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Start with a Seedling

Start with a Seedling is a unique intergenerational program that brings together community volunteer [ ... ]

Newcomer Orientation Sessions

The City of Charlottetown is hosting it's first two Newcomer Orientation Sessions of the year on Sep [ ... ]

The Bluegrass Trail

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Blistered Fingers BandWith summer peeking it’s head around a long and wintery corner it’s time to hit the bluegrass trail and this summer there is an explosion of sorts in the bluegrass world with new festivals being added, it seems, every day.

First for the more established variety. The 26th annual PEI Bluegrass & Old Time Music Festival July 1, 2, and 3 has been covered already so we’ll press on to some of the others.

July 8, 9, and 10 brings us the 10th annual Evangeline Bluegrass and Traditional Music Festival. This festival is held in Abram Village and boasts some of the best camping of any festival in the Maritimes. There are many serviced sites and the camping is level all over. This year’s headline band is a group from Ontario called Traditionally Wound. They are a fine first-generation-sounding band. There will also be a great lineup of local and regional bands.

On August 12, 13, and 14 we’ll all be going to Tignish for the Red Clay Bluegrass Festival this year’s headliners are Blistered Fingers from Maine, and Jan Purcell and Pine Road from Ontario. Other acts include The Bluegrass Diamonds, Shadow, River, Grassfire, Grass Works, Janet McGarry & Wildwood, Simply Acoustic, Two + Three, Eastern Edition, Like Father Like Daughter, & Lester MacPherson.

And now for the new festivals. On July 15, 16 and 17, as part of the Summerside Lobster Carnival, a bluegrass festival will happen at the Credit Union Place. This festival features Erica Brown and Bluegrass Connection from Maine. Erica is a fine oldtime fiddler and has branched out to the bluegrass side of things and gives a very good account of herself in that genre. The lineup also features Janet McGarry & Wildwood, as well as many Island bands. This is a first year event but being in conjunction with the Lobster Carnival it is assured of being a success.

The second new festival of the summer is the 1st Annual Twin Shores Camping Area Bluegrass Festival and will be held at Twin Shores Camping Area in Darnley Beach from September 1 to 3. This festival features, by popular demand, The Bluegrass Brothers from Virginia, Bluegrass Tradition from Nova Scotia, The Douthwrights from New Brunswick as well as, the very entertaining Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys from PEI. Other groups that will add to your weekend pleasure are Country Grass, Two + Three, Simply Acoustic, Joe Casey and Westwind and Bluegrass Revival. Twin Shores Camping Area is rated as one of the top campgrounds in Canada and this will certainly be a wonderful way to end a summer of great bluegrass music.

Surely with all this happening on the Island we’ll see some of you folks out and about at a festival or two this summer. There’s lots to choose from.

Best in Bluegrass

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Joe Mullins and the Radio RamblersAfter a winter of laying around and basically doing nothing I guess it’s time to get back to work and let you all know what’s happening in the real world.

Bluegrass festival time is here again and the grandfather festival of all PEI festivals is at hand. This year the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music festival is celebrating twenty six years of music and this year’s lineup is one of the best to date.

Joe Mullins and The Radio Ramblers from Ohio are one of the most sought after bluegrass bands on the circuit today and they have built up a solid following over the last number of years.

Joe Mullins was a part of the Traditional Grass with his father Paul “Moon” Mullins for many years and later became a member of one of the finest bluegrass bands of all time, Longview.

Joe is backed by a very solid group of musicians in Adam MacIntosh, guitar, Evan MacGregor, fiddle, Mike Terry, mandolin, and Tim Kidd, bass. Check out the Radio Ramblers at www.radioramblers.com.

Jerry Butler and The Blue J’s come out of Tennessee and carry with them a more contemporary sound built on the foundations of many years in bluegrass music.

Jerry Butler has been playing music since he was twelve years old and has held the lead vocal spot with sure well known groups as The Misty Valley Boys, Pine Mountain Railroad, Carolina Road and The Joe Isaacs band. Dixie Hall calls Jerry one of the most unacknowledged singers in the business.

The Blue J’s are made up of Bobby Clark, mandolin, Jack Hicks, banjo, Tim Goins, dobro, and Blake Bowen, bass. Check out The Blue J’s at www.jerrybutleronline.com.

Larry Gillis and His Hard Drivin’ Swampgrass Band is the latest addition to the lineup of US bands and is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Larry toured the US and Canada for twenty five with his brother John as The Gillis Brothers. When John retired Larry decided to go it alone and bring his unique style of bluegrass music to the fan base that he and John had cultivated over the years. Larry’s music is classed as half a cup of Stanley Brothers, and a heapin’ helpin’ of swamp music. Larry’s latest CD Swampgrass is a killer.

