One of Canada’s best new bluegrass bands will perform a mix of original and traditional music Thursday, Aug. 21 in Fort Macleod.
The Slocan Ramblers are looking forward to their performance at 7:30 p.m. in the intimate confines of the Fort Macleod Arts Building.
“For me, the more intimate shows are almost always our favourite,” bass player Alastair Whitehead said. “It goes back to the roots of our music. It started not fully as performance music. It was kind of folk music, a social music.”
Whitehead said the small venue compliments the band’s acoustic instruments and allows the audience to get a real feel for the music.
“I always find the energy is a lot more intense in the smaller concerts and acoustically it works really well for the music,” Whitehead said.
The other Ramblers are Adrian Gross on mandolin, Frank Evans on banjo and Darryl Poulsen on guitar.
It’s been a busy year for the band, who find themselves playing almost every night. Highlights include a trip to Israel to play the Jacob’s Ladder Festival and playing in at Charlottetown, P.E.I. as part of the anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference that led the way to the creation of Canada.
The Slocan Ramblers also got a shout out from Don Cherry last spring on Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada.
It was the energy and musicianship of the Foggy Hog Town Boys, who play a weekly gig in Toronto, that in part turned Whitehead onto bluegrass.
“I remember going there for the first time. I couldn’t believe the intensity of the music. Everybody was up dancing, the songs are so great and the musicianship is so high. It’s infectious.”
“It really is a music when you go hear it live, it’s really infectious,” Whitehead said. “It’s four guys playing acoustic instruments, singing and playing tunes and it’s still got intensity and energy to it.”
The band in 2012 released its first album, Shaking Down the Acorns, and is preparing to return to the studio this fall with a plan to release a new album in the spring.
“This tour is a mix of old material, the classic stuff from our album, and we’re working on a lot of new original material we’re working on for our new album,” Whitehead said.
The band has enough material for two albums and is in the process of tweaking the new songs and deciding which ones will make the cut.
Shaking Down the Acorns features covers of some traditional bluegrass songs as well as some original music written by the band. The new album will take a different approach.
“We’re starting to focus more on original songs,” Whitehead said. “The first album was a mix of original and traditional but most of the original stuff was instrumental. Since the first album we’ve started to develop as songwriters so there’s a lot more vocal material in there.
“I think the band has a bit more of a refined sound to it, so we’re focusing more on original material. We’re maybe stepping out of our full-on traditional roots and getting a little more adventurous.”
The Fort Macleod show is one of 16 stops on a western Canadian tour that began earlier this month at the Northern Lights Bluegrass Festival at Ness Creek, Sask.
The band is also at Twin Butte General Store at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22 and Waterton Lakes Opera House at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 23.