Hal Cannon is best known as the founding director of the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. He has been collecting songs and stories from the people of the American West for the past three decades.
This self-titled CD is his debut recording as a solo artist, and it is impressive. Cannon wrote all of the songs here, and most reflect the landscape of the West: “That’s How It Is On The Range,” “Desert Home,” “Love The Place You Live.” These pieces show his deep roots in and love for the people and places in this part of the world.
The highlight is “Alone Town,” with lyrics based on an encounter Cannon had with a longtime resident of a small town. It’s a lament for a place that is changing too rapidly for the singer: “The coffee shop is closed up / It’s now just level ground / The Starbucks is a going in / The pride of this small town.” Cannon’s vocals have the perfect emotional effect. Backup from banjo, harmonica, and drum are also just right. The final verse reflects a sadness for times now lost: “And now I’m in the graveyard / Walkin’ down the lane / And every stone that I pass by / They’re all familiar names.”
This is a welcome CD from a long-time chronicler of the American West, and it’s great to hear him at the front of the stage, sharing songs of the West spurred on from a lifetime shared with its people. - Greg Harness