I flunked out of first year piano. By no means, shape, or shading could I be considered an authority on music. But recently I happened upon a disc I enjoy thoroughly and I thought many AMV readers might enjoy it as well–if they can find it.
Stan Bronson’s two-volume single disc Storysinger (2000) contains songs from his recordings Down from the Mountain and Cowboys and Indians. The disc’s folksongs are set in the Four Corners area–particularly in San Juan County, Utah–and tell in engaging manner stories about the settling of the region. Stan Bronson possesses a classic cowboy singing voice–expressive, sincere and clear–the kind of sound that settles restless cows and tired children. Adults interested in folk music and pioneer heritage will find it an enjoyable listen, too.
Stan Bronson lived in the Four Corners region of the U.S. until recently when he moved to Salt Lake City. He has worked as a record producer, an actor, a songwriter and a folk musician. Among his credits as record producer is the album Proud Earth, which in 1976 received a Grammy Award Nomination in the “Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording” category. Chief Dan George narrated this recording of traditional and contemporary Native American music. Bronson also appears in The Touch, an LDS Motion Picture Studio student film grant project, which premiered during BYU’s annual student film festival Final Cut in the mid-nineties. The Touch won several awards from BYU’s film department, including Audience Choice for Best Film and Judges’ Award for Best Narrative. Bronson, who plays Christ in the film, was awarded an Outstanding Achievement Award for Best Acting. He has also served as president of an LDS branch on the White Mesa Ute Reservation south of Blanding, Utah.
In his CD Storysinger, Bronson’s lends his melodious and sympathetic voice to three groups of residents in the Four Corners area: Native Americans, cowboys, and Mormon settlers. Some songs tell stories from the perspective of a single member of one of the groups yet usually chronicle the interactions between the three. To my knowledge, most if not all the names spoken in these songs are those of authentic historical Mormon, cowboy, and Native American figures.
The songs in general have that classic cowboy flavor one associates with cowboy poetry and include the anticipated cowboy laments, ballads, and above-average cowboy humor, but Mormon references abound and one hears many LDS-themed surprises. For instance, “Aunt Jody’s Hands … [bring] the touch of Heavenly Mother’s love.” Several tracks chronicle the life, trials, faith, and visions of Blanding’s and Bluff’s founding fathers. For instance, “Bishop of Old San Juan” tells the story of Jens Nielsen who converted to the LDS church in Denmark then migrated to the U.S. and was shortly after sent to help found the Mormon San Juan Mission in Bluff, Utah. My nine-year-old daughter likes the song, “Man to Man,” a poignant ballad about Blanding founding father Albert Lyman.
Bronson’s Native American-themed tracks pay equal homage to important historical Native American figures. His sensitivity to and respect for Native American culture rings through in such songs as “Friendship Fire,” “Posey,” and “Victory Trail.”
In one of my favorite songs from the CD, “Cowboys and Indians and Mormons,” Bronson sings matter-of-factly about each of the aforementioned groups’ influence in settling the region, granting each one a verse outlining its vital historical presence and closing each verse with a chorus. For the cowboys, the chorus runs:
Well, most of those cowboys were friendly,
Most of those cowboys were fine.
But some of those cowboys were up to no good
Makin’ trouble all the time.
The same for the verse about the local Native Americans. The unexpected chorus for the verse characterizing the Mormon presence might give listeners a chuckle–or not, depending on one’s sense of humor:
Well, most of those Mormons were friendly,
Most of those Mormons were fine.
But some of those Mormons were up to no good
Makin’ trouble all the time.
Stan Bronson wrote all the songs on this CD with the exception of “Adios Amigo,” “Blue Mountain,” and “Song of White Mesa.” Unfortunately, the website address on the disc doesn’t work and I have no information for where one may go to purchase this disc. I have seen Bronson’s CDs for sale in shops around Blanding, Utah. Occasionally a record or disc comes up for sale on eBay. If anyone has any information about where Bronson’s music may be purchased, please email me, patriciagk at mindspring dot com, and I will post the information here in an update.
You can read an interview with Stan Bronson here.