Three Rivers local contributes to Willie Nelson’s grammy-winning album

Jack Wesley Routh’s song “Dreamin’ Again” earns a spot on Willie Nelson’s newest album “A Beautiful Time,” which won the grammy for best country album on Feb. 6

THREE RIVERS – Jack Wesley Routh wasn’t dreaming when he heard the news that his song “Dreamin’ Again” was featured in Willie Nelson’s grammy-award album “A Beautiful Time.”

Routh is a songwriter through and through, and has been for decades. He writes a window into the past through his melodic country songs, finding inspiration in each pluck of his guitar strings. But his cowboy tunes extend farther than his home in Three Rivers. One of his most recent pieces, “Dreamin’ Again,” was featured in a grammy-award winning album by country icon Willie Nelson this month. With signature twang and lyrics embedded with heartache, “Dreamin Again” was just one of many songs that Routh gifted the world of country music.  

“I was excited for Nelson. He just keeps churning out work, and yet he’s going to be 90 here this year,” Routh said. “It’s a real treat to hear, especially if he’s singing a song of yours that you wrote.”

“Dreamin’ Again” is a melancholic tune of a man who keeps reaching out for a lover that is no longer there. Routh tells a tale that is all too common: a man reminiscing of his past lover in sleep, but awakes to find it is all a dream. Routh said that a huge part of songwriting is making it relatable. Everyone has felt the intense feelings of heartbreak, Routh said he puts those feelings into words.

“I reached out to hold you and feel your breath on my skin / But then I awoke and I knew I had been dreamin’ again,” Routh states in his song. “What’s the dream to a dreamer / When the ghost of the love is all gone?”

This isn’t Routh’s first rodeo in the world of country music. This is the second song of Routh’s that Nelson performed in a single year. Not only that, but one of his most recent successes is the song “Dreams of the San Joaquin,” written by Randy Sharp and Routh and made famous by both Kenny Rogers and Linda Ronstadt. It tells the story of a worker in the fields of San Joaquin Valley during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression in the 1930’s and 40’s. It was recently redone by Michael McDonald and Willie Nelson as a fundraiser for the United Farm Workers and the Refugee And Immigrant Center For Education And Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit providing legal services to low income immigrants. The song also featured his photos in the YouTube music video and on the song’s album cover.

Routh grew up in Kingman, Kansas listening to his great-grandfather play the fiddle and his father, a World War II pilot, play the guitar and harmonica at local music gatherings. After mowing yards for the rest of that summer, Routh bought a black and white electric Silvertone guitar from Sears and Roebuck for $75. 

Since his early teens, Routh has played in various bands throughout Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. During this time, he decided to write his own songs, using his voice to express his own thoughts and dreams, hopes and fears, and putting them to his own music. As Routh developed his newly-discovered craft, a unique and gifted songwriter soon emerged.

“Like many of us who are or were professional musicians, Jack was writing [songs] in his teens,” Chris Brewers, Exeter Courthouse Gallery and Museum Association president and long-time friend of Routh, said. “Jack is a wonderful guitarist and has several recordings of his own on the market.”

At 23, he traveled to Nashville where he met Johnny Cash, who signed him to a songwriting contract. That meeting with Cash eventually led to Routh producing with Jack Clement and playing guitar on Cash’s records. This led to Routh earning two Nashville “Superpicker,” awards and an opening slot on the Johnny Cash Road Show throughout the United States and Europe. While working out of Nashville, Routh played guitar and traveled on the road with the Cash-Carter Family. Routh also became a solo recording artist for RCA records with the legendary Chet Atkins as the producer.

Routh then moved to Three Rivers, where he and his long time friend, and fellow singer-songwriter Randy Sharp, both reside and continue to write music. He said it reminded him of his home in Kansas, where agriculture and cattle were plentiful.

Fast forward to 2000, Cash recorded the song “Field Of Diamonds” that he and Routh wrote while in Cash’s home in Jamaica, which overlooked the Caribbean. It was a grand house, Routh recalled, surrounded by a sugar plantation that was erected in the late 1700’s. One night, after dinner, Cash and Routh laid out on the lawn, looking up at the vast sea of stars above them. At that moment, he and Cash wrote “Field of Diamonds.” The song was included on Cash’s American III record, “Solitary Man,” and was a Grammy Nominee for Best Contemporary Folk Album with June Carter Cash and Sheryl Crow singing harmony. Routh had a 40-year friendship with Cash that only ended with the country music legend’s passing in 2003.

In addition to the Cash-Carter family, Routh’s songs have been recorded by such artists as Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Reba McEntire, Tanya Tucker, Karen Brooks, J.C. Crowley, Randy Sharp, Marty Stuart and Kathy Mattea to name a few. In 2005, Harris recorded “The Connection,” a song Routh wrote with Randy Sharp, for “The Very Best Of Emmylou Harris” — Heartaches and Highways Album. Harris won a Grammy for “Best Female Country Vocal Performance” for the 48th Grammy Awards Year 2005.

Routh has been in the music industry since the 60’s, and has seen the world of western music change in so many ways. He recalled that there was a time that a snare drum was hardly allowed in the Grand Ole’ Opry. It was traditional country music of the 70’s, and was packed with families in the crowd. Fast forward to today, and Routh said it’s like a rock show.

“It’s turned into distorted guitars and people jumping around on stage. We used to see a fiddle player hobbling around on one foot once and awhile, but now its people acting like they’re on a pogo stick. But, everybody’s enjoying it. It’s not only the band’s music that has changed, the crowd has changed too,” Routh said.

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