One To The Heart

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By Barry Walsh


© Barry Walsh Music/ASCAP

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By Mary McCaslin

I ride a big blue roan
I carry all I own
In the pouches of my saddlebag
With my bedroll tied behind

There’s a prairie in the sky
I’ll find it by and by
Hills of brown and yellow
To make a soul unwind

Let the music take me home
To where a heart may roam
I’ll fly across the meadows
Touch the tall grass as I go

Let the gentle western wind
Stay with me til the end
Beside me til the day is done
And the sun is setting low

Leave the ponies to run free
Far as the eye can see
I’d ride the range forever
To see them once again

Let the wild flying things
Soar above me on their wings
And the stars fill up the night sky
And the moon light up the plains

© Folklore Music/ASCAP

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By Bob Dylan

There’s guns across the river about to pound you
There’s lawmen on your trail like to surround you
Bounty hunters are dancing all around you
Billy, they don’t like you to be so free

Camping out all night on the veranda
Walking in the streets down by the hacienda
Up to Boot Hill they’d like to send you
Billy, don’t you turn your back on me

Playing around with some sweet senorita
Into her dark chamber she will greet you
In the shadows of the mesas she will lead you
Billy, and you’re going all alone

They say that Pat Garrett’s got your number
So sleep with one eye open, when you slumber
Every little sound just might be thunder
Thunder from the barrel of his gun

There’s always another stranger sneaking glances
Some trigger-happy fool willing to take chances
Some old whore from San Pedro will make advances
Advances on your spirit and your soul

So hang on to your woman, if you got one
Remember in El Paso once you shot one
Yeah and up in Santa Fe one time you bought one
Billy, you’ve been running for so long

Gypsy queens will play your grand finale
Way down in some Tularosa alley
Maybe in La Rio Pecos valley
Billy, you’re so far away from home

© 1972 Rams Horn Music/SESAC

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By Ian Tyson

I found a postcard from long ago
in a drawer yesterday
come back to Tucson, I miss you so
it was warm here today
northern Rockies all deep in snow
clear down to the Sangre de Cristo
Blue Mountains of Mexico
will be always alone, still out there on our own

Time like money just disappears
no one knows where it goes
you spend it so recklessly
when you’ve got nothing but time
warm sun on adobe walls
we kissed in the desert dawn
Blue Mountains of Mexico
will we be always alone, still out there on our own

If we meet down the road somewhere
would we know what to say
or has the river flowed too many miles
now we’re too far away
to get lightening back in a bottle
like old lovers trying to stop the hands of time
Blue Mountains of Mexico
will we be always alone, still out there on our own

© Slick Fork Music/SOCAN

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By Tom Dundee

He’s a cowboy, he was raised in Ohio
He got married and moved further west
Showed up on time for a few awful years
And one night he got drunk and he left

Drove a truck for awhile up in Fargo
But he never got used to the smoke
He once tried to settle and get some ahead
But he’s still just as wild, just as broke

The range has been settled for years now
The old wranglers passed on with their kind
But every now and again you run into these men
These cowboys born out of their time

For some change he’ll remember your birthplace
Cause there’s hardly a town he ain’t been
And you can get up and leave any time that you please
For that’s one thing that he understands

He lives out his days now in Denver
His best friend is a bottle of wine
And you don’t need to ask anything of his past
It’s asleep in the back of his mind

And as the sun rises over the Rockies
It’s so strange that he don’t even care
When it burns out and sets down in Kansas
He takes the fences round Larimer Square

© 1981 Jack of Hearts (BMI)

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By Tom Russell

There are ghosts out in the rain tonight
High up in those ancient trees
And I have given up without a fight
Another blind fool on his knees

And all the gods that I’ve abandoned
Begin to speak in simple tongue
And suddenly I’ve come to know
That there are no roads left to run

Now it’s the hour of dogs a’barking
That’s what the old ones used to say
It’s first light or it’s sundown
Before the children cease their play

When the mountains glow like mission wine
Or turn grey like a Spanish roan
A thousand eyes will stop to worship
Then turn away and head for home

She is reaching out her arms tonight
And, yes, my poverty is real
I pray roses shall rain down again
From Guadalupe on her hill

And who am I to doubt these mysteries?
Cured in centuries of blood and candle smoke?
I am the least of all your pilgrims here
But I am most in need of hope

She appeared to Juan Diego
She left her image on his cape
Five hundred years of sorrow
Cannot destroy his deepest faith

So here I am, your ragged disbeliever
Old doubting Thomas drowns in tears
As I watch your church sink through the earth
Like a heart worn down through fear.

