2019 Blog Posts in Review: JCShepard.com turns 10

It’s the end of the decade… or maybe that’s the end of 2020 instead of the beginning. Either way, jcshepard.com is 10-years old, a decade since we went online 1 January 2009. Happy birthday to the blog. In 2018, our site here had 1,400 visitors give about 6,200 views, with August 2018 garnering more clicks than any other month. In 2019, traffic pulled back, with 1,300 visitors and almost 1,900 views.

It is what it is. I just post about what I’m reading and what I’m listening to. Thank you for visiting.

#1 post of 2019: Cheyenne-Laramie County, Wyoming, Historical Timeline. Repeat winner by far,  Cheyenne-Laramie County, Wyoming, Historical Timeline: a 2014 keyword-rich retrospective of the capital of the Cowboy State, which celebrated their 150th Anniversary in 2017.

#2: Be Here to Love Me…for free. Yeah, the “free” part is gone since this 2011 post posted, and it feels kinda click-baity, but it is what it is. ICYMI, listen to Townes Van Zandt’s new release, Sky Blue. You can stream Spotify that for “free”, too.

#3: Diary of Orrin Brown–Nov 20, 1864. From my series on the Civil War. The Day Pvt. Orrin Brown sold his shoes.

#4: Behind the Bakken Boom. As I noted last year, and the year before that, I really need to update my series on Oil & Gas drilling out here in the West.  The Albuquerque Journal did an in-depth series on oil and natural gas development in the Permian Basin of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas, and BP sold their natural gas interests in the San Juan Basin.

#5: On the Brink of War — America’s Christmas 1916.  Post 2016 election look at the events of 100 years before. Up from #8 last year, and hopefully not a look ahead to 2020.

#6:  Little (Lego) House on the Prairie (Style).  Perennially popular post from 2009. A little Lego love for Frank Lloyd Wright.

#7: About. Thank you for your interest.

#8 overall & #1 NEW POST OF 2019: The Martyr Richard Woodman. The story of Richard Woodman reminds us that once upon a time, Western peoples were willing to die for their religious beliefs. 1557 wasn’t really that long ago.

#9: All Thing Shepard. History meets genealogy. Down a spot again.  Dramatically due for an update.  Rootsweb got hacked late 2016, though, and Ancestry had it down for a good while. The site’s back up but re-arranged and due for some attention.

#10: The Day the Music Died. Tribute from 10 years ago for the late, great Buddy Holly and company,

Our #2 NEW POST of 2019: Quicksand Soup – Miss You Darling Doesn’t Miss, at #13 overall. It was good to hear new music from Sand Sheff. Ride ’em, cowboy.

Most of you are viewing the blog from the gold old U.S. of A. My next largest number of views this year and last are coming from Red China and South Korea. Interesting. It is what it is. Thank you for visiting in 2020.

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JC’s Americana Top Tunes of 2019

The Year in Music for 2019 was dedicated to Guy Clark and Susanna Clark, with a coda for the late, great Townes Van Zandt.

As soon as I heard about Steve Earle’s project to dedicate an album of covers to Guy Clark’s memory, I knew this would be my favorite recording of 2019. GUY held up to my expectations, even better than Earle’s tribute TOWNES did 10 years earlier. As Earle previously made “Pancho and Lefty” his own, this time around he bought and paid for “Dublin Blues”, a song I never really realized how good it is lyrics and music both.

Other artists paid tribute as well. Vince Gill sang “Nothin’ Like A Guy Clark Song” on his Grammy-nominated album Okie. Aaron Watson opened Red Bandana with “Ghost of Guy Clark”, in which the spirit of the great songwriter tells our hero his song’s OK “if that’s all you’ve got to give”. And while George Strait finally got to “Sing One with Willie”, Willie Nelson covered Clark’s “My Favorite Picture of You” (a tribute to Guy’s wife, Susanna, which damn well better bring tears to your eyes no matter who sings it).

We also heard the ghost of Townes from beyond the beyond, with the posthumous Sky Blue. As related by NPR, this the songwriter recorded these tracks in a visit to his friend Bill Hedgepeth in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1973. The session included to previously unreleased songs, “All I Need”, and the title track “Sky Blue”, which I played into the ground. This take on “Pancho and Lefty” is pretty good, too, but the “Snake Song” and “Dream Spider” give me the heeby-jeebies.

