Westfest returns to Red River July 4–8

Michael Martin Murphey performs at his summer venue, the Rockin’ 3M Ampitheater near Red River. (Chronicle file photo)
When famed Western singer Michael Martin Murphey returns to Red River, NM to host his popular American Westfest (July 4–8), he will be joined by cowboys, Native Americans, Americana artists and some of the finest storytellers in the country.

Performing artist include Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, Michael Hearne, Robert Mirabal, Max Gomez, RW Hampton, Andy Hedges, Gareth, Kristyn Harris, Shake Russell, Mikki Daniel, Clint Chartier, Carin Mari, Brennan Murphey, Ryan Murphey and Gary Roller.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit tinyurl.com/ya6v5mpx.

Called “the best festival in the USA” by Country Music Magazine, Murphey founded WESTFEST® in 1986 as a way to preserve memories and images of the Old West. What he ended up creating was a family-friendly extravaganza complete with not only top-shelf country and western music, but loads of booths featuring the works of western artists and craftsmen, vintage clothing, and authentic chuckwagon fare (manned by celebrated cook John Schaffner)  sure to tantalize hearty appetites. Couples can kick up their heels at the nightly dances held under the stars.

While it’s correct to describe the event as a “cultural celebration,” WestFest® is, more than anything else, a first-rate presentation of cowboy and western music.

American Westfest® has been presented multiple times in many states since 1986, helping to earn Murphey a place in the Western Music Hall of Fame and National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Previous Westfests have sparked careers of hundreds of American Western performing artists and fine artists.  Musicians who have performed at earlier Westfest events include Patty Loveless, Clint Black, Don Edwards, Bill Miller, Pam Tillis, John McEuen, Red Steagall and more.

Murphey founded Westfest when asked in 1986 by Colorado’s Copper Mountain Resort to create a festival capturing the spirit of the people of the American West. He answered the challenge by creating an exciting exhibition, complete with cutting edge music of the American West from the Pop, Country, Western, Jazz, Folk and Classical and Native American genres, Western Poets and quality artwork from Western artists, sculptors and crafters, designer contemporary American Western clothing and jewelry, expert entrepreneurs of authentic and vintage Old West and Native American artifacts, and authentic American West cuisine inspired by pioneers, Native Americans, Mountain and Prairie Adventurers and Latino cultures.

“WestFest® is a Holy Grail to me,” Murphey said. “It’s a celebration of the art, music and cultures of the Old and New American West. It’s a free-wheeling party for people who love the Western Lifestyle.”

Murphey, who will perform each night the festival, is a genre-busting recording artist known for his smash Pop, Country, Bluegrass and Western hits including “Wildfire,” “Carolina In The Pines,” “Long Line of Love”, “What’s Forever For” and “Cowboy Logic,” among others. The best-selling singer of American Cowboy Music, his “Cowboy Songs” album is the first Gold Album of Cowboy Music since Marty Robbins’s 1959 Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.

Tickets are priced as adult or children rates and are available as Individual Day tickets as well as a discounted 5 Day Pass that includes full festival activities and performances. VIP Tickets can be added onto any ticket and includes covered concert seating, along with access to a covered awning where a cash bar, additional food for purchase, and artist M&G opportunities await. (Limited amount available). For more information and to purchase tickets, visit MichaelMartinMurphey.com

Westfest Performers

Kelly Willis

The native Okie-ness Rolling Stone noticed in her honeyed voice is tempered by a whole lot of Texas. Romance and music brought her to Austin while she was in her late teens, fronting a celebrated but short-lived rockabilly band, Radio Ranch. Famed singer/songwriter Nanci Griffith took a shine to her voice and recommended Willis to producer Tony Brown, one of the titans of Nashville country, who signed her to a deal with MCA. Her three major -label albums yielded plenty of critical acclaim, with enough media attention that she even found herself representing for Texas on People magazine’s annual “50 most beautiful people” list. But, not for the first or last time, mainstream radio didn’t quite know what to make of a youthful neo-traditionalist who appeared to have been transported from a less trendy era.  Willis’ forthcoming seventh album, Back Being Blue, is a shade she wears well, though long-patient fans might just say: You had us at back. kellywillis.com

