Comin’ Off a Heber High

What a weekend!

We were in the thick of the cowboy way in Heber at the Heber Valley Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Buckaroo Fair and it was a rootin’ tootin’ riot!

Real country folks are the best kind of folks. Their way of life and sense of humor makes them so real and relatable. They tell their stories in rhyme and pick guitars. They have names like “Ramblin’ Jack,” “Sparky,” and “Sourdough Slim.” They wear boots, buckles and bib overalls and get teary when talking about a favorite horse or truck. They say “Ma’am” and “damn” and aren’t shy talking about how they found Jesus. They’re authentic and sincere and made what Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood call country look like a Tupperware bowl trying to call itself a water trough.

I felt blessed to be among such people and proud to drive up my dirt road past my barn when I came home.

We rode the “Cowboy Train” Heber Creeper where musicians and poets took turns rotating through the cars to perform for us while we rambled through the beautiful valley. We attended large venue concerts featuring country big guns like Waddie Mitchell and Michael Martin Murphy, and intimate VIP jam sessions on small stages with The Sons of the San Joaquin and Suzy Bogguss. I even got to go up on stage and sing Git Along Little Doggies with Suzy!

My personal favorite of the weekend was the Joey+Rory concert. They are a husband and wife duo and the real deal in talent, devotion, and authentic country life. They met at a “songwriters night” ten years ago at a cafe in Nashville as aspiring musicians—him as a songwriter, her as a singer. They hit it off, married a few months later and settled in an 1870s farmhouse in a small community outside Nashville. Joey put her singing aspirations on hold because she didn’t want to become a show business marriage statistic, and devoted herself to being a wife and mother of Rory’s two daughters from a previous marriage. She opened a hometown cafe with her sister-in-law where she cooked, waitressed, sang and played guitar to entertain their patrons. Rory’s songwriting career took off with with hits like A Little More Country Than That, sung by Easton Corbin, and Some Beach sung by Blake Shelton which went Number One on the charts.

In 2008, a contact of Rory’s in Nashville convinced them to compete on the first season of the reality show Can You Duet. Rory explained at the concert, “We didn’t even own a TV and my wife hates reality shows, so I signed us up.” They placed third and signed a recording contract which launched their career as a country duo. Now they sing, write songs, and perform together around the world.

But she still cooks and waitresses at her cafe.

He still wears bib overalls everyday and tinkers on old cars.

They still live in their farmhouse where they don’t have a TV, which is kinda funny because they launched their own cable TV show this summer called The Joey+Rory Show. They explained that the reason they don’t have a TV is because they feel like most of the content doesn’t keep with their Christian/family values, so they decided to create their own family-friendly TV program. They produce it all themselves from their barn and community. They do recipe sections from Joey’s cafe, Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse, where they have to edit out Marcy Jo’s profanity and smoke breaks, feature their music as well as that of other established and aspiring musicians, and highlight their community and it’s quirky characters. It’s kinda like HeeHaw minus the scantily clad “honeys.”

Their story, music and performance were fun and inspiring.

On stage, Rory talked about how blessed he felt and never dreamed he’d be a singer because he only ever aspired to write songs. He has a great voice and mad guitar skills in his own right, but writes music and sings back-up to showcase his wife’s vocal talent for the most part. She has a classic country sound along the lines of Dolly Parton and cooed some sentimental tunes she cowrote with Rory including That’s Important to Me, Where Jesus Is, and Rodeo.

Rory took the spotlight a few times with some catchy tunes he wrote like It’s Hard to Be Cool in a Minivan, Grandma’s Got Her Daisy Dukes On and Sleepin’ My Way to the Top, which is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to his wife about how she’s been the secret to his success in the music business.

They closed the show with a great song titled, Buy our CDs.

We did.

I’ve been listening to them all morning remembering how much fun I had in Heber.

As the pic above shows our son playing on his iPod Touch while riding the “Cowboy Train,” I don’t think our kids were as enthralled with all of it as Jason and I were. They mostly liked eating out and swimming in the hotel pool. But I’m glad we took them along anyway. In our techno-hyper, uber-paced, mega-mixed, big-drama world I wanted them to see and hear unplugged talent, meet authentic people, and feel some true western American roots, especially since our own livelihood depends on it. Hopefully someday they’ll look back and appreciate the western culture we exposed them to.

Thanks for the “high” Heber. We’ll be back.

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