© 2008 Frontera Music/ASCAP

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By Nan O’Byrne

Your sweet and shiny eyes
Are like the stars above Laredo
Like meat and potatoes to me

In my sweet dreams we are
In a bar and it’s my birthday
Drinking salty margaritas with Fernando

Young and wild, we drove 900 miles of Texas highway
To the Mexican border as the day was comin’ on
We crossed the Rio Grande river
And we swore we’d have things our way
When we happened to walk in to Nuevo Leon

Your sweet and shiny eyes
Are like the stars above Laredo
Like meat and potatoes to me

In my sweet dreams we are
In a bar and it’s my birthday
And we’re having our picture taken
With Fernando

© Neches River Publications/BMI

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By Stephanie Davis

January’s always bitter
But Lord this one beats all
The wind ain’t quit for weeks now
And the drifts are ten feet tall
I been all night drivin’ heifers
Closer in to lower ground
Then I spent the mornin’ thinkin’
‘Bout the ones the wolves pulled down

Charlie Barton and his family
Stopped today to say goodbye
He said the bank was takin’ over
The last few years were just too dry
And I promised that I’d visit
When they found a place in town
Then I spent a long time thinkin’
‘Bout the ones the wolves pull down

Lord please shine a light of hope
On those of us who fall behind
And when we stumble in the snow
Could you help us up while there’s still time

Well I don’t mean to be complainin’ Lord
You’ve always seen me through
And I know you got your reasons
For each and every thing you do
But tonight outside my window
There’s a lonesome mournful sound
And I just can’t keep from thinkin’
‘Bout the ones the wolves pull down

Lord keep me from bein’
The one the wolves pull down

© EMI Blackwood Music Inc/BMI

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By Townes Van Zandt

When the wind don’t blow in Amarillo
When the moon along the Gunnison don’t rise
Shall I cast my dreams upon your love babe
And lie beneath the laughter of your eyes

Snowin’ on Raton
Come morning I’ll be through them hills and gone
Snowin’ on Raton
Come morning I’ll be through them hills and gone

Mother thinks the road is long and lonely
Little brother thinks the road is straight and fine
Little darlin’ thinks the road is soft and lovely
I’m thankful that old road’s a friend of mine

So bid the years goodbye, you cannot steal them
You cannot turn the circles of the sun
You cannot count the miles until you feel them
You cannot hold a lover that is gone

Tomorrow the mountains will be sleepin’
Silent ‘neath the blanket green and blue
And I shall hear the silence they are keepin’
And I’ll bring all their promises to you

© Silver Dollar Music Inc. c/o Bughouse/ASCAP

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I ride an old paint, I lead an old Dan
I’m goin’ to Montana to throw a hoolihan
They feed in the coolies, they water in the draw
Their tails are all matted, their backs are all raw

Ride around, ride around real slow
the fiery and the snuffy are rarin’ to go

Old Bill Brown had a daughter and a son
One went to Denver and the other went wrong
His wife, she died in a poolroom fight
and still he keeps singin’ from mornin’ till night

When I die, take my saddle from the wall
Put it on my pony and lead him from his stall
Tie my bones to his back, turn our faces to the west
And we’ll ride the prairie that we love the best

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My Last Go Round

By Rosalie Sorrels

What sweet love have I come by
On my last go round
Soft caresses, tender sighs
Have my heart unbound

I have stumbled, lost and wild
Onto sacred ground
But I have loved just like a child
On my last go round

Riding down rusty rails
On my memories
All those honky-tonks and whisky rivers are
Flowing back to me

We drank the rivers and we rode the twisters
We tumbled down to the ground
But we wake and rise, spend our glory
On the last go round

When my wandering soul shall rest
And my last song gets sung
I’ll find the brightest and the best
On my way back home

And all my long lost friends and lovers
Once again they will be found
And I’ll kiss all their shining faces
On my last go round

I have stumbled, lost and wild
Unto sacred ground
Ah, but I have loved just like a child
On my last go round

© Grimes Creek Music/ASCAP

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By Rebecca Folsom, Celeste Krenz, Elizabeth Barnez and Diana Jones

If I had a gun, you’d be dead
One to the heart, one to the head
If I had a gun, I’d wipe it clean
My fingerprints off on these sheets

They’d bury you in the cold hard ground
Fistful of dirt would hold you down
They’d bury you in the cold hard ground
It’d be the first night I’d sleep sound

If I had a gun no one would cry
No one would mourn the day you died
I’d leave you there wearin’ your ring
I’d leave your name, I’d leave everything

They’d bury you in the cold hard ground
Fistful of dirt would hold you down
They’d bury you in the cold hard ground
It’d be the first night I’d sleep sound

