MONTROSE AND OURAY – “The Wranglers sing cowboy music right.”
That’s from none other than Michael Martin Murphey, who performed at last weekend’s big wedding at the Double RL Ranch, and, a couple of years ago, at a fundraiser for the Ouray County Ranch History Museum in Colona.
Murphey (best known for the hit single “Wildfire” in the 1970s) is not alone in appreciating the high harmonies and clear, wholesome sound of the Diamond W Wranglers, who travel from their base in Wichita, Kan., to perform three shows this week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (Sept. 9-11) in Montrose and Ouray.
Ouray residents John and Virginia Ast, themselves former Kansans, fell in love with the Wranglers’ music a few years ago and invited them out to southwest Colorado to perform. This will be the their fourth trip to Ouray.
The shows, dubbed “Cowboy Mountain High” in honor of the music of John Denver, begin at the Montrose Pavilion on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. The Wranglers cover four of Denver’s best-known tunes on their current CD, Old Friends: “Take Me Home Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Annie’s Song,” and “Back Home Again.”
After the Montrose show the Wranglers move to Ouray for a busy weekend. Saturday begins with a Western Style BBQ at the Ouray Elks Lodge #492 (tickets: $20) at which Elks Grillmaster Danny Wesseling will feature smoked beef brisket, pork, chicken and sausage with all the fixins, Caesar salad, cornbread and peach cobbler. Then “Cowboy Mountain High” takes to the Wright Opera House stage for a 7:30 show. Tickets, again, are $20.
Virginia Ast said she was “floored by how wonderful the Wranglers are, how good their music is, how fun they are – they tell some corny jokes, but also some really funny ones. It’s music you can sing along to.”
She singled out songwriter and lead singer Stu Stuart for his “beautiful deep bass voice,” and the “Irish tenor” of the band’s newest member, bass player Chip Worthington. Worthington sings lead on two of the John Denver covers, “Annie’s Song” and “Rocky Mountain High.”
Ast also mentioned the original song, “Deep in the Saddle,” written by the Wranglers’ arranger, Jim Farrell. It’s the title song of the group’s 2008 album, which received the Will Rogers Award for “Western Music Album of the Year” from the Academy of Western Artists. Songs from the Wranglers’ eight disks can be heard on their website: www.diamondwwranglers.com.
The Opera House show will feature a special guest appearance by Ridgway’s Alice Billings, herself an accomplished musician, horse lover, and cowboy poet.
The final show in Ouray is a dinner show at the Western Hotel, beginning at 6 p.m., featuring a gourmet dinner by Chef Rosemarie, including wild mushroom soup or a pumpkin bisque, a mixed greens salad, stuffed pork tenderloin Wellington or a baked salmon with beurre blanc sauce, and for dessert, Dutch apple pie, triple chocolate cheesecake or baked pears in red wine sauce.
The show commences after dinner. Seating is limited to 60. Tickets: $50.
Tickets are available at Buckskin Booksellers in Ouray and Cimarron Books and Coffee in Ridgway, or contact John or Virginia Ast at 970/325-7255, or via email at email@example.com.
The Wranglers don’t just play small towns that happen to appreciate classic western sounds. They have played Carnegie Hall twice. They were the first musicians from the western hemisphere to perform cowboy music in China. And they’ve performed recently at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, as well as at the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Theater in Branson, Missouri.