"BEST MUSICAL TOUR OF THE WEST OF 2009" -- TRUE WEST MAGAZINE
Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout are today's premier performers and interpreters of the historic music of the American West. Gardner, in addition to his music, is a prolific historian and writer focusing on the 19th-century Western experience. His books include "Wagons for the Santa Fe Trade: Wheeled Vehicles and Their Makers, 1822-1880" (University of New Mexico Press) and "The Mexican War Correspondence of Richard Smith Elliott" (co-authored with Marc Simmons, University of Oklahoma Press). Gardner's first CD, "Songs of the Santa Fe Trail and the Far West" (Native Ground Music) has been used on the soundtracks of several television documentaries, most notably "The U.S.-Mexican War, 1846-1848," a PBS documentary that aired nationally in 1998. Rex Rideout (www.TimeTravelMusic.com), a long-time student of the music of the American West, works in the Geology Department at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.
From the well known fiddle tune "Arkansas Traveller" to obscure pieces such as "Capt. Jinks of the Horse Marines," Gardner and Rideout's "Frontier Favorites: Old-Time Music of the Wild West" offers a variety of historic popular music rarely heard on one release. A wide selection of period instruments were used in the recording: fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, bones, and even jawbone! Gardner used six different banjos to offer different historic textures for the listener, including a reproduction 1840s tack-head banjo, a circa 1900 S.S. Stewart Universal Favorite, and a 1963 Vega Folk Ranger. Period playing styles were also used throughout to make the music as authentic as possible.
Following is a review of "Frontier Favorites" by popular Colorado author and musician Jon Chandler:
There is a scratchy wax recording of my great grandfather Morgan Patterson fiddling Turkey in the Straw, cut on his 80th birthday sometime in the late 1940's. After a few moments of dissonance as the modern ear relearns the musical language of a bygone era, the song becomes thrilling, guiding the mind's eye into America's past. When I slipped Frontier Favorites: Old-Time Music of the Wild West into the CD player and advanced it to Turkey in the Straw, Rex Rideout's fiddle burst from the speakers as if played by Morgan at a Southern Colorado barn dance in the 1880's. The hair on my neck stood up for a good ten minutes.
With Frontier Favorites, Rideout and his musical cohort Mark Gardner have created a stylistically accurate period piece filled with 21 tunes that are historically exact, yet can be appreciated by contemporary sensibilities. Sound, composition, instrumental technique and vocal technique - each is absolutely perfect, a dramatic tribute to our frontier legacy. In essence, the songs of the American Frontier are brought to life in exactly the form they would have been heard a century and a half ago.
This is no revisionist project, with smooth 21st century licks played on $10,000 humidified guitars, and vocals sung in 1990's Texas-speak by slicks who likely think Garry Owen is a game show host. No, this is history, with all its beauty and warts intact. It is eerily accurate, performed with skill and devotion by musical historians who could easily be transported to 1850 and not be found out! Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout have done more than just record the tunes of the American Frontier. They have recreated the music through exacting research combined with impressive musical ability. What they bring to the listener is the prototype for Country, Americana, Western and Folk music; before Nashville, before Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams and Uncle Dave Macon. Its instrumentation was portable and nearly primitive, with fiddle, banjo, mandolin and bones taking center stage in an era when guitars were a rarity.
The music on this disc is precisely what your ancestors heard, what they danced to. It encompasses the songs they sang and the tunes they hummed. It's a musical journey to the mid-19th century that transcends cultural nostalgia; this music is realistic enough in style and content to have been played and sung in its exact form on the Western frontier.
This is an essential recording for those who seek to understand the roots of America's music. It is rollicking, it is exhilarating, and most of all, it is real.