Hewlett Crist

About Rio Grande Songs,In His Words...

Many people ask why I have utilized the general theme of the Rio Grande Songs for the music I compose and record.

The Headwaters of the Rio Grande are outside of Silverton, Colorado, and the river runs for 1885 miles to empty into the Gulf of Mexico. The river flows past Albuquerque, New Mexico, Las Cruses, New Mexico, as well as the Texas towns of El Paso, Del Rio. Laredo, and empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville. I have either lived or spent extensive time in all these cities along the river which embody the sights, sounds and aromas of my music.

Having played steel string electric guitar since age fourteen, I quit playing for nine years and then picked up a nylon string classical in 1994. Immediately I began composing the Rio Grande Songs.

I currently record with a Le Patrie concert series acoustic nylon with D'Addario J46 strings and perform with a Kirk Sand custom, hand made nylon electric also with the J46 strings. The Sand guitar is an incredible instrument that continually brings out more that one would think possible and needs to be kept in a cage instead of a case. Kirk Sand hand crafts between thirty and forty instruments a year. He is a top Luthier and has his shop in Laguna Hills, California. My Le Patrie is normally recorded with two Nueman tube microphones in stereo. I record exclusively at Rosewood Studios in Tyler, Texas. Gary Leach does my arranging and programming, Greg Hunt engineers and mixes and Austin Deptula masters on site. Moreover, I am constantly asked about what influences the music and especially the titles. The following list of the compositions contains this information…………..

"Lonely Gringo"
While living in El Paso, Texas, after being discharged from the U.S. Army, I rented a "back porch" apartment in a Hispanic neighborhood and would often spend evenings listening to music and would experience occasional loneliness that was more pronounced due to the sounds of the Spanish language all around me.

This feeling together with my ensuing life experiences formed the basis of "The Rio Grande Songs" collection.

"The Juarez Waltz"
My first thoroughly original composition, a true three beat to the measure waltz that captures the pure mariachi two trumpets and violin harmony line. The basic melody has stuck in my mind since the early 1960's and I used bits and pieces of it to lull the babies to sleep. Having lived in Juarez, Mexico, for a year and a half obviously influenced the feel for this composition.

"Cross The Border"
A two movement composition that represents my experience of living in Juarez, Mexico, in a $20 a month apartment at Posada de Fredrico's hotel and crossing the international border at the main Juarez/El Paso bridge four and five nights a week to play with bands in El Paso. Each of these nights I would cross the border into El Paso, play the gig and go back across the border from El Paso to Juarez. Many mornings as I awakened in my apartment in Juarez I would go out the small French doors to the verandah overlooking the main street and think to myself, "What a life experience. Here I am a young man (22 years of age) totally independent, living in Mexico and supporting myself playing music. I will remember this all my life"…. I remember.

"The Lonely Flower"
While in the high desert foothills outside of Cuchillo, New Mexico, I was climbing up to a ledge under the crest of a mountain peak. Upon reaching the level directly beneath the peak I stopped to rest and saw a small yellow and purple flower growing out of the rocks and gravel. I thought to myself, "What a lonely little flower growing here all alone nourished seemingly only by rocks and pebbles, the sun and an occasional drop or two of rain."

"Rio Grande"
Many sections of the Rio Grande River is reduced to shallow puddles due to irrigation and networks of dams, one of which is Lake Cochita on the Cochita Indian Reservation between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Other sections of the river, due to the Spring snow melt, flow deep and rhythmically especially in the areas of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Brownsville, Texas. I have sat on the banks of the river and watched as it created a slow, flowing, steady rhythm that I used for the framework of the composition.

"Laredo Nights"
As a child I lived in Laredo, Texas, and remember the feeling of the warm sun on my body (There seem to be a few sans diaper pictures from that era somewhere in the family photo album). I do not remember anything more specific about the experience but I remember what it sounded like.

