Last of the Troubadours: Saddle Songs, Vol. 2
Don Edwards does qualify as one of the last troubadours, so the name of his 2004 album is fitting. Sure, there are a number of singers specializing in Western folk songs, but there are too few to even call themselves a movement. More like a few folks who still believe in the beauty of the spare, simple ballad that was born out of the experience of cowpokes, gamblers, and bronco-busters on the open ranges of Wyoming, Nevada, and California. Unlike Edwards' 2001 effort, Kin to the Wind, Last of the Troubadours is a stripped-down recording, featuring mostly one man, one guitar, and one voice (four selections include guest appearances). Edwards has crammed two discs full of familiar classics like "Saddle Tramp," "Barbara Allen," and "Red River Valley." The joy of the collection is that the low-key approach to this material probably comes close to replicating the way it might have sounded around some campfire at the end of the 19th century. Only four pieces vary this formula by expanding the arrangements with Nancy and Norman Blake. Norman Blake's dobro adds a real nice touch to "Cowhand's Last Ride," while a mandolin spruces up "The Dying Cowboy of Rimrock Ranch." Last of the Troubadours is a generous and enjoyable album, and will be warmly welcomed by fans of Western fare.