The voice of cowboy music and poetry for a new generation strikes a chord in the modern American West.
Written by Jenn Thornton
Fresh off a “little John Wayne film festival” at her house, poet, musician and singer-songwriter Brigid Reedy is giving her side of an interesting and developing story, one with the color and character that defines her as a young, broadly talented artist in the world of cowboy songs and ranching culture.
Reedy has roots in big sky, where she was raised surrounded by mountains, horses, cattle, and hay country. “I have always believed in being of a place as an artist, and for me, Montana is that place,” she says. “No matter what I am doing, or where I may live, Montana is present in everything I do.” Which might be everything possible in the Western arts. A singer and songwriter, Reedy also composes cowboy poetry and plays the fiddle like nobody’s business. She sings of the West and its traditions with a bright, charismatic tone that belies her age. (Remarkably, just 19 years old.)
As a product of the campfire traditions and improvs of story that came before her, Reedy brings a musical and cultural patchwork of these customs to shows at rodeos, festivals and large cowboy gatherings from Nevada to Texas and beyond. In January she dropped her latest album Next Go ‘Round, having painted all its original artwork too. This begs the question: How to define Reedy? Singer-songwriter, musician, and poet who dabbles in photography and devotes time to painting and drawing? A good start, she says, but not the whole picture.
For that one must look to Reedy’s DNA—“of a place” she may be, but also of a people. Her father is a poet, singer, and photographer, and her mother, a weaver. “My father would sing me lullabies and I rocked to the shuttle clap rhythm of my mother’s loom,” Reedy recalls. “I may simply have been doomed to be an artist right out of the chutes.” Reedy was, she says, raised to “respect beauty and elegance, to look at the world romantically, and to value language.” To this end, “Art, music, and poetry “were everywhere, all of the time.” Not only was this fun and exciting, “it connected me to cool people, and took me to interesting places. This was the world I wanted to be in, and to do that I had to make art!” At Reedy’s side is her brother Johnny, if not on guitar then quite possibly across the room. The duo shares a 600-square-foot bunkhouse, “a place small enough that when we laugh in the kitchen it echoes in the instruments that hang in the bedroom,” says Reedy. “Whenever we have an idea, we just grab a guitar, a fiddle, or a banjo off of the wall, sit down facing each other at the ends of our beds, and play.”
Reedy’s obvious background in cowboy music, old-time fiddling and Western Swing does not—on the surface, at least—account for what is a frankly head-spinning array of influences. Blues, early 20th-century jazz, big band, jump blues, rock and roll, and contemporary singer-songwriter material inspire her. “Then there is gypsy jazz and mariachi,” Reedy rattles off. “I also adore classical music and have an unexpected soft spot for the baroque pieces.” Throw in a little Irish music, a la “The Quiet Man,” too. “Really, I am just picking a beautiful musical bouquet in an endless garden,” notes Reedy. Spoken like a true poet.
Photos on home page and above by Scott T. Baxter.