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A Pair of Aces by Chris Isaacs
Review by Margo Metegrano
Award-winning poet Chris Isaacs' new CD, A Pair of Aces, honors the
memory and celebrates the talents of the late Cowboy Poetry greats Sunny
Hancock and Larry McWhorter, men he calls "two of the best friends I've
ever been blessed to have." Accompanied by Rich O'Brien's
exceptional background tunes, the CD features Hancock and McWhorter favorites
along with carefully chosen selections of their lesser known poems. In
addition to the considerable entertainment value, these tracks are full of the
abundant wisdom of these sorely-missed masters.
Larry McWhorter once wrote, "Chris's view of the cowboy life can be seen
from so many different angles because he has lived so many aspects of it.
Chris can ride the bull, drive the bull, pack the bull, and he can shoot the
bull with the best of them." The jovial "teasing and
tormenting" of their friendships comes through often in Isaacs'
comfortably warm introductions to the poems. His equally strong respect
of their talents is ever-present as he captures and shares so much of their
humor and insight.
Sunny Hancock's fun and nimble "self-defense" of
traditional rhyme, "Doggerel, Plain and Simple," is full of elaborate observations that humorously
encapsulate the old controversies and score big points for the
Hancock was a great observer of human nature, and Isaacs does justice to his
well-known "Horse Trade" and to his equally amusing commentary on
"the cowboy dress code," called "Change on the Range."
Among the other Hancock highlights are "The Difference," a rarely
heard poem, and his "Ode to My Lady, My Wife."
Rich O'Brien's faultless music -- Western and otherwise -- could steal the
scene, but doesn't. It shines without ever overwhelming, a model for how music
can enhance a spoken-word recording. For example, there's a comic sour-noted
few bars of "Pomp and Circumstance" at the end of "Doggerel,
Plain and Simple"; a pairing of "The Best Things in Life are
Free" with "Differences"; and the sweet strains of "Memri'es"
carry along "Ode to My Lady, My Wife."
Larry McWhorter's poetry often had a moral and Chris Isaacs presents several
of his most philosophical and well-known poems, including "Ridin' for the
Brand," "The Gate Session," and "The Red Cow."
McWhorter liked to visit with old cowboys and pass along what he learned from
them. You can't help thinking of the tragedy of his early death when you
listen to the words of these poems. Larry McWhorter surely would have been one
of those "old cowboys" teaching valuable lessons to the next
generations. Fortunately, he was wise before his time, and Chris Isaacs
does his part for the future by helping to keep his words alive.
There are over 16 generous tracks of modern classics in this hour-long CD,
each one a jewel. McWhorter's "The Real Thing" is particularly
emblematic. It so well represents the realities of working cowboys' lives and
what both these men stood for.
Humor is a great part of these
poets' legacy and humor is always in good hands with Chris Isaacs. He
celebrates that side of these poets well, and carries it through to the end of
the recording with his vision of how his old friends will greet him in
the "great gathering above." He definitely leaves you smiling.
That will be some event.
Managing Editor, CowboyPoetry.com
Out With the Crew by Chris Isaacs
The experience of this fine CD - winner of the Will Rogers 2002 Best Cowboy Poetry Album Award from the Academy of Western Artists - is like a gathering of top poets. Chris Isaac's great idea to record poems of the top contemporary poets (and one classic by Bruce Kiskaddon) says quite a bit about him, his respect for other poets, and for what he contributes to the world of Cowboy Poetry.
Chris, in his engaging style, recites poems by Wallace McRae, Joel Nelson, Bob Bird, RW Hampton & Phil Martin, Jesse Smith, Larry McWhorter, Rolf Flake, Leon Autrey, Rod McQueary, JB Allen, Sunny Hancock, Bruce Kiskaddon, and Randy Rieman, and one of his own. There are vocals by RW Hampton, Lisa Isaacs, and Leon Autrey, guitar work by Leon Autrey, RW Hampton, & Pat Dressen, and violin by JoAnn Isaacs Brookover.
The CD includes some of the best modern poems ever written: "One More Shippin' Day" by Wallace McRae; "For Woody" by Rod McQueary; "The Horse Trade" by Sunny Hancock; "Johnny Clare" by Larry McWhorter....see what we're sayin'?