The Old West is long gone, replaced by strip malls, concentrated feedlot operations, and dressage lessons for dot-com entrepreneurs’ daughters, but that hasn’t stemmed our appetite for tales of the Old West, whether in films like In a Valley of Violence and The Hateful Eight or TV shows like Lonesome Dove and Longmire. We’re still fascinated by the noble cowboy—the survivor whose grit, wiliness, and tenacity help him survive a harsh world.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVE STAMEY
- HE’S GOT A STORY FOR YOU: Award-winning Western singer-songwriter and raconteur Dave Stamey performs Jan. 6, in Morro Bay’s Coalesce Bookstore.
One purveyor of the Western genre is singer-songwriter and raconteur Dave Stamey, who’s had more awards heaped on him than a pack mule. He’s a Will Rogers Award recipient from the Academy of Western Artists. Western Horseman magazine called his recent tune “Vaquero Song” one of the greatest Western songs of all time. He’s been named the Best Living Western Solo Artist by True West magazine three times; the Western Music Association named him Entertainer of the Year six times, Male Performer of the Year six times, and Songwriter of the Year five times; and he was recently inducted into the Western Music Hall of Fame, where he wore a tuxedo complete with Wranglers and a cowboy hat to the ceremony.
Pretty nice for a fella who used to make a buck getting bucked off and stomped by horses, running pack mules, and roping and branding cattle. This Friday, Jan. 6, Stamey will perform at the Coalesce Bookstore (7 p.m.; all ages; $20 tickets available by calling 772-2880 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org). He spoke to New Times via phone.
For many years, Stamey lived in Nipomo, but six years ago he pulled up stakes and headed to “the further northeastern corner of Tulare County,” noting that he couldn’t afford to buy on the Central Coast but ended up with a “nice little piece of horse property” in Tulare.
“We’ve got some old ones [horses] and some new ones, and we’re doing cattle business in a small way just keeping things centered,” Stamey explained.
- FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- THE MUSIC NEVER STOPS: Prolific performer John Wessel releases a new CD and plays seven shows this month starting Jan. 13, at A-Town’s Tent City.
If you take a gander at his website, you’ll see a very full schedule that takes him to performances far and wide, some in fancy theaters and others in small venues. Between touring and his ranch it looks pretty exhausting.
“Yeah, it’s just ugly isn’t it?” Stamey joked. “We do 100 to 150 dates a year, and I’m at the point right now where I don’t know if I want to work that hard, but we’ve been very fortunate to develop a following, and lately we’ve found a new audience in the Midwest—Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa.”
Over his career, has the Western music genre been consistently popular or has it waxed and waned?
“I’ve been doing it professionally for 22 years, and while I can’t speak to the industry as a whole, just my little role in it, every year it grows a little bit for me. But you know, I think you have to do it room by room. It’s a matter of creating relationships with areas and groups of people who want to come out and listen when you return, so I feel fortunate to have developed an audience. Western music is more than music, it’s about storytelling, and everyone likes a good story. That’s how we deal with the world, and that’s what we’ve been doing since we were hanging around fires in caves wearing furs.”
Where’s the weirdest place Stamey’s played?
“Um, I guess the oddest was an engagement party in Beverly Hills, and I mean in Beverly Hills at a shiny estate. People looked at me like I was the RCA dog. The father of the groom liked what I did and hired me to entertain at the party, and I think he was the only one to get what I do. The people were nice and all in their hipster clothes, but I think what I was doing went right over ’em.”
Because he returns to places year after year, his act must constantly evolve. How does Stamey come up with new material—either stories, jokes, or songs?
- PHOTO COURTESY OF BANJER DAN
- HAS BANJER, WILL TRAVEL: Dan “BanjerDan” Mazer will be picking and grinning all over the county starting Jan. 5, at Last Stage West.
“You know, you just kind of do it. I try to write a little bit every day. I’m on the road so much that I write in the car, and I used to write on horseback. I have one of those recorder deals you talk into, so I peck away at it.”
He’s released 12 CDs, most recently a DVD/CD set called Tales From The Tavern: Let Me Sell You A Dream.
“I actually have enough material for another album next year. You keep at it and keep your head down. This is what I do, so I get up and do it. Craig Johnson, who writes the Longmire books and TV stuff, talked about doing the work. He said, ‘I’ve never seen a ditch-digger that went in the ditch with a shovel in his hand and said, “I’m just not feeling the ditch.” You get in the hole and start digging.’ That’s good advice.”
If you’re looking for an engaging evening of story and song, Stamey is the cowboy for you.
