X Sports 4 Vets Singers 4 Soldiers

March 27, 2013

Several years ago Plentywood native Jason DeShaw, fresh out of Carroll College, got Shane Clouse and his band, Stomping Ground, to perform at an event promoting biodiesel fuel.

“It was not well-attended,” Clouse says with a laugh, “but everyone sure had a lot of fun.”

They’re positive fun will still be very much in play when the two musicians team up for another benefit Wednesday in Helena and Thursday in Missoula – and they’re hoping to draw great crowds this time.

See, this time they’ve got Tim Ryan, Rob Quist and Kostas on board as well.

“It’s a pretty talented lineup,” says Clouse. “You’ve got Grammy winners, a couple of guys with No. 1 hits – and then there’s little ol’ me. I haven’t had that kind of success yet, but I’m trying hard.”

Montana musicians all, they’ll be donating their time and talents to raise money for XSports4Vets, the Missoula-based nonprofit that helps America’s veterans transition to civilian life, with a keen eye on support for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

They’re calling the Helena and Missoula performances “Singers for Soldiers.”

When DeShaw contacted Clouse about helping with this benefit, it took no arm-twisting. Clouse and Stomping Ground were there for the original benefit, when XSports4Vets was being co-founded by a friend in honor of her brother, a vet from Helena who survived Iraq only to commit suicide once he was back on U.S. soil.

“Being musicians we work with a lot of nonprofits, donating our time,” Clouse says. “What I like about this one is the money doesn’t go to infrastructure or to pay salaries. All the money raised goes directly to their mission.”

XSports4Vets provides local veterans with recreational opportunities, many of them exhilarating ones such as riverboarding, skydiving, rock climbing and open-air flying in a special light-sport aircraft. The heart-racing activities mimic the fast pace of serving in a war zone, and bring together veterans who have seen the same horrors and experienced similar challenges once they return home.

“It’s really cool to be a part of that,” Clouse says. “I’m not a vet, but it’s really neat to have something to do with a group that helps veterans deal with PTSD, and does it by letting them be with their comrades, and hang out with folks who understand where they’re coming from.”

DeShaw, who recently released his fifth country album, will open the show with original music. Then Ryan, Quist, Kostas and Clouse will take the stage for a Nashville-style writers-in-the-round performance.

“All the honky-tonks in Nashville have writers-in-the-round,” says Clouse, who lived there for five years before coming home to Missoula to run his family’s nursery business and pursue his music career on a local level. “There’s not enough time to let everyone play who wants to, so they bring them up all at once and they take turns.”

The others on stage often join in, and there’s lots of storytelling between songs.

“It’s a bit more formal than a picking circle,” Clouse says. “It lets you see the people behind the songs, and hear how songs got created. A guy like Rob Quist has amazing stories about the days Jimmy Buffett and Heart opened for him (and Mission Mountain Wood Band). Kostas has stories about Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, and Tim Ryan can talk about the current folks he still works with.”

Quist, who is from Cut Bank, has been a staple on the Montana music scene since 1971, when he co-founded Mission Mountain Wood Band. Songs he has written have been performed by artists such as Loretta Lynn and Michael Martin Murphy.

Ryan, from St. Ignatius, has long carved out a career in Nashville that includes co-writing Phil Vassar’s No. 1 hit, “Last Day of My Life.” Kostas, born in Greece but raised in Billings (and who now lives in Belgrade), wrote Patty Loveless’s first No. 1 hit, “Timber, I’m Falling in Love,” and has written for Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt and Martina McBride.

DeShaw, the organizer of Singers for Soldiers, has been earning his keep in Nashville since 2007. Clouse’s latest release is “Good Thing Going On.”

“We’re all down-to-earth Montana people,” Clouse says of the benefit’s lineup. “Montana is our source of inspiration, and what we believe a normal world should be like.”

But it’s not a normal world, and young people who serve their country sometimes return from war with scars both physical and emotional. The performances in Helena and Missoula are to help an organization that helps them once their military service is done.