Erin Enderlin, an Arkansas country musician and songwriter, is my surprise discovery of 2019. After teasing EPs all year, released in four story-cycles, her album Faulkner County would have been my favorite release of the year, in any other year. “Tonight I Don’t Give a Damn”, “I Can Be Your Whiskey”, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”–doesn’t get much more Country than that. Kudos to Corey Parkman “Farce the Music” for including Enderlin in his periodic Spotify playlist, for this find.

George Strait delivered another George Strait album just a bit better than most of pop country radio deserves, but he really hit a tear-jerker with “The Weight Of The Badge”. If you’re wondering why Red State America isn’t responding to Liberal Social Justice Warriors (and despite my antipathy for Trumpist fear-mongering), just listen to this song. We are the Law. We are the Rule of Law. We are One with Law Enforcement, and we cannot pay the Boys in Blue enough for the weight they carry each and every day.

Among the other songs in my Top 10 and Top 20, some are getting their share of Real Country love and attention, and others ought to. Tyler Childers is up for a Grammy (huh? what? yeah, go figure.). So are Tanya Tucker and Willie Nelson. I shoulda listened to Ashley McBryde more, she’s on the Grammy list, too. Rhiannon Giddens is just, wow. Then fast-forward to the Grammy Folk category and Patty Griffin is, well, Patty.

My far-flung music amiga Sacha agrees with the Americana Radio chart’s crowning of Hayes Carll’s album What It Is, and “None’ya” made it to my Top 10 scrabbles of 2019, even if I did like Ryan Bingham’s “Jingle and Go” that came out about the same time, just a bit better. Mike and the Moonpies took Saving Country Music blog’s Album of the year with their sweet sounds of Country Music, and Tyler Childers and Cody Jinks shared Saving Country Music’s Artist of the year, all well-deserved.

There’s a bunch of great music released in 2019, and some of the tunes from 2018 rolled over into my heavy Scrobble rotation again this year. We lost the Red Dirt Legend, Brandon Jenkins, in March 2018, and “Be the Revival” off his last album was my Top Tune of 2018 and still gets to me in 2019. And along with Colter Wall’s “Plain to See Plainsman”, folk artist Nancy K. Dillon’s “Dutchman’s Gold” got to the cowboy in me. Also in my Top 50 was Dom Flemons’ “Steel Pony Blues” off Black Cowboys. (Dom is in Carolina Chocolate Drops with Rhianon Giddens.). Charley Crockett’s The Valley fits in here, and you might notice, too, my Top 21 tracks extended to include “Kimberly” by Quicksand Soup, Sand Sheff’s new band up Moab way.

Despite what I said above about George Strait fans, the cowboy way isn’t political, it isn’t an ethnicity or a voting bloc or guys who like big hats. A cowboy’s life is a road less traveled, and it deserves all the ink it gets, and that sounds like a good goal for me to ponder on in 2020.

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No Depression 2019 Readers and Critics Favorite Albums

No Depression magazine started out covering “Alt.Country…whatever that is”. As such, they still cover, well, Alt.not-country but we’re not quite sure whatever that is”. No Depression isn’t an “Americana” magazine, but it isn’t NOT an “Americana” outlet either. Mostly, though, No Depression (like the namesake album by Uncle Tupelo) covers the sorta music I like to listen to, and that commercial radio doesn’t play. Mostly.

The editors solicited a small poll of their regular reviewers and critics for the “good stuff”, the albums they couldn’t shut up about, in 2019:

  1. Our Native Daughters—Songs of Our Native Daughters. Rhiannon Giddens et al. thoughtful and thought-provoking release on Smithsonian Folkways. (Rhiannon is a No Depression Artist of the Decade, a well-deserved accolade and honor. She is a MacArthur Fellow, and released her own Grammy-nominated album this year in addition to her work with Carolina Chocolate Drops.)
  2. The Highwomen—The Highwomen. Brandi Carlile et al. (Brandi is a No Depression Artist of the Decade.) My sister really likes this one, and she has pretty good taste in music.
  3. Yola—Walk Through Fire. Grammy contender.
  4. Molly Tuttle—When You’re Ready. She’s good.
  5. Sturgill Simpson—Sound & Fury. NOT Country music, nor even Americana. Didn’t listen to it, but folks who liked it, well, they liked it.
  6. Hiss Golden Messenger—Terms of Surrender. meh.
  7. Fruit Bats—Gold Past Life. Who?
  8. Angel Olsen—All Mirrors. Um, who again?
  9. Tyler Childers—Country Squire. Grammy contender AND good music. I’m late to the Childers party, trying to make up for lost time.
  10. Son Volt—Union. Jay Farrar’s latest for the 99 percent in the grand tradition of Uncle Tupelo and No Depression. A bit political for my taste, even if I’m more sympathetic to the message than I might have been once upon a time.
  11. Aldous Harding—Designer
  12. Daniel Norgren—Wooh Dang
  13. Delbert McClinton—Tall, Dark & Handsome. Bluesy Grammy contender.
  14. Tanya Tucker—While I’m Livin’. Another Grammy contender AND good music. Go figure.
  15. Neil Young—Colorado. Points for name-dropping the Centennial State.
  16. Mavis Staples—We Get By. Everything she does is good.
  17. Michaela Anne—Desert Dove. I’ve get wierded out by last names that are first names. Don’t @ me.
  18. Buddy & Julie Miller—Breakdown on 20th Ave. South. My sister likes this too. I should have given it more attention.
  19. Julia Jacklin—Crushing.
  20. Kelsey Waldon—White Lines/White Noise. I meant to listen to her, just never got to it because I was too busy streaming Steve Earle’s tribute album to Guy Clark.

