Friday, June 11, 2004

Cowboys return to Manhattan - The Sequel

Did you know that William Bonnie (Billy the Kid) actually learned to ride in the brick and mortar canyons of NYC? Anyway, that was the story related by our native guides. He would ride down the tracks of a railroad line, warning off unwary pedestrians.

That said, the time since has not associated Manhattan with much horsemanship. At least not Western-style riding. Nor with Cowboys in general. (No, the Midnight one does NOT count. And Garth concerts are by and large cowboy wana-be attractions.)

So, when the plucky ranch-hands that form the Prairie Rose Wranglers from the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper just outside Wichita Kansas appeared last year on the legendary stage at Carnegie Hall, it was a first. Real Western music, smack-dab in the middle of the Big Apple!

I was lucky enough to be in town for the reprise this year and had a grand time.

Along with the Wranglers the show also featured the Flying W Wranglers from Colorado Springs (the Flying W is the oldest chuckwagon show) and the Riders In The Sky (most recognized for the theme song to Woody's Roundup in the Toy Story Movies.

The Wranglers were back-up band for Roy "Dusty" Rogers Jr. and Mindy "Rogers" Petersen (Dale and Roy's grand-daughter.)

Johnny Western was MC and sang a couple himself, including his biggest hit, Paladin from Have Gun Will Travel.

I'll admit to being a bit im-partial, but I do think the Wranglers were the best of the bunch. All of it was great, but the Kansas boys are a step above. The great hall has a well-deserved reputation for great acoustics, and was built from the ground up to be the perfect concert experience for un-amplified instruments. The other groups are more 'electric' in sound, and whether it was the PA system or the natural propensity of the hall, they somehow did not come off as well.

The Wranglers play all acoustic instruments and sing around a single microphone, just like a '40s radio broadcast. Stu Stuart's voice is pure velvet, and his guitar and fiddle outstanding. And the old cowboy movie tunes, requiring as much skill in Jazz bar-chords as any big-band era arrangements really bring out the best in Jim Farrell's virtuoso rhythm guitar. Add perfectly balanced tight vocals and you have a TREMENDOUS combination.

This folks, is ART.

There were various speakers, including Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who, realizing the outstanding potential for Kansas tourism, attended the concert in person! (I begin to see how this Democrat got elected the Kansas Governor...)

(It was said that, President Bush was originally scheduled to attend.)

The Wranglers performed my favorite, "Rolling Kansas Plains" with middle school students of the Independent School of Wichita.

And, of course, everyone joined together for "Happy Trails"

All in all, an outstanding evening's entertainment!


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