"Desert Breeze"
The daytime heat of the high Desert Mountains is intense but as the sun sinks down a breeze softens and cools the darkness of night. This particular rhythm track has a syncopated bass line that jumps ahead to the next chord change. Many listeners are of the opinion that the song has a haunting quality to it.

"Desert Rider"
A Clint Eastwood "Spaghetti Western" sound that came to me while horseback riding at the Wueco Tanks in New Mexico where the water source is derived from the Rio Grande. A lope along rhythm that matches the sound of hoofbeats on the desert floor. The rhythm sound of the hoofbeats represent a steady gait and a gallop. The composition is licensed to Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe, Arizona for their phone and communications system.


"Agua Verde" (Green Water)
As the Rio Grande flows through the Big Bend Country of Southwest Texas the water takes on a distinct green hue. Nowhere else have I seen this color of water. The lazy rhythm of the river projects a certain magnificence. The trumpet in the introduction announces the flavor of the composition which ends with a flowing repetitive chorus.

"Rio Amour" (River Love)
To see the Rio Grande in the Spring as it runs full and strong in areas is to leave a special part of creation. The rich orchestral arrangement lends to a deep appreciation of the wonder of nature created by God and still untouched by man.

"Rainbow Chaser"
A high desert rainbow extends from one end of the horizon to the other and while it's vastness gives an appearance of being relatively close, the closer you get the farther away it moves. Always chasing the horizon but never reaching it. The chorus of the song is strong and vibrant but ends in a resolve not unlike one experiencing exhaustion before resting up to return to the verse.

"Star Gazer"
A very special composition announced with a haunting viola. A true Spanish classical feel. Originally I wrote the song with a fast tempo. After accidentally playing back a scratch work tape at low speed below pitch, the song took on an entire new feel which I immediately responded to on a spiritual level. The song begins with a distinctive low register followed by a much higher register culminating with a chorus that to me explains the mystery of life as a full circle as the viola introduction starts the cycle all over again. I must say that of all the compositions I perform in public, Star Gazer stops certain people in their tracks as they are struck by the devotional emphasis it projects. I have been asked by many, "Is your music gospel music?" My answer is that the music is not sold or marketed as gospel music. However, through the music many people have been touched emotionally and especially by Star Gazer.

"Dream Catcher"
A simple, light hearted melody that builds to a full movement without any segue. A rich, full orchestral experience that leaves one at peace. The chorus seems so very powerful that it attracts the attention of certain people and touches them in some spiritual way. Dream Catcher is used in the soundtrack of a movie short entitles, The Hundred-Dollar Bum, that we filmed in the Yuma Preserve outside of Yuma, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada.

"La Linda"
The Big Bend country of Southwest Texas is a wonderful river-rafting excursion when the Rio Grande runs full and deep with the Spring melt off from the north. Along the way the river glides through the Santiago Mountains as the International Border between the United States and Mexico. Outside of Terlingua, Texas, the river rushes past the little village of La Linda, where the rafts pull ashore so that one can walk across the small international checkpoint into Mexico to the tiny two street village to have a beer or Coke thus officially having "visited Mexico". Then it is back across the checkpoint and back onto the rafts to continue the river journey.

"Desert Dream"
A passionate music experience with an angelical background chorus beginning with the second verse. This composition has the potential to bring one face to face with the unconditional love of the Creator. It has the potential to soften the hardest of hearts. To this day I do not remember writing nor recording this song yet when I perform it, I myself am struck with an intense feeling of adoration.

"Senor Toro" (Mr. Bull)
Trumpets, castanets and the bull ring was the inspiration for this composition. After reading a number of Hemingway's books recounting his intense interest in the bull rings in Spain, I was left with mixed feelings concerning the subject. My having experienced bullfights in Mexico did not measure up to the descriptions by Hemingway as he researched the background, breeding and raising of fighting bulls throughout Spain. From his books I came away with the feeling that Toro was afforded a measure of respect and honor as well as judged for courage and personality. Animal Rights Activists groups would certainly disagree with all issues herein but the feeling for the composition was not judgmental but rather a musical interpretation of a visual interpretation. The title of Mr. was a measure of respect.


