HANSVILLE — Sitting in the Grout family’s livingroom on a dreary Tuesday morning in Hansville, the cool, gray weather transformed into that of a hot, dry Texas day as the Prayery Canaries practiced. One could practically see tumbleweeds blowing by as the group belted out its unique form of old-fashioned country western tunes.
“We really like old, old music,” said singer, guitarist and yodeler Lois Giles. “We usually sing gospel and cowboy songs, we’ve been doing a few ballads and some do-wop, though that’s stretching it.”
As the practice got underway, different members of the musical group talked and joked about the different forms of music slowly being incorporated into the band’s sound. If guitarist Chic Edwards had his way, there would be a lot more blues and rock being played.
“Sometimes we like making up our own music,” Giles said. “Chic helps us with the chords. Everyone sings whatever they want. It usually works out OK. We have a good time at practice.”
Performing is the icing on the cake, she added, noting all 14 members enjoy spending time together and honing their musical skills.
The Prayery Canaries started when Donna Grout, bassist and singer for the group, performed with her father, Richard Grout, and her sister, Giles, at the Hansville Huggers Talent Show in 2003. After their rousing music, mainly Sons of Pioneers songs, Hansville residents Darrol and Judy Gover contacted Donna Grout to see if they could get in on the tunes. The other musicians of Prayery Canaries followed, and now the group gathers weekly to sing, play and generally have a good time.
“The Sons of Pioneers songs were some favorites of Darrol Gover,” Donna Grout said. “They started playing with us. We did the talent show again the following year together, and have been playing ever since.”
Every member has a background of some kind in music, from classical musician Paula Brooke, who is “classical to the roots,” Donna Grout said, to Arleta Van Guilder, who sings, plays the harmonica and yodels, adding to the old-fashioned feel of the songs. Edwards, on the other hand, is rock ‘n’ roll to the core, and keeps trying to sneak it into the music. Everyone in the group sings, and most have specialties beyond their voices.
“We’re like the Energizer Bunny,” said guitarist and singer Chris McClellan. “We’re still moving.”
The group performs at local community events, parties and even weddings. Though the Prayery Canaries do sound a tad rough on occasion due to all the voices and instruments, it only adds to the tunes, and the audience usually helps smooth everything once they get into the music, said singer Gerry Nelson.
“You may want to come listen to us first,” Giles said. “We have lots of musical talent, and sometimes it doesn’t always gel together.”
“We couldn’t play a classy wedding,” Richard Grout added with a laugh. “But maybe a country wedding, we’d be perfect for it.”