So Tyler Childers gets a Grammy nomination, a Top 10 in the prestigious No Depression Critics survey AND Tops the ND Readers’ 50 Favorite Roots Albums of 2019? Here’s the copy-paste of the start of the Readers’ list:

1. Tyler Childers – Country Squire
2. The Highwomen – The Highwomen
3. Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
4. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
5. Hayes Carll – What It Is
6. Whiskey Myers – Whiskey Myers
7. Willie Nelson – Ride Me Back Home
8. Billy Strings – HOME
9. Buddy and Julie Miller – Breakdown on 20th Ave. South
10. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real – Turn off the News (Build a Garden)
11. Ian Noe – Between the Country
12. Steve Earle and the Dukes – Guy
13. Our Native Daughters – Songs of Our Native Daughters (tie)
13. Gary Clark Jr. – This Land (tie)
15. Son Volt – Union (tie)
15. Yola – Walk Through Fire (tie)
17. Mandolin Orange – Tides of a Teardrop
18. Rodney Crowell – Texas
19. Wilco – Ode to Joy (tie)
19. Josh Ritter – Fever Breaks (tie)

The Springsteen is good. My friend Sacha loves the Hayes Carll, and he’s rolling into my Top 10 for 2019. My friend Jay in Minnesota gave his Top pick to Whiskey Meyers—he was my best boss, and not just because of his great taste in Country-Rock music. Willie is always good, and Lukas’ album was pretty good, too. It’s nice to see Billy Strings get recognized. And as noted previously, Steve Earle was the victim of Airway Robbery on this poll also—no way GUY only polls Top 12. His tribute album to Guy Clark is A-Number One for my 2019.

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Americana Radio Top 100 Airplay for 2019

Hayes Carll and Good Companions

Hayes Carll’s album What It Is took the top spot for most spins by Americana Radio in 2019 (through 12/17/19). Denver’s very own The Lumineers’ cut “Gloria” off III was the single most spun single in 2019. Contrast this, as usual, with the Grammy’s complete lack of recognition of the artists and songs actually being played on Americana radio.

From the AMA PR:

Top 10 Americana Radio Airplay Albums of 2019
What It Is, Hayes Carll
Fever Breaks, Josh Ritter
III, The Lumineers
Turn Off the News (Build a Garden), Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Signs, Tedeschi Trucks Band”
Jade Bird, Jade Bird
We Get By, Mavis Staples
American Love Song, Ryan Bingham
Walk Through Fire, Yola
Closer Than Together, The Avett Brothers
View the complete Top 100 albums list here.
Top 10 Americana Radio Airplay Singles of 2019
“Gloria,” The Lumineers (Appears on III)
“Old Black Magic,” Josh Ritter (Appears on Fever Breaks)
“Bad Case,” Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (Appears on Turn Off the News [Build a Garden])
“Stay High,” Brittany Howard (Appears on Jaime)
“High Steppin’,” The Avett Brothers (Appears on Closer Than Together)
“Hard Case,” Tedeschi Trucks Band (Appears on Signs)
“Change,” Mavis Staples (Appears on We Get By)
“Jingle and Go,” Ryan Bingham (Appears on American Love Song)
“All Your’n,” Tyler Childers (Appears on Country Squire)
“None’ya,” Hayes Carll (Appears on What It Is)
View the complete Top 100 singles list here.

