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Music in the Works

Neil and Billy Matthews, and Barry Murphy prepare to record

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

We’re going to deal with a couple of different things this month. The first on is the 4th annual Island Bluegrass Gathering at Marco Polo Land in Cavendish.

This year’s gathering was held on September 10–12 and was, by all reports, a resounding success. The weather was not co-operative as is this case at this time of year but everyone was warm and cozy inside the park rec hall.

This year the gathering went in a slightly different direction by hiring all Island bands, mostly bluegrass or a form thereof.

It was an interesting event as events of this type go as there was no defined headliner. Each group had one or two forty five minute sets and each group have a different slant on the music.

The show started outside Friday evening but on Saturday morning moved inside due to rain in the area.

All in all everyone enjoyed the shows and all the musicians had a chance to renew acquaintances and meet and hear some groups that they hadn’t heard before. The gathering will be back next year bigger and better than ever.

The next item this month is a couple of new CDs. Neil and Billy Matthews are in the process of putting together a project that is both a compilation of some earlier material and some new freshly recorded tunes.

Neil has had some health issues over the last little while but he is back playing music and is involved in putting this project together. He’s taken songs from three or four previously released albums and re-mastered them for this project.

Billy is recording five new cover songs to be put on the CD and he’s backed up by a strong cast of musicians. Billy’s other songs will be taken from previously recorded material.

This CD should be on the market by mid-October.

Another CD that’s in the works is one by, first timer, Barry Murphy from Crossroads. His project will be called Crossroads Country and will include hits by George Jones, Hank Williams and Merle Haggard to name a few. Barry has also included two songs that he wrote himself, “My Mother’s Table” and “Ceilidh At The Bay.” The latter is a salute to the fine ceilidhs held in St. Peters Bay. Barry has been singing at this ceilidh for a number of years and also does other concerts and dances. This is his first venture into the studio but I have a feeling that it won’t be his last.

With these two new CDs coming out and more in the hopper there is scarcity of local music for everyone to listen to. This is the time of year that we take it a little easy and like to listen to some new music so here’s your chance.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9:00PM on CFCY FM 95.1 in Charlottetown and on the web at

Country Favourites

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Bob GallantMore CDs are flowing down the pipeline this summer and this month I’d like to talk about another one, this time by Bob Gallant of Summerside.

Bob has been singing for as long as he can remember and his dream has always been to make a professional recording. Back 2009, after a stay in intensive care, the desire became even greater as Bob wanted to leave his daughter, Veronica, something to remember him by. Bob met with Roy MacCaull later that year and Roy agreed to do one song for free. This song was to be used as a keepsake for the family.

Due to Bob’s severely decreased lung capacity he was surprised by the result and played his song for friends and family. One of the friends that Bob played his song for was Eric Skerry, who agreed to back the him financially so that he could record a full project.

Bob went into the studio with Roy MacCaull and they recorded Bob Gallant’s Country Favourites.

This CD is a collection of songs that Bob has been singing for many years and contains songs by many of his musical heroes such as Merle Haggard “Today I Started Loving You Again,” Don Williams “Amanda,” George Jones “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me,” and the Mac Wiseman hit “Shackles and Chains.”

Bob’s voice is strong on this CD and the backing instrumental work all provided by Roy MacCaull is excellent. The choice of material is a delight for traditional country music fans who don’t get to hear much real country music on the radio any more.

The lineup on the CD is: lead vocals, Bob Gallant, harmony vocals, Roy and Sandra MacCaull, all instruments, Roy MacCaull.

The is project was recorded at Roy MacCaull’s studio in Ellerslie and is available from Bob personally by calling 902-436-8534 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Bob is always available for a chat so if you’re so inclined give him a call and maybe you can pick up a CD at the same time.

If you’re looking for something bluegrassy to do on Sept 10–12 why not take in the 4th annual Island Bluegrass Weekend at Marco Polo Land in Cavendish. This year’s weekend is all bluegrass and boast a lineup totally made up of PEI bluegrass bands.

This year there are a number of special events happening like “the jam under the tarp” as well as a gospel show on Sunday and regular bluegrass music throughout the weekend. I can’t think of a better way to wind up the summer festival season and put your camper to bed with a smile on it’s face (if it has one).

The admission is only $45.00 which includes your camping for the weekend on fully serviced sites in the beautiful Marco Polo Land campground.

