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The Story Behind the Song

'The Last Ballad of Cynthia Chavez' is an attempt to share one of the most heroic stories I've ever heard. Last Holiday season, I had the honor of teaching some guitar lessons during our break from touring and was blessed in so many ways by my students. One of my students told me what motivated her to learn to play and sing music. She recounted a moment by a hospital bed, listening to the last song that a brave woman sang with her husband, children, and grandchildren. "That's what I want to do," she said.

While family was gathered around the old matriarch, she made the decision to make a pivotal moment in their lives a memory of encouragement and transcendental joy for everyone who was there. Rather than yielding to fear and discontentment with the ending of her chapter in this life, and allowing grief to overtake the room, she requested her husband to bring out their old guitar that they used to sing together for so many years. I can't imagine having the strength to carry out that request, but her husband did. Being a married duo, I know that you often have to put aside your own emotional struggles in order to give something to the audience, but I have yet to be faced with that kind of difficulty that ‘Mr. Chavez’ must have felt. Regardless, they led their family in a gospel song in chorus with their grandchildren and with her final breath, she finished the song, smiled, and left behind a family that must have the most beautiful picture of peace that any person could imagine.

"That's what I want to do too," I replied. I headed for home that afternoon with an melancholy but inspired heart. Driving through the New Mexico countryside with sun beating down on the piñon trees and ranch land, I thought about that story and all the other stories of courage and selflessness that must have taken place around this beautiful but hard and dry countryside. The atmosphere was perfect for a Marty Robbins song.

Generally, my songs start with a riff of some kind and after the first draft is completed, I spend hours rearranging and inserting musical movements, but for “Last Ballad of Cynthia Chavez, I just pulled over, grabbed three chords and wrote down the story in rhyme the best I could remember it and left it that way. Marty Robbins was the king of that style and so we recorded it that simple as well. It’s not exactly what I would call a ‘Gleewood’ song, but we thought it should be heard nonetheless. We hope you enjoy and have a wonderful Christmas.


Cynthia Chavez sang her last ballad tonight

With loved ones all gathered and grandchild sat at her side

She said not to weep and to dry the tears from their eyes

“I’m going home now while the Star of David shines bright”

They cried, “Grandma its Christmas and this is no time for goodbyes”

But her husband was silent as he stared into convicted brown eyes

Half a century discerning the mysteries found in her gaze

That now asked him for silence but thanked him for the life that they made

A young Caballero once told his lover goodbye

With a promise that after the War he’d make her his wife

The young Señorita prayed for his peace every night

And asked God to allow the Caballero to return to her side

Fifty years after many tears and much laughter, dreams lost and dreams realized

It was her turn to leave him with a promise they’d soon reunite

With a voice like an angel she led them in ‘Noche de paz’

She said, “My Lord is waiting and on his birthday day we’ll meet at last.”

Cynthia Chavez sang her last ballad tonight with loved ones all gathered and grandchildren sat at her side.

Christmas in Santa Fe, New Mexico

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The story behind the Song

Living the life of glamorous musicians, Callie and I returned to the RV park we called home on a cold clear day in Southern New Mexico. We began the process of decompression by putting on a pot of soup, unplugging the phone, closing the pleated ‘night-time’ shades in our RV window, and rummaging through the Netflix catalog. After lengthy debate, we both yielded to the twisted grin of Jack Nicholson inviting us into the vintage thriller classic: The Shining.

We had made it just far enough into the film to start jumping at any creaks outside the window when our gas heater turned off. It won’t be stretching your understanding of thermal science to explain that the cardboard walls of an RV aren’t exactly efficient at retaining heat and the snow passing by the window encouraged us to grab a flashlight and check the propane tanks outside. I’m positive Callie reminded me to fill them before we left on tour, but of course, they were empty. After revealing my negligence to Callie, we decided to finish the film, then head into town to grab another tank we had at the rehearsal space.

Our heads spun with ideas of cabin fever and psychopaths while the fresh snow on pavement kept the canvas clear for imagination. Upon arriving at the practice room I was distracted by my guitar which I picked up and started plinking on an ominous melody when one of us whispered, “White snow whispers in the wind.”

That’s usually how they all start. One line and a vibe. I took the guitar and propane back and we spent the remaining of the night kicking around ideas of how to incorporate a thriller story into song. The next morning we ran into a neighbor who started the day’s awkward small talk with “I thought ya’ll were back.” “Yes ma’am,” I said. “Because I saw the ghost on your roof again last night.”

“Huh?” croaked my under caffeinated mind. She went on to explain how she often spots a silvery, white cowboy on the roof of our RV looking off towards the mountain. I would treat an uninvited spirit on the roof of my home with my wife inside with the same warmth as a complete stranger doing the same (which is to stay, none at all), however my interest was peaked.

I went inside and recounted the description of our trespasser to Callie and immediately the story of a cowboy going snow-blind on the way back home to find his wife in the arms of another came to life. We turned the story into a few lines of insane conversation with the winter storm and set it to the melody of the night before. We hope you enjoy the song.

White snow whispers in the wind…

White snow whispers in the wind…

White snow won’t you come on in

Won’t you come on in and bury my sin

Won’t you come on in and bury my sin

No sir I cannot come to you

I cannot bear the things you do

No sir I cannot come to you

Are you done with the company you choose

Are you done with the company you choose

I killed my own brother my wife he did hold

They both are covered in February’s snow

When it snows I can see her ghost

When it snows I can see her ghost

Now I have no lover and my hands are stained

My heart is frozen and so is her grave

But from the storm she’s calling my name

But from the storm she’s calling my name

White is the robe that you want

Come out and numb your pain

Red is the blood it will cost

To hush the voices of your slain

To hush the voices of your slain

To hush the voices of your slain

To hush the voices of your slain

White snow whispers in the wind…

White snow whispers in the wind…

White snow won’t you come on in

Won’t you come on in and bury my sin

Won’t you come on in and bury my sin

My brothers the clouds are by my side

My father is the mountain high

My sisters are the winds that blow

My mother is the ice that grows

Now when it snows you can see my ghost

Now when it snows you can see my ghost

Music & Lyrics by Jhett and Callie Sioux Schiavone

All rights reserved ©

 A little hint for the inspiration of “White Snow”

A little hint for the inspiration of “White Snow”