It is rare that three talented songwriters swing through a couple of small, neighboring mountain towns in the space of a little more than 24 hours unless the towns happen to be holding a music festival – which they are not. Yet that is exactly what is happening this weekend as a trio of accomplished musical artists visit Ouray and Ridgway. Chances are you’re familiar with their music, or at the very least, whom they’ve collaborated with or written for.
Texas singer-songwriter Radney Foster arrives first. Foster has written songs that are routinely covered by Keith Urban (“Raining on Sunday,” “I’m In”), Sara Evans (“Real Fine Place,” “Revival) and The Dixie Chicks (“Godspeed”). He’s touring in support of his new album, “Everything I Should Have Said,” his first in five years. Just like the title of his album, the best songs on Foster’s new album, critic Jon Caramanica wrote in the New York Times, “are about short connections that should be longer, had by people who don’t know how to hold on to something good. ‘I should’ve chased those red taillights before they rolled out of view/Should’ve told you you were worth more than anything I had to lose,’ Mr. Foster chokes out on ‘Talk Myself Out of Falling.’” In a column he called “Getting Stuck (and Unstuck)” for the same paper, songwriter/arranger Darrell Brown recounted how he and Foster, for whom he was producing a record, couldn’t get inspired to work on said record: “It was a rainy afternoon and we both thought we had better things we could do that day than work on a record and out of that feeling came the beginning of our song ‘Rainy Sunday Afternoon.’” They came up with the first verse and part of the chorus – and then they got stuck. “We hit a big, blank wall.” Cliché after cliché spun out; what little they had “felt lifeless. Our anxiousness took over.” The pair decided to break, clear their minds, and try again the tomorrow. They made sure they had on tape what they’d recorded so far, and left. The next day, “Radney picked his guitar, I sat at the keyboard and we played the work tape.” There, “like a lightning flash the rest of the chorus came out of us, then the second verse, and soon enough we were done.” Simply getting away “gave us enough room for our song to arrive,” Brown noted. A couple of years later, “Keith Urban cut the song and had a monster hit with it.” Take heart, struggling writers. Foster appears at the Wright Opera House Saturday evening at 7 p.m. Tickets at the door or visit thewrightoperahouse.org.
Cowboy singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey needs little introduction except to say the legendary Western singer-songwriter who wrote “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Wildfire,” and “Carolina in the Pines” – and whose work has been recorded by Lyle Lovett, Roger Miller, Hoyt Axton and Flatt and Scruggs, among many others – has graciously agreed to perform a free concert Sunday afternoon from 4:30-6 p.m. in Ridgway Town Park to benefit the Ouray County Ranch History Museum, for which donations will be gratefully accepted. Bring a blanket and something to sit on. A few $40, VIP tickets may still be available for this event; the tickets include a 4 p.m. pre-concert gathering at Ridgway Town Hall (with refreshments), concert seating, and a “meet-and-greet” with Murphey afterwards at Timber Creek Gallery, to be catered by True Grit. Though he’s best known for his own hits, from country-rock to pop to, most recently, western and cowboy music, Murphey’s work has been recorded by many others, including Lyle Lovett, Hoyt Axton and Roger Miller (Kenny Rogers cut an entire album of nothing but Murphey songs). The fizzy pop group The Monkees had one of their biggest hits in “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?” with Mike Nesmith singing lead. (You can hear it on YouTube at http://tinyurl.com/l5gd34k). The tune, like much of the best of Murphey’s music, gets and sticks in your head. So do Nesmith’s memorable vocals, which, one fan declares on YouTube, “just make me turn into pudding.” More information on Murphey’s concert and the Ranch History Museum is at ocrhm.org. For VIP tickets, call 970/318-1190.
On Sunday evening, singer-songwriter Jill Cohn takes the stage for an acoustic concert at the Sherbino Theater beginning at 8 p.m. Cohn, whose musical genre has been described as Folk/Americana, is on tour with her piano and guitar in support of her most recent project, “Yellow Rose.” Musicians are often judged by the company they keep, and Cohn’s has lately been impeccable: she recorded ‘Rose’ with producer Malcolm Burn, a Daniel Lanois protégé best known for his Grammy Award-winning collaboration with Emmy Lou Harris on Red Dirt Girl (he was also the sound engineer on her indelible Wrecking Ball). Burn heard Cohn’s song “Yellow Rose” last winter, and invited her to his upstate New York studio to record with him. Cohn’s a working musician – check out her daunting touring schedule on her blog at jillcohn.com – and has released nine albums. Her fans helped fund one of her most recent, on Kickstarter. She says recording with Burn was a “fourteen-year-long dream” come true; she’d been a fan ever since she heard his work with Emmylou Harris. “Though it’s unfair to spin every sensitive female singer-songwriter around the Sarah McLachlan/Tori Amos axis, [Cohn] definitely evokes those influences without succumbing to them. Comforting music for discomforting times,” Jam magazine has said.
The peripatetic songstress is from Seattle, lived for several years in Mexico, and recently relocated to the Bay Area. In “Live Life,” writes the woman who has opened for Dave Matthews, Loudon Wainwright III and Jewel, and wracked up 390,000 miles touring in her VW van:
Finally I’ve come half way home
Between the warm city and the gray cold
But I’m not too happy being stuck in between
When all I am looking for is God
Now all I’ve wanted is gone
Finally I have all a lonely girl could want.
Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 the day of the show.