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Cowboy poet joins The Wardens

Part cowboy, part cop, part wildlife wrangler; with such a multi-faceted job description, the warden life – as it was when a warden was expected to be a masterful Jack-of-all trades – was utterly unique.
The Wardens play St. Michael’s Anglican Church, Nov. 30.
The Wardens play St. Michael’s Anglican Church, Nov. 30.

Part cowboy, part cop, part wildlife wrangler; with such a multi-faceted job description, the warden life – as it was when a warden was expected to be a masterful Jack-of-all trades – was utterly unique.

And just as the warden life was, and still is, unique, so too are the songs and stories of Bow Valley-based band The Wardens, which includes Bradley Bischoff, Scott Ward and Ray Schmidt, all of who have long histories working for Parks Canada.

And yet, as unique as their backcountry stories are, they are universal in that anyone with a connection to the land will immediately connect to their songs.

“They connect to it because the music is so rootsy and you can hear the lyrics,” Bischoff said. “With each one of our songs, we paint a picture. We take (listeners) on a roller coaster of emotions from the mountaintops to the valley bottoms. We paint them with such colour that it’s very powerful.”

The Wardens write their own material, all of which is tied to the backcountry culture and connection to the land and that, Bischoff said, appeals to audiences as it is authentic and original.

“They’re real songs of adventure on the trails, grizzly bears and mountain rescues and all of that great material and it’s all presented by us who have lived it all. It’s the real deal.

“In days gone by, the warden service has been so iconic and true symbols of national parks. It’s a warden on a horse, a warden rescuing somebody off Cascade, a warden in the backcountry, it’s a warden with a bear, just so connected with national parks. Scott spent his entire career in those times.

“I’ve spent most of my time in that era. I’ve got a few years to go, but it is memories and those stories. That’s what we write about. That’s what we love and that’s been the creative force. The creative foundation of our entire band has been those times.”

The Wardens are coming off “a heck of a summer” with a tour of Alberta and a show in Maple Creek, Sask. at the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Art & Gear Show.

“We headlined the Saturday night show and it was a real thrill for us and it opened some doors for us. We made some great contacts and had a really good run with it,” Bischoff said.

Closer to home, The Wardens will share an upcoming double-bill on Saturday (Nov. 30) with award-winning cowboy poet Doris Daley, who in 2004 and 2009 was named Best Female Cowboy Poet in North America by the Academy of Western Artists.

This show will take place at St. Michael’s Anglican Church at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and are available at Harvest Moon Acoustics and Café Books.

Things are going so well that The Wardens are preparing for a new run of the band’s current self-titled CD and the guys are working towards their second album.

“We’re still cranking out those songs. There’s still so much to write about. Just when you hit the wall it continues to provide inspiration and more material and we are hopefully going to be heading into the studio soon for our next full-length CD,” Bischoff said.

It’s all also leading them to plan a New Zealand tour in 2015. Bischoff said they’ve got a date booked on the North Island where they’ve been invited to play at the Marton Country Music Festival.

They’re hoping to add at least five more dates and make it a month-long tour.

“We need confirmation of six gigs booked before we can qualify for a touring grant from Alberta music,” he said, adding a festival in New Plymouth, NZ has expressed interest.

“It’s still early days, so we’re hustling trying to get that all tied up and get our applications in months in advance.”

Bischoff said the band is also hoping to jump on Daley’s coattails at some point and join her on a future tour of Europe. Daley just returned from a tour of Ireland.

“Hopefully she’ll drag us along one day. (Ireland) is a rural country and they enjoy that country living, so there’s certainly a lot of common denominators between them and ourselves.”

And that is the key to The Wardens growing success – even though their songs are about a very small group of people, there’s that common denominator: people joined the warden service for their love of the land, the wildlife and the life.

All of which continues to inspire The Wardens and their listeners.

“Wherever we go, we’re really good ambassadors for the warden service and the parks. It’s about connection. For people to come to our shows and hear the stories and songs and see the slides, they get a connection that I would challenge anybody to go out and find in a concert or a show,” Bischoff said.

“I know you’re not going to find anything like it and it solidifies the importance of these places to Canadians, who can make that connection that these parks belong to them and we are all responsible for the stewardship of these places. That serves Parks Canada quite nicely.”

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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