(Click on a track to listen while you're reading: Track 2 is poignant, Track 3 is humorous, track 5 will make you think, and track 7 is soulful)
Don’t let that title fool ya, folks. This CD is actually a collection of Al Mehl’s original cowboy poetry (not a cupboard full of COWBOY POTTERY). And it’s a darned good collection at that.
Now just what is cowboy poetry, you might ask? Well, most folks ‘round here say that it is “of the cowboy, by the cowboy, and for the cowboy.”
Well, not just “for” the cowboy. Oh sure, over the last century and a half it was mostly recited around the campfire after a hard day’s work tendin’ cattle. But now it’s for everyone who wants to relive just a little taste of that cowboy life. OK, it’s not just “by” the cowboy, either. Of course, livin’ and lovin’ the cowboy life helps to make the poetry authentic. But let’s face it, some of us have more cowboy in our genes than in our jeans. And though it’s mostly “of” the cowboy, you’ll also hear themes of life in the West, and of livin’ off the land, and of better days gone by, and of the cowboy spirit that wells up inside each and every one of us from time to time.
Oh yes, and there is one more thing: IT RHYMES! Sounds silly, but lots of poetry these days doesn’t rhyme at all. When you’re relivin’ an oral history, though, and tellin’ a story by the fire, the rhyme is key to recitin’ the verses, holdin’ the listener’s ear, and, most importantly, teachin’ the story to someone new, to be passed on through the ages.
So just slip Al a plate of beans and biscuits late at night by the campfire, and here’s what he might tell ya about all these poems on COWBOY POTTERY, his debut poetry CD:
1. COWBOY POTTERY - In this age of new technology, even cowboy poets are learnin’ to use computers. So when it was time to open a new file for some of my poems, my hunt-and-peck typing skills caused me to label the folder “Cowboy Potery” instead of “Cowboy Poetry.” The idea of writin’ a poem with the accidental title “Cowboy Pottery” followed. I premiered the poem at Old West Days in Valentine, Nebraska. Needless to say, the audience wasn’t sure how to respond when I donned a potter’s apron and brought out a potter’s wheel with a big lump of clay on it, then thanked them all for invitin' me to the Cowboy Pottery Festival.
2. FENCE POSTS MADE OF STONE - As a child, every year or so, we’d pile into the family car to go visitin’ the grandparents in central Kansas. I spent many a warm summer day playin’ on the old stockyard fences from the great trail drive days gone by. But I didn’t remember the stone fence posts until some 40 years later. When I saw those stone monuments from the car window, flyin’ down the interstate highway at 70 miles an hour, the memories came floodin’ back.
3. I AIN'T NO COWBOY - Arvada, Colorado, hosts one of the great festivals of cowboy poetry each year in January. I bought a ticket in 2002, and I surely did enjoy the show. Little did I know that the cowboy spirit had somehow seeped into my soul. About six months later, I woke up with the sun and, about an hour later, my very first cowboy poem was on paper.
4. THE GOOD OLD DAYS - Ever find yourself wishin’ you could wind the clock back to a simpler, better time? Me too. This poem recalls a truck stop where a cup of coffee still costs just a dime!
5. WATER - Settlin’ the West required strength, endurance, sweat, tears, persistence, grit. But mostly, it required water. Still does. This poem is a little bit about water, and a lot about my appreciation for those who help put the food on our tables.
6. HOUDINI - After I had written my first cowboy poem, it seems that more poems and songs just kept comin’ out. I’m not sure why, but I figure my job is to just write ‘em down when it happens. Seems that “there’s a cowboy stuck inside me…”
7. THE GREAT DEPRESSION - Years ago when I asked dear ol’ dad about life during the Great Depression, he said that he didn’t remember much at all. Nothin’ much except this story, that is.
8. BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST - Cowboy poet Yvonne Hollenbeck sat with me at breakfast in Valentine, Nebraska, one morning after the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and made the mistake of encouraging me to keep writin’ cowboy poetry. A couple of years later, when her latest correspondence started out with the line, “I guess bad news travels fast…” those words took on a life of their own.
9. THE RABBIT HUNT - Like all good cowboy poetry, this poem is based on a true story, just the way that grandpa told it to me. It’s true, every word of it. Well, almost every word.
10. SILENT NIGHT - One Christmas Eve during the Great War, the allied troops and the opposing German soldiers lowered their guns and lowered their guard. Maybe, from their example, we might finally learn that war is almost always a bad answer, and it is almost never the only answer.
11. CANNING - Every fall when I was a child, my parents would bring home bushels of fruit and vegetables, and prepare it for canning. Never quite figured out why. Seemed to me that all of those foods could be purchased in a tin can at the local grocery store. So why go to all that fuss?
12. HAVE DOMINION OVER - Years ago, I heard poet Marty Blocker quote this bible verse from the book of Genesis in one of his performances. It sure got me to thinkin’ about our place on this planet.
13. THE COWBOY GENES - I’m not sure there’s a cure once you've been infected by the cowboy spirit. And if there were a cure, I’m not sure I’d sign up for it.
14. MY DADDY WENT TO COLLEGE - I done lived a half a lifetime before I discovered that there’s cowboy inside of me. And for that, I’ve got daddy to blame.
Better order your copy of COWBOY POTTERY today, folks, ‘cause they’re sellin’ like hot cakes! You’re gonna love these 14 original poems, and we’re pretty sure you might just like Al’s original six-string guitar interludes, designed to give you a chance to quietly reflect on what you’ve heard in between each of the poetry recitations, or maybe spit. And don’t forget to check out Al’s debut music CD, titled ASPHALT COWBOY. I’m thinkin’ you’re gonna need one of each!