“Full-throttle,” boot-stomping, rabble-rousing country music, according to singer Ginger St. James, is best performed in Alberta.
While her fellow Ontarians can also appreciate her honky-tonk, rock-a-billy act, St. James contends, “It’s rowdier in the West.”
She says this from the Last Chance Saloon in Wayne, Alta., a once-thriving mining town near Drumheller that’s now largely a ghost-town and tourist attraction.
The saloon retains real bullet holes in its walls — and St. James is obviously thrilled with these mementos of the town’s rough-and-tumble history.
“I took pictures of them,” said the singer, who performed a couple of sets at the saloon to fans who drove up from as far as south of Calgary for her show.
“It’s great here. I love the history, I love the people. I’ve been fantastically treated,” St. James added.
She’s next coming to sing at The Pinecone Opry with Ol’ Boots and the Hoots on Thursday at Fratters in Red Deer. St. James plans to share songs such as Somebody Shot Me, off her new album, One For the Money.
That song came out of personal experience — although no bloodshed was involved. St. James said “It’s about being two-timed, or stabbed in the back” — whether at work, or in personal relationships.
“You give your trust to somebody and you find out they were two-faced the whole time,” added the performer, who found some music industry people didn’t live up to their promises.
“It’s not a good feeling, but it makes for a good song …”
The Hamilton-area resident takes her inspiration from Patsy Cline and Bonnie Raitt, but started out in the business as a musical theatre and burlesque singer.
“It happened organically,” recalled St. James, who would lie on her bedroom floor as a child, belting out songs from Annie Get Your Gun after learning these show tunes at school. She eventually landed the role of Sally Bowles in a high school production of Cabaret.
Country music was also part of her childhood on a farm near Binbrook, Ont. St. James recalled her dad always listened to country radio while working in the barn.
Singers like Loretta Lynn stirred something within her — although St. James initially tried for an acting career in Toronto.
“I got an agent and I’d be sent to auditions every day,” she recalled. But she soon realized commercials for laundry soap were “not my bag.”
St. James quit to form a tongue-in-cheek burlesque trio, the Steeltown Sirens, and attained a good measure of local success through being campy and risque.
When she began gravitating back to the country music of her childhood, she naturally began delivering honky-tonk songs in a teasing, theatrical way.
The resulting mix of sultry singing and sassy showmanship netted St. James the Female Vocalist of the Year Award at the 2015 Hamilton Music Awards.
There’s a $10 cover for her 8:30 p.m. show at The Pinecone Opry.