If any animal embodies the Western spirit, Lacy J. Dalton believes the wild horse does.
For this reason, and others, the U.S. country singer believes “they should be preserved and protected, or soon there will be no wild horses left.”
Dalton is best known the 1980s hits as Takin’ It Easy, 16th Avenue, Crazy Blue Eyes, and Black Coffee, but now spends more time advocating for the conservation of Nevada’s wild herds than singing and songwriting.
She’s about to switch gears, however, to perform for Central Alberta fans with her band on Saturday Aug. 13 at the Daines Country Music Pick-Nic, near Innisfail.
“I’m very excited about coming to Alberta! Ivan Daines is kind of a hero,” said Dalton of the Pick-Nic’s organizer.
Daines won the Canadian saddle bronc championship in 1965 and 1966 and attained a Top 15 world standing fives times between 1968 to 1980. He’s a singer/songwriter to boot — which confirms Dalton’s conviction that Country & Western people are multi-talented folks.
Both of her parents were also formidable competitors — her father was a world-class gymnast who was injured while training for the Olympics, while her mother was a state archery champion. Although Dalton missed out on getting their athletic genes, she grew up devoted to writing her own tunes, inspired by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin and J.J. Cale.
Her original songs soon grabbed the attention of Nashville record people. Starting in the late 1970s, Dalton was recording with major labels including Columbia, Universal, Capitol and Liberty.
When she looks back at the height of her popularity, the Pennsylvania-born singer sees a young woman who was racking up accolades and recognition, but not necessarily fulfillment. “It’s funny. They like what you write, then they turn you around and tell you to be a good girl” and sing other people’s material. “I’m a songwriter…and I was only getting to do half of what I do,” she recalled.
Yet Dalton remains grateful for those early opportunities. Without them, she doesn’t believe she would have had a lasting career.
“I made some wonderful friends in Nashville. But would I want to have a big career now? No, because it didn’t make me happy…”
If one album can summarize Dalton’s musical contributions, she feels it’s her The Last Wild Place Anthology. The 2006 recording “features six of my biggest country hits, and I wrote a lot of the stuff myself,” including the evocative title tune, as well as Listen to the Wind and The Alaska Song.
When she’s not on the road, Dalton is at her home near Virginia City, Nevada, helping find homes for some of the wild horses that were capture and held in huge corrals.
These regular roundups are abhorred by wild horse advocates, who consider them cruel and unnecessary, but approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Dalton suspects one of the reasons the bureau wants them off the land is that horses are “the canaries in the coal mine,” as far as showing the ill-health effect of environmental degradation.
About 100 horses have been adopted since the spring, she said, “but we have another 103 on a friend’s property that we’re starting to adopt…”
Like most North Americans, she’s against the consumption of horse meat. In fact, she said she’s “offended” that many of the wild animals, symbolic of Western heritage, are being slaughtered at abattoirs in Alberta and Mexico for overseas food markets.
Dalton heard even six-month-old equine “babies” are being turned into sushi in Japan.
“The Indians used to say ‘the horses take our burdens’ — and they didn’t just mean they could carry our physical burdens. They meant they have a healing effect,” said the singer, who noted horses are continuing to provide emotional therapy for traumatized former soldiers.
For tickets, or more information about the Pick-Nic that also features performances by Marty Haggard, David Frizzell, Duane Steele and others, please contact the Black Knight Ticket Centre