MARK LEE GARDNER
Historian, Writer, Musician of the Western Experience
An award-winning historian, author, musician and consultant, Mark has worked with the National Park Service, PBS Television, National Geographic Magazine, the New Mexico Humanities Council, and numerous state and local historic sites and museums. An authority on the American West, he has appeared on the History Channel, PBS American Experience, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, American Heroes Channel, Encore Westerns Channel, Book TV, NPR's All Things Considered, Irish National Radio, and BBC Radio. He writes for both popular and scholarly audiences, having published with several university presses and periodicals such as Wild West, American Cowboy, True West, New Mexico Magazine, and Journal of the West. His op-eds have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on FoxNews.com. Mark is the author of the critically lauded To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett and Shot All To Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape. True West magazine named Mark Best Author in its annual "Best of the West" issue for 2014.
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In addition to his research and writing, Mark is an award-winning performer of the music of the 19th and early 20th-century American West. Watch a PBS video of Mark performing the 1927 "Blind Andy" Jenkins ballad "Billy the Kid." Click here.
Mark's latest CD is Outlaws: Songs of Robbers, Rustlers, and Rogues, a saddlebag of famous and lesser known American ballads such as "Cole Younger," "Jesse James," "Billy the Kid," and "Sam Bass."
This new collection from Mark Lee Gardner, a gifted singer who specializes in songs from the Old West, deals with such notorious figures as Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Cole Younger, and Sam Bass, not forgetting women like Belle Starr and Calamity Jane. Two standouts are the lovely ballad “Kentucky Moonshiner” and Gardner’s quiet, introspective take on Bob Dylan’s “Billy,” written for the 1973 Peckinpah film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. A lapidary picker, Gardner accompanies himself on an assortment of period guitars, banjos, and mandolins. Reference-caliber reproduction. Highly recommended.
The Absolute Sound
Outlaws is like having someone sing you a book of stories. "John Hardy," "Sam Bass," "Cole Younger," and "Jesse James" are all song titles that remind the listener of hours spent reading and researching Western history. Gardner, author of To Hell on a Fast Horse, a marvelous dual biography of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, is obviously having lots of fun bringing you the not-so-accurate stories of these outlaw legends. (As he points out in his liner notes, "The truth is seldom as much fun as the myth.") None of it is more fun than "The Finger of Billy the Kid," a song sharing how the Kid's trigger finger ended up in a jar. Our fascination with the outlaws of the Old West is only intensified by Gardner's fine CD, which will no doubt drive many right back to the history books.
A blend of history and music, Outlaws is a grab bag of ballads devoted to the West's less savory characters. Rich and rollicking instruments—Gardner plays an open-back banjo and tenor guitar —help bring the stories to life.