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Two New Ones

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

One Voice. One Dream. - Aaron WaiteThis month I’d like to talk about a couple of CDs that have crossed my desk. One by a young man by the name of Aaron Waite and the other by a gentleman from Alberton, Leo Arsenault.

First the Aaron Waite CD, One Voice. One Dream. This is a project that cover a wide variety of musical styles. Aaron tackles everything from a song written by Islander, Rollie MacKinnon called “Gentle Land Of My Home” to a song from Madonna’s vast repertoire called “La Isla Bonita.” Aaron is quite comfortable with all types of music and he sings effortlessly.

Besides singing on this project he also accompanied himself on keyboard which is no mean feat for someone who has barely reached the age of thirteen.

Sonja Walker accompanied Aaron on “La Isla Bonita” and programmed all the keyboard parts for that song. Sonja is also thirteen.

If you’d like to have a copy give Aaron a call at 902-566-3448. Aaron will be having an official launch for this CD later in the spring so watch the local papers for time and place.

The second CD is one that was recorded up at Roy McCaull’s studio in Ellerslie and is a combination of covers tunes and original material written by the artist, Leo Arsenault. This CD is called Mom & Daddy Please Call Me. This is also the title track. On this project Leo has written a number of songs about local happenings, such as “The Death Of Jimmy Rooney” and “The Iceland Number Two” as well as family memories like “Mom & Daddy Please Call Me” and “By The Coal Oil Lamp.”

Although Leo spent most of his life in Toronto working for Colgate Palmolive his heart was never far away from PEI and the songs that he’s written show that.

Leo sometimes performs with his brothers at festivals and concerts and also performs as a single at seniors homes and manors.

Most of the instrumentation on this CD is done by Roy McCaull with Don Olson playing the fiddle parts and Sandra McCaull singing the harmony.

If you’d like to have a copy of this CD you can find Leo at PO Box 455, Alberton, PE C0B 1B0.

I’d like to congratulate all the PEI nominees for the various awards shows (Music PEI and ECMA) especially those in the bluegrass and country categories, although I have no idea what yardstick that country and bluegrass are measured by these days judging from some of the nominees. These categories seem to be a catch all for anything that doesn’t fit anywhere else. Anyway that’s only my opinion and with that and $1.35 you can buy a coffee at Tim Hortons.

Until next time don’t forgot to support real country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 pm on CFCY FM 95.1or on the internet at

Family Gospel

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Judy and Joan Reeves and Wendell CameronIt seems that every time I turn around someone is producing a new CD. The latest one in a long line of releases is by Judy, Joan, and Wendell a very talented gospel trio from the Freetown area.

In case you don’t recognize these folks I'll give you a bit of background on them and their musical pathway to the release of this CD called Precious Memories.

Twin sisters, Judy and Joan Reeves were brought up on their family farm in Freetown, Prince Edward Island. They came out of the womb singing and over the years have been featured at church concerts, schools and ceilidhs in Freetown and surrounding areas.

Wendell Cameron was brought up on a family farm in Stanchel, PEI and spent many summer vacations “Down Home” at his grandmother’s farm in Freetown spending hours playing as a child with all the Reeves cousins. He moved to Freetown in 1980 and a few years later Judy asked him to join the Freetown United Church Choir . The rest is history.

Now that you have some idea of what goes into the development of a sibling gospel trio I’ll proceed to delve into what makes this CD so special.

It is an known fact that family harmony is the strongest harmony of all and this family is no different. Through many years of singing together Judy, Joan, and Wendell have had many requests to record their material so that everyone could share in it. They finally decided to do just that and contacted Roy McCaull to act as producer/musician in his studio in Ellerslie. The result is a fine CD full of gospel favourites.

The CD includes such well known gospel songs as, “Where Could I Go?,” “Supper Time,” “I’ve Got A Mansion,” and the title track, “Precious Memories” to name just a few. From beginning to end this is a fine effort with excellent vocals and strong musical backing by Roy McCaull, Don Olson and Judy Lowe. Judy also contributes some fine harmony vocals.

