First Listen: Track 2, Ponderosa Breeze

First Listen: Track 2, Ponderosa Breeze

Ponderosa Breeze is the newest song on Sixteen Winters. I wrote it in February of this year, and we began recording in March. It was actually one of the deciding factors in going ahead with the record at that time. When I finished this song, I felt like I had nailed down the final piece of the puzzle. I wrote this tune with several things and people in mind. Not the least of which was my friend Eddy Lee Bullington. More on him later…

In 1996, my father passed away very unexpectedly. He was forty-three years old. To say it messed me up would be a gigantic understatement; I still haven’t recovered. When the smoke cleared, I did what I always did in those days when things went haywire.  I dropped what I was doing, loaded up my pickup, and took off for New Mexico. I didn’t have a plan; I just knew where I wanted to be. The little town of Cimarron, NM and the Sangre De Christo mountain range have given me everything good that has ever happened to me since I was old enough to leave home. They have never let me down in times of trouble or need. They have been, and will always be, my safe haven.
The town itself sits at nearly 6,500 feet in elevation. The mountains are less than a mile out. When the wind blows off them, which is frequently, the smell of the ponderosa pine trees that cover them is wonderful.  You don’t realize it until you’ve been away for a while, but that smell is everywhere.  It’s a kind of subconscious olfactory soundtrack to everything that happens.  When you come back from some place much less piney, the smell immediately triggers memories of everything you love about being there.

When I went back in ’96 after losing my dad, I had no idea that the simple action of heading that direction was determining the path I would be on for the rest of my life.  I just wanted to escape.  That’s what the first verse covers.  I think if you have a place like that, somewhere you really want to be, and don’t get to be often enough, then you should just go every once in a while.  Just go.  It’s a small world.  There’s no place in it that’s so far away it’s impossible to get to.  You’ll be happy once you’re there, so just go.

The second verse covers fall of that year.  I didn't know what I would do when the summer season out there ended; or where I would go. So I just stayed. So did the girl who would later become my wife. We took jobs at a small roadside hotel with an attached bar. I was a bartender; she worked the hotel desk. She worked the early shift, and I was off on Saturdays, so we’d spend those days riding around in my old truck and just enjoying life.  Cold Beer, in this song, isn't a thing, it’s a place. The Colfax Tavern. A little red building out in the middle of nowhere with “COLD BEER” painted on the side of it in big white letters. Home of some awesome green chile cheese burgers back in the day.

Likewise, The Motherlode is a saloon in Red River, NM. It’s down the highway in the opposite direction. There’s about 80 miles between the two places; but, we’d usually hit them both on a Saturday evening. Cold Beer was good for burgers, but The Motherlode was good for dancing, and good grief did we love to dance.  A guy named Eddy Lee Bullington fronted the house band.  He was an amazing singer, and a very good songwriter. We met one night when Maureen and I were there dancing, and I liked him immediately. As weeks went by, he started hanging out with us on breaks, and then asking me to sit in with the band. He was hysterically funny, a great musician, and a wonderful friend. He was also playing at The Sagebrush Inn in Taos, NM the night Maureen and I got engaged.  He got the news even before anybody in our families. I think he was almost as happy as we were.

Eddy has been gone a long time now, but I still think of him often. He was a big mentor to me early on, and very encouraging about my songwriting at a time when I wasn’t even really sure what direction I wanted it to go in. The things I write today I owe in no small part to people like Eddy, and other New Mexico artists like Rod Taylor and Michael Hearn. 
I woke up one morning thinking about Eddy, and I just couldn’t get him out of my head all day long.  That was the inspiration for this song.  Kind of an “It started there, and ended up here, and I love it here, but I miss being there” thing.  It’s kind of a re-occurring thing with me…

New Mexico country and folk music, and that whole Rocky Mountain music thing in general, has a very unique sound.  I really wanted to pay homage to it on this track.  I think Chris Hanna and Jon Darling knocked it out, and Curtis Leonard did a great job of catching the sounds just perfectly. My favorite part of this tune is Chris’ piano break. I don’t even know if he knows who she is, but man, it really reminds me of hearing Bonnie Hearn play piano out there when I was a teenager. It throws me right back in time.  Which is what this song is really about.
First Listen: Track 2, Ponderosa Breeze