Chuck Pyle, renowned "Zen Cowboy," returned to Chautauqua County on Friday night to perform at Trinity Guitars.
Pyle, who performed at Trinity Guitars' Back Room in Jamestown, drew a standing ovation from a crowd struck by the man's ability to weave a tapestry of gorgeous language.
According to Jim Holler, owner of Trinity Guitars, it was great to have Pyle perform in the intimate setting found in the Back Room.
"It seems like the audience really enjoyed it - it's hard not to," said Holler. "He's such a good entertainer and a phenomenal guitar player."
Pyle opened the set with a tune called "Drifter's Wind," a song about a hitchhiker he once picked up, which appeared on his first studio album released in 1985. He followed the tune up with several other classics including: "Chickadee," "Here Comes The Water," "My Grandpa's Hands," "Cadillac Cowboy," and others. He also played a new tune off his forthcoming album entitled "Forty Days of Rain," to be released in February
Pyle closed the show with an encore after the crowd stood for an ovation. For the encore Pyle performed "Keepin' Time By the River," which he included the audience in by having them sing along. Altogether Pyle said he felt the show went well, and that he doesn't always come out for an encore, not unless the audience is standing - which they did.
"People laughed in all the right places, really clapped loud for things that I felt like I got across and I don't think I phoned anything in tonight," said Pyle.
Throughout the show Pyle told a number of stories between each song, many of which drew laughs from the audience. Halfway through the performance Pyle took a short break for an intermission. And, during the second half of the show he told fewer stories and let his guitar do the talking while his lyrics took the audience on a journey. One song that was particularly moving was "Over the San Luis," which went, "And from now on you can find me in the garden of gorgeous language."
"To me it means that this is what we do - we talk of beauty and we live beauty," said Pyle. "The garden of gorgeous language is in joy. We grow it as we get older to understand how joy is so meaningful and rare in our lives. It's also the place where I go to source the lyrics to that song, and that's what inspired that chorus. All these images have taken me over, this is like a garden, and this language is gorgeous. It also had this wondrous thought about there's an orange one, a green one, a red one - all these possibilities of nourishment."
The audience at the show was full of longtime fans, including a man from Cassadaga who caught Pyle performing at the Mayville Bluegrass Festival 11 years ago. The man brought a CD he had signed by Pyle at the festival, which Pyle signed for a second time 11 years later. Another fan, Vincent P. Martonis, of Silver Creek, brought with him a horse-skull fiddle, which was made by a man named Amos Sottle, a resident of Irving who was one of Chautauqua County's first settlers in the early 1800s. Martonis wanted to show the fiddle to Pyle in hopes of giving him a story worth remembering about Chautauqua County.
According to Bill Ward, who helped organize the event, part of Pyle's appeal is his ability to draw in listeners to take them along on a ride.
"I remember during our festival I would do the dangerous thing of booking a single artist in the middle of a bluegrass festival, but it wasn't dangerous with him," said Ward. "That's because folks just love his songs, storytelling and his guitar playing is wonderful. And, for me, when Chuck would play at the festival I would clear my schedule and just stand, sit, or lie and listen to Chuck. My wife and I would dance to the stars song. His music fills my soul, and cleanses the palette."
Pyle will present his acclaimed "Free the Thumb; Fire the Band" fingerstyle guitar workshop today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Trinity Guitars. Reservations to the workshop are $65 and they can be purchased at Trinity Guitars, 800 W. Third St. in Jamestown or by calling 665-4490.
For more information visit trinityguitars.com or search for "Trinity Guitars" on Facebook.