‘Regular women’ are Genuine Cowgirls from Big Valley

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Songs from the Saddle Shop

LANA MICHELIN

Black Press

Their band is called Genuine Cowgirls.

And considering the three moonlighting musicians from Big Valley actually have day jobs as a saddle maker, a bull breeder and a barrel racer, they aptly live up to the title.

“We play 25 dates a year,” said songwriter Lynda Thurston, a barrel racer and former rodeo radio broadcaster whose band performs in Stettler in October.

But she admitted that finding time for concerts between all of the other obligations “is where the stress comes in.”

Thurston is married to saddle bronc rider Skeeter Thurston and mother of the famous Thurston Gang trick riding and roping trio, who performed for Queen Elizabeth and most recently for Prince William and his new wife Kate.

She and the other group members — mandolin player and custom saddle maker Lori Gordon, and guitarist and bull breeder Robyn Armstrong, whose husband is rodeo bull rider Kelly Armstrong — have their hands full with non-musical family and business duties most days.

“We called our first CD Songs from the Saddle Shop because that’s the easiest place for us to practise,” Thurston said.

She noted friends and neighbours in Big Valley have gotten used to hearing guitar picking and singing coming from Gordon’s saddlery.

“As they’re walking up Main Street, they’ll be tapping their toes when we bring the guitar and mandolin out,” Thurston said.

The trio has been friends for 15 years. They began playing and singing together several years ago as a fun change from their usual duties as wives and mothers.

“It’s fantastic,” Thurston said. “There’s something about music that allows you to block out everything else when you pick up the guitar and start to sing. When you’re doing it with your friends, it’s a real stress relief.”

Eventually, the band started setting the poetry that Thurston has been writing for the last 20 years to music. And the Genuine Cowgirls’ debut album of original songs was recorded last year in Nashville.

Thurston said the songs on the album are about “survival, life, love and community.”

The carefree ditty Blue Roan Horse came to Thurston easily as she got up one morning. “It was written in half an hour.” But Better Hold On, about the recent drought, required her to dig a little deeper into her personal emotions.

“During the drought two years ago, we had to sell all our cows and start over,” recalled Thurston, who writes metaphorically about putting a rock from her ranch into her pocket as a safeguard from having to move to the city.

She sees songwriting and performing as just another side of country living. And Thurston hopes her group will give other people the sense that music is for everybody.

“You don’t have to be a big star or a celebrity to make music,” she said. “We’re just a group of regular women.”

The Genuine Cowgirls will play at Stettler’s Performing Arts Centre on Oct. 21 with their Nashville producer, musician Tim Lorsch.

Tickets to that 8 p.m. concert are $20 and are available by calling 403-876-2001.