Fourth Quarter Newsletter 2014

Oh, my! I can hardly believe the year 2014 has sped past so quickly. I haven't sent out a newsletter since September and a lot has happened!

I have an exciting announcement to share about this last quarter of the year….but you have to wait till you read the November news for that! :D

So, rewind all the way back to the last week of September, and the first week of October: the dates of the Durango Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering! This is one of my very favorite festivals to attend—not only is it extremely well coordinated, run and locally supported, but the talent is exceptional and the people, (performers and volunteers) are all quite friendly and much fun to be around. As if it could get any better, historic Durango, Colorado is one of the most beautiful little towns on this earth. Since it is a tourist town, there are oodles of tiny adorable shops lining all 12 blocks of its picturesque main street, and if you are looking for an exciting day adventure, you can ride the Durango to Silverton coal train. Truly an incredible experience!
         Mom, Hailey and I drove up together with our girlfriend, (and now official “road-trip-buddy”!) Janice Bond. We arrived Wednesday in time for the reception held for the sponsors. Hailey and I performed several songs, as did all the entertainers there. We spent Thursday and Friday at schools and nursing homes and Saturday we participated in a parade and performed a couple of sets. I was quite honored with the opportunity to MC for the youth’s performance: the Durango Rising Stars ticketed performance. There were so many talented kids in one spot! It was truly quite a blessing to be included amongst some of my talented peers: Hailey, Jeneve Rose Mitchel, Thatch Elmer, Julian Oliver, Cora Wood, Leah, and David Sawyer. :)
         After four days of lots of great music, good food, wonderful fellowship, new friendships, and late-night jams, Mom and I got up early Sunday morning to attend Pastor Mark Baker's Bethel Baptist Church in Cortez, CO. We joined him and his wife, Rozie, for lunch and then headed to see Western Belle Barbara Richhart for a radio interview on her show, Cowtrails. After touring the station and visiting for a bit, we drove back over to Durango again. We took photos with good friend Howard Rachlin, window-shopped (sometimes not limiting ourselves to just looking…lol), hung out with Janice and her son, Chase, rode the Durango to Silverton train, and then made the trip back to Cortez, CO on Monday late afternoon for a performance for Pastor Baker's Cowboy Church. We enjoyed a wonderful visit with Pastor Baker and his wife that evening and got up early the next morning to head back home. That was a wonderful week!

          We traveled back home to Texas just in time for several days of recording in the studio with Dave Alexander for the second half of my newest cd project. We had a whole new set of musicians for the more western cuts: Dale Morris, Jr., (fiddle and mandolin,) Chuck Pangburn (guitar), Josh Rogers (drums), Nathan Phelps (bass), and Scott Whitfield (banjo). Hailey Sandoz, Leah Sawyer and Madalyn Wallace were special guest artists.

Then, Saturday night, Hailey and I performed at the Red Oak Opry—always a favorite gig of mine. ☺ On Sunday, I was able to make the Cowtown Opry Buckaroos in Fort Worth, Texas. I love being with Janet McBride and backing up the Buckaroos. The whole next week was filled with school, chores, horse-training and preparation for the Red Steagall Western Swing Festival in Ft. Worth, TX.
        Not only is Red Steagall a hero of many, but his festival is legendary in our part of the world. The wagon-train ride that precedes the gathering, although not directly associated with the festival itself, is a heritage trail ride and has become a tradition for me and my Dad. I have made some truly special friendships from that trail ride. This year I invited Hailey to join us. We had tons of fun riding the approximate one hundred miles during the four days, visiting Mr. Steagall's ranch and performing on his Weatherford, TX stage along the way. The ride arrives in the Stockyards on Thursday evening, and is a fun way to unofficially "open" the festival with the traditional cowboy garb, authentic wagons and teams, and dust-worn, travel weary riders and is one of the (if not the) most favorite times of year for me. This Festival is something that people travel from the corners of the earth to attend and is known for it's legendary talent: Red Steagall, Don Edwards, RW Hampton, Jean Prescott, and the Quebe Sisters. Friday morning the festival begins with a parade of authentic chuck wagons. This year the honor of an invitation to perform twice during the weekend as part of the Festival was extended to Kristyn Harris, Hailey Sandoz and myself.
            Our first performance was on Friday as “strolling vaqueras” and our second performance was on Saturday on the Chuckwagon Stage for a 3 hour stint. The stage was a mite warm being in the sun, but hey! it’s not everyday one is invited to perform for Red Steagall’s festival! :D To top off a perfect week, the Saturday night dance called my name and I am proud to say I danced every dance, found two good partners and taught 9 fellers to 2-step, and east-coast swing. ☺ The last day of the Red Steagall festival, Sunday, October 26th, I missed for a dear friend of mine’s wedding.
            She asked me to sing a few songs during the service and needless to say, her wedding ‘twas quite a beautiful, moving experience. So, our October days were jam packed and the last of October would be no different!

