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A Pair of Aces by Chris Isaacs

Review by Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor,

   Award-winning poet Chris Isaacs' new CD, A Pair of Aces, honors the memory and celebrates the talents of the late Cowboy Poetry greats Sunny Hancock and Larry McWhorter, men he calls "two of the best friends I've ever been blessed to have."  Accompanied by Rich O'Brien's exceptional background tunes, the CD features Hancock and McWhorter favorites along with carefully chosen selections of their lesser known poems. In addition to the considerable entertainment value, these tracks are full of the abundant wisdom of these sorely-missed masters.

   Larry McWhorter once wrote, "Chris's view of the cowboy life can be seen from so many different angles because he has lived so many aspects of it. Chris can ride the bull, drive the bull, pack the bull, and he can shoot the bull with the best of them."  The jovial "teasing and tormenting" of their friendships comes through often in Isaacs' comfortably warm introductions to the poems.  His equally strong respect of their talents is ever-present as he captures and shares so much of their humor and insight.

   Sunny Hancock's fun and nimble "self-defense" of traditional rhyme, "Doggerel, Plain and Simple," is full of elaborate observations that humorously encapsulate the old controversies and score big points for the rhyming faction.

   Hancock was a great observer of human nature, and Isaacs does justice to his well-known "Horse Trade" and to his equally amusing commentary on "the cowboy dress code," called "Change on the Range."  Among the other Hancock highlights are "The Difference," a rarely heard poem, and his "Ode to My Lady, My Wife."

   Rich O'Brien's faultless music -- Western and otherwise -- could steal the scene, but doesn't. It shines without ever overwhelming, a model for how music can enhance a spoken-word recording. For example, there's a comic sour-noted few bars of "Pomp and Circumstance" at the end of "Doggerel, Plain and Simple"; a pairing of "The Best Things in Life are Free" with "Differences"; and the sweet strains of "Memri'es" carry along "Ode to My Lady, My Wife."

   Larry McWhorter's poetry often had a moral and Chris Isaacs presents several of his most philosophical and well-known poems, including "Ridin' for the Brand," "The Gate Session," and "The Red Cow."  McWhorter liked to visit with old cowboys and pass along what he learned from them. You can't help thinking of the tragedy of his early death when you listen to the words of these poems. Larry McWhorter surely would have been one of those "old cowboys" teaching valuable lessons to the next generations.  Fortunately, he was wise before his time, and Chris Isaacs does his part for the future by helping to keep his words alive.

   There are over 16 generous tracks of modern classics in this hour-long CD, each one a jewel. McWhorter's "The Real Thing" is particularly emblematic. It so well represents the realities of working cowboys' lives and what both these men stood for.

   Humor is a great part of these poets' legacy and humor is always in good hands with Chris Isaacs.  He celebrates that side of these poets well, and carries it through to the end of the recording with his  vision of how his old friends will greet him in the "great gathering above."  He definitely leaves you smiling. That will be some event.

Margo Metegrano
Managing Editor,
February, 2005

Out With the Crew by Chris Isaacs

Review by

   The experience of this fine CD - winner of the Will Rogers 2002 Best Cowboy Poetry Album Award from the Academy of Western Artists - is like a gathering of top poets. Chris Isaacs' great idea to record poems of the top contemporary poets (and one classic by Bruce Kiskaddon) says quite a bit about him, his respect for other poets, and for what he contributes to the world of Cowboy Poetry.

   Chris, in his engaging style, recites poems by Wallace McRae, Joel Nelson, Bob Bird, RW Hampton & Phil Martin, Jesse Smith, Larry McWhorter, Rolf Flake, Leon Autrey, Rod McQueary, JB Allen, Sunny Hancock, Bruce Kiskaddon, and Randy Rieman, and one of his own. There are vocals by RW Hampton, Lisa Isaacs, and Leon Autrey, guitar work by Leon Autrey, RW Hampton, & Pat Dressen, and violin by JoAnn Isaacs Brookover.

   The CD includes some of the best modern poems ever written: "One More Shippin' Day" by Wallace McRae; "For Woody" by Rod McQueary; "The Horse Trade" by Sunny Hancock; "Johnny Clare" by Larry McWhorter....see what we're sayin'?


"I was there when he was awarded the 1st Annual 'Rising Star' of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists, and I had seen him dazzle so many crowds in so many places, that I had the feeling I was seeing Casey Tibbs get "Rookie of the Year" after about his third World Championship. And you can bet that fine trophy on his mantel will be joined by others in the years to come."
Buck Ramsey
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