The fate of a bill proposed by the Texas legislature to ban city ordinances relating to trees remains in the balance at present. But a chorus of voices rose up from Hill’s Cafe on Tuesday night in support of those against the bill.
Butch Hancock, Eliza Gilkyson, Walt Wilkins, Johnny Nicholas and Jaimee Harris were among the local musicians who performed at that free event, which wasn’t a fundraiser but rather was designed to draw attention to Senate Bill 14, which is part of the legislature’s special session. It passsed the Senate by a narrow 17-14 margin last week, but must still pass the House before Gov. Abbott can sign it into law.
The spacious Hill’s courtyard proved an ideal setting for the event. Towering, centuries-old live oak trees soar above the space, providing a canopy of welcome shade for those who came to hear about the cause and listen to music by some of Austin’s finest singer-songwriters.
Gilkyson’s opening set included “Branching Out,” an old favorite by her friend and fellow songwriter John Gorka that begins, “When I grow up I want to be a tree.” The subsequent songwriters-circle session featuring Wilkins, Nicholas, Harris and Hancock included several songs that touched on natural themes. Harris played the late Jimmy LaFave’s “The Beauty of You,” which includes the lyric, “Tall pine trees were around me.”
Other guests joined in at various points through the evening, including Kelley Mickwee of the Trishas and Wilkinson’s Mystiqueros, the folk duo Tahoma and longtime local singer-songwriter Larry Seaman. And watching from the crowd was Manuel Cowboy Donley, the legendary Tejano pioneer and National Heritage Fellowship recipient, who was celebrating his 90th birthday with his family.
The environmental activist group Defend Texas Trees helped to present the event, which came together in just a few days after the bill passed the Senate.
Speaking at the end of the evening about the primary importance of trees to the lives of humans, Hancock concluded, “We should always surround trees with love, because they do the same for us.”