a nonprofit organization providing support and lodging for out of town cancer patients. It was founded by Melody Biehl, a breast cancer survivor, and funds go toward purchasing a permanent location, which will be called “Faye’s House,” for a friend who lost her battle with cancer.

The gathering was organized by Melody and Spokane author Dawn Nelson and featured numerous vendors with beautiful jewelry, saddle-makers, western clothing. On stage throughout the day were performances by cowboy poets Dave McClure, Susie Knight, Michael Whitaker and Alan Halvorson of Rockin HW, and Western singers: Almeda Bradshaw from Montana, Susie Knight, Nevada Slim and Cimarron Sue, Cale Moon and Mary Kaye Naphus. In addition, we enjoyed a concert on Friday and Saturday nights.

I have a new favorite Western singer/songwriter to join Juni Fisher and Joni Harms on my Top Ten list: Mary Kaye, Academy of Western Artist’s 2011 Western Female Performer of the Year. She has a beautiful, clear-toned voice that I could listen to all day.

Another up-and-coming young artist I was privileged to hear was 17-year-old country/gospel singer/songwriter Cale Moon. He has a rich, deep voice reminiscent of Scotty McCreery, 2011 American Idol Winner and has written more than 100 songs.

I joined a wonderful group of authors, all hawking our wares, and sharing our stories as Spokane’s educational TV channel taped our readings. I will post the link when the show airs.

Although it was not a successful book sales event, I enjoyed meeting many good people, hearing some great music and fun cowboy poetry, and visiting with my sister-in-law. It was a fun weekend.

Traveling With the Penske Pair

This journey started in LA six days ago, where we rented a 16-foot Penske truck to move 2 tons of equipment for the Steel Challenge match to its new home in Frostproof, FL. I actually haven’t had to drive very much, mostly through the low-traffic areas of west Texas.

The first thing I was privileged to do in LA was a live radio interview hosted by Bobbi Jean Bell (OutWest western boutique and cultural center) and Julie Pomilia (granddaughter of Dale Evans and Roy Rogers), along with western author Margaret Brownley. What a fun hour it was on “Around the Barn,” on Santa Clarita’s Home Town Station KHTS with music and chatting with these three women. Bobbi Jean and her husband, Jim, also host concerts at their wonderful store with western musicians such as Juni Fisher, Joni Harms, and Belinda Gail.

Afterwards, I scooted down the freeway to the Autry Museum, where I met with my Women Writing the West LA friends: Pam Tartaglio, Penny Sidoli, Mara Purl, Anne Schroeder, Harriet Rochlin, Kay Rol, and Liz Simmons. Bobbi Jean and her friend, western singer Gency Brown joined us, we visited over lunch and then viewed the fabulous western art exhibit. What a privilege to belong to such a wonderful, supportive group! I had a blast in LA!

From LA, the “Penske Pair” headed to Phoenix, AZ, where we visited with my niece and grandniece, whom we hadn’t seen in more than a year. The next leg of the trip found us driving through wind and dust through Tucson and into New Mexico, where we landed in Las Cruces.

Stay tuned to more adventures with the “Penske Pair.”

Published in: on March 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm  Comments (4)  
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Meet Joni Harms, “Cowgirl Dreams” Singer

My guest today is country western singer Joni Harms. I first “met” Joni when my first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, was published. I searched the title and found that Joni had recorded an album, “Cowgirl Dreams,” which has since become one of my favorites to listen to while I’m writing.

As Joni says on her website, Country Music was once known as “Country & Western.” It was so called for a reason, of course, since that’s where listeners found songs by such greats as Marty Robbins, Patsy Montana, Tex Ritter and Gene Autry — artists who favored the “western” sounds and values. Somewhere along the way, the “Western” was dropped and, over the past decade, the Country Music Industry has increasingly focused on the more 70s and 80s pop flavored sounds in an effort to attract a younger audience.

“The majority of the songs include lyrics of the west, because I love to write about things I’ve experienced,” Joni says. “Rodeo, cowboys and the ranch way of living shows through a lot in my music.”

Harms has been praised for her pure country voice since she signed her first record deal with the famed producer Jimmy Bowen for Capitol in the early 1990s. After that Harms moved to on to her celebrated “Cowgirl Dreams” (1999 / Warner Western).

I recently visited with Joni as she traveled the concert circuit.

Joni, when did you know you wanted to be a country singer?

I knew I wanted to be a cowgirl singer ever since I was a little girl. I used to go out and ride my horse and write and sing my songs to her when I was only 5 or 6 years old.  Always was a good listener!  : – )

Who are some of the western musicians who have influenced you?

Emmy Lou Harris, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.

What was the first song you recorded? And your first album?

“You’re My Blanket” from my first CD titled “Thoughts Of You.”

How has your music evolved since you started?

I think/hope my song writing skills have improved and that my story content is more interesting from all of my travels.

You’ve done several albums over the years. One of them is “Let’s Put The Western Back In The Country” (Wildcatter Records). Tell us about the philosophy behind this title.

I have recorded 10 CDs and I am working on finishing #11 right now. “Let’s Put The Western Back In The Country” was CD #9 but the title still totally sums up what I am trying to do — keep western music available to those of us who still love it and want to hear it!  I personally can’t live without Western music. I like a lot of today’s country music, but the truth of the matter is that I’m very serious about keeping the western side of country music alive.

View Joni’s Performance Video:
Let’s Put Western Back In The Country from Joni Harms on Vimeo.
In 2003, Harms was named Female Vocalist of the Year and accepted the award for Song of the Year from the Western Music Association. She is also a multiple winner of Academy of Western Artists Awards, including the top honor of Entertainer of the Year for 2002, and she continues building audiences through appearances on the famed Grand Ole Opry and a recent stint at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Harms lives in Oregon with her family on a ranch that was homesteaded by her great, great grandfather in 1870. They raise quarter horses and Christmas trees.

Joni has also written children’s books, The Little Grey Donkey and Stan and Burt, based on a song from the CD “Are We There Yet?”

Check out Joni’s website and her CDs at http://joniharms.com

Her upcoming events include a Christmas show in Slayton, Oregon, a Cowboy Gathering in Monterey, CA, and the Denver Market Show in January.

Published in: on December 2, 2010 at 1:54 am  Comments (10)  
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