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 and on the worldwide web at

Fresh Offerings

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Riding Out The Storm - Doug YoungThis month I’d like to talk about a couple of new CD offerings, one by Doug Young and one by Marie MacIntyre.

Let’s talk about Doug Young first. Doug is a native of Newfoundland who presently lives in Charlottetown and acts as the manager of a local fish processing operation.

Doug has been singing for many years and has one other project to his credit that was recorded in Ontario. His latest project, Ride Out The Storm, was recorded locally and is a gospel recording with a strong nautical flavour. Ride Out The Storm includes three songs written by Doug as well as a dozen covers of songs, some familiar, some not.

Doug covers Doyle Lawson’s “Help is On The Way” and also does a great cover of The Oak Ridge Boys “Sailing Toward Home.” The three songs that Doug wrote are “Basics Of God’s Love,” “I Need To Feel Your Presence” and “Still Saved by Grace.”

Doug has a very pleasant voice and sings all the songs on the CD with ease. He is accompanied on the CD by Vans Bryant on banjo and harmony vocals and Shirley Jay on harmony vocals.

Besides Doug’s own songs and the two covers mentioned above the CD contains ten others that run the gamut from David Parmley to The Spinney Brothers.

If you’d like to have one of Doug’s CDs you can contact him at one of his many appearances at churches and seniors homes throughout the Central Queens region.

This is a good CD and well worth a listen. I’m sure Doug would be glad to see you at one of his shows.

The next CD is by Marie MacIntyre from Montague. The new CD is called Old Gold and it contains covers of songs by people as diverse as The Delmore Brothers and Nana Mouskouri as well as a song written by Marie called “Move Over, Move Over.”

The CD was recorded and engineered by Billy McCormack at his home studio and is very well done. Marie’s songs are a mix of styles from blues to country to pop and all in all it is a very good listen.

On this CD Marie contributes lead vocals, rhythm guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, and violin. Billy McCormack is in charge of bass, keyboards, guitars and percussion and does a fine job on all. The collaboration of Marie and Billy works very well and together they have a strong sense of what they wanted to portray.

The CD contains twelve tracks starting with The Delmore Brothers’ “Blues Stay Away From Me” and ending with Don Williams’ “Lay Down Beside Me.” All in all a great mix of tunes with strong vocals and great arrangements. If you wanted a copy of this CD you could email Marie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

25 Years of Bluegrass

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Barry Scott and Second Wind from TennesseeBluegrass festival season has rolled around again and the granddaddy of all PEI festivals is loaded and ready to go. This is the 25th anniversary festival and it shapes up to be the best ever. All the bands are booked and everything is ready to roll. Now if the stars align properly to give some good weather we will be in for a real treat. Festival dates are July 2, 3, & 4, 2010 at the Festival Grounds in Rollo Bay.

This year’s festival features Ralph Stanley II the son of Ralph Stanley, one of the great first generation pickers. Ralph II lives in Coeburn Va, a hot bed of bluegrass, and brings to us one of the premier bands in bluegrass today.

Barry Scott and Second Wind come to us from Tennessee and bring with them a love of the traditional as well as a peak into the future. Barry played in Doyle Lawson’s band, Quicksilver for nine years and was schooled in the great traditions of harmony and precise instrumental virtuosity.

The third band from below the 49th parallel are Brand New Strings from Knoxville, TN. This is a group of very experienced and dynamic pickers and singers that are well on their way to becoming a top name in bluegrass. Together for scarcely more than a year they have become a group to watch on the circuit and have won many awards in their short life as a band.

Also featured at Rollo Bay are many of the favourite Maritime bands such as The Bluegrass Diamonds, New Ground, The Spinney Brothers, and last year’s showcase winner, Simply Blue.

The Bluegrass Diamonds and The Spinney Brothers are two of the most successful and beloved bluegrass groups in Canada. They both play, not only in the Maritimes but also across Canada and into the United States. This will be the Diamonds fourteenth trip to Rollo Bay and the Spinney Brothers have been on the show several times as well. These groups are built around strong sibling harmony as well as soulful pickin’.

The Island will be well represented as well with a contingent of local favourites.

Besides the stage shows there is open mic in the shelter building on Wed June 30 and Thur July 1. A Canada Day party will also be held that will serve as a celebration of Canada’s 143rd birthday as well as the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival’s 25th birthday.

The organizers are hoping for a large turn out so if you have plans to go advance tickets are on sale until June 15 by calling 566-2641 or at

Next month we’ll tell you about a couple of new CDs that will be for sale from Doug Young and Marie MacIntyre.

