Music best when it mirrors real life

By Clyde Davis: Local Columnist

Think authentic. Think about that which is real, not fake or overdone and overly constructed, think real not fake. My readers know (and if you’re new to this column, you may as well find it out) that I am not a music critic of any training. I sing like a bullfrog and can’t read a note. But every once in a while, because I know what I like,

I write about music anyway.

Joanie Harms. Not a household name to country music fans, though if you listen to a certain station in the morning, or another on Sunday evening, you’re likely to catch her music. Not a household name because it’s part of who she is as a performer, not a mask or personna she has invented. As a country western singer, she sings it because she lives it, and music is only part of the cowgirl lifestyle, not part of a costume.

Think real, authentic, not fake or staged. Think Aaron Tippin, not Keith Urban.

Think Chris LeDoux, not Michael Martin Murphy. Think Janis Joplin, Gladys Knight, not Beyonce or Brittany Spears. Think about music or art that comes from the soul.

“Two Steppin’ Texas Blue” may be the song with the most air play. (…I’m a lonesome lonestar cowgirl without you…) But the songs, all of them, speak to where we are, who we are, as ordinary people. They’re not from the world of Disneyworld boy bands or prefabricated formula music. They come, in fact, for the most part from Harms’ pen, or computer, and channel what’s in her heart.

There is a ranch in Oregon, near the ranch where she grew up, which she manages with her husband. There are children, still young and in school, and livestock, and the local rodeo circuit, and that leaves less time than might be otherwise available for music tours and life on the road.

She doesn’t see herself as living music with life sandwiched in between, but rather living a life, of which music is a part, an important part, but not the be-all and end-all. I guess that’s what grabbed me on her bio. Kind of a Chris LeDoux, in female gender, a cowgirl singing about a life she loves, not a singer pretending to know about a scripted life.

So it’s Oregon, but it could be New Mexico, or Kentucky, or North Carolina. You get the picture, or will if you listen to the music. I was lucky to stumble on the cassette in a now-defunct-store in Logan. You’d probably have to order online.

Going to a wedding at a country church. A cowboy who’s more than his field-worn appearance would indicate. Slipping Jack Daniels in your coffee at a campfire. A girl who puts your guy down because she wishes he was hers. How to tell your best friend her man is cheating. Real music to listen to, not a formula carefully scripted.
Soundwise, it’s somewhere between folk and soft rock, between old-time country and alternative country. In other words, it’s hard to pigeonhole. Guess you’ll just have to get some Joanie Harms and listen for yourself.