One scorching summer afternoon I drove from Lubbock, Texas to the abandoned First Presbyterian Church in Taiban, New Mexico carrying a guitar, a gallon of water, an 8-track recorder, and a suitcase full of microphones and cables. I plugged in all my gear, tuned my guitar, and hung a blanket from a boom stand to shield my guitar mics from the relentless desert wind.
I pressed record and began to play.
The sound of cars and trucks on U.S. Highway 60 diminished as night fell on the open plains, the wind slowing from a constant presence in the open wooden chapel to an occasional welcome breeze. The chirping of the crickets, the squall of tires on asphalt, the distant summer storms lighting up the horizon, and the soul-stirring roar of ten-thousand foot trains thundering down the double track of the Belen Cutoff all set the stage for the stories I wanted to tell.
On the evening of July 15, 2015 I played and sang seventeen songs of life and death on the new American frontier in the hollow sacristy of a long-vacant hundred-year old place of worship. Here are eight of those songs, arranged in the order in which they were performed: Flatland Murder Ballads and High Plains Hymns.