The Wardens are a band from the Canadian Rockies whose stories rise from the very land they’ve protected as national park wardens. Scott Ward, Bradley Bischoff and Ray Schmidt’s mountain music is a blend of folk, roots and Americana. Over the years, the trio have performed across western Canada and from Alaska to California. They’ve performed at Folk Alliance International, Canmore Folk Festival’s main stage and shared the stage with Blue Rodeo, Pharis & Jason Romero and Ian Tyson.
Schmidt recently reached out about a new song on their new album Sold Out at the Ironwood, and said, “Just wanted to pass along info about our new song Thousand Rescues to you as I think it’s fitting with some of your recent articles about Tim Auger. We were all colleagues of Tim’s and the song is a tribute to him.”
Tim Auger is a legendary Canadian climber who made the second ascent of the Grand Wall and first ascent of University Wall in Squamish, the first ascent of Homage to the Spider on Mount Louis, and made over a thousand rescues as a search and rescue technician in Canada’s Rocky Mountains. In 2018, he passed away at 72. Read more about Auger here. The Ironwood is a Calgary bar where the Calgary Mountain Club would meet for slideshows and live music.
The Wardens latest single Coming Home (find it on Spotify here) tells the story of their colleague, legendary Jasper National Park warden Frank Burstrom. “I wrote this song after reflecting on how much the world has changed in my 45-year lifetime and how fast everything continues to change,” said Schmidt. “I work as a wildlife ranger in Glacier National Park near Revelstoke, and it’s a place, unlike that forest I played in growing up, that we’ve decided as a society not to change (other than melting glaciers, but that’s another story).
“It got me to thinking about people who are intricately connected with wilderness. Frank Burstrom is a fellow that we all worked with as national park wardens. He grew up in Jasper National Park many years ago. His grandfather and father were also park wardens. His home was the wilderness, and after his 30-year career working in Jasper and Banff national parks, what has changed – and dramatically – is everything else around it. We can send people into orbit any day of the week, but a horse as a mode of transport seems out of this world. Maybe protected wilderness is that last enduring place that we have – that familiar, warm place that can hold our memories.”
The Wardens’ new album Sold Out At The Ironwood plays like a set list for a live show, creating a story thread and live show experience from beginning to end, and providing a glimpse into what makes their live shows rise above – the storytelling. The trio covers many of the gripping stories that they are known for and also pay homage to the musical legends that shape music in the west. Also included is Scott Ward’s telling of the very tragic tale on the live track Neil Colgan.
“One of the most common questions we get from our audiences is whether our stories are included on our CDs,” said Schmidt. “We usually say, ‘we save that for the live performances’ but we may not be able to do that for a very long time, so we wanted to remind people of the experience with this album.”
Scott Ward – A national park warden for over 30 years in Banff National Park, Scott’s music stems from a life lived in the deep wilderness of the Canadian Rockies as a horseman, search-and-rescue dog handler and technical alpine specialist. Evoking the haunting fingerstyle guitar of Gordon Lightfoot with the mystique and presence of Ian Tyson, Scott’s music embodies Canadian authenticity. In 2001, Scott was awarded the Governor General’ s Award for Exemplary Service as a Peace Officer.
Ray Schmidt – Currently posted in Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Ray works with grizzly bears in the interior rainforest of Glacier National Park. Ray founded The Wardens in 2009 with Scott Ward during the national park warden centennial after discovering the rich depth of music and stories within this region of Canada. Translating the high lonesome sound of the Kentucky hills to those of the Rocky Mountains, Ray’s vocals amplify the spirit of The Wardens’ Mountain music. He has studied the upright bass with Missy Raines and mandolin under masters John Reischman and Mike Marshall.
Bradley Bischoff – Stationed in the rugged South Boundary region of Jasper National Park, Bradley began his national park warden lifestyle in 1981. Assigned alone to the backcountry with a handful of horses for seventeen days at a time, Bradley penned many songs by the dim cabin lights and the dusky summers spent in the high alpine ranges. Bradley combines his melodic vocals and smooth lead licks with his mountain roots.
01. The Code
02. The Legend Of Wild Bill
03. Shining Mountains
04. Timberwolf Reprise
05. Last Cowboy In The Outfit
06. Half-Mile Honeymoon
07. Thousand Rescues
08. Sold Out At The Ironwood
09. Coming Home
10. Selkirk Snow
11. Neil Colgan (Live)
12. Supper On The Trail (Live)