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Stories of the West

Singer/songwriter James Michael, who winters in Las Cruces and ranches in southern Colorado, heads the Western Music Association’s Youth Chapter.
Singer/songwriter James Michael, who winters in Las Cruces and ranches in southern Colorado, heads the Western Music Association’s Youth Chapter.

Of course you’d expect to hear live music at the Western Music Association’s Awards Show and Showcase. You will. And tons of it.

But there’s a literary element to this weekend’s WMA roundup in Albuquerque, too – poetry.

Sam DeLeeuw is a cowboy poet from Roy, Utah, and she’ll be hosting and performing at WMA daytime sessions today and Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Albuquerque Marriott.

Western Music Association
WHEN: Today through Sunday morning, Nov. 18
WHERE: Most events are at the Albuquerque Marriott, 2101 Louisiana NE
HOW MUCH: Daytime workshops and two performance stages this afternoon and Saturday afternoon at the Marriott are free. Nighttime concerts have individual ticket prices. Tickets can be purchased at the WMA convention desk in the Marriott. For a full schedule of events and information visit www.westernmusic.com

“I write from the women’s point of view,” said DeLeeuw, who last year was named the WMA Cowboy Poet of the Year. “I have been a rancher’s wife, I’ve raised horses, cows and sheep. From those experiences trials and tribulations come.”

The stories behind her poems also come from the women who have lived in the history of the West. She wrote a poem titled “These Women of the West” that talks about Western women of past generations.

“These are women I’ve never met, who are not in my family tree. But I’m proud of what they did,” DeLeeuw said.

As she tours the western United States with her poetry, she said, she gets ideas for new stories to tell wherever she goes. And DeLeeuw said one reason she likes attending the WMA Awards Show and Showcase each year is because of the talented people who bring their songs and stories to the annual conference.

Not only will they share their music and poetry on stage, but also meet informally with each other.

“What’s neat about Albuquerque is that any little alcove or room hallway will be filled with musicians and poets,” DeLeeuw said.

These kinds of connections often result in poems being put to music.

DeLeeuw has had two of her poems put to song. Dave Anderson wrote the music for her poem “Born to Be a Cowboy” and Bill Barwick wrote the music for her poem “Long Haul,” which refers to ranchers and farmers who are committed to their life’s work.

Among this year’s musical performers is the The Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band of the Okanagan Highlands in Washington state. Their song “My Horse Knows the Way Home” is a finalist for WMA Song of the Year. They’ll sing it at the Awards Show.

“The person who wrote it wrote it as a poem,” said Lauralee Northcott, a member of the cowgirl band.

The poet is Dave McClure, who collaborated with the band in putting the poem to music.

“It conveys so much about the way he lives and what he cares about. He’s a third-generation homesteading rancher-farmer in the Okanagan Highlands,” Northcott said.

The song also is the title cut on an album that is up for WMA Album of the Year, she said. The music on it speaks to the western lifestyle, the love of the land and the joy of place.

Northcott and band member Jennifer Epps will perform one song at tonight’s Opry at the KiMo Theatre. The two will be on a noon Saturday showcase at the Marriott. All three, including Kristyn Harris, will sing at the Awards Show, Northcott said.

Apart from the WMA events, Johns Western Gallery at 4009 E. Central will host Albuquerque-based Western singer/songwriter Jim Jones tonight.

“The Western music folks are a strong component of those who are keeping what the West really is alive,” said gallery owner Doug Johns, who also has a gallery in Old Town.

Jones also is performing at WMA afternoon sessions today and Saturday. He’ll be at Saturday night’s Awards Show, where he is a finalist for Songwriter of the Year.

He thinks of the annual WMA get-together as “a big family reunion, only with people that you like.”

Jones said people who may be unfamiliar with western music should check out some of the free events.

Another participating singer/songwriter is James Michael, who will sing at tonight’s Opry. Michael said he winters in Las Cruces and spends the rest of the year running cattle in southern Colorado. He is a member of the WMA New Mexico chapter and heads the WMA’s Youth Chapter.

“I try to encourage young people to become part of the organization. I talk to them at events wherever I am entertaining or are involved in,” Michael said.

Joe Brown, the president of the New Mexico chapter, said his chapter’s members work with the WMA national leadership in preparing for the five days of events that culminates this weekend.

The chapter, Brown said, has joined the Tourism Association of New Mexico to spread the word about the conference as an tourist attraction and about how the WMA is sharing and sustaining the genre and the cowboy culture.

To get the word out, he said the WMA is hosting a stage on Church Street in Old Town from noon-4 p.m. today, where WMA entertainers are performing.

The annual WMA events started Wednesday. They conclude Sunday with two hours of performers singing at the “Cowboy Church” led by Steve Harrington.

GT Hurley of Big Timber, Mont., said he’s excited about performing at the WMA.

As with Jones, Hurley said, the most important aspect of the convention is “interaction of peers, being able to associate professionally and meeting the fans who come face-to-face (with) the real person behind the guy on the cover of the CD. … And it’s an opportunity to show how down-to-earth this genre really is.”

  • GT Hurley of Big Timber, Mont., said he is excited about performing and interacting with peers at the Western Music Association gathering this weekend in Albuquerque.

  • Sam DeLeeuw of Utah is a cowboy poet who has had some of her poems put to music.

  • Albuquerque singer/songwriter Jim Jones will be playing at the Western Music Association showcase and conference. He’s shown at Johns Western Gallery on East Central Avenue. (Roberto E. Rosales/journal)

  • The Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band from Washington state plays today and Saturday at the Western Music Association’s showcase and awards show.

  • Singer/songwriter James Michael, who winters in Las Cruces and ranches in southern Colorado, heads the Western Music Association’s Youth Chapter.

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