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High mountain music: Guitarist for Michael Martin Murphey performing at Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Carin Mari of Buena Vista is performing this weekend during the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering. (Courtesy)

Carin Mari is bringing some high-country music – and perhaps even a yodel or two – to the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering this weekend.

A gifted singer and guitar player from Buena Vista, this is her second time to perform at the Durango event, and she’s looking forward to returning to Southwest Colorado after performing a show in Alamosa in June.

“I love playing the Cowboy Poetry Gatherings around the country because it always feels like one big family get-together,” she said in a recent interview. “The music is so real and honest, which mirrors the people who play the event and attend.”

She and noted Western singer R.W. Hampton will headline the evening performances Friday and Saturday at the Durango VFW Hall. (Dave Stamey was originally slated to perform instead of Hampton, but has had to cancel his appearance.)

Mari is lead guitarist for Michael Martin Murphey when he hits the road for his annual Christmas show. “Carin can climb to the top of a mountain and sing at the top of her lungs in her own style and sensibility,” Murphey writes. (Courtesy)

Mari tours throughout the west performing mostly songs she has written, and she plays lead guitar in Michael Martin Murphey’s band.

“He’s been a huge supporter of mine and a dear friend of my family for over 20 years now,” she said. “Murph put me on stage at a young age, allowing me to share the stage with people like Craig Morgan, Suzy Bogguss and countless others.”

After graduating from Texas Tech University in 2014, she joined Murphey on her first professional tour, the Cowboy Christmas Tour.

“I played rhythm guitar and sang background vocals my first year, and quickly fell into the role of lead guitar player,” she said. “We’ve written a few times over the years and still appreciate his wisdom and friendship as we tour the country still.”

Mari started playing piano when she was young, then began focusing on cowboy and country music when she was 9.

“I felt right at home,” she said. “My brothers and I have always been fairly creative, so playing music did come naturally to me. Once I picked up the guitar, I truly fell in love with music and knew I found my life’s calling.”

She is mostly self-taught at yodeling, although she said friends Jim and Jeanne Martin gave her some pointers.

If you go

What: 34th annual Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

When: Thursday through Sunday (Sept. 29-Oct. 2).

Where: Various venues throughout Durango.

For tickets, full schedule and more information, visit www.durangocowboygathering.org.

“As excellent yodelers themselves, they were happy to share some information and get me on the right road,” she said.

She toured for nine years with her brothers in a band, winning numerous awards, playing from small festivals to large venues and releasing five albums. In 2010, she entered the Texaco Country Showdown and won a trip to Nashville, Tennessee, where she performed one of her original songs at the historic Ryman Auditorium during the finals, winning second place.

She has recorded nine albums as a solo artist, writing almost all of the music herself. Her most recent release, “Home,” came out in August of last year and was recorded in her living room because of pandemic restrictions.

“The other musicians recorded from their homes as well,” she said. “Which made me realize great music can be made and recorded anywhere.”

Mari’s 2021 album, “Home,” features 11 new songs she performed in her living room, with other musicians collaborating remotely on the project, because of pandemic restrictions. (Courtesy)

While she likes visiting and recording in Nashville because of the collaborative atmosphere in the county capital, “I feel fortunate to have a career that bases me out west,” she said of her choice to remain in her home base in Chaffee County. “I believe in staying true to yourself and living in a place where your heart is full. I’m fortunate to live and chase my dreams in my favorite place.”

Murphey said her music extends beyond her smooth voice and guitar artistry.

“There are a lot of pretty girls with pretty voices,” he writes in a statement on her website, carinmarimusic.com. “But few have committed to mastery of an instrument with which to accompany themselves or play solos with an ensemble. Few have earnestly tried to learn to write compelling lyrics. Carin Mari has it all – and then some. That extra ‘some' is her genuinely kind and empathetic demeanor, her sense of humor and considerable athletic ability. Carin can climb to the top of a mountain and sing at the top of her lungs in her own style and sensibility. That is rare.”

After her Durango performances, she is slated to perform at the Heber Valley Cowboy Poetry Gathering in October in Utah. When she’s at home in Buena Vista, she volunteers for a search and rescue unit and went out on a call last weekend.

She feels lucky that music remains both her love and her profession.

“I think music is a gift that connects people, and I’ve felt so fortunate to share my stories and reach so many people,” she said.