"When I was in college, I'd already gotten into the idea of contemplative work," John Widell, aka Johny Broomdust, says. For the better part of a decade, Broomdust has performed around Santa Fe with The Broomdust Caravan, a ragtag group of rotating musicians dedicated to an Americana-meets-country-Western sound. The band has boasted some pretty heavy-hitters, from vocalist Felecia Ford and fiddler Karina Wilson to St. Range front man Justin Lindsay and singer-songwriter Jamie Russell.
"Early on, when I was a Catholic kid, I was thinking I wanted to be some kind of monk, and I've always done a lot of mediation while practicing law," Broomdust continues, "but the actual sitting every single day didn't start until five or six years ago." His practice evolved, leading Broomdust to Santa Fe's Upaya Zen Center where he's continued to hone his meditation skills.
The next stop? A pilgrimage of sorts to Cornwall, Vermont, and the Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community, an affiliate of Upaya and a community-based center focused on zen practices. There, Broomdust says, he'll live and engage in meditation much more regularly, washing dishes and sweeping floors in exchange for the lodging and the teachings of Sensei Joshin Byrnes, who is also the vice abbot at Upaya. "I'm taking my upright bass, a guitar and a mandolin with me," Broomdust says. He continues, in typical Buddhist fashion, "It's a big thing in zen, not knowing; if you were going to sum up the ways, the ethics, not knowing would be the first tenet—I'm keeping an open mind."
It sounds intense, but also kind of lovely. "The closest I've come is a week, a personal retreat where a bunch of people sit all day and the only thing you do is sleep and have a little physical exercise," Broomdust explains. "I'm not sure what it'll be like to do that for 30 days."
Still, he'll be leaving Santa Fe in better shape than he found it with a farewell show at Duel Brewing featuring a cavalcade of local stars. Greg Butera, Brian Little, David Waldrop, Mikey Chavez, Ben Wright, Eric Chappelle and Michael Kott are just a few of the musicians showing up to send Broomdust off right. "The idea is to get together as many of the people who've played with the band as possible," Broomdust tells SFR. "The past is always sort of a big trail of dust behind you, and whenever you look back, you get a little sad. I'm not overwhelmed by tears, but I bet you I'll get to about Nashville and I'll shed a few thinking about folding this life up and leaving it behind—I think I'll be back, but maybe in a slightly different form."
Farewell Johny Broomdust:
7 pm Friday April 13. Free.
1228 Parkway Drive,
The following night and just up the way from Duel you'll find the combination of Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery's soft-opening antics with the country-ass blues of The Palm in the Cypress. A relatively new addition to Santa Fe's musical landscape, the quartet's newest album, The Great Empancipation, is a kickass example of both their songwriting style and how far Frogville has come as a recording studio. Production from Bill Palmer is crisp and clean as it's ever been while keeping it raw enough around the edges to recall its down-home Delta blues and classic bluegrass and country forebears. Recorded primarily live rather than track-by-track, album highlights include the titular track, a stripped-down call-and response number full of gorgeous vocal harmonies between vocalists Zoe Wilcox and Sarah Ferrell. But for something a little more dirty, try "Don't Ante Up," a booming harmonica and slide guitar-laden track that cautions us to not "ante up with the devil." All right. Word. We won't.
Still, for my money, vocalist Bard Edrington V is the real draw, as smooth and sweet and deep as a voice can be when singing the blues without letting go of that driving pain. Edrington also slays the cigar box and oil can guitar(s), which he builds himself, hitting an endearingly lo-fi tone that's head-bobby despite the sometimes complex finger-picking.
"I grew up in the South, in Tennessee and Alabama, so I was always kind of around outlaw country, but also the blues stuff," he says. "I try to write stuff that's true to what I've experienced—I try to live up to the name I was given and tell stories."
As an added bonus, legendary local Americana troubadour Boris McCutcheon is all over the album, so, frankly, if this town isn't already nuts about this band it means y'all went and changed on me. Either way, check 'em out for yourself at Tumbleroot while you're sampling from any of their eight proprietary beers and numerous spirits. Damn, it's popping off around here.
The Palm in the Cypress:
7 pm Saturday April 14. Free.
Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery,
2791 Agua Fría St.