Before he started his performance at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez on Wednesday night, as part of the 10th season of the Tales From the Tavern concert series, “cowboy singer” Dave Stamey was not presented with a gold record, for selling a half-million records, nor was he presented with a platinum record, for selling a million records.
Instead, fittingly, he was presented with a wooden record, “to commemorate the sale of a bunch of records.”
Stamey is the real deal, an actual cowboy who just happens to be a stellar singer-songwriter and with a voice that embodies the West. His accolades include being voted Entertainer of the Year, Male Performer of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year by the Western Music Association. And from his performance, one of many at the venue including back when it was Lulubelle’s Restaurant, one could see and hear why.
His songs evoke the West, with tales of mountain mornings, clear and open skies, dusty days and desert winds. He pays tribute to mules as the “unsung heroes of the construction of the West” with the song, “Blackjack Was a Mule,” which tells of mules lowered into mines and who would “never see the light of day.” He sings of his wife’s longing to have a “Buckskin Horse,” a horse whose “coat would shine and gleen like the secrets behind her eyes.” He sings from the heart of Joaquin Murrieta in the song “The Bandit Joaquin,” with palpable anger toward the Anglos circa 1850.
Stamey celebrates cowboys of the California sort with “Buckaroo Man,” which is soon to be the warm-up song for Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, and of the Spanish sort with “The Vaquero Song.” He introduced the latter, which has by now been covered by 21 artists, by saying that songs are “like children, every once in a while one gets their butt off the couch and makes you proud.”
Oh yeah, Stamey can also be quite funny.
When he closed his first set with “Come Ride With Me,” with the lyrics “We’ll camp near the meadow and we’ll love the night away / And saddle up again when the dawn is turning gray,” he changed the last line to “when Madonna’s turning gray.” Something, he quipped, that would never happen.
He also told of trying to move from the “outskirts of obscurity” to the “middle of obscurity” with the amusing, should-be-a-hit song “Comfortable Shoes.”
But funniest of all was his tale from when he was a kid growing up on a ranch where you “had to make your own fun,” a true tale called “Bubba and the Goat.” It seems that Bubba, with encouragement from the childhood Stamey, put on a football helmet from Sears and butted heads with a nanny goat. Not surprisingly, that didn’t work out so well for Bubba.
Stamey’s second set included “Song For Jake,” a moving tribute to his old cowboy friend and Alisal Guest Ranch compadre, the late Jake Copass. “Dreams are like horses / They run wild on the Earth / Catch one and ride it / For all that it’s worth.”
Stamey closed with an impressive rendition of Leroy Van Dyke’s “The Auctioneer,” whose chorus started fast the first time through, and by the end was super-sonic.
Dave Stamey may not have a wall full of gold records, but when it comes to cowboy songs, he’s definitely all golden.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.