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Farmers’ market expected to grow at Exhibition Park this season

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If you’ve been missing your fix of fresh, locally grown produce, homemade bread and pierogis and locally sourced meat, or maybe even Homer donuts, then you’re in luck because the farmers market returns to Exhibition park this Saturday, June 10.


The first Farmers' market of the season is Saturday, June 10 at Exhibition Park. Photo by Richard Amery

“ We’re excited to welcome the farmers’ market back. it’s our most long standing connection to the community,” said Lethbridge Exhibition park  CEO Mike Warkentin.


 The farmers market has been a fixture at Exhibition Park since 1962. It is  Lethbridge’s only Alberta  Approved Farmers’ market  which certifies  at least 80 per cent of the goods sold at the market are made, baked or grown in Alberta.

“ We had 57,000 people at the Farmer’s Market at Exhibition Park and the downtown farmer’s market last year It was a record year,” Warkentin said.


 He noted the farmer’s market will be in the north and south pavilions to start then move to the new agri-hub building.

“ We don’t have an ETA for that because construction is still ongoing,” he said.


More great music and new discoveries on Outlaw Country Cruise 7

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It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since I was on board the Norwegian Pearl for floating music festival, Outlaw Country Cruise 7. My brain is still reeling and my ears are still ringing from another fantastic Outlaw Country Cruise, which left from Miami, Feb. 21,  went to Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, the island of Cozumel outside of Cancun, Mexico and back to Miami, Feb. 27. Lately it takes a lot longer to recover from the best vacation ever, not to mention writing about it. Yet they already put out a call to register  for OCC8 without announcing the line up a day after I got home on March 1. I signed up anyway even though it’s a year away as it’s always a good bet they will have a killer line up, which ended up being Blackberry Smoke, Dash Rip Rock and  drivin n cryin  and Ray Wylie Hubbard, to name just a few to start. But that’s not until next year.

Bill Kirchen and Sarah Borges on Outlaw Country Cruise 7. Photo by Richard Amery


The Outlaw Country Cruise is always a good time as I always discover my new favourite bands on the boat. I come back drained and alternately inspired depending on the day. This time my new favourites were easily a couple Texas bands The Vandoliers and Mike And the Moonpies.

 The Waco Brothers have been my new favourite since Outlaw Cruise 5, so I knew they were going to be great on this boat, especially with a new album out. There was a whole lot of Jon Langford, one of the frontmen of the Waco Brothers, who was also playing with the Mekons and  Jon Langford and Skull Orchard.


The other band I was looking forward to was the Old ’97s who  are celebrating  30 years together as a band. 

 Beaming frontman Rhett Miller was a blast. I caught all three Old ’97s and one guitar pull with Miller, but missed his solo show.

 They are full of energy and played three very different sets.

“Jesus Love You,” was a highlight of their pool deck show. And “Turn Off Your TV” was an apt highlight of at least one of them.


 I also caught all three Vandoliers sets.

 Their set in the atrium was a the best, with all six of them crammed onto the tiny stage. They sounded like Elliott Brood but louder and with a trumpet and keyboards and a bare chested fiddle player channeling the spirit of Charlie Daniels.

Most of them were shirtless by the end of their furious and hot set. They bill themselves as your favourite punk band’s favourite country band,” and not without reason.

 They were off the hook. They’re in the news now for protesting Tennessee’s draconian new anti- drag law by performing in dresses and auctioning those dresses off  for Tennessee LBGTQ organizations.


 Atrium shows were the best and most intimate, they felt more like a bar setting where most of the performers are more used to playing.


The Vandoliers on Outlaw Country Cruise 7. Photo by Richard Amery

 The Waco Brothers’ best and most dangerous set was also on the atrium stage. They all sported their trademark Waco Brothers ’ sailor hats. Tiny fiddle player Jean Cook was ducking to save her life or to at least to avoid a concussion from bouncing bassist Alan Doughty who was leaping and kicking in his corner, while playing some of the fastest, most melodic bass lines I’ve ever heard while putting on a show.


 I only saw Cook only get knocked down once, but he helped her up immediately.


