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Each year around this time, I find myself entering therapy. There is no known cure for what ails me psychologically, of course, but treating the symptoms of my quite singular neuroses at least makes the intervals between sessions more manageable. No couch necessary. A blanket tossed on grass and held down by a cooler seems to work just fine.

In order to keep these healing ducks organized and in line, I put together a list. Over recent years I haven’t been able to adequately fashion a cup of coffee unless it first appears on a list of some sort. It’s usually right there after yawn, stretch, rub my eyes and scratch my behind.

In the main, these therapeutic sessions have in common an outdoor-music component coupled with an almost-forced sense of community. Getting out and about with other members of my species, they say, is part of the process. If I were to attempt this out in the yard with an iPod, it would "stifle the personal growth aspect," they insist.

Anyway, I’ve bought into it, and this summer’s schedule kicks off early tomorrow evening when the Barfly Wranglers take the stage at Heber City Park to jump-start the 2008 version of the Heber Valley Concerts in the Park Series.

Actually, of late, I’ve become a Barfly Wranglers groupie, which isn’t all that hard since their shtick is superb and they mostly play at the Other End on the outskirts of Heber and the Beaver Creek Inn on the outskirts of Kamas. They are a lot like their music, which exists, in the main, on the outskirts of honky-tonk, country rock, and blues.

My psychoanalytic team doesn’t view these encounters with the same rapture as I, however, due to the dim lights, thick smoke, and oftentimes lewd behavior involved. OK, I’ll try and get a handle on that last one. Get outdoors, they say. Drink deeply from the carafe. Bypass the middleman.

With all the outdoor therapy sessions scheduled this summer, there’s absolutely no way to take in them all. So, when one is compiling a list of shows, many highly inviting concerts are necessarily going to be left off. So it goes.

A couple of others on the Heber Park schedule that caught my attention were Swagger, the Irish-punk force of nature that I’ve been wanting to see for quite a spell, and the always fun and interesting Motherlode Canyon Band, who wrap up the series on August 28.

Although I could well catch Motherlod much earlier when they open the Park City Free Concert Series at Deer Valley on June 25, being a Heber kind of guy, the Wednesday evening shows up at the Snow Park Amphitheater have become increasingly more difficult to attend.

There are some acts that I never pass up, no matter what. And there are many of these "must-see-every-time-they-come-around" performers who made my list this year. Go figure!

I’ve had this thing with Emmylou Harris ever since she showed up on Gram Parson’s "G. P." album back in 1973, so her gig at Red Butte Garden on July 20 is a no-brainer. Massage-therapy-wise, ever since that great show at Park West back in the day, she has always rubbed me the right way.

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi are on tap a couple of days later also at Red Butte. Their Soul Stew Revival showcases Derek’s brilliant "bottleneck" guitar and Susan’s sultry and highly-schooled vocal style. It’s all about "goosebumps" in the key of "blues."

I think it was around 1987, following the release of "In the Light of the Moon," that I first caught Los Lobos in concert. Warren Zevon opened for them at the old "Dirt Palace" at the Utah State Fairgrounds and, suffice to say, although the acoustics flat-out stunk, we had an East L.A. party on the west side of Salt Lake City that night.

Subsequent gigs over the years at the Zephyr, Red Butte, Franklin Covey, and The Depot followed. Not to mention the Los Lobos acoustic fiesta at the Eccles Center a few years back. And, if their multi-instrumental virtuosity isn’t enough, you ought to catch them having their way with the "mole" plates at the Red Iguana each time they blow through town. Another "cholo" session is scheduled at Red Butte on July 30.

What can you say about the juxtaposition of Alejandro Escovedo and Greg Brown at Red Butte on Aug 30. Well, you could say "poetic composition of the highest order," that’s what! Impressive enough for me to get up early in Challis, Idaho, after a weekend awash in Reckless Kelly and Robert Earl Keen in order to make it back in time.

And, in saving what might be the best and most special for last, a trio of top-shelf shows at Deer Valley featuring long-time favorites Lucinda Williams (July 28), the Gypsy Kings (August 26), and Dwight Yoakam (August 30) ought to put a crack in my sensibility large enough to allow the sloth and melancholy to flow out.

The opportunity to catch the Gipsy Kings live after all these years is enough of a draw for me to skip Bonnie Raitt at Red Butte the same evening. And that, my fellow group-therapy associates, could be interpreted as an over-the-top recommendation.

Then there’s the this-just-in announcement of a Bob Dylan gig on the grass at Deer Valley August 31. Check ’em all out! Bring a cooler! It’s all about healing!

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.


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