When the world of rodeo lost the great Jim Shoulders, something special to remember him was sure to happen at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The house went black and a lone spotlight shone on a man playing the guitar on the chutes with a fiddler behind him. It was Trent Willmon, and he was performing his song, "Good Horses to Ride"
Written before Shoulders' death, the song actually references him. Originally written as a tribute to an old cowboy friend, the chorus captures Willmon's hopes for all cowboys after death and was a stirringly appropriate tribute.
I've heard it said that old cowboys don't die, they get put out to pasture way up in the sky. So if God's got a heaven for old cowboy legends, I hope the grass is greener on the other side. And He's got good horses to ride.
After the chorus, Willmon and the fiddle player continued as Bob Tallman reminisced about the 16-time world champion.
For Willmon, a rodeo fan and avid team roper, it was a special opportunity to get to pay tribute to the old timer.
Now, the cowboy plans to release his third album, Broken In, this time under the Compadre Records label, at the end of the month.
The first single, "There Is A God" has already been released and is testimony to the presence of higher power. Invoking powerful images of nature and human emotion, Willmon ends the song with asking, "How much proof do you need?"
"Those of you who know me know that I am a country boy," he said. "I love fishing, the outdoors, horses, barbeque, fiddles and cold beer. So this song may surprise some of you. Honestly, it's the simplicity of this song that I love. Everyone interprets it differently because everyone's relationship with God is different. To me, this song is the simple affirmation that there is a God, just look around."
Of the 12 songs on the album, Willmon has writing credits on seven of them. He even gets a little help on "Good Ole Days Are Gone" from Texas country stalwarts Roger Creager and Kevin Fowler.
Everything from country songs about a back road party, "Cold Beer and a Fishing Pole" to love songs like "That's the Way I Remember It" give the album a well-paced, well-rounded feel. He didn't abandon his authentic cowboy roots, though, and shows it on "How a Cowboy Lives."
The best song on the album, however, might be the title cut. "Broken In" is a fast-moving number about how his hat, boots, jeans, truck and even himself may be a little worn around the edges, but he's not broke, just broken in.
Since the native Texan spends the bulk of his time in Tennessee, he ropes locally and occasionally competes in the National Team Roping League ropings. However, as the host of CMT's "America's Top Cowboy," cookbook author, spokesperson for Horses for Healing and the traveling and appearances he makes in support of his music, he doesn't get to rope as much as he'd like.
For more on Willmon and to hear clips from Broken In, visit www.trentwillmon.com.