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Local Music That We Love

The High Desert Playboys bring an eclectic mix to the stage

If you’re not familiar with the genre of music known as “Americana,” you’re missing out on some great music in Albuquerque. Clark Andrew Libbey, singer/ songwriter for the band The High Desert Playboys, explains, “Americana is rooted in traditional forms of music. The term ‘Country Music’ has taken on a connotation of commercial or mainstream country, which is fine, but that’s not what we’re doing.”

Clark continues, “We use the term Americana as a catch-all for the different styles that we play. We play old traditional country. We play bluegrass. We also play Cajun Zydeco and Western Swing. Americana is a good term to let you know that a band is going to show up with acoustic guitars and a bunch of harmonies.”

“I don’t particularly care to worry about genres. I’ve played grunge and punk for years. I’m in a blues band sometimes right now. I look at melodies and stories, as opposed to a genre or tradition.”

There is a core group of five that makes up The High Desert Playboys, but the band sometimes adds musicians depending on the gig. Clark explains, “A lot of the musicians that I want to play with are involved in several projects or other bands because they are great musicians and are in demand. Plus, when I record, I get to draw from this group of fantastic artists.”

Clark has his own record company, Slow Start Records, and produces a new single about every two months. He tells us, “We concentrate on singles rather than albums because not many people still have CD players these days.”

When visiting a High Desert Playboys show while writing this story, the band consisted of three musicians: Clark on guitar, vocals, harmonica, and washboard, Ryan Goodhue, piano, banjo, and accordion, and Bud Melvin on pedal steel guitar and banjo. Other core members of the group include Kristen Rad, electric violin and vocals, and Mikey Hale on drums.     

If you’re playing old time Country, Zydeco, and Western Swing, an accordion, a fiddle, and a pedal steel guitar really add to the authenticity of the sound. Clark told us, “A pedal steel is one of the instruments that audiences really respond to. I’ll write a song and once I hear it with the pedal steel it’s sadder and more emotional.”

While at the show we heard a young woman ask the pedal steel guitar player what the instrument was called because she had never seen or heard one before. Clark quipped, “There’s only a few pedal steel players in Albuquerque. I’m nervous when they’re all in the same room. If there was some kind of accident, we could lose them all.”

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Clark came to New Mexico about 20 years ago and loves the local music environment. He says, “One of the best parts of my job is touring around New Mexico. We play in some mountain towns with beautiful scenery and old historic venues. The breweries and wineries are really stepping up their game and booking a lot of live music. I’m amazed at the number of great bands that I get to be around on a regular basis.”

If you want to book The High Desert Playboys or see their show dates: https://www.highdesertplayboys.com/

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