 The Supersuckers are always a highlight of the boat. This time, bassist Eddie Spaghetti was everywhere doing triple duty as Supersuckers frontman as well as playing bass for Supersuckers guitarist Metal Marty’s band and playing bass again with punk rock trucking collective the Franklin County Trucking Company, who were another new  favourite.

The only musician to play more shows was probably Bill Kirchen was everywhere, playing with pretty much everybody. I only caught one of his own shows, but luckily caught his set ending jam on “ Hot Rod Lincoln,” which  ends with a medley of riffs from a cornucopia of hits ranging from country to punk rock.

 Everyone loves Bill Kirchen, who  was part of  Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen in the early ’70s. I heard he even went crowd surfing during Sara Borges’ set.

The Waco Brothers on Outlaw Country Cruise 7. Photo by Richard Amery


 Outlaw Country Cruisers are a tight knit  group of music lovers who are like a family away from the family but from all over the U.S, Canada and even a few overseas cruisers including music lovers and musicians alike hanging out blissfully on a boat.

 Bill Kirchen looked a little shocked after receiving a round of applause while getting on an elevator en route to one of his many appearances. The crowd parted for him on another elevator as he rushed from one gig downstairs to pool deck guest spot with Sarah Borges, who is always a cruise favourite.

Her fans set up a Facebook campaign to get her on the boat a few years ago, so she responded by writing a song with Bottle Rockets bassist Keith Voegele called “Got me on the Boat” which is on her most recent album. Borges and her partner Kurt Voegele were everywhere too.


 He even got to take centre stage on a late night cruise ending all-star jam of hits hosted by Warner Hodges band to belt out a version of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.”

 I always come home with a lot of great memories and new musical discoveries. I forgot my good camera, so didn’t take as many pictures of things as trying to get a decent shot from a cell phone camera was more trouble than it’s worth so it was really weird to not be officially covering the shows.


 With six days of non-stop music, there is always something happening and a lot of highlights so it is essential to pace oneself to catch a little bit of everything without burning out. It’s a lesson I should learn some time, but the first night was front loaded with great shows and pretty much everybody I wanted to see.


 I made sure to board the boat early for a great collaboration between Joe King Carrasco and Texas Tornado Augie Meyers, who played a wild  boarding show on the pool deck. The two of them were a couple of the many musicians who were special guests on a lot of other musicians’ shows, which is one of the best things abut the boat.


The Mavericks are always a good times so I caught their cast off show, but cut it short because Kathleen Edwards, one of the main reasons I signed up for this cruise,  was playing her first show in the main theatre, The Stardust,  at the same time and  didn’t want to miss her. Her set and stories brought me to tears a couple of times. Her set was pretty similar throughout. She opened appropriately with “Just Another Song the Radio Won’t Play,” played a lot of her new album, and couple old favourites including “In State” and Six O Clock  News.”  I didn’t hear  “I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory” for the first one but she played it at her Atrium show a couple days later. I was wondering how many people would get the Canadian references in the song including “ The Horseshoe” and the  CBC,” but a lot of them did.


 I rushed back upstairs to the pool deck for Steve Earle’s last show with this iteration of the Dukes. As expected, it was a hit heavy show with  “Guitar Town,” “ I Ain’t Never Satisfied,” “Galway Girl” and, of course “Copperhead Road,” on which Earle played his mandolin. He seemed to be elsewhere, performing his best known numbers, basically going through the motions. He perked up for some of his newer  songs like the acidic “ It’s About Blood.” The  Mastersons’ multi-instrumental prowess added a much needed burst of energy to that set as he promised to play all of his songs about girls for his solo set.


Lots of musical highlights happened in 2022

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The music and  arts community spent 2022 slowly finding it’s wheels again. Even though things opened up last July, a lot of people still don’t feel comfortable going out with the Covid of it all. Other people still don’t go out at all like even before Covid.


I had a milestone birthday this year and spent most of 2022 trying to deny it, but finally realizing even I  don’t have the energy to hit every every show every night anymore. I did treat myself to a new guitar and a couple Outlaw Country Cruises, if only because a lot of my favourite acts on the boat don’t ever or seldom get up here.


