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Wes Tirey - Artist Photo


Wes Tirey is an American songwriter, guitarist and poet whose albums include The Midwest Book of the Dead; Black Wind; O, Annihilator; and No Winners in the Blues. His latest record, Wes Tirey Sings Selected Works of Billy the Kid, sets to music poems from Michael Ondaatje's celebrated novel in verse, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid.

Wes Tirey Sings Selected Works of Billy the Kid - Album Cover
Wes Tirey Sings Selected Works of Billy the Kid - Vinyl Jacket Front and Center Label
Wes Tirey Sings Selected Works of Billy the Kid - Vinyl Jacket Back and Center Label

Vinyl LP / $22

WAV, FLAC, MP3 / $8

Sun Cru

SC11 - 2024

"We still can’t seem to agree on 'the Kid.' Was he deserving of our sympathy? An iconoclastic rascal bucking the system on behalf of you and me? Or rather a ruthless opportunist whose outsized ego demanded such accommodation as only the West could provide. While folklorists and historians debate over how to faithfully reassemble the shards of that mirror, some — Michael Ondaatje namely — prefer the shivered banquet peppering the dust like buckshot.

"The Collected Works of Billy the Kid — Ondaatje's experimental novel of 1970 — reflects in poem, prose, and photographs such fragments passed down and disfigured through our collective memory and desire. And now these left-handed poems have reached the left-handed guitar of songwriter Wes Tirey, whose unadorned treatment of Ondaatje’s work adds even greater dimension to the antihero of our fevered dreams.

"How does it begin, Wes? Fittingly, with an inventory of the dead. From that sum, a cherry-picked succession of pointillistic poems reveal little of the complete picture lest you step back. Tirey’s world-weary voice is a grit and gravel foil for affecting six-string legerdemain. He lopes and canters across Ondaatje’s mercurial landscape like a cloud across the sun. A little rain and the brilliance that follows.

"There is cinema in this music: Leonard Cohen announcing McCabe’s entrance to the town of Presbyterian Church, say — but time has obfuscated character and setting and so, unsure, we project back onto the mirror in search of detail. Wes, content, approaches without such need. What he sees there in the dust is beautiful and violent. And like Ondaatje, he revels in that sublimity without further need for answers. Best let the pieces lie for us seekers searching in the dust for clues."

— Blaine Todd

"There's a special dynamic about Wes Tirey Sings Selected Works of Billy the Kid. In one bold gesture, it features songs, spoken word, and instrumentals. The texture of the sound seems transported from another era. Any song here could be planted right in the middle of the Harry Smith Anthology and no one would bat an eye. Or if they did bat an eye, their ears would perk with joy. How to categorize this? Lost cowboy psych folk, maybe. Concrete cowboy poetry with a tinge of old weird Americana. Ominous lo fi 70s Western soundtrack. Wes Tirey knows his way around these parts. The histories and characters. The raw materials of poetry and how to tell a story. All of which is probably why he was drawn to Michael Ondaatje's book in the first place. And to give Ondaatje's language this specific musical treatment, in our humble opinion, is visionary. We are honored to present this strange and beautiful melding of arts."

— Josh Collins / Sun Cru

This is splendid Sand Gold 160 gram vinyl, a limited edition of 250. It spins at 45 RPM for maximum fidelity, preserving the distinct "past era" sound achieved by Wes Tirey when recording directly to tape. The vinyl jacket is full-color 24 pt. high-quality SBS board, and the great Nathaniel Russell did the album artwork, including the hand lettering on the jacket and center labels.


releases July 19, 2024

Words by Michael Ondaatje
from the novel in verse
The Collected Works of Billy the Kid

Arranged, performed and recorded by Wes Tirey
Transferred from tape by R Jobes
Mastered by Andrew Weathers at Wind Tide, Littlefield, Texas
Artwork and layout by Nathaniel Russell
Vinyl manufacturing by Smashed Plastic
All music copyright Wes Tirey 2024


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