“Aspinwall & Friends” … Houston folk music at its best

Bill Aspinwall 2

By Lynn R. Mitchell

[Today is my Texas brother-in-law’s birthday so I am republishing a tribute I wrote about his music in 2009. Singer, songwriter, and able to play just about anything with strings, this award-winning Houston folk singer is talented beyond belief … our own musical troubadour who is married to my sister. Happy birthday with love from Virginia, A!]

If you like the laid-back easy feel of acoustic folk-style music, then pour a glass of wine, kick back, and mellow out to entertainer Bill Aspinwall, an all-around great musician and singer who represents some of the best that Austin and Houston have to offer in the folk music genre.

Named 2005 Songwriter of the Year by the Houston Association of Acoustic Musicians (HAAM) and the Houston Songwriters Association (HSA), Bill also was co-creator of the 2005 Song of the Year, “Fractured Lives,” included on his new solo CD, Free Range Trout: Aspinwall & Friends, featuring some of Houston’s finest musicians.

With calming tunes reminiscent of James Taylor but skillfully interwoven with the story-telling style of Jimmy Buffet, Bill Aspinwall’s music, much of it self-written, makes for relaxed listening or singing along.

As one of the Big Lizard Boys, Bill has been performing for years with his merry band of musicians that includes fellow Lizard Boys Mike Crippen and Mike Darnell. Their CD, Pick Yourself Up, has my all-time favorite Aspinwall tune, “Arapahoe Rodeo,” a song the Boulder native penned about his home state of Colorado with wistful memories of growing up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains along with fun, whimsical lyrics such as, “… I often wondered how snakes wave goodbye” …

Arapahoe Rodeo
Lyrics and Music by Bill Aspinwall
© W. F. Aspinwall, 2005

Blue jeans and brook trout, five friends that checked out,
Born in a small town, wife says that I frown
Fish with my grandad, memories I had
Like Christmas eve snow
Dozens of cousins, my uncles and aunts …
Arapahoe Rodeo.

Wheat fields and foothills, parents on white pills
Farmers and miners, small change in the diners
Summers in bare feet, parades came down Pearl Street
On the 4th of July
And up at the treeline, a buck and a doe …
Arapahoe Rodeo

Up Coal Creek Canyon, we had a small cabin
No electric, no water, no phone
After all of these changes in my life
I still wish it was home.

Fording the stream beds with cowboys and pot heads
A pinto with white sox, Hendrix at Red Rocks
Hardly said one word, but I often wondered
How snakes wave goodbye
A snowman is melting, the creek starts to flow …
Arapahoe Rodeo.

Love that song … to hear it played under the summer Colorado night sky is almost magical.

Bill AspinwallBill Aspinwall, affectionately known as “A,” is my brother-in-law, married to my Texas sister. When we get together, we kick back and are taken away by his talented musical skills as he plays acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, jaw harp, and anything else he can put his hands on … truly a talented gentleman. When they come to Virginia to visit, we can always spy them as they emerge from the plane because of Bill’s faithful and trusty guitar always in hand.

In the mail last week, my sister sent the latest CD … Free Range Trout: Aspinwall & Friends … a collection of songs we have heard Bill sing in the past, and some new ones including one my sister co-wrote with him. Keeping it all in the family, niece Molly helped with backup harmony with cameos on one cut by the resident dog and cat.

The CD includes a dedication to my dad who passed away in 1975, and to Bill’s dad who passed away about five years ago: “This project is dedicated to all the family and to parents everywhere, especially ‘Bebe’ Aspinwall, Raymond Randall, and Cowboy Nate, to remind us that dreams have a life of their own.”

Free Range Trout: Aspinwall & Friends is Bill’s first solo effort. With the help of family, friends, the “Guitar Circle friends,” and fellow Lizard Boys, it includes the haunting Spanish lyrics of “El azur del invierno,” the beautiful “If Winter Knows,” the award-winning “Fractured Lives,” and my favorite, “Open Arms”:

Open Arms
Lyrics and Music by Bill Aspinwall
© W. F. Aspinwall

(First Verse)
Taking the coffee cup down from the shelf
Making breakfast all by myself
There’s too much space … a half-empty bed
I’m holding onto dreams instead
Holding out for love with open arms.

Congratulations to “A” and Randall for a job well done!

Music is available from MyTexasMusic.com.

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