Bruce Robison

Bruce Robison has been making music professionally for decades. He still discusses his craft with so much enthusiasm he sounds almost like a kid raving about superheroes. That infectious energy is evident in every note of his new album, Bruce Robison & the Back Porch Band, as well as his new project, The Next Waltz, a blossoming community of artists, fans and friends gathering both virtually and at his recording studio in Lockhart, just outside of Austin. In both cases, the point is to celebrate country music’s rich traditions while giving creativity free rein to go where it might, as long as it’s somewhere worth traveling. It’s also about celebrating Robison’s “love of the craft of song.” “Writing is where it all starts for me,” he explains. “Whether it’s my writing, or songs I want to do with somebody else. I love the mechanics of it; how simple it can be.” brucerobison.com

Michael Hearne

How do you say “Acoustic Southwestern Americana Musical Guitar Genius” in just two words? Michael Hearne, that’s how. Since the 1970s, this native Dallas Texan has strolled down a musical path inspired by the great folk and country singer-songwriters who typify and have characterized the Americana “roots” scene. Even minus the undeniable influence of the musical giants he admires and respects to this day, Michael simply had no choice when it came to deciding to be who he is. This prodigious musical talent was blatantly obvious in Hearne as a young kid. With minimal formal training as a child, coupled with hours of music immersion and hardcore practice, his destiny was forever tangled in “wire and wood.” Hearne continues to leave an indelible mark on his audiences not only with his signature “Michael Hearne” guitar sound, but also with songs and stories that are rich in lyrical prose, imagery and humor. michaelhearne.com

RW Hampton

In 1917, American artist Charles Russell famously told a friend in a poem “The West is dead.” It’s a bold claim that doesn’t quite hold up, says acclaimed Western singer-songwriter R.W. Hampton. “The West lives on,” says Hampton. “There’s something about the West and the spirit of the people who live here. It will always be changing and always be different, but it will always live on. The West is not just a place. It’s like an actual character, and it’s certainly not dead.” In a career spanning more than two decades, Hampton’’s won acclaim and countless awards singing songs celebrating the Western way of life. His rich baritone voice brings an honest quality whether he’s performing live or on record. He writes and sings about what he knows and lives. Hampton’s music has earned numerous honors from such prestigious organizations as The Academy of Western Artists and the Western Music Association, which inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 2011.  When he appears at Westfest, he will be celebrating the release of his new album, My Country. rwhampton.com

Robert Mirabal

Robert Mirabal has won many honors including two-time Native American Artist of the Year, three-time Songwriter of the Year, a 2006 GRAMMY Award for Sacred Ground, and his 2008 GRAMMY Award for Johnny Whitehorse Totemic Flute Chants. Mirabal’s work blends all of his influences into a musical landscape that conjures up both the historic and contemporary West. Mirabal lives with his family at the foot of the sacred Taos Mountain. Maintaining a traditional life, keeping the centuries-old customs of the Taos Pueblo people, he has been described as a Native American “Renaissance man” – musician, composer, painter, master craftsman, poet, actor, screenwriter, horseman and farmer. Mirabal has continued the evolution of his flute making and has also become an accomplished novelist, poet, craftsman, composer, dancer, actor, painter, sculptor, concert performer and recording artist. His dozen albums of traditional music, rock and roll, and spoken word present a contemporary view of American Indian life that is unequaled. mirabalnativeflutes.com

Max Gomez

Though still only in his 20s, Max Gomez has always had the heart of an old soul. As a child, the first songs he learned to sing were originally recorded in the 50s by Johnny Cash. As a teenage guitarist he adopted Big Bill Broonzy as his blues master. And as a budding performer, he apprenticed in the rarefied musical climate of northern New Mexico, where troubadours like Michael Martin Murphey and Ray Wylie Hubbard helped foster a folk and Western sound both cosmic and cowboy. You’ll find his hometown of Taos and nearby Red River right there between Colorado and Texas on both your sonic and Google maps. Splitting his childhood between there and a farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Gomez is at home in the heartland, too. maxgomezmusic.com