Monday, October 27th, Dad drove Mom and I to the airport at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Heber City, Utah! Hailey and her parents also flew in, and we all prepared to attend one of the most prestigious cowboy gatherings in the West! Our first morning there we were honored to represent the gathering in a 5:00am Fox 31 interview with Big Buda. He is a well known Salt Lake City morning show host who does special interest stories. The interview, held at historic Whittaker's Cabin in Midway, UT, spotlighted the festival via several of the entertainers: Hailey and I, Sourdough Slim, Cary Hobbs, and Thatch Elmer. (It was so great to see Thatch again! I met him in Durango and we have become very special friends!) The first few days we were there we entertained in several schools. I love the schools, the kids are always great and for some it's the first time for them to be exposed to this genre of music.

The festival itself officially began on Wednesday evening when Hailey and I and a few other artists performed for the Chuckwagon Meal at Town Hall, Midway, UT This is where this historic festival began before it grew so large they had to change the location. Thursday we had an exciting day of entertaining at the train station and on the "Heber Creeper" coal train, moving from car to car for several hours. My good friend and photographer, Neets, came to meet us at the train and spent the day with us there. The performance highlight of our trip was to come that night. We headed back to the hotel to get ready. We dressed our best, practiced and headed to the 1000 seat auditorium for sound check....

I was asked (and accompanied by Hailey!) to open for Billy Dean and Michael Martin Murphey! That was probably one of the most exciting events I’ve ever performed for...truly one of the most important!

Friday, October 31st, we performed three times during the day and then hustled off to get ready for the dance that night…which turned out to not only be a largely attended event, but also to be one of the highlights of the trip for me. I LOVE to dance and I even got to dance with Billy Dean himself...he asked ME! :)

Saturday (November 1st) we had five performances, including the Young Hearts of the West show with Thatch Elmer and Trinity Seely. It was a real honor to be on stage with two of my favorite performers and then I had the amazing privilege of joining Trinity, one of my biggest influences, in singing one of her originals, “Chilcotin Californios” during this performance. Ah-mazing! Unfortunately we had to hustle off to our flight home on Sunday before the technical end of the gathering, but we did get to spend a bit of one-on-one time with Billy Dean before we had to leave. :)

We flew home, did laundry and loaded up the car again! Mom and I headed to the Blanco Western Showcase in Blanco, Texas, for a 3-day performing schedule there. If you've never been to this festival, DON'T miss it in 2015! Mr.Dennis Moore, (the museum owner/festival director), always does a FABULOUS job bringing in exceptional talent. This year there was a trick roper/knife thrower/gunslinger, The Rhinestone Roper, and his assistant, who performed amazing feats with their horses and different cowboy "tools."
         Mr. Moore also brought in a cowboy gun-fighting reenactment group with members from all over the country--these guys are professional actors and put on the best reenactment I've ever seen. I watched their show 3 times a day for three days and never tired of it. This festival is held at the Buggy Barn Museum in Blanco,TX which is an INCREDIBLE museum to visit--if you've ever seen the TV show "Revolution", then you've seen some of Mr. Moore's wagons, teams, and property in the episodes. His buggies and wagons have been in more movies and TV shows to count, and there is so much exciting history behind each and every one. And then, he also brought in some of my favorite artists to perform. I was in such incredible company: Jean Prescott, KR Woods, and Rebecca Hendrics. Doesn't get much better!