If I had a gun, I’d drive away
I’d drive away, I’d drive away

©2008 Dakota Wind Songs (ASCAP), Mudhead Music (BMI), Yarjones Music (ASCAP)

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By Jennifer Warnes and Nancy Bacal

The moment we said good bye
Silence tore across the sky
The riverbed lay wide and dry
As far as I could see
And someone said
My ghost was found
Laying her burden down
Taking the long way around
Underneath the moon

Somewhere on the prairie,
A little cross is mine
A simple wooden marker
With a plastic rose entwined
And in the stillness of the twilight
As the tumbleweeds wind
I am crawling like a scorpion
across the melancholy time

so shred the poems
let the wild birds chase them in the breeze
let them make their nests
from words like please
put those dreams to rest
throw them at the moon
blow the confetti across
the golden west

I was the fragrance in the wild flower
Opening for only you
In the delicate hour
Before the cold shot through
Ten thousand years from now
You’ll put your hand in mine
Remembering a fragrance
Full of melancholy time

You see those ravens breaking the prairie sky?
We used to go where ravens fly
Our giddy laughter made the angels cry
to fly as free as you and i

somewhere on the prairie
a cross, a rose, a shrine
standing for true love
gone before its time
there goes your shadow down the highway
out that road I could’t find
while I crawl like a scorpion
slowly to the new world
across these miles of prairie
full of melancholy time

© 2001 Warnes Music/BMI

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1. North Platte – Barry Walsh wrote this piece specifically for the album, and when he told me it was called "North Platte" I had to smile. In Colorado everyone knows the North and South Platte rivers, which originate in the Rocky Mountains and run through Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska before joining the Missouri River. A river in Colorado is different from a river back East – in the spring when the snow is melting it can be a raging torrent, and in late September a dry riverbed. Just like the rest of nature in the West, it’s constantly changing, and underestimating it can cost you your life. A beautiful, evocative piece, which we reprise later on in the record.

2. Prairie In The Sky – I grew up listening to Mary McCaslin, enchanted by the sound of her voice and the wispy, spare sound of her records. I sang her song "The Ballad of Weaverville" for years when I was playing bars in Colorado. But it was "Prairie In The Sky", the mystical, dreamlike Western song that really got me. For me this song set the tone for the whole record. Barry played an old pump organ, which was not tuned to concert pitch, so we had to slow down the whole track to get it in tune with the organ. It sounds like something from another time, which, of course, it is.

3. Billy 4 – We listened to a lot of Dylan songs, especially the ones written for the Sam Peckinpah film "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid". Dylan has written a lot of songs about cowboys. This one intrigued both Tom and me but was more than a little daunting – firstly because covering a Bob Dylan song is always a challenge and secondly because it has loads of verses and no chorus, and thus no obvious dynamics. The challenge was to bring it off with some grit and fire to it – and the only way to do that was to cut it live. So we did.

4. Blue Mountains Of Mexico – I knew I wanted to find an Ian Tyson song that would fit here, and Tom sent me many – Tyson’s practically written the genre himself – but I knew this one was for me as soon as I heard it. Intensely visual, soaring and sad – and Joel Guzman’s button accordion flits around the lyrics like a butterfly on a desert spring day.

5. These Cowboys Born Out Of Their Time – I found this song through my friend Buddy Mondlock, a great songwriter in his own right, who recorded it on one of his albums. I loved it because I recognize the cowboy in this song – anyone who’s ever lived out West has encountered someone like him. As we were choosing songs for the record it started to become apparent that we were singing a sort of love song to a place, a dream, a way of life, a geography – all of which are threatened and some which may truly be doomed. This song gets at the heart of that in its own gentle, bittersweet way.

6. Guadalupe – For my money, Tom Russell has written his masterpiece here. I was thrilled and honored to get the first chance at singing this song. It aches, it bleeds, it pleads, and then the chorus rises up like a prayer. I have been singing it live ever since the sessions in Austin and every time I do I find more in it. A beautiful, beautiful confession of a song.

7. Sweet And Shiny Eyes – I bought the Bonnie Raitt album with this song on it the very first day it came out. Any Bonnie album was much anticipated as far as I was concerned. This song stuck out like the class clown – funny, sweet and a little bit sad around the edges. We recreated the barroom chorus in the studio in Austin with wine bottles, glasses and our best and loudest drunken voices. I don’t know the story behind this song, but I’ve always thought that the lyric "with Fernando" is a brilliant non sequitur.

