Musicians’ ribs about rigs limit their gigs

If you are going to sing about drilling mishaps in oil-and-gas country, not everyone is going to appreciate the lyrics, as one Garfield County bluegrass band has found.

The song, "EnCana Bluegrass Blues" by the Good Old Guard Gospel Singers from the Glenwood Springs area has attracted the ire of both EnCana and oil-and-gas workers because the lyrics are none too kind to the industry. To stay out of harm’s way, the group has limited their gigs to ones miles away from the drilling rigs.

The tune also describes a 2004 drilling mishap when one of EnCana’s wells leaked benzene, a carcinogenic chemical, in West Divide Creek about 20 miles west of Glenwood. Some of the lyrics go: “How did they poison my water and hay, by drilling for gas in the ground?" and “They drilled my ranch, they sucked my gas and bulldozed my homestead, too.”

From the band’s Web site:

"The Good Old Guard Gospel Singers are an anonymous unidentified secret and mysterious troupe of unorthodox nondenominational, nonpolitical musicians north of Aspen west of Vail that has spawned a melodious mode of political free speech. The undistinguished songs have never generated any form of revenue, and the general public is discouraged from any prolonged exposure."

The Good Old Guard Gospel Singers are really four musicians –- Don Kaufman, Don and April Paine and Dustin Micheli. Kaufman is a workman’s comp lawyer in real life. Don Paine custom builds mandolins and April helps with the business. Micheli is a professional musician and songwriter, who’s been known to play in a local café’s "open mike night" in exchange for free coffee. All four also fiddle around in the Last Minute String Band.

The song was recently featured in a BBC-TV clip about oil and gas development in Western Colorado:

EnCana spokesman Doug Hock wrote in an e-mail to Peter Fowler, reporter for the Post Independent:

"This song is actually a revamp of a song called ‘The Old Home Place’ performed by The Dillards in the 1960s. While Don Kaufman and his group are certainly talented musicians, we prefer the original version for obvious reasons."

EnCana and other energy companies like Chevron and Exxon have drilled thousands of gas wells in the Rifle area, located 30 miles west of Glenwood. Nearly 5,000 workers are employed by the industry. Glenwood Springs, on the other hand, has not experienced any drilling activity but many oil and gas workers stay at local motels.

Micheli said he has been elbowed and shoved by oil and gas workers since the song was publicized. “We don’t play in Rifle bars,” he admitted.

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