Elko's 32nd annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering wrapped up this weekend with song, dance and spoken word. Our reporter Julia Ritchey was there and talked with a Texas performer who's among the younger generation trying to keep this folk tradition alive. Below are excerpts of their conversation.
Andy Hedges hails from Lubbock, Texas, where at the age of 14 he began playing guitar and collecting traditional cowboy poems and folk songs introduced to him by his father.
“I’m not a songwriter,” he says. “I’m a song collector or song interpreter. My creative process really involves me immersing myself in this old-time music.”
He calls himself a songster, which he describes as being different from a songwriter or cover artist.
“Those old songsters were really guys who were not known for being songwriters, necessarily, but more for having a repertoire of traditional songs and playing in a wide variety of styles,” he says.
This could include playing the popular songs of the day or traditional ballads or even something they penned themselves.
At 35, Hedges is among the younger generation assuming the mantle of traditional folk music at the annual Cowboy Poetry Festival. He believes authenticity is key to the art form’s survival.
“I really think it’s the same thing it’s been all along since this gathering was started,” he says. “That is to present these authentic voices from the West and these true stories. As cliché as it sounds: the real thing. People are drawn to that, it’s never going to be outdated.”
Below is a video of Hedges performing a poem called “Into the Wind.” You can find more of his work at andyhedges.com.