Nebraska Life Magazine

Nebraska Life Article Photo"MUSICAL INSPIRATION welled up for Ed Harvey during the 17 years he spent studying groundwater in the Nebraska Sandhills as a hydrology professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The Sandhills ranching culture fascinated Harvey. Experiencing the history, scenery and people got his creative juices flowing. Ideas for songs came while watching ranch hands perform chores such as cutting and bailing hay in wet meadows. Harvey wondered why they didn't seem to be as revered as cowboys. While watching long coal trains rolling by Whitman in Grant County, Harvey pondered what it might have been like growing up there.

Many of the 15 songs on his new album, Stories Seldom Told, are set in Nebraska's ranch country. One can practically see Nebraska in the songs "Soddies" and "Sandhills Gold Rush," the latter of which chronicles the World War I-era potash boom in Sheridan County. "Drought Condition" pays homage to Nebraskans Harvey met during his long journey.

"Nebraska River Song" is a ballad mentioning nearly every Nebraska river. It begins with the singer meeting someone special at the Platte River and becoming friends on the Cedar River, and flows to "I told you I loved you by the old Might Moe," and eventually to the Dismal River where "you said you must go."

Harvey learned the ropes of music in his pastor father's church and by listening to his grandmother sing while his grandfather played mandolin. Harvey credits his other grandfather for his interest in bluegrass music. He is inspired by songwriters who "take you to places where you can understand the lives, hopes and struggles of the people there."

Harvey's deep, resonant voice reminds listeners of Johnny Cash with an infusion of the band Old Crow Medicine Show. He plays the guitar, mandolin and banjo and is honoring his family's Appalachian roots by learning the mountain dulcimer.

A job with the National Park Service has taken the musician from Nebraska but has not taken Nebraska from the musician. "I find it a very refreshing place to visit, and it always reminds me of what is good about our country and its citizens," Harvey said. "Every time I am there, I'm inspired to tell another of their stories."