Wyoming’s underground music scene is attempting to break through the surface.
Latching onto the idea there’s strength in numbers, the WyoFolk Project is a pooling of talent with 14 Wyoming musicians collaborating to produce an album that not only gives them more visibility, but raises the profile for the Cowboy State’s music industry overall.
Essence Of Wyoming
Gritty and insightful, the WyoFolk Project is an eclectic collection of music that captures the essence of America’s least populated state.
It comes from blue-collar people who know hardship and have learned life lessons in a place where strength and independence are requirements. And it’s those lessons that make this collection a true reflection of the Cowboy State.
Inside this collection of Wyoming-inspired music, listeners will find a range of songs from toe tappers to heartbreakers.
Out of the 14 artists who contributed to the album, only a few are full-time musicians.
“Everybody else is essentially working really hard to carve out a space to make music,” said Aaron Davis, who produced the album and contributed the song “One Good Wing.”
Folk For Folks
Folk musicians are representations of where they live. Davis said the album was produced with Wyoming and rural people everywhere in mind.
“It’s not a hobby, I would call it their life blood,” Davis told Cowboy State Daily in describing the ups and downs of life as an artist. “You grow a thick skin over the years and you learn how to make it work best for you.”
Davis, 45, is a Kentucky native who moved to Wyoming in 2001. He’s the owner of Three Hearted Recording Studio, located near the confluence of the Hoback and Snake rivers in Teton County. He applied for and received funding to produce and promote the album from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming Arts Council.
Rooted in country, folk, bluegrass and Americana, Davis said Wyofolk is its own unique, vibrant genre.
“This album is a throwback to the minimalistic production style reminiscent of 70’s folk,” he said. “What I had in mind is music that compliments Wyoming’s vibe and that has a realness to it.”
Two of the songs, “The Road That Goes to Nowhere” by Alysia Craft and “Year’s Divide” written by Inland Isle, fit into the Indy Rock genre, Davis said, while the rest of the songs are a country bluegrass mix.
Grateful For Grant
About a third of the album was recorded live in studio with no overdubs. Another third was recorded live with overdubs added later, and the remaining third was recorded traditional style multitrack.
The project was funded in May 2022 and the album was recorded over the summer and fall. Production and post-production was in November and December.
Davis enlisted a public relations firm to help promote the album on social media.
“I was fortunate to be able to earmark some of the grant money for things I knew I wasn’t good at, and I really want to do it justice and push it out there right,” he said.
As Local As It Gets
Davis has cultivated a network of Wyoming artists through touring around the state with the Wyomericana Caravan and Screen Door Porch, both bands created by Davis and his wife, Seadar Rose Davis. A third band, Aaron Davis and the Mystery Machine, has been recording and playing Wyoming venues since 2017.
In creating the WyoFolk Project, Davis started with a list of over 70 Wyoming musicians. He said there are a lot more Wyoming musicians who are deserving and likely to be asked to contribute to the project in the future.
“There were no restrictions or forethought the artists needed to bring to the table in making this album,” he said. “I allow artists to bring what they do best, and we try to capture that in a way that compliments the song and the artist.”
During the time the album was coming together Davis said he found even more artists he would like to work with.
“A lot of younger 20-something songwriters in Wyoming are making some killer songs and putting out some great material,” he said. “Even as this record was coming out, I found others that would fit the theme of this record.”
Dozens Of Session Musicians
There were 34 session musicians who also contributed to the album on a wide range of instruments like acoustic guitar, electric guitar, resonator guitar, nylon guitar, electric base, banjo, dobro, double bass, harmonium, Wurlitzer electric piano, peddle steel and mandolin.
In addition, the sounds on the album also come from the cabin floor of the studio and a tin of BBs.
Regarding vocals, in some cases they are stacked with multiple vocals of the same melody on top of one another and some harmony vocals as well, he said.
The songwriters contributed 200 hours of session time that was weeded down to the final 55 minutes of music.
In Davis’ song “One Good Wing,” listeners will hear two Cowboy State references.
In “Til It Ain’t,” Laramie songwriter Shawn Hess tells a story about breaking up and getting back together. “Cause it’s always just as good each time it begins as it is bad each time when it ends. Oh, it’s always great ’til it ain’t time and time again.”
The album is available on YouTube and all of the major streaming services including Apple, Amazon and Spotify. Davis advises listeners to purchase high resolution copies at bandcamp.com. He said on this site 85 percent of the returns come back to the artists whereas on the major streaming services less than one percent of the return will make it back to Wyoming artists.
The WyoFolk Project plans to perform on stages around the state in September. On Sept. 19, the musicians are scheduled to perform at the Center Theater in Jackson Hole, on Sept. 21 at the WYO Theater in Sheridan and on Sept. 22 in Laramie at the Gryphon Theatre.