By Scott Roos, Herald Contributor
Bluegrass: it’s a genre known for “paying it forward”. Thus it should come as no surprise that in an urban centre like Toronto, a dedicated bluegrass scene would emerge for the better part of two decades and eventually breed an award winning and, at press time, Juno nominated group like The Slocan Ramblers who will be playing the EA Rawlinson Centre for the Arts on Wednesday, March 6th. Recently, I was able to catch up with Ramblers banjo picker Frank Evans to talk about the lightning in a bottle that the band has been able to capture during their careers.
“We all were inspired by this band in Toronto called Crazy Strings (who) used to play every Wednesday night at this bar called the Silver Dollar. They were such an amazing band (and had) a lot of the aspects we go for (in their sound and style). Big picture stuff we took from them.” reminisces Frank.
The group’s “big picture” formula has always been to keep the music simple and straightforward. It’s a song based approach. It’s not about virtuosic shredding and solo after solo although I assure you there aspects of that offered in their music. But, it’s more about the authenticity of melody that’s evidenced in their vocal approach – a winning formula they adopted over time at the Silver Dollar and also from being out on tour.
“(We play) more of a communal based music. It’s sort of like find a good melody, play it all together, have a good time, get everyone singing along and try to create a show (out of) it. I think that’s maybe one of the things we have going for us is just that it’s got that old timey sound to it as opposed to the crisp clean bluegrass,” Frank explains.
This approach, in an emerging genre like bluegrass, has served the band well and has garnered the band a Juno nomination in the “Traditional Roots Album of the Year” category this year for their full length “Queen City Jubilee”. It’s an honour that Frank and his bandmates aren’t taking lightly.
“It’s flattering that people like our music. Over these years we’ve done a lot of touring and put a lot of work into it. It’s just nice to see that someone else is enjoying (our music) other than (ourselves). This feels like a big one for us,” Frank states proudly.
In turn, it’s a big opportunity for the music fans of Prince Albert to be able to have such a high quality act like The Slocan Ramblers come out and play the EA Rawlinson Centre.