Andy Hedges

Andy Hedges is a songster, reciter and storyteller. His varied repertoire includes classic cowboy poetry recitations, obscure cowboy songs, dust bowl ballads, and blues. Andy taught himself to play the guitar when he was 14 and began collecting classic cowboy poems and traditional cowboy songs. He has released nine albums including four joint projects with songwriter Andy Wilkinson. He also hosts a podcast called Cowboy Crossroads which features interviews with poets, musicians, songwriters and historians. Andy lives in Lubbock, Texas, with his wife and children. “I’ve always admired Andy Hedges for his longstanding fascination for classic cowboy songs,” said singer / songwriter legend Michael Martin Murphey. “He sings ’em with just the right amount of grit and wry cowpoke humor.” andyhedges.com


Nineteen-year-old Native American musician, Gareth is of Mi’kmaq/Cree descent and is the youngest performer to reach #2 on the Billboard New Age Music Top 100 charts for his 3rd CD, Sky Before a Storm.  He received the Rising Star award from the Native American Music Awards, and his music is featured on NPR’s acclaimed Hearts of Space, Music Choice Network’s Soundscapes channel, GAC-Great American Country Network, and radio stations worldwide.  His new project,Voices of the Guardians, features award winning actor Wes Studi and Emmy Award winning producer Lance Bendiksen and will be recorded with George Lucas’s Sky Walker Symphony.   He is also currently working on a film for the Peace Corp which features Angelina Joli and former president Jimmy Carter, and also composed the background music for the award winning documentary film, Their Last Ride.  Gareth is a champion of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, donating proceeds from his song, “Regen’s Song,” recorded with Grammy winning pianist Laura Sullivan. GarethMusic.com

Kristyn Harris

Texas-bred musical powerhouse, Kristyn Harris is noted for her shimmering vocals, solid swing rhythm guitar style, unique songwriting, award winning yodel and captivating stage presence.  At 23 years old, she is the youngest person in history to be awarded the Western Music Association Entertainer of the Year (2016, 2017) and the only female to have received it twice.  She is also a 2-time recipient of the WMA Female Performer of the Year (2014, 2015) and was named the Ameripolitan Music Awards’ Western Swing Female Artist of the Year (2017) and the Pro Cowboy Country Artist Association’s 2017 Entertainer of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year.  Her singing has been praised as “timeless” with “the warmth and power of Texas sunshine.”  Most recently, you might have seen Kristyn featured on ABC’s American Idol, where she performed a traditional western yodeling song for the judges and was granted a ticket to Hollywood. kristynharris.com

Shake Russell

For more than three decades, Texas singer-songwriter Shake Russell has been entertaining audiences throughout the region with his unique, Americana style of folk-rock. A prolific songwriter, Shake has written or co-written hundreds of melodies. Through the years, Shake’s songs and albums have frequented the Billboard charts, with many, including “Deep in the West,” “You’ve Got a Lover,” “Put Yourself in My Shoes,” “One More Payment,” and “Our Kind of Love” being recorded by such distinguished artists as Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Ricky Skaggs, Clint Black, and Carolyn Dawn Johnson. Ricky Skagg’s hit recording of “You’ve Got a Lover” has appeared on three of Ricky’s albums. Shake is a two-time recipient of the BMI “Million Air” award for Clint Black’s recordings of “Put Yourself in My Shoes” and “One More Payment,” both of which he co-wrote with Clint, and a four-time recipient of the BMI Writer’s Award. The Texas Music Association named Shake the “2004 Texas Music Awards Entertainer of the Year” and nominated his new song, “Cowboy Coffee,” for the “2007 Texas Music Awards Best New Song.” shakerussell.com

Clint Chartier

Clint Chartier has extensive background as a lecturer and demonstrator. A passionate respect and deep knowledge of the true historic culture of the Plains Indians has been the driving force for his creation of the educational programs he conducts. His animated enthusiasm is reflected vibrantly in his well-displayed programs in schools and universities. During his younger years Clint was fascinated with the Fur Trade era and especially with the culture of Native Americans. His personal quest for more knowledge continued into adulthood when he was presented with an opportunity to conduct a short lecture in a rural school. Although school programs are his main focus, his talent for modeling In his handmade full regalia also brings requests to model for artists who paint Native American scenes, photography workshops, and demonstrations at Western Heritage Days with his tipi and occasionally his horse. rideshishorse.com/about-clint-chartier