 So I missed a couple key shows owing to exhaustion and illness as well.  And I didn’t brave before minus 40 temperatures to  go to shows like I did back in the day. 


Bridgette Yarwood played a lot this year. Photo by Richard Amery

 I missed Hippodrome’s annual pre Christmas bash at the Slice and a couple of sold out shows by Corb Lund at the Owl Acoustic lounge. I missed the return of Barney Bentall’s Caribou Express  and Bryan Adams because I was on vacation and I missed a packed Mahones show owing to  exhaustion and preparing for vacation. But I still caught quite a few superb shows.


 As usual, 2022 has been a year fraught with poor attendance, but there has also been some outstanding music. New bands have formed and released new music, while old bands have disbanded and reformed as new bands. Local acts played most of the great local shows. And several local musicians released new music.

 Local theatre troupes made up for lost time by bringing back old favourites and trying to carve out new paths. Playgoers of Lethbridge is gearing up for their big 100th anniversary celebration  next year, which will begin with  the comedy The Play That Goes Wrong, happening at the Yates Theatre in February. The One Act play Festival was a Playgoers highlight in May.


 Long sanding local theatre troupe New West Theatre , had to  appeal to the community to keep going after trying a new experimental direction, which was well done including Ukrainian play Barvinok and Tony Award winning rock and roll musical “Next to Normal “, but didn’t  appeal to the masses as much as they hoped. Fortunately the community came through and raised enough money to let them live another day.

 Hatrix Theatre brought back old favourites the Gazebo in May and Evil Dead the Musical aptly in time for Halloween to enthusiastic audiences. The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society staged an outstanding production of Hamlet this summer outside Casa and in the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens and Galt Gardens among other places. Hootenanny returned with another fun kid’s production The Junk Show.


 Good Times continued to bring in excellent comedians. 

 Local comedian Faris Hytiaa filmed his first comedy special at the Owl Acoustic lounge, Aug. 12 and 13.One of my favourite comedians Ron James returned to the Yates Theatre for two excellent shows in November.

 And Cirque Du Soleil returned with a bug themed show “OVO” in May.


 The University of Lethbridge continued putting on great shows and Theatre Outré celebrated their tenth anniversary by continuing to push the boundaries wth more experimental and risqué material.

 So here are just a few of my favourite highlights memories and pictures. 


 This year was the year for talented tribute acts.  I was wondering what would happen after Average Joes closed and reopened as the Place. They have continued to be the unofficial local home of classic rockers the Chevelles as well as  superb tribute acts beginning in January with Motley Crüe tribute All  Bad Things rocking the Place, Jan. 28

Motley Crüe All Bad Things, Jan. 28.

It was a great year for local talent like Saints and Sinners who rocked the Slice, Jan. 27.

Eric Braun was playing with everyone this year, had his own show at casino Lethbridge, Jan. 28, and hosting jams at  Honkers Pub

 Tyrants of Chaos got ready to release  their new album “Relentless Thirst for Power” by tearing up the Slice, Jan. 15.

 Rotary Square outside Casa was the place to be for live entertainment this year even in the dead of winter. Luckily they had warm weather for Winterfest in Rotary Square, Jan. 14, featuring performances by Adequate and Karen Romanchuk to name a few,  

Greg Rekus Returned to the Owl in January Photo by Richard Amery

 Winnipeg Folk punk musician Greg Rekus returned to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, Jan. 11. He will be back to host the Owl Acoustic Lounges open mic,  Jan 10.


The Slice started doing a lot more punk and metal shows this year. 


Medicine Hat metal band Western Death  played the Slice, Feb. 12

Taylor Ackerman’s Global Acid Reset released their new album “Doubt Freaks Us Out,” Feb. 5  at the Owl Acoustic Lounge. Taylor Ackerman was playing with everyone this year including with Shaela Miller and Hell Diablo.

 Bridgette Yarwood Band played a lot this year including Feb. 4 at the  Slice with with local Tragically Hip tribute The Hip Trip.


