‘Shadow of a Cowboy’ Strikes a Chord in Western Music

Andy Hedges playing guitar

Andy Hedges digs deep into the heart and humor of a cowboy with this collection of traditional and contemporary songs.

“My thumbs ain’t flexed ’cause I don’t text, you’re emails leave me cold. Go lick a stamp that’ll find my camp on a letter I can hold. Yippee-yi-yay, send a letter I can hold.” —lyrics from “Horseback Man for Hire” from the album Shadow of a Cowboy

Western Horseman readers get the first listen to the song “Horseback Man for Hire,” written by Joel Nelson, from the album Shadow of a Cowboy here:

In the cowboy entertainment scene there are poets, storytellers, humorists, singers, songwriters and instrumentalists. Andy Hedges embodies all of these talents, plus plays a big role in preserving songs and stories of the West. A music historian, he digs deep to the roots of traditional folk songs and breaths life into them again for new audiences. His podcast, “Cowboy Crossroads,” is in its third year with more than 40 episodes featuring interviews with iconic horsemen, cowboys and entertainers. His forthcoming CD, titled Shadow of a Cowboy, offers a taste of the traditional tunes his fans have come to expect but blended with contemporary collaborations with John Dofflemyer, Waddie Mitchell and Joel Nelson.

"Shadow of a Cowboy" album front cover

“Joel Nelson wrote the lyrics to Horseback Man for Hire, and I heard him sing it a cappella [at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering] in Elko, [Nevada] a few years ago and I really liked it,” recalls Hedges. “It stayed in my mind and I never heard him sing it again. I asked if he would mind if I record it and he graciously gave me the music. I’m honored to be the first person to record it.

“I believe Joel is one of the most important cowboy poets out there today. He’s a thoughtful writer, wonderful reciter, and a respected horseman and working cowboy.”

Like Hedges’ past albums, Shadow of a Cowboy has an intimate, raw acoustic sound as though you are sitting around the fire listening to him sing and play his guitar. However, the harmonies and background vocals of his equally talented wife, Alissa, add depth and beauty to the melodies.

His past albums have focused on traditional songs from the trail-drive era of the late 1800s through the 1930s. For this album, however, Hedges opted for fresh collaborations and dusted off some songs from the 1950s-‘70s, including “Lonesome Pine Special” by Sarah & A.P. Carter, “Oregon” by Tucker Zimmerman (, who also penned the impactful title track, and “Song of the Cuckoo” by Billy Faier. Hedges even played Faier’s handmade guitar in the latter song. He still gives trail drover E.C. “Teddy Blue Abbott” a nod in “The Ogallaly Song,” which is mentioned in the book We Pointed Them North by Abbot and Helena Huntington Smith.

"Shadow of a Cowboy" album back cover

Waddie Mitchell, another well-known cowboy poet and inspiration to Hedges contributed lyrics to the humorous song “Long Johns On.” Hedges first learned about cowboy poetry watching an episode of Austin City Limits that featured Mitchell with his friends and fellow performers Don Edwards and Michael Martin Murphey. He was hooked and began listening to more recordings of Mitchell’s poetry. It wasn’t long before he was reciting poetry in front of audiences.

Now focused on music, Hedges is a fixture at cowboy gatherings all over the United States but still includes a couple of classic poems in his performances. A passionate student of songs and devoted to his art, he continues to produce timeless recordings and projects to be treasured for the long ride.  

“I consider all cowboy songs of past and present traditional,” he says. “They give you a sense of place and who you are, and I think that the important and fun part of folk music. Songs carry so much with them in the stories they tell.”

Pre-order your copy of Shadow of a Cowboy for $20 at

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