I was just arguing with a friend over the merits and authenticity of Hayes Carll, in light of his chart-topping performance this year. She thinks it’s long deserved recognition. I, on the other hand, do like Carll’s latest effort, but I still get hung up on his transformation from 2002 suburban Woodlands Texas folk singer to 2019 Gee Shucks Texas Country boy. I mean, he’s good, he hangs out with Corb Lund and Ray Wylie Hubbard good. He’s picking-fights-with-Steve-Earle good. She makes a good point, too, that artists evolve and SOMETIMES that means they get better. Usually some producer gets ahold of them and they go all commercial, but not ALWAYS.

I’m trying to dwell less on negatives and be grateful for the positives in life. Hayes Carll and his music are good companions these days.

Speaking of companions, I definitely agree with the 8-9-10 spots on the Singles chart Substitute Tyler Childers’ “House Fire” for “All Your’n” on my list even if that’s one the Grammys and AMA agree upon. I didn’t want to like Ryan Bingham’s “Jingle and Go” but it’s an ear worm–I did stream more of Carll’s tracks on this album compared to Childers’ and Bingham’s, for what that’s worth.

And oh by the way, Steve Earle was ROBBED with airplay for GUY, his album in tribute to Guy Clark, only coming in #37. Airway Robbery—I knew the first time I played “Dublin Blues” with the early singles release, that this was going to be my #1 album of 2019, and you can jump up on the coffee table and tell everyone just that.

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I wrote about the 2018 AMA Radio Charts last year, and the No Depression annual readers poll. I’ll have to get to the ND list.

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Grammy Award Nominations Don’t Get It All Wrong This Year

The Recording Academy announced their 2020 nominations for the 62nd Grammy Awards last month. While I could pan their General Field nominations as the typical generic, awful ear candy (in particular the controversial NasX-Billy Ray Cyrus fiasco), I won’t. Life is too short to rehash the basic fact that Pop Music Sucks. Moving on.

Drilling down on the Grammy categories I care about—Country and American Roots—the Academy didn’t get it all wrong this year.

The Country category starts at #26. Best Country Solo Performance. You know this year might just be different when this list starts with “All Your’n” by Tyler Childers. Wow. Just Wow.

  • All Your’n, Tyler Childers
  • Girl Goin’ Nowhere, Ashley McBryde
  • Ride Me Back Home, Willie Nelson
  • God’s Country, Blake Shelton
  • Bring My Flowers Now, Tanya Tucker

Wow. Of these, you’re only likely to hear Shelton on pop country radio these days. Childers’ Country Squire is very popular in certain quarters, as are the rest sans Blake, but… just… wow. Now the next category 27. Best Country Duo/Group Performance and beyond, bounces us back down to reality of pop country radio stars, so no worries that life as Nashville knows is it is in any danger. But Brandi Carlile and company got Tanya Tucker noticed again with While I’m Livin’, and Reba McEntire gets a well earned nod for her album Stronger than the Truth, as do the Pistol Annies for Interstate Gospel.

The American Roots Music category starts at 45. Best American Roots Performance. I gotta tell you, I’ve been an Americana guy for 20 years, but I wouldn’t necessarily know it from the Grammy noms. But I’m used to that. Before November, of these songs I’d only listened to Rhiannon Giddens’ “I’m On My Way”, really (that’s gonna scrabble my Top 20). I’ve Spotified some scrobbles since and they’re mostly not bad, though they’re not going to make the top of my last.fm year end list (except Giddens). Same for 46. Best American Roots Song, where I spun a bunch of Vince Gill, but didn’t consider “I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More” as an “American Roots Song”, nor the strongest on the album. I do like I’m With Her (Jarosz, O’Donovan & Watkins) but I didn’t love their effort this time around. People I know have good taste really like Yola’s Walk Through Fire, and it is pretty good for cat 47.

Bluegrass (48) contenders stream well, but I woulda put Billy Strings on top here. I like Blues but I’m no where near the market, as shown by my lack of scrobbles in categories 49 & 50. Delbert McClinton is always fun. Then in 51. Best Folk Album, Patty Griffin’s self-titled album is just on an entirely different plane of existence from the rest of the contenders.

So we’ll see what the Academy members vote come January 26, 2020.

Amelia Blake, an online friend of mine, will be in the audience in L.A. Between us Internauts, she deserves a trophy more than most of the nominees, but that’s life.

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Colorado is Growing

Pagosa Sun November 14, 2019

PAGOSA SPRINGS—More people moved into Colorado last year than moved out, continuing the State’s trend of population growth.  In 2018, approximately 239,000 people were attracted to Colorado and just over 203,000 people left, for a net gain of about 36,000, according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) estimates released October 31st.

