Cowboy acts, Spokane Symphony team up

Wylie Gustafson, Paul Zarzyski bring Western sound to SuperPops

Wylie Gustafson & the Wild West is one of the nation’s top cowboy music acts, as seen on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

Paul Zarzyski is one of the top cowboy poets, as heard on “A Prairie Home Companion.”

But don’t discount the third element in this show: the Spokane Symphony.

This outfit, too, can channel its inner cowboy, with pieces such as “The Magnificent Seven Suite” and “Hoe Down” from Copland’s “Rodeo.”

Put all three elements together and “The Cowboy Show,” Saturday’s Spokane Symphony SuperPops concert, should turn into one Western good time.

People in these parts are certainly familiar with Gustafson, who lived on his cutting-horse ranch near Dusty, Wash., until last summer.

He has since moved back to the family ranch where he grew up, in Conrad, Mont., yet he remains a familiar presence around the region – and around the country. He, too, has appeared on “A Prairie Home Companion” and has also played Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center.

Zarzyski is a big name in the cowboy poetry world and a frequent collaborator with Gustafson, both as a songwriter and a featured guest at concerts. He’s a former rodeo cowboy and the recipient of the 2005 Montana Governor’s Arts Award for Literature.

“This all goes hand-in-hand,” said Gustafson, by phone from his ranch. “There’s beauty in Paul’s words and beauty in the symphony. It has brought a whole new opportunity to present our music and Paul’s poetry to a whole new crowd.”

This will be the group’s second symphony show. Gustafson and his band recently premiered the symphony arrangements of his songs at the Saddle Up! Celebration at Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

The show will include a few numbers played just by Wylie and his band, and then nine songs with the band backed by the symphony. Sample titles: “Badger Clark,” “Whoop Up Trail” and “Don’t Fence Me In.”

Zarzyski will deliver some of his rip-roaring poems, with titles such as “Horses vs. Hosses” and “Words Growing Wild.”

And the orchestra, conducted by Music Director Eckart Preu, will perform the “Magnificent Seven” theme, Copland’s famous “Hoe Down” and the John Williams overture for the movie “The Cowboys.”

After all of this, if you don’t find yourself stomping your cowboy boots … well, maybe you’re wearing loafers.

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