Wrapping It Up

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

The Palmetto RamblersThe last official function of the winter was to make the annual trek over to the coast and visit the Chasco Fiesta in New Port Richey with the obligatory stop for some of the local food and brew at the Brew City Grill.

After a great meal of some local seafood we headed to Sims Park to hear some good bluegrass music. With a threatening sky the crowd was small for the opening act, The Palmetto Ramblers. This is the forth or fifth time that we’ve seen the local boys perform and I’m sure Charlie Hoskins, their lead singer, holds the world’s record for the most broken strings in one set. The Ramblers are made up of folks from several different states that make their winter homes in Florida and get together to play a few festivals and a lot of one day concerts.

The rain held off until The Ramblers finished their set and the next band was a bout to come on. Being very co-operative, the rain stopped just as the emcee said “and now from Soperton Georgia, The Larry Gillis Hard Drivin’ Bluegrass Band”.

The Larry Gillis BandLarry Gillis is a veteran of many years on the bluegrass circuit, mainly in the south, but has ventured as far north as Maine a time or two. Larry originally performed with his brother John as the Gillis Brothers. They produced six bluegrass albums and traveled a lot of miles with their mountain bluegrass style often compared to the Stanley Brothers sound.

Since John has retired Larry has released three of his own CDs with the latest being a group of songs called Swampgrass.

After his brothers retirement Larry laid back a bit and went from band to band not being able to hold a group together for long, but this latest group has the proper feel for the Gillis style of music. Though they may not be highly experienced and polished they are straight ahead hard drivin’ and extremely entertaining.

The band consists of Larry Gillis on banjo and vocals, Rafe Waters on upright bass, David Doss on fiddle ( replaced, on this night by Greg Morris of the James King band, and now with Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice), and Alex Leach in guitar and vocals. Alex, is a show all by himself. He has been a radio DJ since the age of eight and has won the category at SPBGMA at least once. He’s only twenty but has the soul of a seventy-year-old. All these guys love the old fashioned mountain style and it shows in the music. Larry plays both the two-finger, Stanley style banjo as well as the more ancient style emanating from the mountains and known as clawhammer, drop thumb or frailing.

All in all a great show.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9;00PM on 95.1FM CFCY in Charlottetown or on the web at

In the Palms

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Greetings from the sunny and warmer south. The weather is beginning to co-operate and the schedule is getting considerably busier.

This month we attended the bluegrass festival in Arcadia, the Celtic festival in Zephyrhills, and Islander Day at Fort DeSoto.

The Arcadia festival is a rather low key affair that utilizes a lot of local bands with a few out of state bands thrown in for a little extra spice. This year’s lineup included Ken Scoggins and Miller’s Creek, The Palmetto Ramblers, The Hagar’s Mountain Boys, The Wilson Family and our favourite , The Bluegrass Brothers. For those of you who are familiar with The Bluegrass Brothers, they’ve had some changes in personnel. Robert Dowdy, one of the originals, has left the band to spend more time with his family. Robert has been replaced by Brandon Farley who was their former mandolin player. They’ve added fiddler Billy Hurt, who is excellent, and moved Donald from guitar to mandolin, where he does a fine job. The brothers said to say hello to everyone on PEI so “HELLO.”

Generally the festival is rather well organized but is in need of more volunteers and better concessions. There are no workshops or children’s programs but the folks don’t seem to mind.

The Celtic festival was a big hit and attracted folks from all across North America, many of whom didn’t know what Celtic music or culture is, but we met a lot of people from across the US representing different clans that had been to PEI and extolled its virtues, which made us proud, at least for the moment.

The feature entertainment on Sunday was a group from the highlands (of North Carolina) called Uncle Hamish and The Hooligans. They were from the Rawlins Cross mold with guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and a piper. Most of their material was traditional Celtic stuff with a heavy rock influence. Of course the heart of the festival was the pipe and drum competitions as well as the cabre and hammer toss and other highland games.

On March 14 we headed down to Fort DeSoto for our yearly dose of Island hospitality and we weren’t disappointed. We were greeted and signed in by a number of happy faces and listened to some music by Dino Dunsford, Alan MacRae and various others. The sun was bright, the wind was soft and everyone enjoyed picnic lunches under the palms. I would suspect that there might have been other liquids around besides soft drinks but I wouldn’t be sure. All in all a great day.

