It’s doubtful anyone is surprised to discover the Slocan Ramblers have a few things in common.
Band members Frank Evans (banjo/vocals) Adrian Gross (mandolin) and Darryl Poulsen (guitar/vocals) all love energetic live shows, impeccable musicianship, and creative song-writing. However, maybe the most important thing about the group is they all fell in love with bluegrass music in the same way: by listening to it live.
Since then, the band has turned live music into a type of challenge. If you’ve never listened to bluegrass, they’re convinced you’ll love it the first time you listen to it live, just like they did.
“I think that’s really what the ticket is,” Evans said during a phone interview with the Daily Herald. “One of the most common things we hear at our show is, ‘I didn’t think I liked country or bluegrass music, but seeing you guys is different,’ and I know what they mean by that. Sometimes you listen to country music on the radio and it doesn’t really translate, but when you see a bluegrass band live, there’s an energy that sometimes can get lost in the recording process.”
The Ramblers’ effort to create new fans of the genre have earned them plenty of accolades, the biggest being a 2019 Juno Award nomination. Evans said they were all unexpectedly drawn to bluegrass music, and they’re convinced others will be too if they hear it.
“You really have to hear it live,” he said.
The Slocan Ramblers are doing their part to get the word out. They’re currently on a tour of Western Canada, which stops in Prince Albert on Tuesday, March 28. Evans said the Western Canadian circuit is one of their favourites due to the passionate and knowledgeable fans, and interesting venues.
“It’s been kind of an annual tour, except for the past couple of years obviously, but it’s definitely something we look forward to every year, our west coast Canadian route,” Evans said.
Like all bands, the Slocan Ramblers saw their touring schedule grind to a halt when COVID hit. While their opportunities to play live music were limited, the group did use the downtime to write and record a new album: ‘Up the Hill and through the Fog’.
Evans said the COVID shutdown turned into a benefit since their touring schedule made it impossible to write while on the road. Despite the group’s loss of momentum, and Gross and Poulsen both losing close family members, the group started writing, and got back into Toronto’s rough and tumble bluegrass scene.
“There were a couple of years where the world shut down, and that was different for us,” Evans explained. “We’d been on the road almost 150 days a year for the past while, which with family and things like that, it’s really hard to actually find the time to sit down and compose and write and be creative if you’re juggling a regular life with being on the road all the time. We’d all sometimes play gigs with other bands and stuff. The one opportunity that came out of those two years was we actually had time to sit down and write music.”
Evans said the album is their best yet due to the freshness and excitement. He attributes both those emotions to the band finally getting to play music together again.
The Slocan Ramblers perform Tuesday at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. The show starts at 7:30 p.m.