The Hard Drivin’ Swampgrass band is made up of Alex Leach, guitar, Rafe Waters, bass, Ryan Gillis, guitar, and Ella Niaman, fiddle. Check out The Hard Drivin’ Swampgrass Band at www.larrygillisband.com.

Along with the US bands we have, for the fifteenth year, The Bluegrass Diamonds, The return of A New Shade Of Blue, Bluegrass Tradition, and The Mark Boutillier Bluegrass band.

The gates open on Wednesday June 29 at 1 pm and the fun begins that night with the first of two open mics. The stage show starts on Friday morning at 9 am with a band showcase.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 on CFCY 95.1 FM and on the net at www.cfcy.fm.

The Voice of Country

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Ray Price. (photo: Tweten’s Photography)At eighty-five years, Ray Price has a voice that any thirty-year old would be envious of—strong, true and dynamic. It is the voice that everyone wished they had. As the years have gone by his voice has gotten deeper and more expressive until it is now close to perfection.

With an eleven-piece band that resembled a symphony with its five-piece string section, Ray strode through all the hits and a few new offerings with a special ease that only he possesses. When compared to his contemporaries, Merle Haggard and George Jones, there is no comparison. George and Merle are clearly on the down side while Ray Price just keeps going on.

The band, The Cherokee Cowboys played a couple of familiar instrumentals, C Jam Blues and Take The A Train and powered through them with ease.

From Crazy Arms all the way to Time Is A Monster each song had it’s own personality. Price says that when he sings an intimate song he believes that it should be delivered as though he was standing in front of a person and looking them in the eye. Each song is delivered as a conversation.

All in all a first rate concert and one to see if you see it advertised anywhere near you.

The day after hearing Ray we went to Arcadia to take in a bluegrass festival that featured Riverview, Florida Bluegrass Express, David Davis and The Warrior River Boys, Hagar’s Mountain Boys, and The Boxcars. The Boxcars are clearly the top band in that lineup and play their sets with ease. David Davis leads a group that has been together for about thirty years with a few personnel changes and plays in a tradition style with a lot of the material in an interesting modal style. His show also features some older country and swing numbers which turn out to be quite enjoyable. The rest of the bands are adequate and did shows that were enjoyable.

After Arcadia came Islander Day at Fort DeSoto. Hundreds of ex patriot Islanders appear every year and seem to enjoy the events planned for them by Alex Campbell and his crew. JP Gaudet is emcee for the show and does a fine job as usual. I had a chance to play a little bass with Dino and Brian Blacquiere, a year round resident of Florida and a pretty fair musician. Approximately 700 people attended on a perfect Sunday afternoon.

Next month we’ll be on our way to the Grand Canyon so we’ll try to keep a journal and let you know how our trip is progressing and what trouble we can get into. It should be a great trip.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to bluegrass island every Sunday evening at 9:00 on CFCY 95.1 in Charlottetown and on the net at cfcy.fm.

Yeehaw

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Country legend Merle HaggardThe music season has finally begun and we’ve had an opportunity to take in some very good concerts and festivals. On January 22 we took the trip to Yeehaw Junction, about 100 miles from Zephyrhills to see some of the finest bands in bluegrass. The weather was sunny but cool but we were reasonably warm in a large tent setup which included the stage and room for about 500 people. The show opened at 11 am with a group from North Carolina called Constant Change. Their name was anything but indicative of their sound which was about as traditional as you can get.

James King was next and after a number of medical issues earlier in the winter James was in fine voice and did a great one hour set. The feature group of the show for me was the Boxcars, a bluegrass super group made up of the top session players in the business. This group has limitless talent with folks like Adam Steffey on mandolin and Ronnie Stewart on banjo and fiddle how could you go wrong. They strutted through an effortless and very entertaining hour long set.

Darin and Brooke Aldridge were, perhaps the only disappointment to me as I expected more from them. The group wasn’t really together musically although they managed to pull together a reasonable set. The last band of the early show was The Gary Waldrep band but unfortunately we had to vacate before they took the stage. All in all a festival well worth the trip.

On January 28 we had the chance to see the Merle Haggard show at the Youkey Theater in Lakeland.

The theater is large and the acoustics great but if I had one reservation about the whole event it was that folks are allowed to drink long past the point of being drunk in the theater and many made several trips to the bar and back while the show was in progress.

The show itself was about what I expected with the opening acts doing about fifteen minutes each with an intermission and then the main attraction.

The first act up was The Malpass Brothers, a duo from North Carolina. They were backed by most of Merle’s band and did a fine job of covering many of the older traditional country numbers.

Next one stage was Merle’s son Noel who has a pleasant if not spectacular voice and did a fine job on some of the minor hits he’s had over the years.

After the intermission Merle Haggard did a one hour set of most of his hits, some in medleys and some alone. He took requests and showed some class by trying songs that he wasn’t sure of but tried valiantly to get them right. Although Merle’s best days are clearly behind him he still has some of the old magic and the audience ate him up. His voice is strong and true and he did justice to his old hits.

