Cactus Dance

Prickly Pair

1999 Walnut Valley program

Prickly Pair, "Cactus Dance." 1998,
Rock House Records. 14 selections.
For information,:

Perhaps more that any other musicians, fiddlers are aware of the musical cross-pollination that has taken place between the American West and the Celtic lands. Les Hamilton is a terrific cowboy fiddler, but he has a sprightly way with an Irish tune, too.

He is fortunate to be partnered with Locke Hamilton, who also freely borrows from both musical lineages. Her rich voice and ear for storytelling give life to "Range of the Buffalo" and Norman Blake’s "Billy Goat." In "Give Me Wings," she writes an entreaty to stars and trade winds and sets it to the fiddle tune "Foggy Dew."

With their minds on other shores and their hearts firmly in Wyoming, Prickly Pair is both versatile and ambitious. On one track, Les brings three waltzes together in a slow study of form, letting some endearing string squeaks create a sense that he is in the room. On another, Locke builds to a subtle but emotional finish as she relates the tale of Cookie, the drifter who rode out on a "colt that wasn’t quite broke." The fiddle creates a bold and original counterpoint for Locke’s yodeling in "Cowgirl Cattle Call." They tackle the familiar, too, running briskly through "The Skybald Paint."

The spirit of the "Cactus Dance" CD is best summed up in "An Old Puncher’s Prayer," a song Locke and Les wrote after the passing of some much-loved cowboy musicians. As they sing, may "God watch over all the boys under the stars tonight."

Cowboy Magazine

Locke and Les Hamilton are an entertaining couple from Dubois, Wyoming. Locke plays rhythm guitar and sings tuneful vocals while Les plays fiddle and harmonica and joins in on harmony vocals. There’s a strong Celtic flavor in many of their music selections, and they often incorporate old Irish tunes in their original compositions.

This album is full of upbeat, jazzy, or swingy tunes that will have you tapping your foot along with the music. Two of the tracks are medleys - "Range of the Buffalo/Garryowen" and "Midnight on the Water/Kiss Me Waltz/Ookpik (Eskimo) Waltz." Both of these, delivered in an old-timey way, give a strong sense of nostalgia for a West that will never return. Another song that masterful brings back the days of the trail drive is "An Old Puncher’s Prayer," an excellent original song by the Hamiltons. There’s a good chance this one will be picked up by other cowboy singers.

Locke also wrote "The Blood Trail" and "Give Me Wings," and she wrote the music for "Ballad of the Drifter," a poem by Butch Martin.

The lyrics and tunes on this album are thoughtful, lively, and uplifting. Absolutely enjoyable.

Prickly Pair, 605 East Fork Rd., Dubois, WY 82513; 307-455-3338; CD $17 or cassette $12; 14 tracks.

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: