The poetic lyrics and poignant melodies on Shawn Kirchner’s new CD, Meet Me on the Mountain, captured my heart the first time I heard them. The songs are a mix of foot-stompin’ bluegrass, polished country, and soulful folk, inspired by the film, Brokeback Mountain.
Annie Proulx’s short story by the same name first appeared in The New Yorker in 1997. Later, it was adapted into an Oscar-winning screenplay by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, triggering heartfelt responses from around the world.
Kirchner’s songs offer an added dimension of emotional depth to the scenes and characters that inspired them. Yet the songs also stand solidly on their own, as Kirchner has carefully crafted both music and lyrics to be independent of the famous story.
Anyone who has ever loved someone who was outside the confines of socially acceptable partners is bound to be particularly touched by this music.
Lead singer, Ryan Harrison, weaves his melodies around the listener’s heart with a numinous and evocative voice; rich, strong and captivating. The vocals are supported by superb instrumentation, including some mighty fancy fiddlin’ by Gabe Witcher, and the mesmerizing tones of Tommy Morgan’s harmonica.
Three of the eleven tracks are tender love songs, including Last Stand, a warm outpouring of affection that deserves a place in the annals of the great love songs. The title track, Meet Me On the Mountain, is timeless, and lingers wistfully in the soul. The toe-tappin’, I’ll Be On My Way, celebrates the continuity of life with optimism and hope. And the four songs for female leads insightfully explore the range of emotions of the women caught in these unexpected love triangles.
Los Angeles City Councilman, Bill Rosendahl, a champion of equal rights, calls Meet Me on the Mountain, “warm, inviting, soothing, positive and healing!” and says, “Hats off to this album, it's just beautiful!!"
Vice President and co-founder of New York’s ASCIA  (A Small Company in America), Penelope Herdt Grover, says,
“The music is incredible. The players are amazing and the harmonies so tight! The balance between the vocals and the instruments is perfect!
“All of the songs are beautiful, and some made me cry. The lyric, ‘all I could see, was you turning into a stranger, right in front of me,’ really struck a nerve. Up All Night is haunting. And the production quality is so high, I could only think that I was listening to the recording of a Broadway musical.”
Proulx’s story, set in 1963, includes a flashback to a homophobic hate-crime set in the era of the 1950s. Sadly, nearly half a century later, the brutal 1998 murder of 21-year old Matthew Shepard  exposed society’s lack of progress in the areas of tolerance and acceptance. A decade later, in February, 2008, California 8th-grader Lawrence King  was shot in the head by a 14-year-old fellow student, allegedly murdered because of his sexual orientation and gender expression.
It is often left to the creative arts to bring society to its senses. Inspiring examples of the arts at work include the books, South Pacific, The Diary of Anne Frank, and To Kill a Mockingbird, along with the shows and hit movies based on them. Each of these stories contributed toward erasing prejudice and coaching society to becoming a more supportive and nurturing community. Like these works of art, I envision Kirchner’s songs contributing toward opening hearts to more of the humane behaviors that are worthy of being called “civilization.”
Meet Me On the Mountain is Shawn Kirchner’s “break-out” CD as a songwriter, and what a debut! This is a musical love story that is sure to pluck your heartstrings and warm your soul. There’s no doubt that it’s going to skyrocket, and what a delight it is to be among the first to discover this treasure.