Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cowboy sings the blues

Brenn Hill to perform for sheep festival

Express Staff Writer

Singer and songwriter Brenn Hill will pay homage to Western music's finest traditions.

Music of the modern, mountain West celebrates traditions. The Trailing of the Sheep Festival will focus on the West's contemporary landscape with its presentation "The Songs and Stories of Sheepherding," featuring up-and-coming singer and songwriter Brenn Hill. Hill will be joined by other contemporary storytellers, Linda and Carolyn Dufurrena and Francisco Colqui, on Saturday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum.

Tickets are $20 available at the door or in advance at D.L. Evans Bank, Ketchum-Sun Valley Heritage & Ski Museum and Iconoclast Books.

Hill is not just a Western singer—he is also an inspired poet. His beliefs and ideology complement the festival's mission of "gather, present and preserve the history and cultures of sheep ranching in Idaho and the West."

"I've been doing it for about half my life," Hill said. "I have carved out my own niche one loyal fan at a time."

When he was 16, Hill performed at the National Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev., and a few years later he recorded his first album.

"My dad and uncle knew a few cowboy songs," Hill said. "I went to Elko, and it was kind of a home for me. I met other people throughout the cowboy cosmos who were doing the same thing, but none of whom were my age. They were a little older, but they were people who truly helped me develop what I do, and the Western Folklife Center is a large part of it. It continues to have me, and they are my friends and supporters and interested in what I am doing."

Hill's Elko experience gave him the opportunity to play with some of cowboy music's best, such as Jack Elliot, Peter Owen and Ray Reeds.

"With all that experience over the years I have settled on the truth, and I do it for myself as an artist and for the people who enjoy it," Hill said.

Hill said he has an endless bank of inspiration from personal stories to the people he knows. "Meet Me in McCall" is a song he wrote about time he spent with his uncle in McCall, Idaho, during the spring and fall, in the mountains between the national forest and Payette River.

"I woke up and wrote the song," Hill said. "It's one of those timely gifts and you don't expect those."

Other songs that define the West, the land and the people who work it, are "The Onyx Mine" and "Endangered," which is the title of his 2004 CD release. "What A Man's Got To Do" is a song and the title of Hill's 2006 CD, which prompted the Academy of Western Artists to award him as its male vocalist of the year.

Hill thinks of himself as a songwriter first because he didn't plan on playing music, and said that his perspective is not mainstream country music. Hill said his fan base is steadily growing.

He is a Utah native and lives in Hooper, just west of Ogden. He said he has been in the area most of his life so he can be close to Idaho and Wyoming.

"I do think of myself as a cowboy artist," Hill said. "When I have the opportunity for leisure time, I saddle up and go off to a ranch here and be a cowboy and stay connected to my inspiration."

The land is Hill's biggest inspiration, and so are the ranch families who are stewards of the land.

"I know quite a few people and families who are sheep farmers," Hill said. "It's impossible for me not to dedicate my performance at the Trailing of the Sheep Festival to people in the sheep industry." For details, visit

Siren Rosalie Sorrels preserves tradition

Trailing of the Sheep Festival will present "The Songs and Stories of Sheepherding" with the Western Folklife Center's Hal Cannon. Cannon is the festival's guest host for an evening of music, poetry and storytelling featuring Idaho's singer and songwriter and Grammy-winner Rosalie Sorrels on Friday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. Sorrels will be joined by Navajo storyteller and weaver Roy Kady, Irish musician and storyteller Mick Lucey on the button accordion and Wyoming poet and rancher Sharon O'Toole. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 available at the door or in advance at D.L. Evans Bank, Ketchum-Sun Valley Heritage & Ski Museum and Iconoclast Books.

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