Halden Wofford & The Hi-Beams

Maybe if you’re from Colorado you know of this band. Or maybe you heard their appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. Not me. Halden Wofford & The Hi-Beams have been around for about 10 years playing the Western club and festival circuit and “Sinners & Saints” is their third album. This is about as good as honest-to-goodness country music gets. Toe tappin’, sweet, heartbroken, and riled up in all the right places. And as far as I can see, this has been woefully ignored by the larger music world. I have to confess that I didn’t pick this up because of the music initially – it was the cover (see above left). Portraits of Emily Dickinson, Hunter S. Thompson, Hank Williams, Moondog, Walt Whitman, Billie Holiday – among others – is curious and compelling enough to require investigation.

This is one sweet album and it’s been on heavy rotation since summertime. There’s a reverent throwback feel. Nice, clean and crisp instrumentation, but not afraid to crank it up such as on the title track below. Amidst seventeen tracks of honky tonk and Western swing, ballads and rollicking rockers other highlights include “Pill Poppin’ Country Weirdo,” “Hangman,” “Till The Night Is Through,” and ‘Tear It Down.”

Back to the cover. It makes more sense when you find out that lead Halden Wofford (born Bret Bertholf) is a grad of RISD and wrote and illustrated the book “The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music” which was published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Characters on the cover are sprinkled across the album and there is obviously something more going on here, reinforced by the haunting last track, “American Angels,” a collage of poets including Allen Ginsberg, Delmore Schwartz, Ogden Nash, and John Berryman.

Sinners & Saints

Buy it: direct, CDBaby, eMusic

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