Gifted band the Genuine Cowgirls are gearing up to hit the West Stettler Park stage for ‘Entertainment in the Park’ on Aug. 14th.
The Big Valley-based group, consisting of Lynda Thurston, Lori Gordon, Dallas Gordon and Robyn Armstrong, performs original music written by Thurston.
Topics run the gamut from tunes about ‘rodeo and ranching to heart-breaking honky tonk and country rock’.
Their 2011 CD Songs from the Saddle Shop took the trio across the west to venues including the Ponoka Stampede Art Show & Sale, the Strathmore Pro Rodeo, the Ivan Daines Country Music Picnic, Diamonds in the Rough (CMA Saskatoon), the Pendleton Round up Parade and the Creekside Bar & Grill among others.
Thurston reflected recently on how the ladies got together in the first place – some 20 years ago.
“I met Lori Gordon when we first moved to Big Valley, and we became great friends,” she recalled.
“I played guitar, and Lori was playing guitar and also learning to play the mandolin. I had also been writing songs for awhile, and eventually we just started practicing together and formed the band.”
It’s been a flat-out blast ever since, not to mention an enriching creative journey.
Thurston has long had a passion for poetry, which also fuels her gift for songwriting as well.
“Poetry and songwriting were good creative outlets when you are a busy mom and feeding the cows, and your husband is away rodeoing,” she added with a laugh.
“Historically, the band has also practiced most of the time in Lori’s saddle shop in Big Valley. That’s usually where we hold practices during the week. I’ll get my chores done, grab my guitar, throw it in the truck and run in and we can all get together.”
As to Entertainment in the Park, Thurston said it’s always a joy to take part in the popular community event.
“We love it because so many of our local friends and fans come out to it,” she explained.
“We play at the Big Valley Hotel, and at the nursing homes in town and we play at all of the different churches that we attend, so we get together and play a lot. But it’s fun at Entertainment in the Park because we really see a lot of familiar faces there year by year, too. And we really appreciate their support.”
In her own journey, Thurston remembers having grandmothers and uncles that played instruments, but in her immediate family, no one played except for her.
“I really longed to play – every time I went somewhere where there was a piano I’d sit down and pretend that I could play,” she laughed.
In later years, she ventured off to college and purchased a guitar, and that’s when the gift for performing really started to shine as she essentially taught herself how to play.
“That started it, and it has become something that is very therapeutic in my life,” she said.
“All the time, whether I’m driving or whatever, I’m coming up with a little idea for a poem or a song. Some of them I will come home and write immediately, or others might float around in a binder for years and I’ll think, hey! I need to do that one and get the inspiration to finish that song!”
When the ladies eventually headed off to Nashville to record, Thurston recalls the stint as being one of the most fun things she’s ever dived into. They also released two new cuts last year on iTunes – The Art of the Cowgirl and Broke Down in Broadus.
“Our stuff isn’t high-tech – it’s just very simple, organic music because that’s what we play.
“We play acoustic instruments and we are not fancy pickers or players. But I think that when we get together, we have something that meshes and people can appreciate. We also play lots of old, standard songs that people can recognize. We try to do a nice mix of material,” she said.
Looking ahead, Genuine Cowgirl is heading to Phoenix to play at ‘Art of the Cowgirl’, a stint they also had the fun of performing at this past year as well.
The event is described as a, ‘Gathering to celebrate cowgirls and their contributions to western lifestyle and culture, (and) to raise funds to support up and coming artists to expand their knowledge and skills via fellowships with master artists in their field.’
Dallas was chosen to go work with a master bootmaker in Nevada through a fellowship she had been selected for.
And Thurston will herself be serving as a master artist for a writing fellowship for a lucky, aspiring writer out there as well.
In the meantime, Thurston finds such fulfillment through her music – on so many different levels.
“My thoughts flow through paper,” she said of the craft of songwriting. “I pick up a pen, and the thoughts just come to me.
“Music is like an anthem to our souls. In the old days, music wasn’t as available as the written and spoken word. Poetry was a much more respected and practiced art.”
Again, that foundation has fueled her musical and songwriting sensibilities as well.
“What’s the famous thing they say in Nashville – country music is just ‘three chords and the truth?’ I’ve written tunes with six or seven chords, and they are lovely.
“But most of the songs have three chords! There is no real secret to it – it just has to authentic and honest, and it has to come from your heart.”