There’s a vanishing breed of musical performers that shies away from the glitz and glam side of the biz, stays true to its artistic nature and has never relied on the wonders of Auto-Tune to hit a poignant note.
Cowboy balladeer Don Edwards is proud to belong to this group.
“I do traditional music, much in the vein of some of the old-timers that went by—everybody from Jimmy Rodgers to Woody Guthrie,” he tells SFR from his ranch in Hico, Texas, where the town motto is “Where Everybody Is Somebody!”
A true somebody, Grammy-nominated Edwards is an author, historian and musicologist. He’s been lauded by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the Old-Time Country Music Hall of Fame, and played the character of Smokey in Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer.
This Sunday, Edwards performs in the New Mexico History Museum Auditorium in expectation of the cultural institution’s Cowboys Real and Imagined exhibit, which opens next month.
“Cowboy music is folk music, basically. It’s not to be mixed up with country music—it’s not that in any shape or form,” he says. “Western music is a more written-type [of] music, more composed stylistically—like, you know, The Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry or Roy Rogers.”
One of the main differences between the two, Edwards points out, is that Western music offers a “more romantic view of the cowboy,” whereas traditional folk songs, like his, are “about his real life.”
The genre, he explains, intrinsically allows for unique performances.
“The thing about traditional music is that you never perform the same song the same way twice,” he says.
“It’s very unpredictable.”
The definition of a musical veteran, the 73-year-old doesn’t think he’d fare too well if he were starting out in this American Idol age.
“Once you try to be all things to all people, it becomes homogenous and it lacks substance,” he says. “It’s amazing that there is still a huge following for traditional music of any kind, in which cowboy music is included.”
He says this following is as strong as ever, even though you don’t hear traditional cowboy songs on the radio.
“We always like to say, ‘We’re too good for Top 40 radio,’” he quips.
One of the last of his kind, Edwards says the up and comers are only looking for fame and wealth, whereas a true traditionalist like him does not “look in those terms; we’re just trying to keep the music alive.”
2 pm Sunday, March 10. $25
NM History Museum Auditorium
113 Lincoln Ave., 982-954