In April 2020, the US Census Bureau will be making their once-a-decade count of all residents, including these newcomers.  Efforts are already underway in Colorado to help ensure a complete count.  Region Nine Economic Development District and the Southwest Colorado Council of Governments are coordinating efforts with the Colorado State Demographer’s Office.  Locally, the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce is organizing the Archuleta County Complete Count Committee.  Their first meeting is Friday, November 15th, 11 am, at the Chamber offices, 105 Hot Springs Blvd, in Pagosa Springs.

The large number of people moving into and out of Colorado will be a challenge for the Census.  In Pagosa Springs, Texas license plates aren’t unusual to see in traffic across Southwest Colorado, but statewide the largest number of new residents moved from California.  Over 28,000 people left the Golden State for the Centennial State in 2018, with almost 27,000 making the move from the Lone Star State.  Florida contributed about 14,000, followed by over 11,000 from New Mexico and over 9,000 from Virginia.

The road does go both ways.  Texas gained over 21,000 former Colorado residents in 2018, with close to 19,000 moving to California, and close to 16,000 moving to Florida.  Arizona attracted over 11,000, followed by the state of Washington.

The US Census Bureau is recruiting 500,000 temporary workers nationwide to help conduct the census next year, with some already in the field preparing for the decennial survey.  US Census staff in Archuleta County are anticipated to be managed out of Colorado Springs, with pay at about $14.00/hour [update $16.00/hr] and a flexible schedule.  For more information visit https://2020census.gov .

(Published in the Pagosa Sun, 11/14/19, update 11/26).

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ICYMI – The Diary of Pvt. Orrin Brown 1864-1865

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, I blogged the diary of my ancestor Pvt. Orrin Brown, Co. E, 14th Michigan Infantry, who marched through Georgia and the Carolinas with General Sherman. It remains some of the most popular material on this blog, now five years later.

As best we know, Orrin O. Brown was born in September 1836, at Wayne County, Michigan, to Orrin Brown, Sr. and Rhoda Weaver Brown of New York State. Orphaned at birth, his mother moved in with family in Will County, Illinois, only to become sick and die, leaving the baby to the care of relatives. In 1863, he went into the lumber trade and milling business at Sodus Township, Berrien County, Michigan. Answering the final call for service in the great War between the States for his older brother Norman, in October of 1864 he entered Company E, Fourteenth Michigan Infantry.

Company E mustered in at Kalamazoo, Michigan on the 13th of October, taking the train through Michigan City to Indianapolis where it met men from Illinois, going on to Nashville, Tennessee. The company helped with the clean up at Chattanooga from the 21st to November 3rd, when they departed on the train to Atlanta. Orrin saw the battlefield at Kennesaw Mountain and watched the city burn. Leaving on 15 November with General William T. Sherman’s army, he marched 300 miles through Georgia to Savannah, reaching that city on 11 December. The day after Christmas, he started marching northward towards Augusta and eventually ended up at Fayetteville, North Carolina, on 12 February 1865. His health failing, Orrin went to New Bern, NC, and boarded the U.S. Kennebeck on 30 April for a hospital at New York, leaving service in June 1865. He returned to Michigan and took up a career as a farmer. Orrin Brown passed away on 9 January 1909.

This is his story, written in his own words.

The original diary has been handed down through the family for 125 years. This version was set to disk from a typed manuscript in 1989 by John Shepard and Mary Shepard Gin, Orrin Brown’s great-great-great-grandchildren by way of his daughter Rhoda Brown Pugh, her daughter Lucy Pugh Tillstrom, her daughter Florence Tillstrom Shepard.  The transcription in PDF is available here. Original spelling and style has been left intact.

Please join us as we follow Pvt Orrin Brown, Company E, 14th Regiment Michigan Infantry, as he marches through Georgia and the Carolinas with General Sherman, 150 years ago.

(c) 2014, 2019 for format and presentation, JC Shepard, Pagosa Springs, CO

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Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership

Pagosa Springs’ namesake hot springs provide a unique local resource in a steady supply of naturally hot water, bubbling up in geothermal hot springs around which the town grew up.

The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission to educate the community in small-scale, sustainable agriculture using local renewable energy. Over the last 10 years, the GGP raised funds and has constructed three grow domes along the San Juan River, behind the historic Archuleta County Courthouse in downtown Pagosa Springs.