The hardest workin’ man in the bar band business
Multi-instrumentalist John Wessel has a lot more energy than I do. He works full time as a psychiatric technician at Atascadero State Hospital, manages to play 100 to 150 gigs a year, and still periodically puts out albums of mostly original material, most recently Just Want to Get to North County Alive, which features nine originals and a handful of select covers such as Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” Gerry Marsden’s “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” and Larry Parks’ “I Like Bread and Butter.”
The album kicks off with “Change Gonna Come,” a sinister sounding rock track that reflects Wessel’s deep affection for Jethro Tull.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSH ROSENBLUM
- STRAIGHT OUTTA MODESTO: Jazz guitarist and songwriter Josh Rosenblum plays two Songwriters at Play showcases this week, Jan. 6, at Santa Margarita’s The Porch; and Jan. 9, at Morro Bay Wine Seller.
“Ohhhh.” sounds like the work of ’60s psych-rock group Strawberry Alarm Clock, while “Then I Cried” could have been invented in Laurel Canyon in the ’70s.
The album’s title track is a swampy blues story song about a creepy incident on his way home to Paso Robles.
On the album, Wessel sings all vocals and plays flutes, saxophones, keyboards, tambourines, and some acoustic guitars. Brian Cohen provides all electric and some acoustic guitars. It’s an interesting collection of songs from a highly creative mind that never seems at rest.
You can see John Wessel in one of his many permutations this month: On Friday, Jan. 13, as J and B Rocks Trio at A-Town’s Tent City (7 to 10 p.m.); Saturday, Jan. 14, with Shameless at Mr. Rick’s in Avila Beach (8 to midnight); again at Mr. Rick’s on Sunday, Jan. 15, as J and B (1 to 5 p.m.); Thursday, Jan. 19, at Cambria Pines Lodge as J and B; again at Cambria Pines on Friday, Jan. 20, as Shameless (9 to midnight); as John Wessel and the Gig Poachers at Cambria Pines on Saturday, Jan. 28 (9 to midnight); and finally on Sunday Jan. 29, as Shameless at Las Cambritas (1 to 4 p.m.).
Rock on, John!
More music …
Dan “BanjerDan” Mazer is going to be one busy picker this week, starting with “The BanjerDan Show” at Last Stage West BBQ on Thursday, Jan. 5 (6 p.m.; all ages), where Dan and friends will deliver a whole lotta string music. He’ll play Saturday, Jan. 7, at Paso’s Asuncion Ridge Vineyards Tasting Room (5 p.m.); on Monday, Jan. 9, at Morro Bay’s Tognazzini’s Dockside Too (10:30 a.m.); and on Wednesday, Jan. 11, again at Last Stage West BBQ during their Bluegrass Jam Session & Buffet. This guy put the “work” into working musician.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS GARDNER JR.
- GARDNER PARTY: John Prine-esque singer-songwriter Thomas Gardner Jr. plays a Songwriters at Play showcase at Sculpterra on Jan. 8.
SLO’s First Presbyterian Church hosts another free Brown Bag Concert this Friday, Jan. 6 (noon; all ages), when The Mudskippers play some high energy Dixieland style jazz. Bring your lunch and enjoy this free show. Fair Trade coffee and chocolate are also available.
The Songwriters at Play showcases have a bunch of great artists lined up this week starting on Friday, Jan. 6, at Santa Margarita’s The Porch with Modesto jazz guitarist Josh Rosenblum (7 p.m.; all ages; free). The Modesto Area Music Awards named Rosenblum “the Next Big Thing.” He’ll be joined by fellow Modesto performers Sincerely, Allison; Jordan Waters; and Stevie Vasquez. The Sunday, Jan. 8, showcase at Sculpterra Winery features storytelling songwriter Thomas Gardner Jr. (1 p.m.; all ages; free), who’s been compared to Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, John Prine, and Todd Snider. Special guests include BanjerDan and Miss Leo. And on Monday, Jan. 9, the showcase comes to Morro Bay Wine Seller and the return of Josh Rosenblum (6:30 p.m.; 21-and-older; free) with special guest Max MacLaury.
Café Musique will bring their stirring mix of Gypsy jazz, swing, folk, and wild classical to Cambria’s Pewter Plough Playhouse this Saturday, Jan. 7 (7:30 p.m.), and Sunday, Jan. 8 (3 p.m.; all ages; $25 at 748-3569 or online at bpt.me/2723442). This eclectic band mixes violin, accordion, stand-up bass, guitar, and percussion into a thoroughly engaging sonic stew that will transport you from an intimate Parisian café to a Gypsy campfire and beyond.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF CAFÉ MUSIQUE
- COME FLY WITH THEM: Café Musique will bring their diverse mix of Gypsy jazz, swing, folk, and wild classical to Cambria’s Pewter Plough Playhouse for two intimate shows on Jan. 7 and 8.
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