Sporting an outsized reputation as the home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, The Haunted Windchimes October 26 th concert proved a perfect fit to The Western Folklife Center’s G Three Bar Theater in Elko, Nevada. This Americana/Folk/Roots band of four singer-songwriters imprint their brand amongst western American towns, in a manner best explained by their lyrics: “I can’t explain | What happens now | I’ll get to you | Somehow.”
It was the band’s second performance in Elko in a year – a town they pass through frequently on road trips. Their previous gig provided my introduction to this Pueblo, Colorado-based band, which frequently tours across the western United States. As vocalist Chela Lujan explained, when not singing over bar conversations, her brother Inaiah Lujan is able to build upon a narrative introduction to each of their songs. Besides getting the deets on their lyrics and learning the band’s decade long history, the Folklife Center’s notably appreciative crowd could more fully hear their blended harmonies and instrumental mastery. It even led to some western dancing by fans along the periphery of the ballroom. Most notably, the band’s sociability off stage proved to be one of its most endearing qualities.
I was pleased to hear three of my favorite songs in their 2 hour concert: ‘Wandering Heart,’ Everybody’s Talking’ and ‘Sun Shines Bright.’ This past April, they released the official video for ‘Sun Shining Bright’ off their most recent album ‘Rattle Your Bones.’ The music video visually evolves into a dreamy Land of Oz with pantomiming musicians transported from the Colorado short grass plains to the Sonoran Desert. I asked Inaiah, “In it, you all strike me as a troupe who could have played interpretative ragtime music in silent picture theaters. What past film might your music most effectively have enriched?”
Inaiah replied: “We love old Charley Chaplin and Buster Keaton silent films but I imagine our music would fit right in with any dustbowl era film or perhaps some old westerns, maybe some cool old black and white foreign films for our songs that are a bit more outside of the folk box.” His response points to how their genre bending music is often defined as an “old-timey sound.”
Inaiah explained how the band’s four singer songwriters help make them unique. I asked him: “With multiple singer/songwriters, I get the sense that the lead vocal goes to whoever was the dominate writer? Does it actually work out that way?” Inaiah responded that: “It does indeed, whoever is singing lead probably wrote the song with a few exceptions, for example there are collaborative songs such as ‘Say Yer Sorry’ written by Mike and Chela, ‘Hallelujah’ written by Mike and myself and ‘Find The Door’, a collaboration between all of us.”
As expected, watching the interplay between the musicians in this live venue created many new favorites for me. Multi-instrumentalist Mike Clark was in his “Full Fogerty” mode on songs he wrote, such as ‘Banjo and the Bottle.’ It was introduced as a song about “sitting around and playing with friends.” Mike dead panned about John Fogerty, “I love him a lot,” but Chela revealed that the band had recently been listening to Credance Clearwater Revival. It seems that jamming had brought out an energetic side of Mike Clark. I appreciated how the extended sets gave him more exposure to the audience, especially his extended fiddling in his song ‘D-Minor.’ Mike also serves as the front man to Mike Clark and the Sugar Sounds, a band which features Inaiah as lead guitar and Desirae Garcia (Inaiah’s wife) as backup vocalist.
Desirae has been with The Haunted Windchimes since it was formed in 2006. She has a voice that Inaiah immediately fell in love with and married a year ago. Desirae accidentally left behind her signature ukelele on this tour, but over the last year she has been primarily playing the bass guitar. It was briefly flattering to have her note my arrival, a year after she had rescued me from a “any breakdown stories from the road?” interview question, which nearly went awry:
While passing Elko nearly a year later, the band would have a transmission breakdown to their beloved red touring van. Desirae was good natured about that happenstance, but I couldn’t help wonder “what if I hadn’t asked that question?” Lucky for the band and a tribute to their dedicated supporters, they had a new transmission in a day and a missed California tour date was immediately rescheduled.
Chela is fond of saying that: “Happiness is detrimental to creativity.” Perhaps there is a silver lining to the adversities the band overcomes? Mike has certainly used an accident theme as inspiration in their ‘Dead and Gone’ song about “his cars, which have tended to crash a few days after buying them.” Like the “I just came here | looking for a good time” lyrics to his ‘Alabama Back Woods’ song, it would be another month before they were back in Elko. Ultimately, their return left us good memories of a sound that deserves hoots and howls from every cowboy, cowgirl, horse and dog in the West, and beyond.
Fans of The Haunted Windchimes can expect to see an evolution to their sound in 2017. I asked Inaiah: “Tell us about the newest band member. What different songs might we hear since you’ll have a drummer?”
“Well the band still consists of core members, Desirae, Chela, Mike and myself,” explained Inaiah. “We have been broadening our sound as of late adding precision elements provided by our good friend Carl Sorensen, a famed Denver musician who studied at Berkley School of Music. We’ve been loving our collaboration with Carl, who brings a new dimension to our veteran band, his subtle approach and respect for the music has made the transition a delight. Unfortunately Carl could not join us for this Heber / Elko run, but expect to start seeing more of him in 2017!”
They can easily be followed on social media under the hashtags #ChimeTime and #ChimeTour and on their website.
Words by: Gary Reese