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by Charlie Hansen

In the past couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to compare two branches from the same musical tree. When our Irish and Scottish ancestors came from their homelands to find their fortune in the new world some settled in Atlantic Canada while many more took a left turn and settled in the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and the Carolinas. With the difference in location came a difference in the evolution of their music. The Atlantic Canadians stayed closer to their Celtic roots while the southern Americans allowed their music to evolve into what we now call "bluegrass" and it's various off shoots. Now that the history lesson is over let's get to the good stuff.

PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival

The 15th annual P.E.I. Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival was held at Rollo Bay on July 7, 8, 9 and it was a resounding success. This year's festival featured four bands from south of the 49th parallel, including Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, Dean Osborne and Eastbound, The Schankman Twins, and The Dowden Sisters. Variety was the key and there was lots of it. These four groups, along with a line up of top notch local and regional bands, provided the audience with everything from the most traditional old time mountain music to the most cutting edge contemporary bluegrass sounds and everything in between. If you couldn't find something you liked at this years festival you weren't listening.
The organizers of the festival deserve a resounding vote of thanks for their efforts and I'm sure they will continue to bring us great music in the future. As a matter of fact they have already begun planning the year 2001 festival and have booked Chris Jones and The Night Drivers out of Nashville, Tenn as one of the groups for next year's line up.

Ireland Meets Scotland

On July 12th I had the opportunity to take in the "Ireland meets Scotland" show at the Benevolent Irish Society Hall on North River Road. This show provides a look at the other branch taken by our celtic ancestors. The performance features, identical twins, Colin and Tristan Jeffrey along with their dad, Kevin and dancers/singers Marlys Hamilton and Brittany Banks.
This show tells the story of how the Irish and Scottish settlers got to P.E.I. and what caused their migration. There are many parallels drawn between the plight of both celtic cousins from the Scottish clearances to the Irish potato famine and the effect they had on driving these people from their homes in search of a new life.
The show is richly laced with poetry, music and dance with a bit of humor thrown in at the proper times. The Jeffrey twins are flawless musicians and the classical training that they have received over the years is very apparent in this production. Their father, Kevin, provides just the right back up on guitar and his commentary during the evening makes a comfortable bed for the music to lie in. Marlys Hamilton is a marvelous dancer in both Irish and Scottish styles and is a budding choreographer as witnessed in the Celtic Dance Medley. Brittany Banks is a cute as can be and is a very talented 10 year old. She has a personality that is made for the stage and has added a new dimension to her talent by becoming a fine singer.
The "Ireland meets Scotland" show plays Wednesdays until August 23rd at the Irish Hall 582 North River Road and Fridays until August 25th at the Orwell Corner Historic Village in Orwell. This show is definitely worth a look.

No Astro Turf Here

It's an international line-up for this year's PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival in Rollo Bay

by Charlie Hansen

The time of year has come for all good bluegrass fans to take to the road in search of their favourite summer festival. The folks on P.E.I. are no exception. This time every year the fever strikes in a big way and tent cities spring up like mushrooms all over the country.

This year's P.E.I. Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival, to be held on July 7, 8, and 9 at the festival grounds in Rollo Bay, looks like it will be the best ever.

Since it's inception fifteen years ago the PEI festival has grown from a small gathering with a number of local and regional bands to the major bluegrass event in the Maritimes. This year's festival features four bands from the United States as well as a strong local and regional lineup.

The feature group for the weekend is Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike, from Tennessee. This group has played to bluegrass audiences across the U.S. and more recently have cracked the European circuit. Along with the Smith group the festival features The Schankman Twins from California. They have been a favourite with audiences for many years although the girls are barely into their twenties. The Dowden Sisters from North Carolina will add an old timey flavour to the festival this year with their clawhammer banjo and fiddle virtuosity. Dean Osborne and Eastbound from Kentucky will offer a good solid traditional bluegrass sound and will be just the right medicine if your looking for bluegrass/gospel.

Rounding out the lineup will be regional groups such as Grassfire (N.S.), Bluegrass Diamonds (NB), Blue River (NB), Out Of The Blue (PEI), Wind River (PEI), as well as a good strong lineup of acts from across the Maritimes, a band showcase, workshops on acoustic instruments, and lots of "parkin' lot pickin'."

For more information on the festival contact Guy Cormier at (902)569-3153 or Glenda Johnston at (902)569-4501.

The Friday night house parties at the Emporium in Borden kick off on Friday June 9 at 7 pm with a bluegrass performance by Wind River and fiddler, Dave Thomson. The next day, June 10, an afternoon show will feature Roy MacCaull and Friends. Tickets are available for both shows by calling (902)437-6100.

The Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival is coming up later on in July and, as usual, it is expected to be a great show. Any time you get a group of fiddlers together it is sure to be a good time. Keep an eye on the local media for dates and more information on this festival.