See you all next month with tales of Ray Price.

Looking Forward

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

There isn’t a lot happening in frigid Florida so far but we look forward to things heating up both weather wise and musically.

We’ve taken in some bluegrass music at the local pizza shop and at the Zephyr Park where folks gather on Sunday to play with their friends. Once in a while you run into a good group but mostly it’s just folks playing for their own amusement.

By the time you read this we will be back from the Yeehaw Junction bluegrass festival and will have a better understanding of a larger festival. This festival features some of the better US bands and is headlined, this year by The Boxcars along with Darin and Brooke Aldridge, James King, Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice, David Davis and The Warrior River Boys and The Gary Waldrep Band. There are a number of other lesser known bands to fill out the program and Canada is represented by Hard Ryde from Ontario, a fine band that has performed on PEI in the past.

This month we’ll be taking in a festival at Arcadia that is hosted by Gold Wing Express and features a good lineup of acts including The Lewis Tradition, Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice, The Bluegrass Brothers, The Larry Gillis Band and The Rye Holler Boys to name a few. This is always a good festival and the festival presented in March is good as well. But more on that later.

We just received our tickets to see Ray Price at The Florida Strawbery Festival in Plant City so you can see that we have a busy schedule ahead of us this year.

When you’re away from home it’s good to have so home folks close by. Many of the parks in Zephyrhills are filled with Islanders with Hillcrest leading the way boasting (well maybe not boasting) over forty couples from PEI. So as you can see we’re surrounded by home.

By now the PEI Music Awards have finished and everyone has run home to display their awards. Since this column is written before the awards have taken place I can’t comment on the winners but I do have some favourites. In the female category I would be inclined to lean toward Meaghan Blanchard as I feel that she is a mega talent from a long line of talented family members. Instrumentally Gordie MacKeeman would be a favourite although he’s up against some solid competition from Cynthia MacLeod and Richard Wood. Any awards for Chuck and Albert would be much deserved. Anyway, I hope all the competitors enjoy the week win or not win, because there are no losers.

I’ll Leave You With This

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

By the time you read this I’ll be in Florida enjoying the somewhat warm weather. We look forward to enjoying some music this winter and hopefully we can play a little with the local folks as we usually do each winter.

I want to congratulate all the nominees for PEI Music Awards, especially those who have multiple nominations. The PEI Music Week and 10th annual Awards Gala will be held January 14–22 and I’m sure there will be much interest in the proceedings.

I couldn’t let the mention of the PEI Music Awards go by without a small criticism. My belief is that if there isn’t enough nominees to activate a category then let the category lie dormant until such time as the requisite number of nominees emerges to activate the category once again. The practice of adding a sub-genre to a category to justify that category being active goes against all that the awards stand for.

Of course I am aiming my criticism at the country/alternative country category. Now, all the nominees are deserving and immensely talented but I’m just not sure if this is the place for them. We don’t see a category for classical/alternative classical or blues/alternative blues so let’s let the country category lie until such time that enough country artists come forward to activate the category. Thank God they didn’t add bluegrass to all this.

That’s enough of that. Now on to other things. The ECMA awards are to be presented in Charlottetown in mid-April and that will prove to be a great week of music. Music PEI has done a great deal to foster and promote music on PEI and develop the talent that has been obvious to us all for many years. There has been a great surge in musical exports from PEI in the last ten years and Music PEI has been an integral part of this process. If you look at the amount of professional touring acts that have their roots in PEI in 2011 and compare that to, say 1985, you will see a difference so large that there is no comparison worth making. All this leads to PEI artists acquitting themselves admirably at the 2011 ECMA Awards.

Though I’m going away for the next four months I’ll still be around to bother you all with my various meanderings through the musical landscape of Florida and whatever other state I happen to be in (hopefully lucid) until my return.

Have a happy winter and don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island each Sunday evening at 9:00 on CFCY FM 95.1 and on the internet at www.cfcy.fm.

MacCaull Tradition

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Let's Take a Stroll - Sandra MacCaullRoy MacCaull has been a fixture in Island music for many years, as a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, and producer. He was born in Bedeque, started playing at the age of eleven and shortly after had his first show in the Lot 16 hall. This humble beginning gave birth to a long and illustrious career in music.

Roy moved to Ontario in 1956 and joined a band called The Blue Diamonds, with whom he recorded twenty-eight albums. Besides playing in The Blue Diamonds and recording seven solo albums Roy backed up such artists as Skeeter Davis, Mac Wiseman, Tex Ritter, Jeannie Shepherd and many more at the Horseshoe Tavern at Queen and Spadina. The Jack Starr owned tavern was, at that time, the pinnacle of country music in Canada.