 I got Covid for my birthday so was surprised I caught as many March and April shows as I did. 

Eamon McGrath playing an acoustic show at Owl Acoustic Lounge, March 4


 Got back from Outlaw Country Cruise 6 in time to catch Edmonton musician Vissia showing her pop side for a great show at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, March 5.


Slice put on a couple cool songwriter in the rounds this year including March 5 with Don Kinahan , Connor Adams, Richard Inman and Marcus Sommer.

 I’m glad I caught Jr. Gone Wild who stopped by the Slice, March 12 in support of their new album “Still got the Jacket,” but was glad to see the Real McKenzies at the Owl, March 15 with Edmonton punk band  the Real Sickies.

 Alex Cuba played an excellent show at the Geomatic Attic, March 15.

Calgary rockabilly band Peter and the Wolves played one of several local shows including the  Owl Acoustic lounge, March 18.

The Lethbridge and District Music and speech Arts  Festival returned, March 28.


 The Geomatic Attic had a lot of great shows this spring including Steve Dawson, April 8. I Missed Harry Manx, April 16.

   More up and comers John and Scott Band played several times this year including at the Casino, April 8 and 9.

 More punk at the Slice with Screaming at Traffic and the Ringwalds, April 9.

 Red Hot Hayseeds are always a hoot. They played one of several Show at the Owl Acoustic Lounge, April 9. 

More ’80s  tributes at the Place, April 14-16 with  Dave Chomiak’s Bon Jovi Tribute Runaway, Whitesnake Tribute Snake Bite , local Tragically Hip tribute Hip Trip , Edmonton Dokken tribute  Breaking the Chains and Scorpions Tribute the Zoo and Chomiak’s Def Leppard tribute Stage Fright. Rhere was also a cool Black Sabbath tribute  featuring Bridgette Yarwood.


The Slice continues doing a lot of punk and metal. Sessions played April 22  and Calgary nerd-core band the Galacticas played as a duo as their bassist got Covid

 Long awaited return of Billie Zizi to Owl Acoustic Lounge, April 22.


I didn’t catch a lot of Enmax shows but was glad to see Sue Foley, ZZ Top and Cheap Trick, though missed most of Cheap Trick due to family issues, April 27.

Sue Foley joined them for “California Man” for the show which had been rescheduled due to Covid.

Beloved bluesman Harpdog Brown passed away, Jan. 7 of a heart attack. Several local musicians including Papa King, Jolene Draper and Steve Martin, plus Charlie Jacobson played a hot memorial show for him, April 30 at the Owl Acoustic lounge.


Hatrix Theatre revisits old  favourites  with The Gazebo in May at the Moose hall as the other wing brought back Evil Dead the Musical to McNally School in October

Australian born, Chicago based bluesman Michael Charles played May 12 as part of Slicefest. He  would return in a few months.


Taylor Ackerman played with a lot of different people this year and released a new CD. Photo by Richard Amery

Ll’omelette played a couple shows at Slice featuring Peter and the Wolves Peter Cormier on drums and Meg Thompson on vocals and sax.

Canadian Brewhouse having live music including midnight Echo, though i missed their May 8 show.

 Corb Lund played two sold out shows at the Owl Acoustic lounge, may 12 and 13, which i missed.

Eamon McGrath returned to the Owl Acoustic Lounge, this time with a band, May 27.

Dead Army a couple of local shows, May 26 and in December.


Things got funky at the Slice, with a wild show from rage funk band Raincity, May 27.

Ryland Moranz played a couple excellent local shows this year including May 28. at the Owl Acoustic Lounge.


 Shakespeare in the Park put on a great production of Hamlet.

The Chevelles rocked The Place as usual, June 4.

Hamilton funnyman BA Johnston is always a hoot at the Owl. He returned to the stage, June 7 with Open Channels

 Kirb Fest made the leap to the Yates Theatre, June 17. It featured lots of local talent  including John Kirby, John Wort Hannam,,Steve Keenan plus plenty of young up and coming bands, including Desert Orchid and more

Calgary country musician Carter Felker is always good to see.He returned to the Slice June 16 in support of his new album.

