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Various Artists

Elko! A Cowboy's Gathering – 2005 (Dualtone)

Reviewed by George Hauenstein

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This recording is a collection of poetry, storytelling, music and musings from the 20th Annual "Cowboy Poetry Gathering," held in January 2004 in Elko, Nev. It is a charming glimpse into what attendees saw and heard at this event celebrating the cowboy life, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Many of the musical acts here are household names in the country and western music genres, including the Hot Club of Cowtown's "Ragtime Annie," Red Stegall's "Red River Rose," Don Edwards' "The Campfire Has Gone Out," Tom Russell's "All This Way For The Short Ride," Wylie and the Wild West Show's "Hooves Of the Horses," Michael Martin Murphy's "Spanish Is A Loving Tongue" and Ian Tyson's "Jerry Ambler." While the musical talent and offerings are top-notch, it is the spoken word elements that really make this disc so intriguing. Whether it's a hilarious comedic routine like Glenn Ohrlin's "International Glenn (Whatever That Is)" or Rodney Nelson's "The Elevator Scale" or Janine Haig's heart-wrenching "Not Gone," about a cowboys' wife's journey to acceptance upon hearing of the death of her mate, each of the offerings pull at a different emotion. The recording deftly mixes spoken word and music in an effective way, providing enough variety and pacing so as not to overwhelm the listener with too much of one thing all at once.

While providing a laugh, a tear and a chance to hear some of the favorite western musicians of our time, this recording provides a closer look at a still proud and vibrant way of life. Definitely worth a listen.