Bringing in the crops and songwriting go hand-in-hand for Saskatchewan country-roots singer Blake Berglund.
Nothing sparks his creativity like spending countless hours circling his family’s farm fields on his John Deere harvester.
“It’s absolutely my preferred place to write. It’s totally zen,” said Berglund, who performs with his on-
and off-stage partner Belle Plaine on Monday, Sept. 7, at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer.
The Regina resident, who makes traditional country music in the style of Kris Kristofferson or Willie Nelson, comes from a long line of farmers, cowboys and showmen.
Berglund’s grandfather, who would have turned 115 last month, was Kennedy, Sask.’s self-appointed storyteller, haphazard pianist and self-taught veterinarian.
“He had not a day of schooling, but he was the local vet. He just jumped and did it,” said Berglund, with a chuckle.
Berglund’s father carried on the jack-of-all-trades family tradition, dabbling in everything from crop and cattle farming, to running an auction mart, to collecting estrogen from horse urine.
With a brother who’s a professional calf-roper, Berglund figures “I have that cowboy gene” — and it turns up in his music.
Songs on his three solo CDs are often about different characters he meets.
“It becomes boring to write about yourself, about what I feel and what I think about things … I find it more engaging to write in the narrative style about others…”
On this Western Canada tour, Berglund will share the stage with his sweetheart, Belle Plaine, a Fosston Sask. native. Both artists intend to do their own solo sets with side players, then come together for a few duets.
Plaine (who borrowed the name of a Saskatchewan farming community as her stage moniker) has such a beautiful, clear, distinctive voice that Berglund was captivated from when he first heard her sing.
He spent several years trying to talk her into becoming his duet partner. Finally Plaine, who made two poetic solo albums, capitulated when she realized they share the same approach to country music.
She admitted they both prefer “authentic” traditional country to the pop-y new country music heard on the radio.
Berglund puts it across stronger: “I loath what’s happened to country music right now!”
Where traditional country was about life’s struggles, new country seems to be mostly about beer and drinking, he added. “It’s very poor choice of subject matter for a role model … It’s very disappointing to me.”
Given the current state of country radio, he and Plaine decided to draw on the past for inspiration for their latest recording project.
The duo are paying old-fashioned tribute to their fellow songwriters by recording their material — starting with a gold-coloured 7-inch vinyl, out on Sept. 4, with the tunes Town to Town and Saskatchewan, written by Saskatoon folk artist/songwriter Zachary Lucky.
There’s even an appropriate throw-back sensibility in their duet performance of Town to Town, as seen on YouTube, as part of An Empty Room Series of recordings made by retired CBC employee Brent Nielsen.
The video brings to mind Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, or even Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.
She and Berglund greatly admire country artists of the bygone era. But there’s also something distinctive and special that happens when they sing together.
“I think there’s a real chemistry between us,” said Plaine. “The visual interplay keeps things interesting.”
As to whether she plans to make a full-length recording with Berglund someday, she added, “We’re going to ride this out for a while and see where it goes…”
There’s a $10 cover for the 8 p.m. show. For more information, please call 403-356-0033.