The Slocan Ramblers
The Ramblers, who are wowing audiences across the continent with renditions of traditional bluegrass classics and their own fiery original tunes, performed at the MERA Schoolhouse to a sold-out audience last year. For their return appearance MERA is hosting them at the larger Maberly Hall as a fundraising event for the community arts and recreation centre that serves Lanark Highlands, Drummond and Tay Valley Townships.
The Slocan Ramblers are Canada’s young bluegrass band to watch. Rooted in the tradition, fearlessly creative, and possessing a bold, dynamic sound, The Slocans (2015 Edmonton Folk Fest Emerging Artist Award recipients), have quickly become a leading light of Canada’s roots music scene, built on their reputation for energetic live shows, impeccable musicianship and their uncanny ability to convert anyone within earshot into a lifelong fan.
On their new album, Coffee Creek (2015) The Slocan Ramblers blend lightning fast and devilishly intricate instrumentals with the sawdust-thick vocals of singer Frank Evans, who takes lead on songs ranging from rowdy old-time numbers like “Groundhog,” to a Dustbowl classic like Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty.” “Toronto audiences don’t respond to a clean, polished Nashville sound,” tune composer and mandolinist Adrian Gross explains. “They dig a lot of energy in their music, a rowdy bar vibe. They’re hard to win over.” But The Slocan Ramblers have won them over, moving from a young ensemble of bluegrass pickers to one of the best known Canadian roots bands. They’ve done this by staying true to the roots of the music, not seeking to revive anything but rather to tap the rough and rowdy heart of the music.
Coffee Creek was produced by the band’s friend and mentor Chris Coole (The Foggy Hogtown Boys), a well-known banjo player and community leader in Toronto’s bluegrass and old-time scenes. Like Coole, The Slocan Ramblers bring the live, collaboratory aspects of the music to the fore, and they understand that if you polish up the music too much, you lose the raw excitement that makes it so vibrant.
In the liner notes, Coole breaks it down.
“What really impressed me while we were working on this album, was that, while they can pull off the precision and virtuosity that is at the backbone of bluegrass, they understand the power of the fragile moment in music. The fragile moment used to be a big part of what made an album cool–Monroe singing just beyond the edge of his voice, the moment right before you realize Vassar isn’t lost–the moment on and beyond the edge.”
The recording is roots music without pretension, music intended to make you feel something, music to get you moving in a crowded bar. The Slocan Ramblers recorded Coffee Creek the same way they perform on stage: standing up, leaning into the music, and pushing harder and harder for that edge just beyond.
Foolish Heart to open for Slocans
Also on the bill for the October 25 concert is Foolish Heart, an Almonte-based band (Allan Brown on vocals and guitar, Bob Leviton on guitar, Rob Bowyer on bass and Victor Maltby on fiddle), who will perform a brief opening set before the Slocans.
The Slocan Ramblers performance at Maberly Hall will take place on Sunday, October 25th at 7:00 pm. Advance tickets are $22 ($20 for MERA members) and are available from Tickets Please, 39 Foster Street, Perth (Jo’s Clothes), on-line at www.ticketsplease.ca, or by phone at 613-485-6434.