Artist: Lisa Brokop
Venue: Horizon Stage, Spruce Grove, Alberta
Show: Lisa Brokop Presents: Legendary Ladies of Country
Time: 7:30pm, October 1st, 2018
Having been to many, many country music concerts in my twenty-two years, I thought I knew exactly what to expect last Monday night when I attended a tribute show of some of Country Music’s greatest female legends presented by one of my favourite Canadian country music artists—Lisa Brokop. Being not just a Lisa Brokop fan, but also a fan of each and every one of the women she honoured, it was the ultimate fan experience.
With October 1st being the one year anniversary of the Route 91 shooting in Las Vegas, Horizon Stage’s Theatre Manager, Brandi Watson took a moment to remember and honour the fifty-eight souls we lost last year. “What we can do to honour the victims, and the survivors is to continue going to events and festivals and supporting music because music will not be silenced by violence,” Watson said lovingly before introducing our entertainer for the night, Lisa Brokop.
The Legendary Ladies of Country is an acoustic show with a modest four-piece band consisting of a pianist, two acoustic guitarists, and an upright bassist. Personally, I tend to lean toward and appreciate more stripped down, acoustic shows far above anything else. There’s a tenderness and an attention to detail that never quite seems to come through for me in a large production. With the flashy lights and smoke screens left far behind, it’s much easier to get right down to the story.
The lights dimmed, and the band walked on stage, video footage started rolling old clips from various performances by women such as Donna Fargo, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton. The constant background footage gave the stage extra presence and life. Brokop followed wearing a sparkly black tank top walking in on a clip of Minnie Pearl and responding to the bright “Howdy” with a rich “And I’m just so proud to be here.” The entire stage lit up with a pink hue and Brokop’s glittery guitar strap twinkled in the stage lights as the band started playing Mother Maybelle and The Carter Sisters “Sun’s Gonna Shine.”
Right away I could see how much Brokop adored the music and the women she was honouring. I also noticed the angelic voice of her harmony singer while she sat at the piano. She was spot on the entire night, her voice complimenting Brokop flawlessly. I knew that, if I could, I needed to speak to her and tell her exactly that. It was something I scrawled into my notebook time after time as I enjoyed the show. As soon as Brokop started singing it was plain to see that the atmosphere of the show was to be very relaxed, very humble, very much like a story handed down from those women and in turn handed down to us.
As she told story after story of these Legendary Ladies, and some memories from her own catalogue it was evident that their music impacted her life significantly. Before breaking into a stunning rendition of “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” she recalled Monday mornings where the other kids would come to school wearing t-shirts from the Friday night before plastered with pictures of Metallica and AC/DC and KISS while she’d come to school wearing a t-shirt with The Judds, or Emmylou Harris, or Ricky Skaggs on the front. She was the odd man out in school for liking country music when it wasn’t cool, and so was I.
In an interview with Lula 1892, Brokop told us that what she hopes her audiences take away from her show is “90 minutes of music that is familiar, perhaps nostalgic, a trip down memory lane,” and that’s precisely what every single person in that theatre did. We didn’t stop smiling, and we found ourselves laughing at her cheesy Mom jokes about her young daughter Ivy’s school in Harpeth Valley, and we were in stitches when she stepped into Minnie Pearl’s hat and recreated one of her jokes about Aunt Ambrosia and Uncle Nabob.
What I found most impressive about Brokop is that she doesn’t just sing the originals like a karaoke cover—she made them her own, taking bits and pieces of the versions that came before her and adding her own unique flair. Brokop has a very distinct voice. She’s one of those singers you recognize as soon as they open their mouth, a lot like the women she honours in this show.
She quoted Loretta Lynn in saying that if you want to make it in the music industry “You either gotta be first, great, or different.” Brokop herself and all of these amazing women were all of those things. “It was difficult to choose [which songs to sing] because there are so many amazing women, but I narrowed it down to songs that were more influential to me or that are attached to memories of mine from early in my career and childhood.” We all sang along to songs like Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” Tanya Tucker’s “Delta Dawn,” Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” and the show closer “I Will Always Love You,” Dolly Parton’s infamous goodbye to Porter Wagoner.
It seemed that the hardest songs for Brokop to narrow down, understandably, were Miss Tammy Wynette’s. She included a short medley of “I Don’t Wanna Play House,” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” and followed up with a lively cover of “Good Girls Gonna Go Bad” and an emotional “Stand By Your Man” where she nailed that high note, just like I knew she would. “Stand By Your Man” is the one song that Brokop told us her show wouldn’t quite be complete without. While there were several crowd favourites, my personal favourites were her covers of “Blue Kentucky Girl” and “Back In Baby’s Arms.”
