If you haven't purchased this album yet, do it now! As with Brenn Hill's other albums, the lyrics, combined with captivating music, tell heartfelt and vivid stories. I rarely listen to music on the radio anymore, whether country or otherwise. Instead, a playlist of Brenn Hill, Ian Tyson, Gary McMahan, Dave Stamey and many others provide songs that touch our souls and reflect our lives. I am blessed to live and ride in open country of the West and the songs of Rodeo Heaven are already playing over in my mind as I do. I can't say enough and wholeheartedly agree with The Caterwalling Cowboy's description of Rodeo Heaven.
Brenn Hill Bukaroo Heaven
Each CD by Brenn gets better and better. The lyrics to his song are so soulful. If the song is about a place, you can picture yourself there. If the song is about a person, you know that individual at the end of the song. High Country is my favorite :
"I can't think about my work today
Even though I'm barely hangin on
There's a voice inside that says 'Run away...'
They won't even know I'm gone"...
His music captures the great feel of Western music. He is part of a great group - Dave Stamey, Jon Chandler, Juni Fisher, etc.
Rodeo Heaven is a western music paradise!!!
Wyoming Wind was the first Brenn Hill song I heard on Range Radio, and being a huge fan of that state, this western New Yorker immediately connected with the sentiments expressed in that song.
Being a guy from Utah, Brenn crafts true western music about the inner mountain west, and tells stories about what it's like to live there. This isn't Nashville crossover crap being sung by some crooner with a cowboy hat, but instead true music of today's western regions by a guy who understands cowboys because he lives the life. For those of us who live on the edges of the country and have neighbors who look down their noses at the residents of "fly over country" we can take refuge in the simple truths of these songs about family, home, courage, grief, loss, friendship, and a relationship with God.
Rodeo Heaven starts off with "High Country" an anthem about getting away from it all into the high country of the Rocky Mountain region. Follwing is "Hey Dawson" a song about rekindleing an old friendship. While it's not quite the classic hymn of "Hey Little Isaac" (my favorite song) on Brenn's previous album, "Hey Dawson" takes us back to Franklin Canyon and provides beautiful imagery about cities closing in and our troubles that begin when we pass over the cattle guard and leave the home ranch. Not sure who gets the credit for the dobro on this one, but along with the fingerpicking, it's well done and a beautiful tune.
Another stand out moment is "Single Winter Rose" about the irony of a cowboy saying good-bye to his wife of 60 years who has died before hime. He plaintively ask her "would you be a cowboy's wife again" as he honors her by placing a rose on her coffin.
"Bruneau Canyon" takes us to Idaho and is a poignant recollection of spring time branding. Like Chris LeDoux, Brenn thanks God that "Some Things Never Change." These are exotic places and experiences for those of us who unfortunately live in the Blue states, but it's nice to be reminded that people do live and have real lives in these places that are guided by firmly held values.
With so many great songs in this collection it's hard to pick out one as the best. But "A Mother's Love" may be one of the most memorable moments. If your eye isn't a little moist after listening to this you're not paying attention. Brenn's heart tugging suspended fourth chords and his imagery of a mother buying clothes and shoes to bury her small child as she prepares to send him back to his home in heaven while your children "you send them off to school." A masterpiece like this could only be written by a man who's known the agony of having a sick child himself. See Brenn's song "Benny" in which he wonders "Why little boys get cancer why the Hell did mine."
Buckaroo fringe is a joyous, rhythmic trot of a poem that could be worthy of Springsteen if he weren't from Asbury Park, New Jersey. It's a celebration of the coming of Spring and that first ride on a newly broken horse while frost hangs in the air and the "last winter snow will catch you if you get tossed."
The playing on this album is also exceptional. I mean who are these guys who make albums in Utah" (Thank God- people are making albums in states like Utah with the way the country is going these days!) Ryan Tilby offers up some fine guitar, banjo, mandolin, and bass work here, as well as all the other musicians. And the recording has a very live feel to it.
Finally, "Horses in Heaven" is a departure from all that comes before. Brenn's fine voice is accompanied by piano alone in this song of hope in the face of loss. Aside from the beautiful poetic lyrics here, Brenn's three quarter time chord progression which uses a 7 chord, a minor 6 chord, and (can you believe it) a 6 flat chord yields a haunting melody you will by left humming after the first listen. Who puts chords like these together these days? This is truely a remarkable song and probably my favorite on the album.
These are only some of the 14 songs on this terrific album, and none of them are filler or fluff. It's a great listen, with lots of depth, and you'll be pleased with your new discovery, on your journey to Rodeo Heaven.