Later on this month Janet McGarry will be launching her new album, My Heart Is A Diamond. This album was recorded over the winter at Sandcastle Recording Studios in Borden-Carleton and features fourteen great cuts with seven cuts written by Islanders. The album also features a stellar lineup of local musicians and should be a good one. For more information on the album or to put in an advance order contact Janet at (902) 569-3864.

Western Releases

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

This month we have lots of things to talk about with the ECMAs just over and more new albums hitting the street the country/bluegrass music sector is alive and well.

First I'd like to congratulate all the Island ECMA winners on a job very well done. In particular congratulations go to Rik Barron for his award as children's entertainer of the year. That award is long over due and very fitting. Rik's latest album, Make Hay When The Sun Shines, is great and his ability to take songs that are not generally known as children's songs and mould them so that they fit the occasion is uncanny.

Congratulations, also, to Gordon Gallant, a long time local entertainer, for capturing the "Stompin Tom" award. Gordon has been around the local entertainment scene for a long time and I'm sure it was a thrill for him to take this award home from Sydney.

We all look forward to next year when we will have the ECMA awards right here in Charlottetown. Let's really put on a push to get lots of PEI entertainers nominated.

A couple of new albums have surfaced in the last little while and they both come from the western end of the island. Wayne Brown has put together an album of bluegrass standards and original material called Wayne Brown and Friends, Home Coming '97. This effort was recorded at Sandcastle Recording Studios in Borden and features an all Island cast of musicians, including, Dave and Joy Murray, Mike Arsenault, Ed Hodgson, Serge Bernard and Wayne Brown, himself, on vocals. Wayne has been a fixture on the bluegrass scene on the Island for a long time now and has finally taken the plunge into recording. Wayne wrote five of the tunes on this CD, including the title track, "Home Coming '97" and "Daddy Was A Good Man." To get a copy of this CD contact Wayne at P.O. Box 4, St. Louis, PEI C0B 1Z0 or phone (902)882-2203.

The next album that I'd like to mention was also recorded at Sandcastle and it features a group of folks that call themselves Gypsy Rovers. These folks are jammin' buddies at a lot of bluegrass festivals and events around the region and decided to take the fun that they get from their music to the studio. The result is a collection of good old standard bluegrass tunes. This group includes Joe Casey, Dave & Joy Murray, John & Cheryl Currie, Leonard Perry, and Wayne Brown. The music tracks on this CD were handled by Serge Bernard, Ed Hodgson, Steven Arsenault, Mike Arsenault, and David Albert. I'm sure this recording effort will give them lots to talk about around the jam circles at bluegrass events here there and everywhere. To get a copy of this CD contact Joe Casey, P.O. Box 12, Tyne Valley, PEI C0B 2C0 or call (902)436-4800.

Until next month don't forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Wednesday evening at 8 pm on CFCY.

Bluegrass Island, c/o Charlie Hansen, P.O. Box 366, Cornwall, PEI C0A 1H0, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A Respectable Crop

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

It's ECMA time again and the Island has produced it's share of nominees. I would like to touch on a couple of these nominees that represent country and bluegrass/gospel music.

First let's talk about Kim Albert. Kim has landed a nomination for country artist of the year. This is Kim's first nomination and we are keeping our fingers crossed for her. She has put together a new band to make the trip across the puddle to Sydney. This group is made up of Helen Holman on keyboards and Charlie McKenna on bass (both alumni of her former group) and a couple of talented newcomers in Jeff Morris on guitar and Shane Cody on drums. This sounds like it might be the type of group to suit Kim's style which is a very modern guitar driven sound. Kim will be performing in the ECMA/Yamaha Jam 2000, and says that she intends to enjoy the festivities very much. The new single "The Devil His Due" has just been released, and by the time you read this column Kim's new video should be available for viewing on CMT.

Another P.E.I. artist, Kim Gould, is also nominated for country artist of the year so it could turn into a battle of the Kims. Stay tuned.

Jericho Road's new album, Send The Light has also received a nomination as Gospel album of the year. This is Jericho Road's second nomination. Send The Light is a mobile production of Guernsey Cove Parlour Productions, and was recorded in Harold and Marnie Noye's livingroom. Murray River's Jamie MacKay and The Great Beyond have also picked up a nomination in this category.

We wish all the P.E.I. nominees the very best of luck at the ECMAs.

Perry Williams handed me a new album the other day by an artist who is familiar to a lot of folks on PEI, Allan Keoughan. Allan recorded his CD, Rural P.E.I. at Virtual Studios in St. Catherines. Besides doing lead and harmony vocals on all cuts Allan also wrote "Rural P.E.I." And "Just Another Ireland," two of the songs on this celtic/country flavoured album. I believe that this CD is destined to be a favourite with Island audiences. The arrangements and instrumentation, all done by Perry Williams, are simple and clean enough so that the message in the songs is not overwhelmed by production. If you would like to have a copy of this album give Allan a call at 676-2430 or 569-2031. It is well worth a listen.