We drove home on the 9th and, once again, did laundry and loaded up the car with fresh gear on the 11th for the trek to Albuquerque, NM for the Western Music Association's annual convention. Thursday, the first day, was filled with interesting workshops. Thursday afternoon, Hailey and I accompanied Almeda Bradshaw for her showcase and then Thursday night, after the benefit dinner and dance by Syd Masters, we went to the "Pajama Jam." It was truly a sight to see everyone that actually came in their pajamas! Friday is the day of the Youth Workshop; Kristyn Harris and I volunteered to teach the youth harmony and youth yodeling workshops together. We worked with Janet McBride, Jane Leche and Belinda Gail to provide a workshop that would help the youth get more comfortable with entering the competitions. Then we practiced for a song all the youth would sing together for the WMA Awards night and had great fun. Oh! And the BEST news about the WMA Convention? My surprise! T'was here that I officially debuted and sold my first hard copy Cowgirl Swing album!

My summer of recording in the studio with Dave Alexander and members of his Big Texas Swing Band finally came to fruition. This album was produced by Dave Alexander and features many of the music-world's best musicians! (I could be prejudiced...). It has 9 western/cowgirl swing original tracks on it, and 5 covers--a couple of big band, jazz, swing and gospel tunes that will make your heart just as happy as mine! :) Click on the cd name/link above (in blue) to see more about it and order it or my other merchandise, or visit for more information about it!

Friday night Hailey and I performed for the Friday Night Opry and Saturday we watched the Harmony and Yodeling contests, performed for the youth stage, and performed a showcase. That night we all dressed up in our finest and went to the KIMO Theater to attend the Award Ceremonies. I was thrilled, as last year's Crescendo Award Winner, to be able to present the award to this year's Crescendo Award Winners, the Hanson Family. Congratulations to Lisa, Teresa and Daniel Hanson, and to all the other winners in the various categories announced that night! It was another beautiful evening.

We got back home on the 17th and had two days to recoup and, guess laundry and pack again! This time we boarded a plane for the Monterey Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Monterey, CA from the 20th through the 23rd! The first day we were there we were driven to a school with Doris Daley, Canada cowgirl poet. We had a great time with other entertainers putting on a show for all those great schools. I love playing for the kids in the schools! The Monterey festival is always fun, and a truly beautiful experience. The Bay is always so breezy and pleasant at that time of year, and Mom and I walked quite a bit along the beach and wharf, we went barefoot in the sand with rolled up jeans and boots in hand, saw tons of sea lions relaxing on rocks in the surf and enjoyed every single minute! Yes, we are proud Texans, but for the weekend we were CaliGirls, lol! ;-)
               The hotel we stay at and perform in is comfortable and beautiful, and has an amazing theater for our performances. The festival is small and intimate, with a fun vendor area and the best entertainers. Mr. and Mrs. Collord do a great job organizing and running the festival. I made some new friends this year, including a group I had heard much about: The Munsick Boys. After having heard incredible things about this performing family of buckaroo musicians, it was nice to finally hear them play. I also was glad to spend time with other amazing musicians/poets like Cowbop, Verlon Thompson, Dave Stamey, and Doris Daley.

There, you see, November was a bit of a CRAZY month, as well! :) December rolled in, as finally did our Texas cold weather, and we were quite thankful to be home for a few weeks with our huge pile of chopped wood and lovely wood-burning stove.

