Showing audiences a good time is a recession-proof job

Riding out the recession as a country music entertainer has its advantages, said Gord Bamford.

Lacombe singer Gord Bamford keeping busy through the downturn.

Riding out the recession as a country music entertainer has its advantages, said Gord Bamford.

“It’s basically been fine from my end; I’ve been busier than ever . . . I think the last thing that people want to cut off is their entertainment (budget),” added the Lacombe singer, who suggests there’s never a better time for escapism.

He’s also glad to see so many major performers once again playing in smaller markets, like Red Deer.

Bamford believes this helps rural fans attend concerts without having to tack on extra transportation costs to a larger centre. “They can still get quality entertainment and they can afford to bring their families” — especially as some performers have adjusted their concert prices.

While Bamford opened for his personal “hero,” George Strait, at the Calgary Stampede this summer, he is now set to open for Brooks & Dunn on Thursday at Red Deer’s Centrium.

It’s a show that Bamford is looking forward to because “I’ve heard nothing but great things about those guys.” He jokingly added, “And they’re also supposed to have the best catering on the road.”

Fans will be waiting for Bamford to perform his own hits, such as Blame it on the Red Dress, which garnered him a Juno Award nomination and a No. 1 CMT music video. The title track from his latest album, Honkytonks and Heartaches, also spawned a No. 1 hit in Europe.

Bamford said the colossal success of that album almost made him scared to do a followup — but he needn’t have worried. He’s already recorded 17 new songs for his next release, My Daughter’s Father, which is expected to be in stores next March.

Bamford, who’s had a hand in writing all but two of the new songs, admitted paring down the number to 12 tracks will be difficult. “You try to pick a few that might be radio hits and some you personally really like. . . .” And he also tries to shake up the tempo a bit, to ensure the whole record isn’t just one speed.

The singer said his own material isn’t so much influenced by his own experiences but by different people he meets. The new song Forever Falling, for instance, came out of a chance encounter Bamford had with a fan, “an older gentleman in Vancouver,” who was a widower and had learned some hard lessons from life.

While Bamford is the father of two young daughters, as well as a son, the title track of the new album was actually written by his producer. But the heart-warming song could be about any dad and his daughter — which is why it resonated with Bamford, who believes it will also strike a sentimental chord with fans.

Before he spends time with his family at Christmas, he will be shooting a music video for his new holiday song, Baseball Glove. The title doesn’t sound too Christmas-y, but fans who catch the video on CMT will understand the underlying spirit, promises Bamford, who expects an exceptionally busy 2010, with touring and promoting his new record.

But being a country singer isn’t any different than being an oilfield worker or having any career than involves being away from home for long stretches, he said. “It’s tough, but we make the best of it.” For that reason, Bamford always feels particularly fortunate whenever he can perform close to home.

Next week, he will not only be opening in Red Deer for one of the most successful American music acts ever, it could be for one of the last concerts Brooks & Dunn will ever perform in these parts.

After 20 years in the music business and 10 albums, Brooks & Dunn announced in August it was soon calling it quits. While the duo promised fans a farewell tour in 2010, there’s no word yet on whether Red Deer is one of next year’s tour stops.

The twice Grammy-winning duo of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn has generated $22.3 million in album sales since 1991. After their debut record, Brand New Man went six times platinum, the pair charted 50 singles over the years, with 20 of them reaching the top. My Maria and Ain’t Nothing ’Bout You were also named Billboard magazine’s No. 1 country singles of the year.

Brooks & Dunn, who sing “rocked-up honky-tonk,” as well as ballads and gospel-tinged music, won the Country Music Association’s vocal duo of the year award each year between 1992 and 2006 — except for 2000, when Montgomery Gentry won the honour.

One of the duo’s most patriotic hits, Only in America, was used at a Republican rally for George Bush, and was also played after President Barack Obama gave his nomination acceptance speech in 2008.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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