Helena singer/songwriter Bruce Anfinson’s fifth album includes some western tunes, a couple of his creations, and time-polished gems from other writers. A draft-horse teamster as well as a guitarist and singer, Anfinson wrote the title track about two of his many horses. He has several teams that provide wagon rides for the public at his Last Chance Ranch.
Anfinson has for many years regaled folks with western ambiance, bringing them out to his spread for rides, good grub, and after-dinner cowboy tunes. He’s a good storyteller; his burnished, higher-range baritone voice has a sandpaper feel that provides authenticity to his tales, and those of other writers. Adding tasteful accompaniment here are Ken Nelson, fretless bass and piano; Brian Oberlin, mandolin and vocals; Rafael Cristy, musical saw; and Elana James, fiddle.
“The Ballad of Minnie and Pearl” starts out with the sound of creaking harnesses and horses’ hoofs. The folksy loper, courtesy of Anfinson’s deft guitar pickin,’ is about skidding logs with his horses. Along the way he provides a rundown of his stable: Howdy and Pearl, Hobo and Bassie, Minnie (R.I.P.), Bill, Jim and John, Snapper and Velcro, and Barney and Clyde.
Anfinson displays his cowboy twang on the traditional “Git Up Napoleon,” which features a cool saw break by Cristy. You don’t hear the saw very often; it’s a welcome addition here.
Next comes Anfinson’s rendition of “Cold Missouri Waters,” written by James Keelahan after he read Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire. The Mann Gulch Fire of 1949 near Helena is seared into the memories of anyone who remembers or read about it; it’s a song that always evokes strong emotions.
Anfinson also sings revered Missoula writer J. R. Rummel’s “Wild Prairie Rose,” and David Walburn’s “In All My Days,” wherein Meriwether Lewis reports to Pres. Thomas Jefferson about the wonders the Corps saw on their journey. Lots of stories, well sung.
– Mariss McTucker