"Desert Eyes"
While Dining in a small café outside of Yuma, Arizona, during the warm winter season, I looked up to see a women walk in and remove her sunglasses. Her face was tanned and wind burned but was untouched by the sun where her sunglasses protected her face from the elements. Her face reminded me of a raccoon with the colors reversed and without thinking I remarked, "Look, she has Desert Eyes". The term stuck with me and led me to compose the song. Desert Eyes is licensed by the University Of Texas at San Antonio Cultural Affairs Department for use  on their Website.

"Shadow Dancer"
The introduction is a classical Spanish movement that seagues into a shadowy, swaying, motion that to me projects an image of dancers clothed in shadows. This particular composition causes children and infants to sway back and forth; apparently many for the first time to the amazement and delight of their parents.

This composition was named by my wife. I claim no knowledge as to the meaning!

"La Boda" (The Wedding)
A long violin introduction brings the composition into focus at the altar. After the vows of the Sacrament the song modulates to a higher declaration of Love with an Angelic Chorus Background. To date, La Boda has been used in many wedding ceremonies that I am aware of.

"Ms Margarita"
A fun song that develops a serious nature in the bridge or second movement. Again the classic mariachi twin trumpets with a violin in between provides a path for the guitar harmony melody line. Ms Margarita is used in their soundtrack of a movie short we filmed in Baja California, Mexico, entitled "Stone Curse".

"The Last Bull"

Originally composed at the direction of now deceased Movie Producer, Steven Reed, for use in the Soundtrack of a film adapted from a screenplay written by a former American born Matador who was seriously injured in the Plaza deToros in Madrid, Spain, and was deported back to the U.S. when it was discovered that he was not a true Spaniard. I actually had written two separate compositions and was displeased with both of them. Out of desperation I tied the two together and was still unhappy. However, my arranger, Gary Leach convinced me through a series of his own visual interpretations that the song accomplished the desired effect, so I kept it as it is. Unfortunalty, the Movie Project was canceled, due to the death of the Director/Producer.

"Border Woman"
To date my most drastic two movements composition. Many times I have spent hours looking across the International Border of the Rio Grande outside of the small town of Eagle Pass, Texas. I have viewed Mexican families living in a totally different society and environment just across the river and on one occasion I watched as a mother came out of the woods on the Mexican side of the river. She had two young boys at her side and a baby cradled under one arm and with her free arm she was washing a garment in the river. From where I was standing I could see the strength and resolve in her face as she stood up and looked across the river where I stood. The river was very narrow at this particular spot and I could clearly see her strong facial features immediately dissolve into tenderness as she must have realized that just a mere 30 or 40 feet width of the river separated our worlds. She made the sign of the cross across her chest, gathered her children and walked away from the river back into the woods. I felt certain that her request to God was for strength and a continued willingness to be faithful to her obligations and commitment to accept reality as a Border Woman.

"El Rio" (The River)
I wrote the melody and chorus as it was given to me as I had considered it to be the final track with no thoughts of a future Rio Grande Album. The bridge of the song was an idea that had swirled around in my mind since the early 70's from an idea given to me by Ray Navarez, in Redwood City. If anyone is from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and hears El Rio, they will invariably come up to me and ask if I am from "The Valley" because the song immediately reminds them of home. I lived in the area as a child but left at the age of six. There is no definable sound for the area that has been identified or marketed but somehow I seem to have captured a sound that commands the attention of anyone from that area. Perhaps I will someday be considered as one who developed the Rio Grande Valley sound!