8. Wolves – I remember when Stephanie Davis wrote this song, and people all over town were asking each other "have you heard that song ‘Wolves’?" Over a decade later it’s still haunting and lovely. I love the sound of the upright piano that Barry is playing on this track – slightly out of tune like a piano you’d find in a saloon in a little mountain town.

9. Snowin’ On Raton – Another Western winter song. I have driven over Raton Pass in New Mexico dozens of times driving between Albuquerque or Santa Fe and Boulder, and it always seemed to be snowing on Raton. This beautifully simple road song by Townes Van Zandt song is deceptive; it cuts a little deeper every time I hear it.

10. Old Paint – I don’t remember how old I was when I first learned this song – I must have been just a kid. It’s the quintessential cowboy song, but what I love most about it is the image of the last verse: "tie my bones to his back/turn our faces to the West/and we’ll ride the prairie/that we love the best". It has both the humor and the pathos of all the best songs of this genre. Al Green put a little edge on it with his lap steel.

11. My Last Go Round – This song came to me from Tom, and it seemed pretty clear from his emails that for him, this would be one of the cornerstones on the album. I was moved by its grace and wisdom. A song like that doesn’t get written by a young person. It puts me in mind of my early days playing in cowboy bars in Colorado, and it felt familiar immediately. A simply lovely, haunting swan song by the great Rosalie Sorrels.

12. North Platte (reprise) – See the first note.

13. If I Had A Gun – I fell hard for this song when I fished the CD out of my swag bag at Folk Alliance in February 2008 and put it in my CD player. I try to listen to every CD I get but truth be told you don’t run across gems like this very often. As it happened Tom and I were in the process of sifting through songs for the album and this one just fell into my lap as though it were meant to be. To me this feels like the bookend to "Billy 4".

14. Prairie Melancholy – After she received her copy of One To The Heart, One To The Head, Jennifer Warnes very graciously contacted Tom and me to tell us how much she loved our version. I was floored, having been a fan long before her classic album Famous Blue Raincoat, and ever since. She told me in an email that "Prairie Melancholy" was the #2 cause of death in women who went West, and in her words, "a term for a disease that fell on women who were in a perpetual state of ‘fight or flight’ against Indian raids, 2 out of 5 children stillborn, snakes on the dirt floor, dysentery. Not unlike the music business." It’s a tremendously ambitious song, and is really more like a classical piece or even a Tin Pan Alley song in its structural elements. As if her glorious voice weren’t enough, Jennifer can write like this. We always knew this was the closing song on the album – the final, sweeping view of the prairie: the land and the sky and the vast open space.

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Gretchen Peters with Tom Russell
One to the Heart, One to the Head
(Scarlet Letter/Frontera)

by Juli Thanki

You may have never heard of Gretchen Peters, but if you’ve flipped on a country radio station sometime in the past decade, you’ve surely heard her work. In addition to writing "Independence Day", the song that catapulted Martina McBride into country superstardom, Peters has also written for Patty Loveless, George Strait and numerous other Nashville giants. In addition to this day job, Peters has a singing career of her own, releasing seven solo-folk/country albums over the past 13 years. But before moving to Nashville in the late 1980s, Peters lived in Boulder, Colorado; it seems even after all these years, Peters’ mind and heart is still set on her old stomping grounds.

On One to the Heart, One to the Head, she turns her gaze back to the American West with a collection of songs celebrating its land, its mythology and its inhabitants. Texas country singer Tom Russell joins her on the journey. Russell, no songwriting slouch himself, has been recorded by Johnny Cash, Dave Alvin and Nanci Griffith, to name just a few. Their two voices – Peters’ pure-and-clear soprano, Russell’s whiskey-soaked rasp – somehow manage to mesh wonderfully, creating a sound as raw and beautiful as a desert landscape, and the songs they’ve chosen for the album bring to mind Marty Robbins, John Steinbeck and the cowboy songs collected by John Lomax.

Largely a cover album, One to the Heart, One to the Head has only two original songs on the record (one penned by Russell and an instrumental track composed by Barry Walsh). However, it manages to sound like an album full of new material, thanks to the fresh take Peters and Russell have on the songs. The supporting musicians, including accordionist Joel Guzman and Walsh, former keyboardist for Waylon Jennings, create an atmosphere so lifelike it almost seems like you’re listening to them performing in some dusty New Mexico cantina.