 There was  awesome punk at Owl with Quit It! and Western Death, June 17.

It’s great to see Kingston rock band Glorious Sons  grow. They hit Enmax stage,June 18, though I missed the show.

 There was a lot of live music outside of Telegraph Taphouse on  Festival Square. A big June 23  show featured the New Testaments,  Rudy Strangling Wolf and  another hot new band, Last Minute Letdowns.

Theoretically Brewing started doing punk and rock shows on their outdoor patio this summer.

Deadwolff, Rebel Priest and Hell Diablo brought back the spirit of the ’70s and ’80s a hard rock, June 30. Cope expanded to a trio, June 25.

Adequate brought the funk to the Owl, June 25 for one of several local shows

The Rotary Dragon Boat Festival returned this year with a full slate of bands. One of the highlights was Alison Hawkins and Uncovered, June 25.

Pridefest Galt Gardens brought an eclectic slate of drag performances and live music for Pridefest, June 25  including Shaela Miller hot off her Wild Country Wild win.

Folk Club announces first season in a year.


Canada Day  was back in force with  a lot of live music including Horizon Dory Rossiter, Bailey Kate, July 1

Richard Inman played a lot locally sometimes solo and often with a band, including July 2 at the Owl Acoustic Lounge

Street Machine Weekend meant  live music.   The Chevelles played the Place, July 8. the 1010 pub had live music and Edmonton rockabilly band the Dice Cubes played a great show at the Slice  for very few people, Friday, July 8. 

The Slice had a lot of rockabilly in July as they also featured Hurricane Felix  July 2.


 There were more outdoor festivals this month.  

 Upside Downtown featured live music every Thursday afternoon outside Casa in Rotary Square including  Fortune Block aka Richard Inman and  Sweet Alibi's Amber Rose,July 21 plus Kevin Peters playing lead guitar, John Wort Hannam July 7.

There were five festivals, July 9. Honkers Pub featured a day long festival in their parking lot including Steve Keenan and more, July 9.  Pure Summer outside Casino Lethbridge featured Bamboo Guppies and Karen Romanchuk. Arts in the Park featured local surf band the Atomicos in Legacy Park. 

Jimmy and the Sleepers played Pavan Park,  July 23 for the Lethbridge Blues and jazz festival.


South Country Fair returned to Fort Macleod after a two year Covid hiatus. It was lots of fun as usual. Some of the highlights  were Jon Martin, the  Alien Rebels,  Hawksley Workman, Terra Lightfoot and more.

Lethbridge Girls Rock Camp Band Swap returned to the Slice, which was a chance for me to be on stage again, July 23.


Skinny Leigh aka Richard Doerksen returned home to Lethbridge to play  the Owl Acoustic Lounge, July 22.

Carolyn Mark and Kris Demanor are always a highlight. They returned to Owl, July 27.


Go west young man and check out cow-punk legends on Outlaw Cruise West

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It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since my much needed vacation on Outlaw Cruise West, Nov. 3-7.


“ I’m going to take you back to your childhood, and mine,” chuckled Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom on the last night of the cruise as he lead his trio plus Social Distortion guitarist Josh into rousing renditions of  Stray Cats ’80s hits “Stray Cat Strut,” and followed by “Rock this Town, which Slim Jim introduced by saying “Let‘s rock this boat.”


That pretty much summed up the first Outlaw Cruise West, which left Los Angeles. Nov. 2 , stopped by Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada and back in time to catch a plane to Great Falls in time for the last of the snowstorm I missed while away.


Mike Ness of Social Distortion playing Outlaw Cruise west. Photo by Richard Amery

The annual Outlaw Cruise is my annual treat to myself, to spend five or six days as part of a floating music festival, mostly featuring acts who rarely or seldom make it up to Alberta. I wouldn’t cruise any other way. I spent a lot of time communing with a cadre of transplanted Canadians also on the cruise, and it got pretty drunk out. So while my memory is a little hazy, I remember having a really good time.


