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Homespun music: Joe and Archie West will play traditional cowboy, folk songs in virtual series

Archie West and his nephew, Joe West, will perform a virtual concert of cowboy songs and folk music on Friday, May 29. (Courtesy of Joe West)

Singing songs of days gone by, Joe West and his uncle, Archie West, have quite the show for fans of old cowboy songs and ’50s folk music.

The duo will perform a virtual concert at 7 p.m. Friday, May 29, as part of the “Our Fair New Mexico – A Virtual Concert Series,” presented by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with state museums, historic sites and cultural institutions.

“I learned a lot of songs growing up with Archie,” Joe West said. “He’s my uncle, so we tried to stick to some cowboy folk songs, and he certainly knows many of them, but we strayed into some of the gambling stories and the more sort of the Weavers kind of style folk music that I grew up singing with him and that kind of ’50s-era folk music.”

Archie West was influenced by Burl Ives folk records and old cowboy songs, while Joe West came from more of a Bob Dylan and Tom Waits background. But regardless of the generation gap, there was always music at their family gatherings, with singing, harmonicas, guitars, sometimes a harpsichord, and a piano every now and then. A neighbor would also come over with his banjo.

“Archie is not a professional (musician), so there’s this really charming quality about it,” Joe West said. “He’s done it as a hobbyist his whole life, and he’s just very passionate. It’s something he’s always done. And our family grew up singing a lot. That was something we did – sat around (and sang). We don’t do it as much anymore. I certainly remember as kids it was something we did every get-together at some point. We would always have guitars out singing these old songs. It was a sweet thing.”

Joe West credits his Uncle Archie as the one who got him involved in music.

“Archie was always our guitar player,” Joe West said. “My father and my mother were never musicians, but Archie was always the musical one in the family, and he’s probably how I sort of started and took it up at a certain age. I kind of went on to be into rock ‘n’ roll and punk rock and all that, but he was certainly the musical influence in my life.”

Unlike his uncle, who primarily is a rancher, Joe West is a full-time musician who dabbles in theatrical events.

“I run the theater in Madrid, doing something called the ‘Theater of Death’ in the fall, and we do a big film festival in July,” Joe West said. “Over the last 25 years, I’ve been a full-time musician, but I studied a lot of theater and did a lot of that in my younger days, so I tend to do theater things. I was a musician. I went to New York out of college with a bachelor’s in fine arts and mostly theater. I went to New York to be an actor and ended up still continuing to do a lot of music.”

Before returning to his home of Madrid, Joe West lived in Austin, Texas, for a few years.

“That’s the fun thing about going off and seeing the world, is you can always come home and appreciate home a lot better and not feel guilty,” he said. “I think a lot of people who don’t go away think I could’ve gone to New York and been an artist. But once you do it, you just realize it’s not that big of a deal and you can always just come back and be just as productive. Maybe there was a day that you had to be an artist in a bigger community or city, but with the internet, now the world has gotten more well connected where you can connect with the world.”

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