Steinke & Hausler,
Yellowstone Winds
(self-produced, 1999)

Ric Steinke and Linda Hausler have changed their name to Open Range, but the sound is still the same as the Montana-based duo combines voices in wondrous duets on cowboy folksongs and country blues.

The CD Yellowstone Winds opens with an easy listening folk song about getting the horse ready for an early morning ride and heading through the scenic canyons and woods nearby. The saddle is cold and the horse is going to buck for a while, but there's nothing to do except "Get on That Horse and Ride." The song becomes metaphorical as it goes; when a bronc throws you, you just get back into the saddle and hold on for dear life. The prominent guitar makes you feel the adventure in this one while percussion lays a medium-paced rhythm.

"Long Distance Love" has a knockout broken rhythm with a changeup to regular beat during the chorus that will get you on your feet. For all the chair dancers in the audience, this is the song for hand dancing. You cannot be still while listening to it. The mandolin solo will pierce your soul.

"Crow Fair" has a haunting flute played with a combination breathe-through and trill combination. The gourd rattle adds to the haunting effect. The song tells the story of a great Crow pow-wow in 1902 near Little Bighorn, Montana. This is the best pow-wow description I have found in a song. You will see the dancers and drummers when you listen. Near the end, the flute becomes prominent and drops the haunting breathe-through technique for a full-bodied sound, before ending with multiple rips and a rip-bark. It leaves you feeling haunted and lonely.

The words of these songs are descriptive to the point of being poetically picturesque. They produce dramatic mental images of western landscapes and lifestyles. The guitar playing could not be better. These musicians are in perfect synch and complement each other as though they have been playing together throughout their lives. Their voices are pitched ideally for harmonizing and they execute even the minor notes and rips with uncanny timing.

Besides Hausler (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Steinke (vocals, guitars, harmonica, banjo), the band is David Thompson (bass guitar), Mike Parsons (fiddle, mandolin), Tyler Medicine Horse (wooden flute on "Crow Fair"), Dean Anderson (keyboards on "Prairie Moon") and John Devine (gourd rattle in "Crow Fair").

The musicians deserve much more credit and publicity than they are getting. This duo is producing outstanding work, both old and new, in the country folksong and country blues arena. It would be a difficult task to find a better duet anywhere. Their work should be in the Top 10.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 6 September 2003

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