On the Download: Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams

September 2 2010, 7:58 AM

Album: Sinners & Saints 

Artist: Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams

Label: Self Released

Hometown: Fort Collins

Where to Find It: hibeams.com

Why We Like It: Try this little experiment: Ask 10 people what type of music they like. Without fail, a significant portion will say, "Anything but country."

It’s a shame, really. What passes as country on corporate radio stations has turned off legions. And so much of that sound is more adult contemporary than country. Artists who helped establish the genre—Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Willie Nelson, etc.—have been kicked to the curb, discarded legends. Thanks in part to hip-hop and rock producer Rick Rubin salvaging Johnny Cash and introducing him to a generation of Pabst-drinking country haters, this is changing. True country artists are finding audiences off the Toby Keith playlists.

Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams play genuine country. From the live shows to the albums, this band exudes a respect for honky tonk music. Songwriter and singer Halden Wofford has even illustrated and written an excellent history of country music for kids, The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music. Fans of country radio would benefit from discovering this lost history or listening to the band’s most recent release, Sinners & Saints.

The beautiful, lonely whine of a pedal steel guitar, the crisp hit of a snare drum, and the bouncing thump of the upright bass set the foundation for Wofford’s songs, which cover country motifs like heartbreak, loss, and father/daughter relationships. But he is also interested in more grand, cerebral pursuits, such as wondering if America is a shadow of its past and whether the apocalypse is nigh. The album even ends with a patchwork of spoken word that features Allen Ginsberg's "America."

Whatever you think about country music—and honky tonk in particular—Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams are true to the genre's roots, yet honest, contemporary, and thoughtful enough to appeal to those who would say, "Please, anything but country."