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Farmer finds a new field in music

Monday, December 16, 2002

Singing in the tractor

One Storm Lake strummer wants you to take a ride in the country with his debut album that celebrates golden fields, rolling hills and that special place in the heartland.

Ervin Pickhinke's "A Farmers Trade" brings 10 tracks of traditional country, from heartfelt ballads like "Black Land Farmer" to the rollicking fun of "The Auctioneer." The response has been good, with an unexpected harvest of requests.

"I'm surprised people want a CD I made," Pickhinke said.

A farmer by day, Pickhinke picked up a guitar back in the 1970s, and over the years has played at a number of music festivals and gatherings through the region from Cherokee to Fairmont, Neb.

"I always wanted to play guitar," he said.

Those festivals are all about music and camaraderie, with fellow musicians getting together and improvising. "I started singing under the trees and we'd jam together," he said.

His interest in music goes back to his childhood when his parents would take him to dances. "I'd sit on stage and watch the band," he said.

Nowadays he plays with the Siouxland Music Association. That group gathers twice a month. "We get together and jam. It's for people who love to play music," he said.

At those gatherings and other festivals, people would ask Pickhinke if he had any of his music recorded.

"One couple from Oklahoma asked me for some music. They said, 'We'd like to hear you more than three days a year,'" Pickhinke said.

That prompted him to put together a CD featuring some of the songs he enjoys to play and a few original compositions as well. So far the response has been nothing but positive for "A Farmers Trade," recorded at North 40 Studios in Hinton between August and September of this year.

The studio is owned and operated by Dave Russell, who has played with his fair share of bands, Pickhinke said. Russell plays guitars and steel guitars on "A Farmers Trade."

"He's got everything in that studio that you'd find in Nashville," Pickhinke said.

Pickhinke's daughter, Sara Sennert, also sings harmony on some of the songs. The two of them have performed together at festivals and events throughout the area. She lives in Aurelia.

Also playing is Buckley Mills on fiddle. Pickhinke knew Mills from when he was a kid growing up. Now Mills is playing the fiddle in Nashville. Mills' sound comes across well on the CD.

"I like the fiddle," Pickhinke said.

The songs reflect the land of rural Iowa and its values, Pickhinke said. It's traditional country.

"You don't hear it on the radio anymore," he said.

The majority of the songs on the album are classics performed by numerous musicians, whether it be at a jam in Cherokee or at the Grand Ole Opery.

However, Pickhinke did write three of the songs on the album.

"A Farmers Trade," which the album is named for, has Pickhinke singing about the profession he holds close to his heart.

"I was out fishing and that's how the song begins - I came home and wrote that song," he said.

The chorus repeats the line, "A farmer's trade is one of worth."

"With a farmer's background I do a lot of singing about farming and the rural country," Pickhinke said.

It's music he can relate to, like "Black Land Farmer."

"I use to be out singing that song in the tractor before I knew how to play guitar," he said.

And for each song he wrote, like "Singing on the Hill," he has a story. That song came about after his attempts to describe where he played in Sioux City. He'd give them the directions on a map, "and they'd say, 'Oh, on the hill,'" Pickhinke said.

Another classic bluegrass song is "The Auctioneer," a favorite of the kids, Pickhinke said, that song plays homage to the vocal art form used by auctioneers.

Listeners to KAYL may already be familiar with another Pickhinke-penned song on the album, "Stand for America," which is a tribute to Sept. 11. KAYL has played that song, which Pickhinke sat down and composed one evening after Sept. 11.

"A Farmers Trade" is available at both Circle S Tire in Aurelia and Sanders Hardware in Early, or by calling 712-732-2059.

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