"Secret Dreams"

A composition that portrays the appreciation of Flamenco style while at the same time attempting to retain a romantic posture. Actually, I wrote the composition in approximately ten minutes the night prior to going into the studio to finish recording the background music tracks. I was unhappy with one of the songs that already had the background tracks recorded and decided to replace the entire composition. The next day I went into the studio, produced all the background musical tracks and later overdubbed the lead guitar lines. My style of production dictates that all the background tracks are recorded and put into work tape which I study for some time prior to returning to the studio to record the final guitar solos.

"Always In My Heart"
This composition is another special effort to reach the heart. I wrote this song in approximately one hour while looking out over the Pacific Ocean in San Antonio Del Mar in Baja California, Mexico. I try to spend the summers there to escape the heat and actually wrote most of the music for this album while living there and this song happened to be the first. Usually the first song comes very fast and sets the mood for the remainder of the album. This song seems to touch all nationalities of people and is one of the most requested of all The Rio Grande Songs.

A very strong brassy composition with trumpets in the chorus. This song was initially recorded and had the title of #3 for the studio log. All the other songs were recorded and titled but #3 just didn't draw me to any specific ideas for a title until I was in Laredo, Texas, and saw some children splashing and dancing in the water on the bank of the Rio Grande and the title "Riverdancer" came to mind. After returning to the studio to complete post production I still didn't like the title and finally settled on the current title. Approximately a month later I saw the first excerpts of the Irish production Riverdance and wished I had followed my original idea. People still come up to me and ask if the song is Irish. Actually, the title of the song is not subject to copyright, but rather the contents. The Irish production of Riverdance is not a specific title of a composition, but a title of an entire production.

"Adios, mis Amigos" (Goodbye, my Friends)
This song was written as a farewell to my brother-in-law Gary McDaniel; Steve R. Reed, my friend in the movie industry; and "Wild Bill" McCollough, my friend at Cactus Tree RV park in Yuma, Arizona, where I normally use as a winter base of operations. These three individuals were so very supportive of my music and were among those who inspired me to continue writing and recording. The three of them were taken by cancer within a five-month period.

"Quinceanera" (She's Fifteen)

The "coming out" celebration for a Mexican girl on her fifteenth birthday. Also known as Quince Anos. I have seen many of the celebrations over the years and started to notice that the Mother, Aunts, and Grandmothers of the girls would be very caught up in the event and ultimately would become emotional and shed tears. My feeling is that they were remembering their own Quinceanera and this was a way for them to relive their own experience. So the composition was really written for them. Perhaps this would explain why explain why the song has a tenderness that touches especially the Mothers, Aunts, and Grandmothers. When I perform the song they are the very ones that exhibit a distant, sentimental expression.

"Dream for Me"
A very moody song that is announced by the violas and bass in unison and repeated in the half intro between verses and at the ending. When performing the song I notice a quiet, inquisitive expression exhibited by those listening that seems to slow down all movement and activity. The title deals with the subject of dreams commonly found in The Rio Grande Songs catalogue. I personally experience ideas and answers to decision in awakening from sleep and this song asks for someone else to dream in my behalf. Many of my songs are initially in bits and pieces and at times I will awaken, reach for a guitar and immediately complete the composition. In fact I have awakened to instantly compose an entire song.

"Gypsy Joy"
Written for my wife and partner Joy. Perhaps the most happy song of all The Rio Grande Songs. Joy says she always wanted to live like a Gypsy since her childhood experiences with a circus group. We have fulfilled that desire by traveling constantly since 1994 and meeting new friends everywhere along the way. It is a mobile life-style that demands constant movement. The appearance of our bus tells our friends that we are back and in a few days we are gone again. Our travels have taken us from coast to coast and we generally try to follow the path of favorable weather. We look for warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer and each year we meet many of our friends who follow the same path. The chorus of the song expresses a happiness in the anticipated arrival to a familiar place as well as embarking on a journey to the next destination whether it be new or revisited. Our bus has been our permanent residence for the past six years but the experiences we enjoy and the kind people we meet along the way is rewarding and we always keep our eyes and ears open for a new song.

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