A Western life, as heard through music
June 30, 2004
SILVERTHORNE – Rick Devin and Leon Joseph Littlebird roll the best of the West into one concert with cowboy music and Native American flutes Wednesday.Life of a cowboyOne minute, Devin sat, an unknown musician, on a porch at Sunshine Village ski resort in Canada playing guitar in 1980. The next minute, he was sitting next to Tanya Tucker and Loretta Lynn, playing in Glen Campbell’s televised Christmas special.After Campbell picked him to be an extra in his show, he invited Devin to tour. Within a year of performing with Campbell, people noticed Devin’s talent – people like Tucker, Lynn, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Michael Martin Murphey, Joe Cocker, The Dixie Chicks, Dan Fogelberg, Clint Black and Johnny Cash. He performed with them all.Now Devin, a Dillon resident, performs Western music throughout the world, from Brazilian rodeos filled with 18,000 people to European and Asian markets. This year, the Academy of Western Artists nominated him in six categories: entertainer of the year, Western music, male artist, Western album of the year, yodeler of the year, best Western song and the rising star award.He’s honored to run against such artists as Murphey, George Strait and Don Edwards. The award ceremonies take place July 13 in Fort Worth, Texas.”There’s growth in the Academy of Western Artists and a growth in cowboy music,” Devin said. “I think everybody still has an interest in the mystery or the romance of the cowboy, and I don’t think that will ever die.”As Devin continues to spread Western music and cowboy tunes worldwide, he plans to continue releasing albums.So far, five of his solo albums and two compilations have enriched people’s visions of the American West.”The songs, the lyrics are about Summit County lifestyles,” he said. “The lyrics are very much about the environment, the mountains, the trees. It’s a simple life.”And Devin walks the talk – wearing a cowboy hat and boots, driving his pickup truck and writing ballads that paint landscapes of the life and emotions of cowboy culture.Primitive music: a natural rhythmLittlebird started writing songs and playing the Native American flute when he was 4, but it wasn’t until he had a life-threatening bout with cancer that he decided to follow music wherever it took him.He fell in love with the Native flute when he was about 4 years old. As he walked through the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico with his dad, he saw an old man playing. That day, his dad made him a flute out of an aspen branch, but when the bark dried up, the flute didn’t work anymore. As a young boy, Littlebird continued to carve various branches, trying to fashion a flute that worked properly.As an adult, he landed a career in the fashion industry, which sidetracked him from playing music full-time.After 18 years – including a few years in New York – in the fashion industry, doctors diagnosed him with leukemia and told him he had 18 months to live. He went through chemotherapy and one day, experienced a “miraculous recovery.”The second chance gave him the freedom to fully follow his passion, which he always knew revolved around music.He wrote the first song on his CD “Living in the Woods” about the day he decided to let go of his city-based, high-paying fashion job and follow his bliss – being a singer, songwriter and Native flute player.He always resonated with the primitive instrument, but Littlebird didn’t become serious about playing until about 20 years ago. He used the instrument as a bridge to separate him from the strains of daily life and cross over into a meditative state.Wednesday, Littlebird will play his Native flutes and tell stories of the origins of primitive native music, how nature inspires music and how people can connect with nature through music. He’ll also play songs from his new CD, which features flute music.”My music has a special way of connecting with audiences because the flute music stirs something inside people’s ancient memories,” Littlebird said. “It taps into their DNA where it holds ancient memories long forgotten but still available at some levels. The stories evoke visions of the indigenous peoples and their wonderful cultures. My flute music tends to be more melodic, and I think that’s why a lot of people relate to it.”Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.