Once upon a time in New Mexico, there was boy who was born with golden ears. Whenever he heard great music, it became part of him, and it would shape his destiny in magical ways that would be revealed over time.
When the lad was four, his parents played John Prine’s The Missing Years, which won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1992. It was the first music the boy liked well enough to learn to sing along with. Years later, he would befriend and make music with songwriter Keith Sykes, who had collaborated with Prine on two of the boy’s favorite songs from that very album.
When he was 13, an older brother brought home Eric Clapton and B.B. King’s Riding with the King, the Grammys’ Best Traditional Blues Album of 2001. Their version of “Key to the Highway” led the boy to discover his favorite blues singer, Big Bill Broonzy, a country-blues legend who had died 30 years before his birth. A dozen years later, Gary Briggs, who had managed Clapton for Warner Bros. at the time of that recording, would sign the boy—now a young man whose voice had ripened to a rich, warm, café mocha timbre, and who had learned to write songs and play guitar in the modes of his folk-blues masters—to his first record deal.