Country isn’t cowboy
Yampa Valley Boys concentrate on stories, not look
June 13, 2008
Steamboat Springs — To the Yampa Valley Boys, there is a big difference between a country star wearing a cowboy hat and someone who sings cowboy music.
Steve Jones and John Fisher like to sing songs with an ethic, songs that tell stories that ring as true today as they did in the late 19th century. On Thursday, they’ll share some of those stories with a free concert at Music on the Green, kicking off the Strings Music Festival season with a lunchtime set in the Yampa River Botanic Park.
Jones and Fisher spoke with 4 Points about what sets ‘cowboy music’ apart from country or Western, what makes the stories stay and what will make their outdoor concert a success.
4 POINTS: What’s the defining characteristic of “cowboy music”?
STEVE JONES: Most of the songs are stories. We both grew up in the era of early rock ‘n’ roll, – “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.” Cowboy songs are more personal, they have more of a story to them than that.
4 POINTS: Any other differences?
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JOHN FISHER: As far as the structure of the music, you can hear the chords. There’s a pattern there so you can hear the words.
And then the words are universal; the story of the cowboy always is the same. Whether it’s a modern cowboy story or a story written in the 1880s, they hold on to the same theme. It’s an ethic. You ride for the brand. :
It’s hard to find, too, because if you go on any Web site, it says, “what genre are you,” and (cowboy music) is not even an option.
4 POINTS: What is it usually compared to?
SJ: You might think of country – which we all know, at least now, is just recycled rock ‘n’ roll. And then “Western music” is rock ‘n’ roll with an acoustic guitar, except the guitar is plugged in.
4 POINTS: When you go to some of the cowboy festivals like the ones you’re going to this summer, do you run into people who are doing a similar kind of thing to you?
JF: The people we run into, it’s a fairly small group. So, we get to know a lot of the people that are doing our type of music, and we get to interact with them. :
Most of the festivals we go to, there are poets and lyricists. One of the big things in the Western Music Association, they’ve come up with an award for collaboration. : We’ve picked up several poems and put music to them.
4 POINTS: Is there a wide range of topics in those lyrics?
SJ: A lot of it is focused on that era of cattle drives, but a lot of it is focused on today.
4 POINTS: What can people expect from this Music on the Green performance?
JF: We’re looking for a lot of people to bring their lunch out and join us. Of course, we’re guaranteeing excellent weather. Whether or not it rains, it will be excellent weather. It’s the cowboy way.
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