One of the highlights of the CD, for me, is the Peter MacDougall penned song “No Standing In Line.” Peter is a well known Island songwriter in the gospel genre and this is one of his best songs.

This CD was produced by Roy McCaull in his Ellerslie studio.

If you’d like to have a copy of this CD just contact Wendell Cameron at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone 902-436-8600. You can also contact Judy McGregor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 902-894-5551. Either one of these fine folks would be only too glad to see that you get a copy of this fine CD.

Until Next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 pm on 95.1 FM CFCY in Charlottetown or on the world wide web at

Classy Country

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Mel TillisI don’t know what I could say about Mel Tillis that hasn’t already been said but here goes.

I had the opportunity to take in his afternoon show at the Harbourfront Jubilee Theater in Summerside recently and was treated to an A1 performance by the “ole stutterin’ boy.”

Mel Tillis has been in country music for fifty two years of his seventy seven, has written over a thousand songs of which six hundred have been recorded by major stars, and has recorded sixty of his own albums. He is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Not bad for a kid that was born with a speech impediment and was told that he’d never amount to anything.

Although the afternoon began with a couple of disappointments when it was announced that the opening act, Kenyon Lockry and the pedal steel player, Terry Bethel could not make the trip north for various reasons, the show locked into a groove and stayed there.

The Statesiders, Tillis’ long time band, were in fine form and showed their versatility performing a new arrangement of the classic “Orange Blossom Special” while the keyboard players did a bang up job on “Chariots of Fire.”

The first half of the show was a taste of the show that Tillis performed at his theatre in Branson, Missouri for many years while the second half of the show was made up of what people have come to expect from Mel Tillis, classic country music.

Every hit from the very early, “Stateside” from which he named his band, to the more recent. “New Patches” was presented with the ease and class that has been associated with Tillis from his earliest days. It was almost like listening to a symphony orchestra behind the vocals at times with twin fiddles plus a synthesizer.

Prior to his entry into the world of country music Mel Tillis was a baker in the US Air Force and was stationed in Goose Bay Labrador. He has authored a fine cookbook full of his own recipes.

Tillis regaled the crowd with stories of his family, his early playing days at the Edison Hotel in Toronto and his friendship with many Canadian entertainers, in particular, Ronnie Hawkins with whom he developed a relationship based on songwriting experiences.

Tillis has recently released a Christmas CD which is his first ever. The CD called Snowflake is a project full of songs that have been collected through the years. He also had for sale a gospel collection from which he plucked a song called “The Father’s Son” to end the show. All in all a great show.

How about those Hobos

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Grass Mountain Hobos—Hunter's Ale House (photo: Tony Dawe)

Let’s talk about the Grass Mountain Hobos. Actually there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said. They have been honoured with Music PEI awards, ECMA awards, done national touring and shown massive improvement in all aspects of their game.

These improvements have been topped off by the release of a new CD called Zoot. This project utilizes their undeniable skills as song writers and their amazing abilities as arrangers and musicians.

I’ve watched this group rise from nothing to a confident, competent group of entertainers in very few years. Moving from winning the showcase at the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival to achieving national prominence in such a short time is amazing.

Now back to their new project, Zoot. There are ten songs written by members of the band—five by Josh Ellis, three by Thomas Kirkham, two by Peter Cann as well as two covers of well known old timey pieces, “Kansas City Kitty” and the bluegrass standard “Ramblin’ Letters.” All these songs harken back to the days when string bands prowled the nation doing tent shows and playing in any hall that became available, sometimes using the boxcars of the railway for transportation.

My favourite tune on the CD is “Zoot Suit,” a sprightly little number with a definite swing edge.

Other songs on this project are “Hear A Train,” “Scrape The Paint,” “Blackbird Sing,” “Whiskey Night,” “Graveyard Shift,” “Kneel Down and Pray,” “Hillbilly Fix,” “Get Out,” and “L’il Guitar.”