On the 2nd of December, I performed for a Chuckwagon Dinner party for Renay and Allan Watts. They always put on a fabulous meal and woo all the attendees with Miss Renay's homecooked chuckwagon grub...which is amazing! Seconds are ALWAYS a necessity. :)
Dec. 4th I had a radio interview with Gary Holt on Equestrian Legacy Radio at noon before gearing up and heading to Fort Worth for a private Christmas party hosted at the Texas Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Such a beautiful museum, and it's all about the cowgirl! The acoustics in the hall were incredible.
On the 6th, dear, beloved cowboy friend Forre had his birthday party--which Hailey and I were asked to perform at--and we had an absolute ball! Singin' and swingin' cowgirl style at a potluck is a great way to spend a chilly winter evening! We had a brief sabbatical until....
the 7th, when Hailey's duo "Oga" had their official CD Release Party and Concert for their debut CD "Finderprints" at the Allen Public Library. The concert was amazing, she and Joseph Carmichael performed all the songs on their CD and then some! They had all the artists who performed on their CD there to perform for the concert. I was honored to be a guest vocalist. The evening was an absolute hit! 
On the 9th, Hailey and I met Dave Alexander and Nathan Phelps at the Oakmark Country Club to play for a Christmas luncheon.
Then, Saturday, we also played Red Oak Opry and got to see and hug the necks of my "Red Oak family!"
The next day, Sunday, was Christmas Buckaroos in the Fort Worth Stockyards with the Cowtown Opry.

Add in some horse training, a bunch of school, attending classes, and the ever-continued musical practice, and the days in December passed quickly, right up to the 18th of December....Michael Martin Murphey's annual vintage Cowboy Christmas Ball in Anson, Texas! I have heard about this historic dance for years and this year, Mom and I purposed to go. Dad wanted to join us but he and my brother couldn't come so, Mom, our girlfriend and road trip buddy Janice, and I brought along our vintage dresses and made a road trip out of it. We drove to our hotel, got dressed and spent the evening dancing our happy little feet off. :) It was so fun to see so many of the dancers dressed in vintage clothing and Michael Martin Murphy knows how to make for a fun danceI It was a quick trip to Anson just for the dance and back because we had to start preparing for our annual family trip to New Mexico.

There was one more little added event, though! Somehow... :-) Mom mentioned to me that she thought it would be fun to participate in a Christmas Carol flashmob at the mall. I thought about it and dad was also quite encouraging, so we put it out on facebook and everyone who saw it were excited about it, too, so, we worked hard with several friends to organize it. My friends, the Decker family, even said they would film it so we could post it online. So we set it up for the 20th at the Stonebriar Mall in Frisco, TX . There was a great crowd shopping at the mall and we had a large turnout but as soon as mall security saw us gathering, they put a stop to our singing in the lunch area. However! God had other plans and we were allowed to carol in another area of the mall and He turned it into a fabulous time and a great way to share His gospel!

Monday morning we pulled out for our "vacation time" in New Mexico taking two vehicles, towing along many four-wheelers and a couple of horses. The weather turned bad as we traveled so we were doubly grateful for our good friends, Doug and Kathy Figgs, offer to over night with them along our way, coming and going. It was a fun to fellowship, eat together (Kathy is a SUPER cook, especially her pies!), have a safe place to overnight the horses, and jam together. Jim Croce may not fall exactly under the "western" category of music, but it isn't often that I find another Croce-lover and picker! Needless to say we all sang Jim Croce as well as our own new originals. Love the Figgs so much. We picked up my best-girlfriend along the way and headed for the hills.....BIG hills.
          Let the fun begin. We rode (horses and 4-wheelers), hiked (up mountains and down dusty, ice covered forest roads), fished (in beautiful, ice-capped mountain water), worked (hard, but not too hard), cooked (we've gotta eat sometime!), cleaned (I guess we needed paper plates), gathered wood (for our wood-burning stoves), bought plenty of fuel (for our generators), and slipped right into the New Year without even realizing so many days had passed in such a short, blissful period of time!
Each day with family is time well spent. It's hard to believe how fast the time goes there, we always hate to head back home. We did quite a bit of riding in the mountains, pushing cows, and just generally enjoying the snow and beautiful blue skies, and for that I am grateful. But sadly, our time was up and back to reality we must come.

As I'm sure you can see, 2014 was an epic year for me and I am so glad to have partners like y'all along with me for the ride. Thank you all for your love and support, encouragement and friendships. I have been blessed beyond expectation and thank God Almighty for everything He's placed in my path. May the Lord richly bless you this New Year!

Until we speak again--yours truly,