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Slocan Ramblers to perform at Fort Macleod

slocan ramblers

Slocan Ramblers

Add Toronto’s Slocan Ramblers to the list of bands taking a pass on polished pop production values and embracing the unvarnished authenticity of old-time mountain music and bluegrass — while showcasing their own worldly influences.
Music fans will get a chance to hear the Slocan Ramblers when they perform Nov. 24 at the Fort Macleod Arts Building.
Praised everywhere from Hockey Night in Canada to the pages of Sing Out magazine for their debut effort Shaking Down the Acorns, and having already opened for Steve Martin and been featured in a TV series alongside the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Slocans launched a follow-up album, Coffee Creek on July 16.
Recorded live off the floor around a tree of microphones in Toronto’s Casa Wroxton studio and produced by banjo wizard Chris Coole (Foggy Hogtown Boys, Sylvia Tyson, Jim Cuddy, David Francey), the album features a diverse repertoire that ranges from a sweet bluegrass original written on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Galilee) to a rowdy recreation of the classic Groundhog and a tender original called April’s Waltz, which proves the band can also play slow — with great precision and emotional sensitivity.
There’s also a Woody Guthrie cover (Pastures of Plenty), a nod to Roy Acuff (Streamline Canonball), a trans Atlantic number that adapts an old English folk song, and a folky number called Elk River that sees Alastair Whitehead trading in bass for banjo and lead vocal duties while banjo-picker Frank Evans and guitarist Darryl Poulsen play lead and rhythm guitars.
For the rest of the album, Evans showcases his wizardy at both clawhammer and three-finger banjo styles, often dueling with mandolinist Adrian Gross where other bands might feature a fiddle solo.
Whitehead’s bass and Poulsen’s muscular rhythm guitar and occasional flourishes of fancy flat-picking fill out the sound.
All one-time students of the Humber College music program, The Slocan Ramblers –who are named for a historic mine in B.C.’s Slocan Valley, where Whitehead spent his summers — count among their influences lesser-known bluegrass great Dave Evans and celebrated player Norman Blake.
They came together for a one-off gig in 2010, and the chemistry worked so well that they got themselves a house gig at Toronto’s Cloak and Dagger and started refining their sound.
They debuted on CD in 2012 with Shaking Down the Acorns, which was called “excellent” by the Huffington Post and prompted the folk magazine Penguin Eggs to describe the Slocans as “one of the hottest young bluegrass bands I’ve heard in ages.”
Torontoist named them Best New Artist at the 2013 Toronto Jazz Festival. The Bluegrass Situation listed them as one of its Top New Discoveries from the 2014 Folk Alliance conference. And CBC’s Tom Power praised their authority, passion and ability to experiment — and also their handsomeness.
The band opened for Steve Martin on the main stage of the Toronto Jazz Fest, and Edie Brickell asked for a copy of the album — meaning it’s possible even Paul Simon has listened to The Slocan Ramblers.
To top it off, the Slocans were featured on the Vision TV gospel special God’s Greatest Hits, which caught the attention of Don Cherry and resulted in him praising the band’s performance of Abide with Me during an episode of Coach’s Corner.
Described by Sing Out as “a tight-knit ensemble with a lot of drive, yet with something of a tantalizing ‘rough edge’ to their sound,” The Slocan Ramblers are building on that mix of rawness and refinement with Coffee Creek.
Their crowd-pleasing, high-energy live shows make their summer album launch dates must-see events.