Juno Nominated Group Coming to Moose Jaw
When you think of Bluegrass Music you might think of the Appalachian Mountains, banjoes, guitars and Dolly Parton before her country singing days but there is far more to it and Moose Jaw is about to be treated to some of the best the country has to offer.
On March 7th Juno award nominated Slocan Ramblers will be playing at the May Wilson Theatre in the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre.
To help promote the show, as well as give some insight into the music, guitar player and singer with group Darryl Poulsen spoke with MJ Independent.
The genre of music, started by Bill Munroe with his Blue Grass Boys in the late 1930's is known for its instrumentals and high lonesome vocal sounds.
Bluegrass at present is growing in popularity and is part of an overall revival in folk music, Poulsen said.
“There is something at its core in how it’s musicians interact and the instrumentals that got me hooked on it when I was seeing it live,” he said when asked what a 33 year old urban Canadian is doing playing a genre of music many people associate with Appalachia in the United States.
Poulsen’s attraction to Bluegrass started about 12 years ago when for a $3 cover charge the then 21 or 22 saw it live at a Toronto watering hole called the Silver Dollar.
“I saw it live and there was something really catchy to it.”
Asked about Bluegrass’ apparent growing popularity Poulsen agreed the music was indeed growing.
“I kind of think so. It’s not like Pop (music) but there is something about Bluegrass and folk music in general it’s growing. There are a lot more banjoes around these days.”
“Folk music is such a big thing. There are all kinds of ages of people who like the old time music and young people who like the singer songwriter stuff,” Poulsen said about the group's appeal.
The aforementioned father of Bluegrass, Bill Munroe, popularized the Five string banjo and traditionalist Bluegrass musicians religiously swear by it.
Bluegrass itself is not just a type of music but it is a lifestyle and a culture to itself, he said.
It’s a culture of festivals where musicians and stars in the industry freely mingle in a closeness other genres of music cannot or will not.
“If you were able to you could go to a different outdoor festival in a camping trailer all Summer long right up to October.”
The uniqueness and intimacy of Bluegrass is it is not just played up on a festival stage but also out in the festival grounds as well.
“At every Bluegrass festival the crowd and musicians intermingle, there is no separation between musicians and listeners.”
Festival Bluegrass music and culture is likewise deeply rooted in Munroe who saw and often practiced it as a music suited to be played around a campfire many times with families being the ones playing it.
“There is a stage area but there is also places in the festival grounds where people just get together and play.”
Not being from the United States gives the group a newer sound on the Bluegrass scene.
“We don’t have an American accent and when we sing we have a different unique accent...I think we have incorporated some Canadian singer song writer blend to it and there is also a Canadian influence,” he said.
The Slocan Ramblers have appeared in the festival circuit in the birthplace and heartland of Bluegrass Music in the United States playing in North Carolina, Tennessee’s and West Virginia.
One favourite festival they have been part of is in Rocky Grass, Colorado. Heading into its 47 year it is a festival the late John Denver, although not a Bluegrass musician per say, would attend. Denver's music was undoubtedly influenced by Bluegrass.
The group is made up of Frank Evans on the banjo, Adrian Gross on the mandolin, Poulsen on the guitar and Alastair Whitehead on the bass. So far released they have released three Independent records and been on four or five tours.
The fan base and popularity is growing with Poulsen saying he is having people tell him “I have heard of you guys I’m so glad you came to our town.”
Being nominated for their first Juno you would think the group would take a break from their planned concert tour but they did not want to break commitments on a tour already planned and the expense in doing so.
The Juno Awards are given out to celebrate Canadian musical excellence. Local musician Megan Nash is nominated for a Juno in the category of contemporary roots album this year as well.
“I don’t really know how to feel this is new to us we have never been nominated before,” he said, adding they will miss the awards show because “we have made commitments and it is what we do to make a living perform…we need to be out on the road and performing it is the reason we got here in the first place.”
Asked about Nash Poulsen said he had never met Nash but had heard her name before but also wanted to say “congratulations Megan Nash.”
The Juno’s loss will be Western Canada's and Moose Jaw's gain as the high energy instrumentals the group is known for will be played here. A mixture of traditional and new will come together on stage in Moose Jaw in a show geared towards a wide audience.
Tickets are available at the Cultural Centre's box office or on-line.
Check out there sound described as not only vibrant but also unique blend of bluegrass, old-time and folk with deep song-writing, lightning fast instrumentals and sawdust-thick vocals in the video below.