HOME ON THE RANGE

Meet Joni Harms, America's Favorite Female Western Performer.

For Joni Harms, there truly is no place like home. The award-winning Western cowgirl singer considered moving to Nashville 15 years ago after signing with a Music City record label. But the pull of her Oregon ranch, where six generations of her family have lived, proved too strong.

So Joni stayed home and carved out a one-of-a-kind career singing about the hardworking life of a rancher and cowgirl. She was recently named Female Entertainer of the Year by the Western Music Association. "My songs all draw on my experiences and on my values," explains Joni, whose Oregon ranch was homesteaded by her greatgreat- grandfather in 1872.

Joni, her two children and her parents still maintain the original, 130-year-old barn, chicken coop and fruit cellar. She recently built a log home there that she hopes will last another 100 years.

"Anytime I'm home, I can count all the reasons I never moved," declares Joni. "When I come off the road, the minute I set my feet on this soil, I know I'm home. There's a security in living here and in singing Western songs that I could never have singing country music in Nashville."

Joni is part of a revival of Western music that includes fellow cowboy-culture performer Chris LeDoux, Wylie and the Wild West, Sons of the San Joaquin, Don Edwards and perennial favorites Riders in the Sky. They've built a concert circuit that includes rodeos, cowboy festivals and dude ranches.

Joni has emerged as the genre's biggest female star. Her recent album, Let's Put the Western Back in the Country, was named Album of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists. She's won about every Western music award around over the years.

"I'm a big fish in a small pond, but I feel real good to be there, because I get to do the music I love," notes Joni. "People like what we do because it's authentic and wholesome. "If you like the Western life, and you hear this music, you fall in love with it. It's that simple."

- Michael McCall

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