Though the material Peters and Russell chose for this project ranges from Bob Dylan ("Billy 4") to Townes Van Zandt ("Snowin’ on Raton") to Mary McCaslin ("Prairie in the Sky") to Bonnie Raitt ("Sweet and Shiny Eyes"), surprisingly, the best song on the album is their version of Tom Dundee’s "These Cowboys Born Out of Their Time". Its been recorded by various folkies through the years, but Peters and Russell deliver the best version by far. The song itself epitomizes the theme of the entire album, thanks to lyrics such as, "The range has been settled for years now / The old wranglers passed on with their kind / But every now and again, you run into these men / These cowboys born out of their time." It’s simultaneously a stunning eulogy to a lost world and a tribute to those modern-day men struggling to hold on to a past rapidly becoming obsolete.

The frontier may be long dead, but Peters and Russell sure do an excellent job of making it come alive again, however briefly, in song.

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Gretchen Peters With Tom Russell
One to the Heart, One to the Head
(Scarlet Letter Records)

These days duets are more like joint corporate sponsorships than a simpatico union of the heart and mind through song. Great male and female collaborations transcend their individual craft and emerge with something altogether new and remarkable. Kitty Wells and Red Foley, Ferlin Husky and Jean Shepard, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Johnny and June – they made music that was more than the sum of their already amazing parts.

The Americana world seems to be coming into its own in the duet field. What arguably began with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris got a real boost with 2005’s Begonias featuring Whiskeytown and Tres Chicas’ Caitlin Cary and her friend singer/songwriter Thad Cockrell. 2007 saw Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and T. Bone Burnett’s Raising Sand set a standard for craft as well as sales. Now 2009 has already endowed us with two dazzling releases that build handily on this legacy.

Gretchen Peters is no stranger to the world of Nashville songwriting. Her songs have been recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, George Strait, Martina McBride, and Patty Loveless who was nominated for a 1996 song of the year Grammy for Peters’ “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am.” for such a prolific songwriter it’s surprising that her seventh solo album, One To The Heart, One To The Head is a covers album. On it she partners with L.A. native, El Paso resident and Renaissance man Tom Russell who penned one song, Guadalupe, co-produced and painted the album cover image of what looks like a stylized dead horse. Russell knows his way around songwriting, his songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Nanci Griffith, Dave Alvin and Suzy Bogguss as well as 16 solo releases. These are two heavyweights and they bring their considerable collective talents to bare on a great release.

OTTH,OTTH is referred to as a “western album” which Peters tapped into her earlier life in Boulder, Colorado to draw inspiration. The instrumental opener North Platte does set a western landscape with a Elmer Bernstein or Jerome Moross sense of expanse as well as gravity. The landscape contracts just a bit for the stark and beautiful Prairie In The Sky which beautifully highlights Peter’s shimmering trill as she floats over cello and piano accompaniment. Bob Dylan’s Billy 4, from the soundtrack to Sam Peckinpah’s film Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, gets a serious borderlands infusion with Joel Guzman’s extraordinary Conjunto-style accordion and Russell bringing his silky-graveled voice counter to Peters’.

Tom Dundee’s tale of cultural isolation shines as the classic country sound of These Cowboys Born Out Of Their Time and with Russell’s end of the road lament Guadalupe woe never sounded so good. The accordion and barrel house piano that kicks off Bonnie Raitt’s tequila fueled barroom sing-along Sweet & Shiny Eyes sets just the right cantina vibe. It takes guts to cover a Townes Van Zandt song and Snowin’ on Raton is done with delicate beauty and a proper sense of deference. If I Had a Gun furnishes this album with its title. “If I had a gun you’d be dead. One to the heart, one to the head. If I had a gun I’d wipe it clean, my fingerprints off on these sheets. They’d bury you in the cold hard ground, fist full of dirt would hold you down. They’d bury you in the cold hard ground, it’d be the first night I sleep sound.” Peckinpah would be proud.

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Gretchen Peters With Tom Russell
One to the Heart, One to the Head
Scarlet Letter Records/Frontera Records (2009)

It was in an interview last November that Tom Russell told me that Gretchen Peters would be the next big thing in Western music. One listen to her debut CD in the genre – One to the Heart, One to the Head: Gretchen Peters with Tom Russell-and you’ll know he’s right. Her voice is an instant head- turner that makes a newcomer sit up and ask, "Who is that?" The question reveals my ignorance, because she’s been writing hit songs for years for people like George Strait, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, and Faith Hill. And she has seven other albums, too. What’s ironic about this Western collaboration with Russell (one that he apparently persuaded her to do) is that all the songs are covers. But she sure knows how to pick ’em. Russell adds some choice Southwest flavor to the effort, but this is clearly Peters’ record. Her voice combined with mesmerizing song arrangements (featuring keyboardist extraordinaire Barry Walsh) evokes a spirit of the West like no other artist I’ve heard. It’s hard to explain just how good this is. You must hear it for yourself. -M .B .

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