 It was to be expected, but I missed a lot of great shows while I was away including Barney Bentall’s  Cariboo Express returning to the Geomatic Attic at Southminster United Church and Bryan Adams, and jumped right into a busy November, almost immediately after returning home.


It was fun to just escape from the world for five days, running all over the Norwegian Jewel trying to catch as many shows, live interviews, autograph sessions  on six different stages and even a little bit of sunshine. The cruise’s sponsor, Outlaw Country on Sirius XM is just starting to play some of the interviews and live sessions during Steve Earle and Elizabeth Cook’s shows.

 This time Outlaw Country on Sirius XM, which sponsors the Outlaw Cruise, decided to branch out and have a west coast cruise, featuring headliners Los Lobos and some of California’s more popular alt country, cow-punk and country acts, with of course, the usual cast of Outlaw Country characters like Mojo Nixon and Elizabeth Cook and Steve Earle and usual performers like Lucinda Williams.


Elizabeth Cook playing Outlaw Cruise west. Photo by Richard Amery

 I loved the idea of having a cruise “closer” to me as the  Outlaw Cruise usually leaves from Florida and I could not pass up a chance to see punk legends Social Distortion again. I haven’t seen them since they played one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen at MacEwan Hall at the University of Calgary back in 1990 something. Plus three of four members of L.A’s punk icons X.


I also couldn’t pass up the chance to take part in Steve Earle’s Club Copperwood, an  abbreviated version of the course he teaches in New York. A small group of us got to spend a couple hours talking about songs as literature and songwriting in general with Steve Earle. He mostly talked about himself and his love for Bob Dylan, but offered some different ideas. He assigned us homework of writing a haiku to get us thinking in syllables and rhythm (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables and reflecting a season in  without naming it), which he promised to critique in the next session. He also offered up  an interesting tip of putting a capo on the second fret of the guitar, and all strings except the low E, noting  that forms an A chord. He also noted a lot of his melodies come from just finger-picking.  he even  critiqued ab couple of the  participants homes— those with the foresight to bring a computer with a recording of their song on it.


Los Lobos opened the cruise on the pool deck and closed it in the Stardust Theatre on the last night. 


 All of the acts I wanted to see played the first of several shows  throughout the trip, on the first night. Dave Alvin stole the show from an impressive lineup. Alvin, who came to prominence in the early ’80s with original cow punk roots rocker the Blasters, lead his band through a few  Blasters songs, solo tracks and classic country delivered  with his soothing baritone while tearing out scorching, swampy blues fuelled solos.


Outlaw Country Cruise 6 features legends, liquor and lots of Bill Kirchen

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It’s good to be back but it was better to be away for the past week on Outlaw Country Cruise 6 for  a good week of stories, live music and the occasional bouts of weirdness.

Waco Brothers bassist Alan Doughty on the pool deck, March 2. Photo by Richard Amery


It was a shock to return to Alberta where everyone seems to be in more of a hurry, more stressed out and angrier than usual, after a week of a self-imposed news and social media blackout, drunk on a boat in the middle of the Caribbean, where peace, love happiness, camaraderie and communing over great music is the general order of the day.


The Norwegian pearl docked in Belize. Photo by Richard Amery

It was just nice to take a break from Covid, convoys and the Ukraine and people bellyaching about all of that and more on social media. Though the stateroom televisions had three news stations available, I made a point of avoiding them, in between shows, tuning in to repeats of Jack Black’s “Nacho Libre” and a couple documentaries about Mojo Nixon, the Beat Farmers and Asleep at the Wheel and a really cool film Grand Theft Parsons, a highly fictionalized account of  road manager Phil Kaufman stealing and cremating his best friend Gram Parsons body in the desert. Steve Earle interviewed Kaufman himself with the Emmylou Harris hot band a little later in the cruise.


 The Outlaw Country Cruise has become my one big annual escape and treat to myself. And as usual, the music  is what makes everything worthwhile from the Covid tests to the hassles of travelling by plane in the twenty-first century. I’m officially off duty, it is still an adjustment to not have to cover shows, though I end up writing about  them anyway.


