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ANDY HEDGES: COWBOY SONGSTER
I love her sweeps of distance,
Her drowsy miraged seas,
Her choirs of singing songsters,
Her weeping bannered trees.
"Texas" by William Lawrence Chittenden
Andy Hedges explains songster as “a person who is not a songwriter but is known for their repertoire of traditional songs.” The word is a lost term for what has become a lost tradition and Andy’s desire to inhabit that tradition inspired him to create this record of cowboy songs.
Listen for yourself and don’t let nostalgia get in the way. This is current music with the churnings and yearnings of the past rumbling up from the bottom. Andy says it himself: “I’m not trying to replicate the sound of the 1920s and 1930s. I don’t think of myself as a reenactor.”
So why are these recordings pertinent? Why does it matter in an age where anything and everything can be digitized and is free and way too accessible?
When Larry Chittenden wrote about “choirs of singing songsters,” he was talking about songbirds. Songbirds are songsters for life. It’s their calling, their breeding. Whether bird or man, songsters find something sacred and eternal about taking noise and making it melodious. That’s why concepts such as the “gig”–filling time with music for money–or the “cover”–turning oneself into a human ring tone–do little to serve the cause of music as a transcendent power to communicate and acknowledge the wonders of the world.
It’s not that far a stretch from feathered songster to cowboy songster. At heart, both sound out an exaltation of outdoor life, a close harmony with other living things, warnings and lessons on life, and historically, a sensitivity to seasons and migration. That’s why the cowboy tradition, the music that has come out of the ageless work of transhumance, has real power. That is why these gritty old songs that Andy Hedges takes on are ageless and worth your time.
Hal Cannon – Founding Director, Western Folklife Center
Instruments played on this recording:
My Dad’s old 1960s Harmony Sovereign H1260 guitar (rebuilt by Scott Baxendale)
My friend, Randy Lucas’s 1938 Kay K5 archtop guitar
Six string banjo handmade by Lame Horse Instruments
One of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s old guitar picks
Recorded at Route 1, Acuff Studios. Engineered, mixed, and mastered by Alan Crossland.
Artwork and design by Dirk Fowler.