I was driving across the desert the other day with the great filmmaker Eric Temple; scouting locations for our film on the West: "California Bloodlines." We'd decided to take savage left turn, thematically, and consider raw, authentic Cowboy origins: Mexico; Charreadas and Charros; Spain on back to the Moors. The Violence in Juarez. Digging deeper into the bloodlines. The old west is chillingly alive on the border. The history rock and rolled through here; the guns are smoking. Why not include that in this film? The Spanish crossed the river just up the road. Rosas's Cantina was still open, where Marty Robbins wrote "El Paso." Cowboy as all hell. In the truck we were listening to "One to the Heart, One to the Head," the "western" side project I co-produced with Gretchen Peters. I'm a guest singer on the record. Gretchen is God's chanteuse.We covered Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Rosalie Sorrels, Mary McCaslin, Jennifer Warnes, Ian Tyson, Stephanie Davis…and Gretchen sang a version of my new song: "Guadalupe." The music and Gretchen's voice was hauntingly simpatico to the desert landscape. The yucca, sagebrush, chimesa and Mexican broom washed past our windows, like a Maynard Dixon painting touched up by Willem DeKooning. All of the singing was underscored by Barry Walsh's marvelous piano score. Eric Satie meets Eno. The landscape and the music blended until they fused together. Eric turned to me and said: "This record is a western masterpiece. There's not a bad song on it." I listened to Gretchen's voice. Unearthly. There was no motive in putting this out, except a love for the West and a desire to make "westerners" aware of Gretchen's powers. And to celebrate the poetry of the songs. Then the song "Wolves," by Stephanie Davis, was rolling out of the speakers and I squinted out ahead into the sunlit asphalt on Highway 9. I saw what I thought were two coyotes crossing the road, about a 100 yards up there. "That's funny," I said. "They don’t usually travel in pairs. Pretty big,"
"Those are Mexican wolves," said Eric. "I'm sure of it." A wild little desert co-incidence as the song played. Wolves. Blue Roan Horses. Blue Mountains. Cowboys born out of their time. Crosses in the desert. Shrines for our lady of Guadalupe. And finally The Last Go Round" was playing…"we drank the rivers, we rode the twisters, we stumbled down to the ground….but we'll rake and ride, we'll spend our glory. On our last go round." Amen.
(The record is now available on www.tomrussell.com).