Mikki Daniel

Influenced by the legendary Cindy Walker, Roy Rogers, Bob Wills, Dean Martin, Gene Autry, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Lena Horn, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others, Mikki Daniel enjoys performing the wonderful music from the early 20’s through late 50’s. Known for her ability to spin a tale, crystal-clear yodel and sweetly memorable cowboy tunes, she  sings a wide range of “Silver-Screen Cowboy Stuff,” Western Swing style music  (the official music of Texas!), her own  original songs, old-timey gospel/hymns and more. She performs for performing arts centers, fairs, festivals, cowboy gatherings, trail rides,  rodeos, weddings and private parties. Schools often feature this young artist in her “working cowgirl” attire and matching song-selection for History classes. Need the National Anthem sung?  She’s your girl! She’s an all-around cowgal with  a heart dedicated to sharing this  precious music before it fades away. mikkidaniel.com

Carin Mari

Inspired by the mountains of Colorado where she was born and raised, Carin Mari is a songwriter from the heart who is passionate about playing her own brand of music,. After 16 years of dedication, her talents as a guitarist / singer / songwriter have earned her numerous awards, including 2009 Entertainer of the Year from NACMA, Southwest Regional Winner for the Texaco Country Showdown, Female Vocalist / Female Entertainer of the Year at South Plains College, and runner-up in the 2010 Texaco Country Showdown National Final.  Her brand new album, Rambling Daughter, which she released early this year, has her fans saying this is her best project yet! Mari feels this album was sixteen years in the making, sharing heartfelt stories about living life as a young woman in the mountains and on the road. Mari is still actively pursuing her dreams of being a professional singer, songwriter, and musician sharing her stories every chance she gets. arinmarimusic.com

Brennan Murphey

As a harper of Irish descent, Murphey plays both traditional baroque Irish harp music as well as songs of his own creation on a custom-made 23-string Celtic lap harp created by Harps of Lorien.  Seeking to revive the magic of the old world through the instrument, his mission in playing is to open hearts and create healing for the world. His newest album, Tears of Joy is a heartfelt expression of his favorite traditional Irish harp songs by Turlough O’Carolan and other notable Irish composers, as well as three originals. Every song consists of nothing but pure instrumental celtic harp. The album stands out in the modern musical landscape for its simplicity, humanity and raw emotion. Murphey’s intention in creating this album was to invoke the simple peace and joy of the natural world, with as little contrivance as possible. brennanmurphey.bandcamp.com

Ryan Murphey
Ryan Murphey is a Grammy-nominated music producer, songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist. Since 1988, Ryan has toured with his father, Michael Martin Murphey, as lead guitarist and vocalist in the Rio Grande Band. Ryan is Michael’s oldest son, and has worked with his father extensively throughout most of his career. In 1988, Ryan and Michael recorded the duet, “Talkin’ to the Wrong Man”, which was released on Michael’s River of Time album. Ryan produced several Michael Martin Murphey albums, including Buckaroo Blue Grass and Buckaroo Blue Grass II, which were both nominated for Grammy Awards. Ryan Murphey has released four albums of original songs: Good Eats Cafe, Ruby Red, Miracle Street, and New Old Song. He is currently working on music with a new trio, the Sawdust Brothers. sawdustbrothers.bandcamp.com

Gary Roller

Drawing from the inspirational backdrops of the American Southwest Roller blends heartfelt vision with artistic skills to create works that enrich the lives of people everywhere. He often uses the spiritual life of the Native American to express universally understood live experiences. Born in Amarillo Roller was a student of renown sculptor Lincoln Fox. Roller, is also a well respected professional musician known for his long time association with Michael Martin Murphey. In that role he has performed in over 5,000 concerts nationally and appeared in numerous videos and television productions.  Many celebrities collect his works including: Wynonna Judd, Suzy Bogguss, Murphey, Amado Pena, Sen. Orin Hatch to name a few. His work can be found in thousands of homes and businesses across the US and in many countries around the world. garyrollerstudio.com

R.W. Hampton aims to please old – and new – fans