 It’s a chance to see bands who barely ever make it to Canada, let alone Alberta, and in some cases the last chance to see them at all.


Since Outlaw Cruise 5, headliner Kris Kristofferson, the Georgia Satellites’ Dan Baird and The Bottle Rockets’ Brian Henneman all decided to retire from the business. Their shows on the last boat were their last official performances.

 This year, UNBEPA or Unlimited Beverages packages were included in the price of the cruise, so it got pretty drunk out so I made a point of leaving my camera in my stateroom while I gained my sea legs.


Steve Earle kicking off Outlaw Country Cruise 6. Photo by Richard Amery

 After we went though the extensive boarding procedure including Covid tests in Miami, and everybody got settled in, found their sea legs and communed with old cruising buddies, the first night was off the hook. As usual Steve Earle  kicked everything off on the pool deck in the first big bash of the boat. He’s released three  albums in as many years including a tribute to his son Justin Townes Earle, and was wearing a Justin Townes Earle T-shirt, but  he kept his first show  to a greatest  hits show, so we heard all the classics, from “Guitar Town” to Copperhead Road,” after which I had to eat, luckily right around the corner from the pool deck.


 These cruises have always been fanatical about cleanliness. I usually get a kick out of the entrance to the dining room  where a girl with a sanitizer bottle is always stationed, laughing “Washy, washy, happy happy,” but they weren’t doing that this year. The staff seemed to be on edge a little more than usual, still insisting we sanitize before entering the dining room and grabbing a piece of pizza or burger to go or sitting down for a cornucopia of delicious food.


 While there was no “washy, washy, happy happy,” the staff gleefully added coffee themed lyrics as they sang popular hits while pouring slightly hungover outlaws their morning coffee.


 Though we were all required to be vaccinated and take a negative covid test before boarding, masks were supposed to be worn throughout the cruise, but few were, though one of the gifts we all received was a cool luchador style mask to go with this year’s luchador theme.


That aside it was all about the music.

 Almost every band I signed up to see were playing on the same night, usually competing with each other, but I jumped between the upper level of the pool deck where American Aquarium were playing  their laid back mid-tempo country rock music, mostly from their new CD “Lamentations, and the Spinnaker theatre, where Asleep At the Wheel were holding court for their first show of the week.


 Asleep at the Wheel were fantastic as I expected, so the theatre was packed. It was tough to  get a sight line around all the dancers and drinkers. Ray Benson is the consummate frontman. He grinned as he juggled during a few of his band members’ solos on a variety of western swing hits including lots of Bob Wills

A howler monkey on Monkey Island, Belize. Photo by Richard Amery, who Asleep At the Wheel have been happily re-popularizing since forming in the early ’70s.


 They had a relentless rhythm and an unstoppable horns section.

 Shinyribs  had their first show in the Stardust, the main theatre on the first night. That was one show where I really missed having my camera. Frontman Kevin Russell did a fine soft shoe, belting out soulful country and jazz tinged music with a mile  wide smile.

San Diego alt country band Beat Farmers also played their first show of the cruise in the atrium on the first night. They played a tight set, had fantastic multi-part vocal harmonies and even had a few sweet harmonized guitar solos as they played a lot of the songs from  their “Pursuit of Happiness album.”


The next day had a lot of highlights. One I was really looking forward to was a Salute to Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, one of the first cosmic country/ hippy country bands to emerge in the late ’60s, lead by Bill Kirchen who was everywhere, playing his own own shows, or leading a  jam on Bakersfield country music or just popping up on stage to jam with pretty much everybody else on the boat. I lost track of how many times I heard “Seeds and Stems,” but the “outlaws” on board enjoyed it.


The Commander Cody Tribute was many of several shows featuring guest appearances form the other performers on the boat and showcased Kirchen’s prodigious skill on the Telecaster. He played his spectacular jam on  “Hot Rod Lincoln” which  incorporates pretty much every well known guitar hook from  the mid twentieth century from Johnny Cash to the Sex Pistols. I got to hear him play that numerous times and was left with my jaw on the floor every time.

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