Retired Lutheran pastor Ken Grambo provides comfort with his country gospel music and chuckles with the funny tunes sung in the Scandinavian accent he heard as a child.
Grambo, 63, originally from rural Saskatchewan who has returned to Camrose where he was a pastor, said he likes to make people laugh and cry.
“I think both laughter and tears bring a lot of healing to us,” said Grambo who performed in Red Deer at Festival Hall on Sunday.
“Scandinavians love to poke fun at themselves. I’m Scandinavian by birth. I’m Norwegian and a little bit Swede. So I love to put on the accent.”
One of his 12 albums The Funniest Thing is a clean, comedy music album.
Memories from growing up on farm inspired the song Hogs are Beautiful, which he wrote to the tune from another artist.
Grambo said he envied the pigs on his farm who had plenty to eat and slept a lot.
“Many times as a kid when I’d be in trouble or when life got kind of tough, I used to wish, in fact I used to pray, that I could be a pig. I guess I hadn’t considered the bacon on the table,” he said with a laugh.
Grambo first sang in public when he was five.
“I recorded my first album in 1977 and I wrote my first song when I was still going to the seminary back in the early 70s. I just found it easier sometimes to express what I was feeling through a song than the spoken word.”
He grew up with old-style country music, the kind that people would strum on their guitars, violins and banjos on the back porch. Singers like Jim Reeves were his favourite.
As a pastor, travelled and sang in Alberta and the Northwest Territories as part of his church duties in addition to serving his parish.
He made six of his albums in Nashville with musicians and singers who performed backup for music legends.
“I had two musicians working on one album, a base guitar player and a drummer, who had been with The Highwaymen — Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson.”
“Vocalists came in one day and they just finished an album with Kenny Rogers. I even had a guitar player on one of my first albums who had been with Elvis Presley for two years.”
In Canada, the Rawling Brothers have performed backup for Grambo.
“There’s lots of good talent here. I’d stay local the next time.”
Grambo retired from the pulpit about four years ago due to serious health issues.
“My osteoarthritis destroyed my hip joints so I had to go in. I had both of my hips replaced. And in between those two surgeries I was diagnosed with prostate cancer so I had prostate surgery.”
He remembered the advice he received from a good friend he called after he learned of the cancer.
“After a period of a little bit of silence on the phone she said, ‘I have one thing to tell you. Sit down and listen to your own music.’ So that’s what I did.”
Grambo said his album With My Shepherd in the Valley that includes many songs he wrote for people facing grief and troubles really helped during his recovery.
In his gospel country music, Grambo said he likes to touch the grief, but also speak to the hope.
“I’m feeling really good again and I just want to give back.”
Grambo will be at the Stettler Agriplex on June 14 at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door. For information call 403-742-4273.