In about 1993, Kenn Amdahl, Barb Henry, and John Brady formed “Cottonwood” They sang cover songs, a few of Kenn’s originals, a few of John’s originals. Their main thing was harmony. Later, Bill Wilton joined the group. Like John, he had a fabulous tenor voice, and heard harmonies well, but the two had different musical styles. John came from rock roots, Bill from folk. To complement Barbara’s power and sensuality, John brought intensity to the group, Bill brought a sense of musical elegance. I brought sandwiches. Barbara sang most leads, Bill played bass, John played rhythm guitar. I fingerpicked my guitar and wisecracked between songs. Everyone sang harmony.
OK, I lied. I never brought sandwiches. What I did was recognize how gifted each of these musicians were and invite them to share that gift with me and the rest of our community. We didn’t make any videos– cell phones had not yet been invented. Our friend Cap came to one of our practices and recorded some of our songs
In 1994 Kenn’s family made a video letter to send to some of his relatives before Christmas. He sweet-talked Cottonwood into squeezing together on his couch to do one of his originals, “Remembering You.” Later, they did this song on their “Floating” CD. In 2021 Kenn found a copy of the VHS tape and here is
Then John moved out of state and the group continued with Bill, Barb, and Kenn. KcDunn played percussion for us at many gigs. Later, John Galm (who had recently retired as head of the percussion department at the University of Colorado) played percussion. The group released two CDs, “Voted Most Poplar” and “Floating.” Kc Dunn recorded them in his studio, Oasis manufactured the disks and included samples of our music on two “best acoustic music of the year” CDs that went out to radio stations. Our songs were played on at least 120 stations around the world and we developed fans in unexpected locations, like Adelaide, Australia and Garden City, Kansas.
Of the 100+ songs on our gig playlist, 32 made it to the CDs, including 10 of my originals. No good recordings of most of our material survive.
In January of 2003, we played at Swallow Hill, and the sound guy recorded the monitor feed. Maybe because Bill used a stage amp as a monitor, the bass is too soft and John Galm’s percussion isn’t in the monitor feed at all because we could hear him just fine without it. Most of the songs are recorded elsewhere. But if you’re new to the group, this is the recording that probably gives you the best sense of a live performance, goofiness and all. Plus it’s the only recording that includes my Christmas song “Last Month of the Year” (remember this concert was in January), Bill’s sweet rendition of “All My Life’s a Circle” and our encore song, “Folk Rap,” which is a hoot.
As I write this in 2020, I’ve been listening to old cassette tapes (see “the lost tapes” at the bottom of this page). Even the scratchy, overloaded recordings remind me of the fun we had. I wish we had gone into the studio much earlier and more often. Cheap tapes deteriorate and I don’t have the skill to resurrect them. Despite their crudeness, for those of us who were in the group, they conjure the music we can probably still hear in our brains. For the rest of you, trust me: we were better than we sound.
Continuing in roughly reverse chronological order (most recent to oldest):
Twenty years after the fact, I stumbled across a recording of this gig, made after John left the group. Just Kenn, Barbara, and Bill, no percussion, no guest musicians. The guy who did the sound (Doug) recorded this digitally and gave us a copy. Doug did a good job. On one song I jokingly asked if anyone in the audience had a conga. Doug actually had one and joined us.
These tunes are also on our CDs. Because you’re visiting this site, there’s a good chance you already own our CDs, so here’s an alternate version for you. Mostly Doug did not record our snappy patter between songs, for which posterity thanks him, but there is definitely a “live” feeling.
This concert is ALSO posted on Youtube as private audio-only files, not available to the general public. You hit the “back” button to return to this page. I uploaded them here before I figured out the “music store” ap. Not sure which method is better for you. I’m leaving them up for now in case my youtube channel becomes popular:
God’s Gift to Women, a Rory Block tune. Barb sings lead
Jookie Jangeo a Kenn Amdahl song, Kenn sings lead
Waltz of the Wallflowers a Small Potatoes song. Barb and Bill sing this.
You Fall in Love With a Rich One Just As Easy a Kenn Amdahl song, Barbara sings lead
Back When I Could Fly written by our friends in Trout Fishing in America, Bill sings lead
Neo Nazi Samba by Kenn Amdahl and Bill Wilton, and they sing it as a duet with Barbara on the chorus
Tarantula by Kenn Amdahl, Kenn sings lead
Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out by Josh White, Bill sings lead
The Cottonwood album “Floating”
Click below to hear any song on the album:
First song on Voted Most Poplar:
When the group dissolved, we split up the remaining CDs. I still have a few. I’d be happy to sell you one of these rare and valuable collectors items for $20 including postage. Send it via Paypal to Wordguise@AOL.com, and tell me which album you want and where to send it.
Cottonwood: The Lost Tapes
Most of these are from crumbling cassettes and disintegrating home-made reel-to-reel tapes. They aren’t in any particular order.
Over a dozen songs from the imaginary “Lost Tapes of Cottonwood” collection are listenable and downloadable HERE. Same songs as below, just a different web format. I’ll delete the weird duplications when and if I figure out what I’m doing.