Our last event for this winter will be a bluegrass festival at the Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville which has a great lineup. We’ll tell y’all about this next month when we get home.

Country Blues

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Helen Cornelius and Jim Ed Brown on the Country Gold Tour at the Florida State FairFlorida shouldn’t be like this. The weather is terrible and the only difference between here and PEI is that there isn’t any snow. The music, however, carries on ever in the worst of winters. All the parks still have events that they call jams (they’re not really but we won’t tell them) and they’re usually packed to capacity even on the coldest of nights.

We made our annual pilgrimage to the Florida State Fair to take in the Country Gold Tour for the fourth time. This year’s event was a bit of a disappointment compared to other years but still worth the ten dollar admission fee.

The performers on this years tour included, the bossman, Leroy VanDyke, Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius, Jeannie Kendall, Gene Watson, and T G Shepherd. Everyone did their part very well and the near capacity crowd enjoyed every minute of it. Jim Ed and Helen were particularly good with their harmonies and all the songs of The Browns (Little Jimmy Brown, Pop A Top, etc.). Gene Watson is still a force to be reckoned with vocally but the years are starting to take a toll on him physically. Gene performed all his hits and a couple that should have been.

The backup band for this show is made up of a group that is primarily Missourians. They are extremely tight and walk through the show with very little effort. All in all a good show but not great.

One Thursday night we ventured down the Polk Parkway to Auburndale for the Thursday night shoe at International Market World. This is a show that is comprised of local groups as well as transplants, mostly Canadian. This show featured Fred and Catherine Lawrence and Gator Creek. Fred and Catherine as well as bass player Ron Jenkins are from Nova Scotia. Their banjo player is a native of New York whose name escapes me.

The next group up featured Islander, Joe Casey and some of his friends known as South Wind. All in all they did a fine job. That group is, also, comprised mainly of Canadians.

A local group known as Dixie Bluegrass Express took the stage next and played a fine set. The group is top notch with the exception of the singer who leaves a lot to be desired.

The show was closed out by a group from Zephyrhills, again made up of a mix of transplanted Canadians and a couple of Americans thrown in for good measure.

This is a good event. The music is, sometimes, a bit lacking but the whole experience is fun and you meet a lot of nice folks. There is a buffet which also includes the price of the entertainment.

That’s all from Zephyrhills for now but we’ll be back next month with some news from Islander Day. 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 FM and on the net at .

Chilling in Florida

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Life is slow in Florida these days. The cold weather has finally gone away and the sun is shining just like it should be this time of year. The cold weather this year set all kinds of records here that have been in place since 1890. We went 11 days with temperatures below 60 degrees, which may not seem too harsh for us hardy northerners but for the tender natives of the sunshine state it’s shocking. Southern folk don’t know what to do when their water supply freezes and they need heat in their homes on a constant basis.

Anyway, that’s all over hopefully and we're all hoping and preparing for a full winter of relaxation and music with old friends and new ones.

The Sunday jams at Zephyr Park are in full swing again after the cold weather. Today about one hundred people gathered in various area of the park and played their favourite music. The favourite genre in this end of the world seems to be traditional country and there are many people who play it very well. Many of these folks are former members of touring bands and in their retirement still enjoy getting together with the snowbirds to play some of their favourite tunes.

The fair season will be in full swing soon and we intend to take in as many of them as possible. There is an odd little fruit in this area called a kumquat which has a festival all of it's own and is a highlight of the local fair season. This one goes in Dade City on January 30. It’s wall to wall people, food, and music along with a kumquat queen contest that draws large crowds. The kumquat took a hit this year because of the cold weather but the growers have vowed to press on with the festival (you think I’m making all this up don’t you).

Every county in this area has it’s own fair and the Pasco county fair is one of the favourites. This fair features all the agricultural exhibits and a lot of music usually featuring a bluegrass band or two. If you’re ever in the area it’s well worth attending.

The two major festivals in the state are the Florida state fair and the Florida strawberry festival. These events feature a staggering lineup of musical acts, all the way from Debbie Reynolds to Lynyrd Skynyrd and from Patty Loveless to REO Speedwagon. The Florida State fair features a Country Gold Tour headlined by LeRoy VanDyke as well as a wide variety of acts from all over the world. The native Floridian area, Cracker Country, is a hot bed of old time string band and folk music.

That’s about all for now but we’ll be back next time and tell you all about some of these events. Until next time don’t forget to support live country music and listen to Bluegrass Island Sunday at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 and at

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