There’s a lesson in the genesis of Prairie Wildfire, a group of young ladies from Buffalo, Wyoming who discovered bluegrass music and have embarked on a performing career over the past six years. And that is the importance of inviting people, especially youngsters, to give bluegrass a look, and the special value of having a central place where musicians can meet and play together.
The story goes like this… Back in the summer of 2015 Morgan Blaney and Sage Palser met up at the Bighorn Bluegrass Camp for Kids in Buffalo while they were in elementary school. Morgan plays bass and Sage mandolin, and both sing as well. Noticing the girls’ skill and interest, their string teacher, Lynn Young, invited them to come out to Buffalo landmark, The Occidental Hotel, run by bluegrass singer and songwriter David Stewart and his wife, Jackie, for their Thursday Night Bluegrass Jam.
Ever since they have been regulars on Thursdays, and started playing with David and Lynn in his Wyoming Wind Band. Sage has also become a prolific songwriter, writing a number of songs that Prairie Wildfire have recorded. They are now joined by Tessa Taylor on banjo and guitar, which completes their band.
The Occidental Hotel has been a part of Buffalo history since 1880 when it first opened during the hey day of the wild west. At that time, it was one of the finest establishments of its kind out west, and provided accommodations to a long list of historical figures, from Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid to Calamity Jane, Teddy Roosevelt, and Buffalo Bill Cody. The Ox, as it is known in town, fell on hard times during the Great Depression, and as downtown hotels fell out of fashion in the 1980s, it dropped into grave disrepair and was in danger of beings torn down, or becoming so badly damaged by neglect that its storied past would be forgotten.
But it was salvaged starting in the late ’90s when a remarkable restoration was begun by Dawn Dawson who purchased the historic building. David Stewart became involved in 2006, launching the popular bluegrass jam, and two years later he and his wife purchased the property and the business which they now manage. The hotel has been completely restored, bringing in modern conveniences while maintaining as much of the 19th century charm as possible, with multiple bars and restaurants as well as guest and meeting rooms.
The point of this long story is that by having a central meeting place for grassers in Buffalo, Sage, Morgan, and Tessa had a place to come to hear, learn, and practice playing bluegrass music. Hats off to David for that.
Prairie Wildfire has now signed with West Virginia’s Copper Mountain Records, and have released a debut single, West Virginia Train. The song was written by Tessa and Sage, and showcases the band’s part harmony in a story that ties their Wyoming home with the home state of their new label partners. Sage and Tessa alternate the lead vocal, with Sage singing the high part on the choruses, and Morgan below. They even pull off the challenging three part harmony yodel on the ending!
Have a listen…
These days Tessa is finishing up her final year of high school, Morgan is studying bluegrass and jazz bass at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley, and Sage is in her first semester in the bluegrass program at East Tennessee State University. They get together in the summer, and whenever they all get home, to play as Prairie Wildfire.
West Virginia Train is available now from popular download and streaming sites online. Radio programmers can contact Copper Mountain Records for a copy of the track.