Ready to celebrate: Reporter honored to return to Glendive

Thursday, July 11, 2019
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Guest Column

A few months back my friend Jason Stuart called and asked if I’d be interested in coming back to Glendive to perform at today’s Celebrate Glendive event in the EPEC parking lot.

The decision was a nobrainer. It’s an honor to return to the Badlands and see old friends and colleagues, and it’s a great purpose: to bring people out and encourage them to believe in Glendive.

I remember the first time I started to believe. I’d been a reporter at the Ranger-Review for less than a month when editor Jamie Crisafulli asked me to cover the 4th of July parade.

This was 10 years ago.

The parade was my first time seeing what small-town America is all about. I was amazed by the community pride, and I was caught offguard by how many people already recognized me. It made me realize how important the paper was to the town, and how connected we all were in this little bubble in the Badlands.

I instantly felt like part of this place. I received compliments on articles, invites to barbecues and was even thanked for choosing Glendive.

That feeling never went away during nearly three years in eastern Montana. I remain grateful for the relationships that developed and the constant kindness exhibited each and every day.

Many of these relationships have remained and continue to grow, such as my relationship Mighty Big Jim Devine, whose band is headlining tonight’s event. Devine, lead guitarist Casey Malkuch, Katelynne and Jayson Eslick (who were instrumental in putting this event together) and the rest of the band are good friends. We try to collaborate whenever we get the chance. In fact, Jim and I co-wrote two of the tracks on their latest album, “Diamonds and Tears.”

When Jim and I met we were playing duo shows consisting mainly of drinking songs. We’d sprinkle some originals in here and there, but, now, Jim is a rock n’ roller, jamming more on the electric than the acoustic and letting influences such as Tom Petty and AC/DC take the drivers seat. This is evident on the new album.

Casey has also switched gears. He and I played together in the LAW (Life After Work) Band. Wearing a cowboy hat and boots every gig, Malkuch sang Garth Brooks, George Strait, Willie, Waylon and the boys. That’s not the Casey Malkuch we know anymore. These days, he’s back to his jam band roots, channeling Jerry Garcia, David Gilmour and Dickey Betts. He’s also becoming quite a songwriter, as is evident on “Medocino Girl,” one of my favorite songs from the latest album.

Katelynne and Jayson – best known for running Sugar Plum Jewelry Co. – also continue to blow my mind. Every time I hear them perform they’ve improved, and they also work well with Devine and Malkuch as songwriters and music directors. Katelynne’s “Take My Pain Away” is one of the highlights on “Diamonds.”

Chris Hildebrant (keyboards, vocals, guitar) of Groove Creek and I are thrilled to open up for our friends and be included in this fun-filled day of appreciation for Glendive (and its many local service volunteers).

It’s hard to believe I became a part of this community 10 years ago and even harder to believe I’ve been away for seven, but every time I come back it feels like I’ve never left, and I don’t expect this visit to be any different. I hope to see you out at the EPEC and thank you personally for making a Midwesterner feel at home in the Badlands.

Charlie Denison is a reporter at the Lewistown News Argus. He can be reached at