They called it the "Border Tour," but it was more like the state of Texas threw a giant block party and invited Salt Lake City to join the fun.
For almost four hours Sunday night, four of the finest songsters in Texas combined their musical talents, delivering one of the most multicultural, not to mention eclectic, performances this town has ever seen.You want 1940s, lonesome-cowboys-and-cantina songs? Walser delivered. If your preference is more along the lines of Tex-Mex waltzes and polkas, it doesn't get much better than Jimenez.
And then there was former Flatlander, Butch Hancock, whose melancholy songs and a voice as deep as a Texas oil well evoked inevitable comparisons to Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and Jerry Jeff Walker.
And, of course, there was Tish Hinojosa, a tireless ambassador for multiculturalism, whose songs of people living on both sides of the Mexican-American border have made her music as timeless as the Rio Grande.
As Hinojosa sings on the biographical tribute to her parents, "The West Side of Town," these are "pilgrims that made a good life the hard way." Good people, good families, all reaching for a piece of the American Dream.
For some, the dream remains elusive and comes with a horrendous cost.
Her abbreviated performance also included the gems "By the Rio Grande," "Destiny's Gate" and "Esperate."
Whether singing in Spanish or English, Hinojosa's music is a powerful reminder that this nation, throughout its history, was built on the dreams of immigrants - an ironic message considering attempts by states like California and Florida to deny benefits to Latino immigrants.
Opening the show was traditional country singer Don Walser, whose pedal-steel-laced songs of Texas cowboys conjure up a bygone era before rhinestones and music video. His versions of "Shotgun Boogie," "I'll Hold You in My Heart Until I Can Hold You in My Arms," "Cowpoke" and "Down at the Cantina" were brilliant reminders of the roots of country music.
Santiago Jimenez Jr. then took the stage for a rousing set of irresistible polkas and waltzes, including "Marina, Marina" and "Margarita, Margarita." The only problem was the Capitol Theatre is not suited for dancing. This music was crying out for a honky-tonk with red Christmas lights above the bar and a sawdust-covered dance floor with the tables pushed to the sides.
Hinojosa and Jimenez were exceptional, as expected. But the evening's most pleasant surprise was Butch Hancock, a relatively unknown singer-songwriter whose songs can be likened to a cold "long neck" on a brutally hot summer day on the Texas plains. Immensely satisfying.
Hancock first achieved notoriety in the 1970s with the critically acclaimed but quirky Flatlanders, which also featured Zen cowboy Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Joe Ely. Since that time, it has been small clubs and a handful of releases on the Sugar Hill label.
Hancock's painfully honest tunes go straight for the soul. Songs like "If I Were a Bluebird," "Eats Away the Night," "To Each His Own" and "Moanin' of the Midnight Train" are wistful glimpses into the self-doubt and longing that lives within all of us.
As all four musicians joined together for a foot-stomping, blow-the-doors down encore of "West Texas Waltz," fans were reminded of Walser's statement "if you've killed the roots, you've killed the tree." It was wonderfully obvious that the musical roots of Texas are thriving.