Wyoming’s ‘Endemic Treasure’ is a World-Class Picker Too
Have you noticed a shortage of superlatives lately? That's because music critics and reviewers from Laramie to the Big Apple have used them all up in trying to describe a singular Wyoming artist named Jalan Crossland.
But perhaps Marcus Huff of Laramie Zine boils it down best by writing, "To pin any one label on Crossland's body of work would be a crime. It's not country. It's not rock. It sure as hell ain't your daddy's bluegrass! His characters and stories come alive to form an often dark, yet highly humorous interpretation of the American Experience."
To which Michael Segell of the New York Times adds, "He casts a sardonic but affectionate eye on the rough-hewn lives of Western people."
It's high praise to lay at the feet--and eye, and picking fingers--of a country boy from Ten Sleep, a town whose population stood at 260 in the 2010 census. His subjects run the gamut from Big Horn sheep to the adventures of trailer-park faithful.
Guitar virtuoso Spencer Bohren refers to him as "one of the finest guitarists in America; Crossland is a winner of both the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship and of Wyoming's State Flatpick Championship title.
He's also no slouch at picking a banjo, though his is different than most: a home-crafted model that's both left-handed and has six strings. He describes the necessity of the customizing in this way: "I've never been able to learn any of the really proper styles on the banjo, like the rolling Scruggs style or the knock-down frailing style, which my uncle used. So I built this hybrid-style thing, which most banjo players just find appalling. But it works."
What also works are Crossland's original and often timeless lyrics, which range from the raucous--"You grab a fifth of Bacardi / I'll grab a .44-40 / We'll go out to the dump and shoot a TV / And I ain't coming back here no more..."--to the heartbreaking line about a failed love affair: "Checkout time / And the Sunday morning sunshine / Is a jury trial..."
No Depression magazine has said, "That alienation and the grit in Crossland's songs are testament to the truth he sings about life in Wyoming and the rural west. He's painting portraits of the new west, where the cowboys who raced across sagebrush flats have been replaced by roughnecks on oil rigs."
As Crossland told their interviewer, "You've got to say something that's relevant to your place in time. I don't just want to be a curator of old tunes. I'm glad there are people who do that, but there's got to be somebody who's talking about where we're at now, too."
Where Crossland is at, on the first weekend of August, is at Beartrap. It's not your daddy's bluegrass, but you'll want to bring him anyway. There's a very high probability he'll like Jalan's superlative music.