This must be different kind of record-I got through this whole column without a complaint. Life is good.

There's No Time like the Present

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

The new millennium has finally arrived and the world hasn't changed dramatically, contrary to the ominous predictions of many soothsayers, naysayers, and others prone to predict doom and gloom. We've all survived splendidly, and the world shall continue to revolve around the sun. I'm not one to gaze into crystal balls or read tea leaves-I only have one eye that works and I don't, particularly like tea-but I will attempt to make a few uneducated guesses at what the new millennium holds in store for the country music industry. Here goes.

I predict that country music will continue to become more pop/rock oriented until the real fans come to their senses and rebel causing a split in the ranks that will lead to the establishment of two quite distinct country music sub-genres. The more pop/rock sounding country will become part of the of the musical style known as popular music and will, in a very short time, be completely devoured by big business. The more traditional sounding country music will remain country but will also include bluegrass, folk, and old time music. This form of music will flourish in the grassroots of society until someone discovers that "a lot of money can be made if we can just move this music uptown," and the cycle begins again.

Closer to home, we should be able to look forward to an improved country music industry, with an influx of tourists and an increased emphasis on the development of shoulder season tourism. This improvement is clearly in the hands of the musicians. If we wish to take out of the industry we must be willing to put in. The day of the unorganized, unrehearsed band has long since passed. When audiences, present and future, put their money down they expect to see a well worked show. I have no doubt that the talent is available here on PEI but I do have doubts that there is a willingness to do the work necessary to put together a first class product. As I mentioned earlier, there is an opportunity but whether it will be taken advantage of is still in doubt.

Here are a few other things that I see happening in the, not too distant, future. All music will be distributed, in some compressed format, over the internet or whatever replaces it in the next few years. This will lead to the demise of music stores, as we know them. There will be no need to go out to a concert. All concerts will be transmitted to your home my some means, as yet unknown. This will mean that bands will no longer tour. What a shame, there will be no more road stories.

Until the next time don't forget to support live pop/rock/country/folk/ jazz/blues/bluegrass/old-time/Celtic music and listen to a full millennium of Bluegrass Island every Wednesday evening at 8 PM on CFCY in Charlottetown, or whatever it's called by that time.

"The fastest grass alive" Bluegrass Island, c/o Charlie Hansen, P.O. Box 366, Cornwall, P.E.I., Canada C0A 1H0

Summerside Live

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Lately, there seems to be a resurgence in the recording sector of the PEI country music scene. In the last few months we've seen offerings from Kim Albert, Brian Curley, Rik Barron, Last Resort, and Gerry Allard. Well, Last Resort are at it again. Their latest effort is a live album recorded at the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club in Summerside. This recording was done during one of the group's regular Friday night performances, with Ken MacCaull of West Manor Productions at the controls.

The album captures the essence of the Last Resort. Their show is funny, spontaneous, and captures the energy that people derive from playing in a familiar atmosphere.

The Last Resort, Neil Matthews and Rodney Savidant, are joined on the album by special guests D.J. MacKinnon and Debbie Piras. MacKinnon is a former road musician and regular performer on the Toronto/Hamilton scene in decades past. D.J. is a proponent of the "shuffle me to death" school of music and performs it to perfection. Debbie is a strong singer and guests with the Last Resort from time to time.

Drop in and say hello to the boys on Fridays at the Silver Fox or at one of their performances throughout the Island, you won't be disappointed.

The Bluegrass Jubilee was held at the Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre on Friday November 13 to a soldout audience.

Just For Fun opened the show and gave an excellent performance, including bluegrass as well as some old time fiddle tunes in their show. The group is based in Souris and has been playing shows and festivals for a couple of years now and continue to improve every time out.

Janet McGarry & Wind River were next on stage and entertained the audience with some of their brand of bluegrass/acoustic country music along with a few jokes.

After the break Out Of The Blue made an appearance and really tore it up. This is the grandaddy of Island bluegrass bands; the band has made some personnel changes since last time, but the music goes on without a hitch.

Closing the show was Junior Sisk and Rambler's Choice from Ferrum, Virginia. This group is pure bluegrass and thrilled the crowd with every tune. The band has only been together a short time but they have put together a top flight show. I heard people remark after the show that this group plays bluegrass "the way it used to be played."

Once again the Prince County Hospital Foundation was the beneficiary of the proceeds. The organizing committee deserves a large vote of thanks for putting on such a successful and entertaining show.

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

The Drawer Boy

Until January 20
City Cinema PG
Dir: Arturo Pérez Torres/Aviva Armour-Ostroff, Canada, 99 min. Stuar [ ... ]

PEI Symphony Orchestra

Guest conductor Dina Gilbert will lead  February 24
Zion Church  The PEI Symphony Or [ ... ]

Rolston String Quartet

February 21
The Mack The Rolston String Quartet is bringing a storm of classical music to The Mack t [ ... ]

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