A bigger show, a bigger venue and amazing music

The Pinecone Opry has mosied over to a new corral.

The popular country and western show, hosted by local honky-tonk band Boots & The Hoots, has relocated to Bo’s Bar and Grill from the now-closed Fratters Speakeasy.

It’s a total change of scenery — “but in a good way,” said Mark “Boots” Graham, frontman of the Red Deer band Boots & the Hoots. He sees it as an opportunity to grow, noting the move will allow the Pinecone Opry to expand its lineup and audience in a larger new space.

“I hate to turn people away,” added Graham. And this happened a few times at the smaller venue — whereas Bo’s “has an extended stage and sound system and access to more people.”

The new setup will mean the Pinecone Opry can add a third band to the usual mix of two starting in January.

As for this month, there are two chances to see Boots Graham perform:

• The proverbial curtain will open on the Pinecone Opry on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Bo’s. Boots & The Hoots will be sharing the bill with Calgary alt-country band The Ruminants.

• Graham will also do a solo show on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Golden Circle, along with cowboy poet Bryan J. Smith. “BJ” as he’s known to fans, has been a favourite at cowboy poetry gatherings and rodeos across Western North America.

Graham is a guitar-playing singer/songwriter who’s been cultivating his unique brand of retro country with a humorous twist since starting the band in 2008.

Along with The Hoots — Tyler Allen on lead guitar, mandolin and banjo, and Sean VandenBrink on upright bass — Graham has put out two albums, Pinecone Cowboy and Too Hot to Hoot. Both were well received by CKUA as well as college radio stations that play a more eclectic brand of country.

The three musicians are looking forward to recording a third album for 2017. Graham said there are no plans to reinvent the wheel: “We’re not trying to make a different album, it’ll probably evolve in a natural way… probably have (some songs) that are somewhat funny and self-deprecating…”

While he can write a crying-in-your-beer tune when the mood strikes, he learned a long time ago that he prefers laughing, dancing audiences to depressed ones.

“I can’t sing sad songs. Life is great!” said the singer, who’s touring to neighbouring provinces where a lot of fans already know his music.

“We were playing in Regina for the first time — and the audience was singing along!” he recalled. “I said, ‘How the heck do you know the song?’ and I was told there’s a (local) fella that learned my songs and would play them around campfires” in the area.

Many of Graham’s lyrical twists invite repeating. The songwriter takes the typical old-style country format and revises it into something odder and more memorable. Whisk All the Drinky from Too Hot to Hoot goes: “My dog left me for another man/My truck ran away with my heart/My woman broke down on the side of the road so I hadta sell her for parts…”

Graham, who started out performing in a punk band, doesn’t mind not being played on commercial country radio, which is mostly about dirt-road party anthems these days.

By contrast, Boots & The Hoots concerts are “for old men in legions and children playing at farmer’s markets,” said Graham. He believes “honest, pure” country music is for everybody.

Upcoming Pinecone Opry shows include special guests Peter & the Wolves in October, The Dead South in November, and Rugged Little Thing in December.

For more information about the local shows, please contact the venues.