The song is mightier than the sword |

The song is mightier than the sword

Melissa Roddy

Brenn Hill has been bucked off a few horses and thrown plenty of hay in his lifetime, but the Western singer/songwriter is the first to say that he’s not a cowboy.

“I’m a generation removed from agriculture as a livelihood,” the Hooper, Utah, native said. “I don’t consider myself a cowboy or a rancher. I think my calling in life is to try to help the rest of the world understand that lifestyle.”

Hill, an award-winning Western artist, will be in Steamboat Springs on Saturday to perform selections from his fifth CD, “Endangered,” from 2 to 4 p.m. at Soda Creek Western Mercantile.

Hill has made a name for himself as a cowboy poet and talented singer who paints pictures of the American West — both the landscapes and lifestyles that are fast disappearing beneath strip malls and highways, and the challenges faced in the changing West.

Although Utah always has been home for the 27-year-old artist, a musical career that started at age 4 and took off at age 16 has taken him across backroads and byways from Texas to the Dakotas. It’s the world he sees in those travels that makes its way into his songs.

“I’m definitely a Utah boy; I’ve been just about everywhere, and I love the West,” he said. “Where I live is a part of what I do.”

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On “Endangered,” Hill said he tried to not only tackle the West that is long gone, but the West as he sees it today and the challenges it faces. Hill is the sole author of 12 of the CD’s 14 songs.

“Western music and the Western world, as I see it, didn’t need another cowboy folk singer writing about the lost past, although that theme is in ‘Endangered,'” he said. “We live in a world where open spaces are becoming more and more precious. … I’m speaking not about the lost past, but about the past we stand to lose. I just wanted to make a bolder statement about what I believe.”

The conservation message is delivered with no holds barred in the title track and “Legacy Highway.”

“Better build another highway/Right through the wetlands/And the farmlands way out West/ Then take a dagger/ Sink it in my chest/And call it/The Legacy Highway,” Hill sings.

But the CD also pays tribute to the lighter side of the modern West with tracks such as “Buckaroo Tattoo” about a cowgirl who can out cowboy the cowboys, and “Pickup Truck Cafe,” where the long-bed drivers congregate for their morning ritual.

And the rodeo crowd gets its nod with “One Hand in the Riggin'” (and one hand on the wheel) and “Be Back in Texas” about the girlfriend who gets tired of waiting for her rodeo cowboy to get off the road.

Hill counts Ian Tyson, Chris LeDoux and George Strait among his musical influences, as well as Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, the Byrds and the Eagles — the echoes of which resound on “Endangered.”

“I’ve tried to listen to everything, and to me, there are only two kinds of music: good and bad, inspired and formulated,” he said. “I try to find people who are inspired.”

Although Hill has won multiple awards, including male vocalist of the year, performer of the year and album of the year from the Academy of Western Artists and the Western Music Association, his music hasn’t found a mainstream audience. That’s OK with him.

“I try awfully hard not to get into all that stuff,” he said. “I don’t see myself as a star or a big commerical radio success. I’ve always felt that anytime I got a notepad out with the guitar, I had to say something valuable.”

What: Western singer/songwriter Brenn Hill When: 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday Where: Soda Creek Western Mercantile, 335 Lincoln Ave. Call: 879-3146