  • Education Dome (2017)
  • Community Garden Dome (2019)
  • Innovation Dome (2019)

Local architect Courtney King, a LEED Accredited Professional, contributed a cluster site plan with a riverside amphitheater, set in the floodplain of a public park. The GPP domes provide an example of inspired landscape architecture and design in an area that has suffered from either a lack of attention or out-of-context modernist whimsey. The site has become a popular gathering place during local festivals and events.

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Strategic Doing—Putting Good Plans to Work

We all hove done strategic planning. Now it’s time to try strategic doing.

Ed Morrison is founder of the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab. A one-time economic development consultant, like many of us one day Ed found himself in a public policy strategic planning exercise thinking There’s Gotta Be A Better Way. He talked to a lot of other people who cared a lot about all sorts of different public and private action, and a core group of practitioners and teachers started working on that better way.

This book is the result. Based on case studies steeped in theory, without coming across as a text book, Strategic Doing is about getting things done. Too often I’ve stared at the plans on my shelves, and wondered why they sit there gathering dust. Now I have some ideas how to focus my plans on implementation—strategic doing is one way to put good planning to work.

Strategic Doing: Ten Skills for Agile Leadership, by E. Morrison, S. Hutcheson, E. Nilsen, J. Fadden & N. Franklin, 2019.

  1. Create and Maintain a Safe Space for Deep, Focused Conversation 
  2. Frame the Conversation with the Right Question 
  3. Identify Your Assets, Including the Hidden Ones 
  4. Link and Leverage Assets to identify New Opportunities 
  5. Look for the “Big Easy”
  6. Convert Your Ideas to Outcomes with Measurable Characteristics 
  7. Start Slowly to Go Fast—But Start 
  8. Draft Short-Term Action Plans That Include Everyone 
  9. Set 30/30 Meetings to Review, Learn, and Adjust 
  10. Nudge, Connect, and Promote to Reinforce New Habits 

This book review (minus Ed’s video) originally published in the APA Small Town & Rural Planning newsletter Summer 2019, and was briefly trending #StrategicPlanning on LinkedIn. I first wrote about #StrategicDoing back in 2015.

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Quicksand Soup – Miss You Darling Doesn’t Miss

Sand Sheff has been one of my favorite Colorado Americana artists since my radio days at KRFC in Fort Collins. Sand is, I suppose more technically, a regional West-of-Nashville/East-of-Bakersfield Rocky Mountain Western & Country artist. These days he’s taken up with a band over at Moab, Utah, way–Qucksand Soup, featuring top notch instrumental talent, five great vocalists, and catchy and unique songs, self described as “alt.bluegrass” whatever that is.

Quicksand Soup has a couple albums out, and now up on Spotify and other fine digital music platforms. The main event is titled Miss You Darling, and the collection of 13 songs doesn’t miss. Opening track “Kimberley” is the strongest song on the album, almost catchy enough for pop country radio without being too saccharine for traditional country enthusiasts. The Sand Sheff original continues strong songwriting credentials from his previous efforts, in particular Sheff’s 2004 release, Free On This Mountain, which remains one of my favorite all time albums.

The ensemble continues with a mix of Sheff-penned songs and covers, including Merle Travis’ “16 Tons” (and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt…) The tongue-in-cheek “You’re Too Fine To Have Your Face In A Phone” is too saccharine, but also continues in Sand’s tradition of having fun with the music. The title track comes in 5th position with tight harmonies, and a nice little mandolin run among the fiddle and guitar work. Overall, the album brings together a variety of County & Western tunes appealing to a broad audience, town or country.

Quicksand Soup also put out a traditional Western album, Colorado Trail, also in Sand Sheff’s tradition of cowboy music (i.e. Cowboyin’, Dust), and the website has links to Country Sweetgrass and Western Gospel releases. If you happen to be in the Beehive State, the band plays in Moab every Wednesday night thru summer, then at Helper Arts Festival in Helpr, Utah, on 8/16/19, and the Salt Lake City Bluegrass Concert on 8/17.

My only quibble with Quicksand Soup, and a reason I delayed my review since the CD dropped this spring, is that I got hung up on the band’s name. I’m not usually one to judge a book or band by it’s cover, but I did. I could take the “Quick” and the “sand” is obvious. The “Soup” not so much. “Quicksand” is topical for a Country band, though entirely too common band name hence the appellation. I just couldn’t get over the “Soup”. So I played the music at home–the Spotify link dropped more recently so my Quicksand Soup scrobbles are under-represented. And I warmed myself up to my expectations of Sheff’s songwriting and performing skills. The music speaks for itself.

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