Hats, boots and cowboy crooners - Albuquerque Journal

Hats, boots and cowboy crooners

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Kacey and Jenna Thunborg, 16-year-old twin sisters and Western music performers from Lemitar, were in a car heading to the Western Slope Cowboy Gathering in Grand Junction, Colorado, when the Journal caught up with them recently. They answered interview questions over a phone.

“This is a first-time thing for us,” Kacey said of the Western Slope gathering. “We got invited to an open mic up there.”

It may be their first appearance at the Grand Junction festival of cowboy poetry and music, but it’s not their first rodeo. The sisters have been performing for audiences since they were 8 years old. This year, they have appeared at the Cimarron Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering, the New Mexico Tech Women Fest and at the Arizona Folklore Preserve in Sierra Vista, Arizona, to name a few.

Kacey plays guitar, trumpet and ukulele, has recently taken up the fiddle and sings and writes songs. Jenna is a singer-songwriter. Together they make the exquisite harmonies that won them International Western Music Association Youth Harmony Duo of the Year awards in 2017 and 2019.

Do they consider harmony their strong suit?

“Absolutely,” they said simultaneously — and in harmony, of course.

‘Let’s do it’

Once back from Colorado, the sisters will get a chance to put their talents on display in Albuquerque when they perform at a Rising Stars Showcase on Tuesday at the Rio Grande Best Western, 1015 Rio Grande NW. The showcase, which highlights the Thunborgs and three other young Western performers, is sponsored by the New Mexico Chapter of the International Western Music Association and serves as a curtain-raiser for the IWMA convention, which starts Wednesday and continues through Sunday in the Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town, 800 Rio Grande NW.

Kacey, left, and Jenna Thunborg, 16-year-old twins from Lemitar, will demonstrate their harmony at a Western music youth showcase Tuesday at the Rio Grande Best Western and at the International Western Music Association Convention from Wednesday through Sunday at the Hotel Albuquerque. (Courtesy New Mexico Chapter IWMA)

About 300 IWMA members from around the country are expected to attend the convention, which includes music and poetry performances and is open to the public. Kacey and Jenna will perform there.

“You get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time,” Jenna said of the convention, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic. “Everybody kind of knows everybody.”

“Western musicians are an amazing community,” Kacey said.

In addition to the Thunborgs, Tuesday’s Rising Stars Showcase will include:

  •  Vanessa Carpenter, a 17-year-old singer-songwriter from Idaho.
  •  Jack George, 15, of Quemado, who recites classic cowboy poetry.
  •  Alice Back, 16, of Virginia, a singer-songwriter who sings about immigrants, children, drifters and other Western characters.

Kacey, Jenna and Carpenter will introduce “Sisters of the West,” a song the three of them wrote together, at Tuesday’s showcase.

“I like to just be able to create something,” Jenna said of the songwriting process. “It can be something I came up with, or it can be historical stuff.”

Kacey recently teamed up with Rio Rancho’s Jim Jones, IWMA’s 2014 Male Performer of the Year, to write a song titled “In the Moment.” The song is on Jones’ recently released “Good Days Are Comin'” CD.

“I thought we should write a song about wild horses,” Kacey said. “He said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ He added the ‘in the moment’ part. We did it over Zoom, and I really enjoyed writing it with him.” She said that when writing songs, she usually starts with the melody and chords.

“I think of how I want it to go,” Kacey said. “I will hum a melody and just start throwing in words now and then.”

Telling stories

Founded in 1988, the IWMA is an organization of Western musicians and cowboy poets and people who love and support that brand of music and poetry. The IWMA has been holding its annual convention in Albuquerque since 2005.

Members of the public may purchase tickets for convention events, but people can visit vendors, the CD store and a Western wear boutique without charge. Daytime music showcases are free, and you can usually find Western musicians singing and playing in the hotel’s lobby and hallways. It’s all about the music, which celebrates a land and a way of life that, in some ways, is the same as it was more than 100 years ago.

“Western music is special,” Kacey said. “I love the lyrics.”

“You just get to tell stories,” Jenna said.

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