After Roy filled in for Waylon Jennings at The Horseshoe he was asked to stay for nine months. He also appeared on the WWVA Wheeling jamboree in Wheeling West Virginia twice over the years. Roy has also been recognized by the queen for a song he wrote to honour PEI’s centennial in confederation. Another honour for Roy was to have his song, “In The Morning” climb the RPM charts and stay there for thirty six weeks in it’s original release.

Like most other Maritimers Roy made the decision to return home and live the quiet life. In 1995 Roy returned home and settled in western PEI.

Wendell Ellis came calling from Island Cablevision (now Eastlink) and asked Roy to appear on a show that he was producing called Community Showcase where he spent ten years.

Since Roy returned home he recorded two albums at West Manor Productions with his late son Ken MacCaull, and has recorded a gospel project in his home studio in Ellerslie.

Roy enjoys playing for seniors and at manors, hospitals, benefits, birthdays, etc and he also enjoys his home studio as a hobby and has turned out a number of projects in the last few years. The latest project that Roy has worked on is one for his daughter Sandra. This is a compilation of some of Sandra’s favourite Roy MacCaull written songs.

On this project Roy plays all the instruments and sings harmony along with Sandra. To prove that talent runs deep in the MacCaull clan, Roy’s grand daughter, Desiree also makes an appearance.

This CD is a fine testament to Roy’s songwriting ability and a way for Sandra to preserve some of the songs written by her father.

If you’d like a copy of this CD or to book Roy or Sandra for your next function you can call 902-436-2570 or 902-831-2655. This is a great CD and you won’t be sorry you made the call.

This is my last column before going to the Sunshine State but we’ll still be here to let you know all the happenings both musical and non-musical.

Don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9:00 on CFCY 95.1 FM and on the web at www.cfcy.fm. Enjoy the winter.

Father and Son

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Dad and his Lad - Neil and Billy MatthewsLast month I mentioned that there was a new CD project in the works featuring Neil and Billy Matthews. Well, that project, called Dad and His Lad, is now available for sale.

Neil is a legend in PEI country music circles and has a long list of recordings to his credit and Billy, while not a newcomer to island music circles, is relatively new to recording with this being one of a couple of forays into the recording process.

The CD is made up of a number of cuts released on other projects and five new offerings from Billy. There is a good mix of material on this project from Neil’s traditional classic country to a few more contemporary pieces from Billy. The content ranges from classic Buck Owens through Radney Foster with a stop along the way to introduce a number of songs that Neil has written over the years. Some of the songs on the CD are: Neil’s own “Old Memories,” “Too Far From Home” and “For You A Love Song” to Billy’s covers of “On The Road Again,” “Pass Me By” and “Out Behind The Barn.” There are a number of other cuts, sixteen in all, on the CD including “I Don’t Wanna Cry,” “Catfish John,” “Brand New Wagon,” “Just Call Me Lonesome” and “Fox on The Run.”

Some of this material was recorded several years ago in Nashville with Larry Coade as producer and a veritable who’s who of Nashville session guys while the rest of the cuts were recorded at various studios around the Island.

The musicianship on this CD is generally very good and the vocals from both Neil and Billy are excellent. The choice of material was well thought out and has something for every musical taste as long as your taste is country.

Although we always knew that Neil is a fine singer we find out on this project that Billy can more than hold his own in that department.

Billy began his career by playing drums in a number of bands on the Ontario circuit before making his way to PEI and becoming the go to guy for many local bands. Billy always sang harmony and this is his chance to step out into the spotlight.

Lately Neil has had some health problems but it doesn’t stop him for playing the music that he loves at any opportunity. He and Billy have teamed up with Susan Pitre, originally from Tignish area, to put together a solid trio that performs at many venues across the Island.

My take on this CD is, if you like country music then this is a solid bet to one of your favourites.

If you’d like to have a copy of Dad and His Lad you can give Neil a call at 370-2189 or email Billy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You won’t be sorry that you did.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown or on the internet at www.cfcy.fm.

Events Calendar

September 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

UPEI Winter’s Tales

Author reading series with A.F. (Al) Moritz October 1
UPEI Faculty Lounge, Charlottetown In a Globe [ ... ]

Jimmy Rankin shows

November 22 at Trailside Café
November 23 at Harbourfront Theatre Jimmy Rankin's new Moving East (o [ ... ]

On the Bright Side

Barra MacNeils come to Harbourfront with new album October 5
Harbourfront Theatre  The Barra M [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Drawing the line

Profile: Sandy Carruthers by Jane Ledwell Retired for a year now after twenty-five years teaching  [ ... ]

Filmworks Summerside

Film series is back for 7th season Filmworks Summerside opens for their 7th season on September 12  [ ... ]

An Island wish

On August 23, 4 year old Cooper Coughlin will arrive on Prince Edward Island soil for a once in a li [ ... ]