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MyBias, See you in the new year

By Bev Barr, BCC Editor

On some of those rare occasions when I get smart and treat myself right, and by that I mean getting my be-hind to wherever the Cowboy Hall of Music and Frontier Times 2nd Sunday Pickers Circle happens to be gathering to make music, I remember a story about Roy Orbison.
Orbison and ensemble had been touring in Europe and maybe other parts of the world, too. Everywhere they went Orbison was greeted by hoards of fans and appreciative crowds. When the tour was over and they came back home to Vernon, Texas, landing at the DFW airport—nobody was waiting for them. There were no crowds at the gate to greet them and welcome them home. Nobody seemed to recognize or acknowledge them as they passed through the terminal. If I remember correctly, Orbison described it as “humbling” (which he saw as a good thing) and the interviewer reacted by saying, “I guess nobody’s a prophet in his own land.”
Last Sunday, Karen Lucia hosted the Pickers Circle at the Frontier Times Museum and was joined by five exceptional musicians: Tom Roth, Lew Pewterbaugh, Paul Hilliard, Jessie Owens and Lee Harmon. The crowd was appreciative, but very small. Humbling. But the size of the audience seemed to have “zero effect” on these pros, all of whom gave at least 100 percent with every performance.
The variety of musicians who play in these monthly concerts is impressive. This is not an ensemble seeking to perform as a cohesive band. Rather, these are super-talented musicians whose collaboration supports the individuality inherent among the players. Each performer shines in his or her own way — and their differences are not only respected in the process, but complimented and underscored.
Lew Pewterbaugh and Tom Roth brought classic country ballads and narratives to the circle. These songs and their performances are sometimes hilarious, sometimes tender and quiet — always intimate in nature. “Ride the Navajo Trail” and “Sue City Sue,” for instance. The small room at the Frontier Times Museum is a perfect venue for these quiet, narrative songs that fit so very well in a room that had been decorated for Christmas with red and green construction paper chains — yes, the kind we grew up making in 1st grade — and pine cones enhanced with silver and gold spray paint. Gotta love it!
Karen Lucia performed her lovely version of “Amazin’ Grace” — which seamlessly integrates refrains from the traditional hymn with a new melody and fresh lyrics that explore the experience of grace in daily life: Why the butterfly lands on my knee. Sweet.
When it comes to classic (heartbreaking or hopeful) country love songs, Jessie Owens really delivers. His performances of Mel Tillis’ “Life Turned Her That Way” and Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again” were — in a word — perfect.
Paul Hilliard, who played a 12-string guitar masterfully at this super casual concert, and Lee Harmon are both larger than life musicians whose presence barely fit in the space. They both shared original work, too. Hilliard’s original songs are often witty and always musically complex. The lyrics to the song “A Man Like Me” are reminiscent of a famous Groucho Marx expression about wanting to not belong to any club that would accept him as a member and made me laugh outloud: I’de have to be crazy to marry a woman who would marry a man like me.” Hilliard will be releasing a new CD in the next few weeks, which will be available to purchase on his website at www.TexasTallPaul.com.
Hilliard performs at venues throughout the Hill Country and will be at Silver Creek Beer Garden and Grille, 310 E. Main St., in Fredericksburg, from 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 16; and at the same venue and time again on Saturday, Jan. 6.
Harmon is a really interesting and fine musician, too. He performed several original songs – really good stuff to be found and listened to at his website: www.Geckallo.com. (A free Christmas CD is also available for download.) But Harmon also has a knack for making classics sound like his own, in much the same way that British rock star Sir Rod Stewart broke his own mold by releasing a couple of CDs that featured pop standards from the 30s and 40s, songs once made famous by such mainstream performers as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Tony Bennett. What initially seemed like a self-contradiction struck a chord, and the cds have outsold even the wildest predictions. At Sunday’s concert, Harman pulled off the same thing with a song written by John Denver. He performed “This Old Guitar” as though it had never been sung or heard before. It was entirely fresh and his own. But then again, maybe this old guitar belongs to a lot of us.
Harmon can be heard performing from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 15, at Medina Highpoint Resort, 23195 State Hwy. 16 N., just north of Medina.
Merry Christmas and chag Chanukah sameach!