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Messin With Texas in Aspen

Jamie Lynn Miller's picture
It’s an all-Texas Weekend at the Wheeler Opera House. Granted, there’s a fair share of Lone Star citizens in town any time of the season; this doesn’t mean the place will be packed with all Texans, for two nights only, only that three key ones will be front and center Friday and Saturday to set the stage for a real Texan singer-songwriter session. Friday night, songwriting legend and legendary performer Guy Clark comes to the Wheeler. Born in Monahans, Texas in 1941, Clark was weaned on home poetry readings and dreams of writing his own. At age 16, he headed to the Texas Gulf mostly in Spanish. It’s a romantic start to a lifelong musical journey, the stuff of which songwriting legends are made. Citing Texas blues legends like Lightin’ Hopkins, and playing the Austin-Houston club scenes with songwriting peers Townes Van Zandt and Jerry Jeff Walker, Clark eventually found his soon-to-be signature playing style, a country-bluesy-folk thing, with a fiddle. But the words, phrasing and storytelling of the likes of Robert Frost inspired a prolific and poetic career in songwriting. Clark found an ally in Johnny Cash, who early on praised his contributions to the Nashville scene, covering Clark’s “Texas 47”, “The Last Gunfighter Ballad” and “Let it Roll”. But it was 1972’s “L.A. Freeway,” recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker, which introduced Clark to hit-making FM Radio back in 1972. He’s since been inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Foundation Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, in 2004 and the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting, in 2005. His music speaks of the west, the weather and the weathered life of a wordsmith on the open road and continues to inspire the visions of songwriters, across generations. Joining Clark at the Wheeler is one such inspired peer and Texas native, country singer-songwriter Radney Foster. His work with Foster and Lloyd has yielded nine country singles, while his solo efforts continue to provide hits for Keith Urban and Jack Ingram on the contemporary country scene. His latest album, Revival, is hailed by USA Today as “One of the Best Albums of the Year”; the Washington Post writes: “This is a record for Sunday morning and Saturday night; for every moment of pensive reflection, there’s an equal dose of rafter-rattling roots rock.” Mr Bojangles at the WheelerMr Bojangles at the Wheeler Maybe because he heard Guy was going to be in town, Jerry Jeff Walker reserved his seat on-stage this Saturday night. While L.A. Freeway brought the two men into a mutual artistic fold, Jerry Jeff’s “Mr. Bojangles” made its contribution to American Music History in the late 60’s. And it was largely autobiographical, too - he’s busked for petty change in New Orleans, back in the day. He also hitchhiked from Upstate New York to Key West, where he took a young Jimmy Buffet under his wing and sold him on island life. Jerry Jeff Walker is the quintessential troubadour, seeing the country from his guitar case and through the haze of smoky music lounges. Jerry Jeff eventually landed in Austin, Texas in the 70’s and took his place alongside his musical compatriots, the likes of Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel and certainly, Guy Clark, while inspiring the work of many including Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider and Garth Brooks and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, respectively. Some of the most classic sounds and influences of that Texas culture we’re always hearing about is here for the plucking, this weekend in Aspen. Featuring Guy Clark and Radney Foster, Friday night and the one, the only Jerry Jeff Walker this Saturday, at the Wheeler Opera House. www.wheeleroperahouse.com; 970-920-5770.