It’s worth mentioning that Patsy Cline is also very, very dear to Brokop. Her previous tour, The Patsy Cline Project, featured some of Cline’s classic hits like “Sweet Dreams” and “Walkin’ After Midnight” as well as some of her own material that she had specifically written for the project. “When I first started singing, I would sing some of Patsy’s songs because I didn’t have my own. They are still among some of my favourites today.” Brokop says. Because of the great response from The Patsy Cline Project, Brokop was inspired to create another show with a similar structure but different songs celebrating a wider variety of Legendary Ladies of Country music.
There’s one lady in this group of legendary women that is a little nearer and dearer to Brokop and my hearts than all the rest. Anne Murray. “She’s like Canadian royalty, she’s not just a legendary lady. I think she should be on our quarter.” Brokop laughed before singing the very first song she’d ever learned to play, “Could I Have This Dance,” followed by a spot-on rendition of “Snowbird.” Again, her harmony singer, Amber Bauer’s voice was exceptionally flawless here.
Though The Legendary Ladies of Country show was dedicated to the women that came before her, Brokop still featured a couple of hits of her own from across her 28 year, nine studio album, professional career. “Whiskey and Wine” closed out the first half of the show. She came back with a lively bluegrass tune called “Wildflower,” the first Lisa Brokop song I’d ever known by name, “I’d Like To See You Try,” and last but not least when she came back out for a two-song encore, she opened with the sassy “Take That.”
She closed out the whole show with an acapella, three-part harmony version of “Tennessee Waltz” with her band–her upright bassist, Darcy Johnstone, her acoustic guitarist Darren Savard, and her lovely pianist and harmony vocalist Amber Bauer. I was lucky enough to get to speak with each of these talented Canadian artists after the show, and yes, I did tell Miss Bauer how beautiful her harmonies were. Her smile was priceless, and she complimented my massive 80s hair.
Country music, especially Canadian country music is incredibly important to me. Country music raised me into the woman I am today, and it’s my personal goal to help get the music that shaped me out there for the next generation. As much as it breaks my heart, good country music just doesn’t seem to be getting handed down through the ages anymore. It’s fading away. You can see it in the audiences. More often than not, I tend to be among the youngest in the crowds of the concerts I attend. This was the case for Monday night’s sold out concert. The house was most definitely packed, but the age of the crowd was on the higher end of the scale. This was not an age-restricted venue, like the casino I regularly venture out to for performances by artists such as Tanya Tucker, Collin Raye, Sammy Kershaw, Aaron Tippin, Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis, and The Mavericks.
My issue doesn’t lie within the age of audiences in any negative sense at all. In fact, some of my favourite people to be around are far older than me because of the wonderful stories and wisdom they have to share. In addition to that, it would strike me as odd if the audience was void of the older folk—the music Brokop performs in this particular show, along with The Patsy Cline Project which I was also lucky enough to see last year, is the music of their generation. My issue lies with the shocking absence of folks my own age. The twenty-somethings. If they only knew what they were missing.
If you’d like to see The Legendary Ladies of Country show for yourself, check out her upcoming tour dates here. You’ll find her with a couple of other Canadian Legendary ladies if you see the show next year. She’s bringing along Patricia Conroy, and Amanda Wilkinson of The Wilkinsons (“26 Cents,” “Fly,” “Boy Oh Boy”) and more recently, The Small Town Pistols (they do a mean cover of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Theme). “I’ve known Patricia for twenty years and we’ve toured together many times and written several songs together. I’ve also known Amanda for many years as well, but have not worked as much with her. These ladies are so talented and I’m certain we will have a blast on that tour. I’m very much looking forward to it!” Brokop told us at the end of our interview. We’re also very excited to hear all about that leg of the tour and will be keeping our eyes peeled for photos on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
What’s the secret to her success? “I love what I do,” says Brokop on her website. “Every note I sing, whether in the studio or from the stage, is true. It hasn’t always been an easy road. There have been many curves, bumps and detours. But really, it is the love of the music that motivates each step I take in the business. It keeps me moving forward. And I think fans feel and appreciate that love.”
From one country bumpkin to another, thanks for stickin’ to your roots, Lisa. Y’all come back now, y’hear?