Ginger St. James doesn’t have a bone to pick with anyone in particular . . . but she DOES have a guitar for that. Your faithful Examiner mentions that he categorized her as ‘Roots’ before actually listening to her new CD, One For The Money. Roots? Hell, this is Country with a capital ‘C’!
“I wanted this album to be different from the last: we’ve been pigeonholed as rockabilly, which is fine by me, but I really am inspired by Merle Haggard, rest in peace, and Loretta Lynn, and many different country artists (Mr. Haggard passed away just weeks before this interview, at 79). I thought I’d add a bit more country flavour to this EP, and not be so rockabilly and be pigeonholed . . . I don’t want to be stuck in one genre.”
We discuss the complex stew of North American musics: how country, country blues, rock and roll, swing, jazz and blues were all influenced and mixed with each other historically. Elvis wasn’t really singing rock and roll as we know it at first, because it didn’t exist. Ginger suggests that neither did rockabilly.
“I like to incorporate as much as we can in a show: some people are blues fans; some people are country fans; I’m definitely a country fan, so we want to incorporate that as much as possible. And with this new record, that’s just the sound I heard. ‘I need pedal steel all over this! All these songs are super-country, I need all this!’” she laughs, remembering. “Going back to the greats like Hank Williams (and) Loretta and Merle.”
Be afraid, though, Alberta! Though Ginger and her posse are based in ‘Ontarrible’ (her word), they’re riding hard ALL over Alberta, with about 16 shows in the Stampede province.
“I just love it (in Alberta): it’s so me! I love the badlands; we’re playing some shows in Wayne, which is one of my favourite places to go . . . The majority of our shows are based in Alberta, and I feel the audience really responds to our music.”
Ms. St. James also mentions that there’s lots of country life going on in her family and friends, and lives on a farm (with a barn cat!) herself, so she’s right at home with the Alberta Advantage.
“When anybody asks me what I do, I say country-blues and rock and roll. We throw it all together . . . I think my band’s amazing! They will never say ‘I’m not going to play THAT song!’ They’re always into it: they’re ready to go! We’re just playing music for everybody. (As I said before) I don’t want to be pigeonholed: I know it’s necessary (in the industry), but I’m a delinquent, I guess!” (laughs)
Ginger lets drop the fact that, like the country heroes she mentions above, she writes from experience. And the reactions to those experiences, as portrayed herein, is often ‘Screw This!’
“That’s my attitude! Screw this! You live and learn from certain situations: I’ve been in good ones; I’ve been in bad ones. (Though it’s not on this album), we have a song called ‘One for the Money’, and it has to do with an arrest I had, and the city taking my dog. It’s a classic country song!
“It’ll be released as a single in a few months, because I just didn’t feel like it jived with the rest of the record (it’s NOT on the album, despite the name. One For The Money, the CD, will be out on April 29th). I know it’s a little bit crooked,” she laughs, “but so am I!”
As a finale, I always like to ask if there’s a topic that never gets addressed in their interviews, and what that might be for them. Ginger tells me: “I’d like to say that my father, my mother and my grandparents had a big influence on me, and encouraged me to write and record. And Snowheel Slim has really played a big role in continuing my relationship with songwriting and music.”
A grateful delinquent? Well then maybe. That’s why she’s such a great songwriter.