The musicianship in this group is second to none in this genre of music. Gordie MacKeeman is at his best on “Kansas City Kitty.” The swing fiddle style is right at home in his hands and the solid help from Peter Cann, whose guitar playing is impeccable, and guest pianist Johnny Ross make this a masterpiece.

Josh Ellis’ vocals are on top in this project and Thomas Kirkham and Peter Webb do a fine job on mandolin and banjo. The on again off again presence of Thomas Webb in the group is certainly a plus as the bass glue that holds it all together. Is there anything that you can’t play Thomas?

All in all this project is fun and should garner the group a great deal of notice at the Music PEI and ECMA awards shows.

This CD was recorded at Big Grey Sound in Charlottetown and mastered by JP LaPointe in Halifax.

For a copy of this CD, which I’m sure you’ll all want, contact Josh Ellis at 902-853-5552 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I would go out on a very firm and safe limb and say that this is the best Island produced CD of 2009.

Support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 pm on CFCY FM 95.1 or at

Rodney Helps Out

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Rodney Savidant

Rodney Savidant has just released his third gospel CD called Help Is On The Way.

This CD contains three songs by Carl MacLean of Summerside. Rodney has recorded many of Carl’s songs in the past but these are some of his best to date. The “Carl” songs on this project are “Angels’ Are Watching Over You,” “Lights Of Home” and “The Miracle Man,” all well written songs.

Rodney’s wife Brenda wrote two songs for this project, “Rolling Band,” and “When I Found You I Found Me.” Both songs are based on the husband/wife relationship.

Besides the original songs there are covers of “A Hill Called Calvary,” “Help Is On The Way,” and the Vince Gill classic, “Go Rest High On That Mountain.”

Accompanying Rodney on this CD are long time friends, Carl MacLean on bass, Sonny Gaudet on guitar, Tanya Bernard on keyboard and Island fiddle legend Gary Chipman on fiddle.

The harmony on this project is handled very nicely by Keila Glydon, Shelley MacFadyen, and the Bennett Sisters from St. Martins New Brunswick. Rodney is in fine voice for this project and the song selection has something for everyone.

The material ranges from “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” the old Carter Family classic, to the classic hymn “In The Garden.” Rodney has also included a wonderful song by island singer/songwriter Larry Campbell.

Other material on this CD includes “I’m Gonna Sing,” “The River Of Jordan,” “Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus” and “The God On The Mountain” which is sung by the Bennett sisters.

Rodney has been involved in music on PEI for almost fifty years and has always been very popular but I believe that his gospel projects are the best to date. He has a feel for gospel music that is second to none. His technique makes gospel music enjoyable for everyone whether you’re a gospel music fan or not.

If you’d like to have a copy of this CD you can contact Rodney at 902-439-1612 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or catch him at one of his many performances across the Island. I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you.

Next month we’ll be talking about the lovable ne’er do wells, The Grass Mountain Hobos and their new CD, Zoot. The “Hobos” have done well for themselves over a very short time and I predict will be around for a long time to come.

Listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 pm on CFCY in Charlottetown or on the web at

Rolling On at Rollo Bay

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Summertown Road from Kentucky

This time every year the Bluegrass Festival season rolls around and this year is no different. The PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival is happening at the Festival Grounds in Rollo Bay.

This year’s lineup of talent is second to none. The weekend headliners are Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice from Virginia, Summertown Road from Kentucky, and a young family band, The Doerfels from New York. The Maritime contingent includes The Bluegrass Diamonds, Close To Home, Grassroots and Mountain Rush along with a large presence of island bands.

Junior Sisk has lived most of his life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where he listened to and played the music that was born there. His songwriting helped The Lonesome River Band in its ascent to bluegrass stardom in the early 1990s, but it was his lonesome, haunting singing that earned him the devotion of traditional bluegrass fans a few years later as a member of Wyatt Rice and Santa Cruz. Subsequently, he assembled Ramblers Choice, which released the acclaimed Sounds of the Mountains in 1998, and contributed to the IBMA award winning The Stanley Gospel Tradition. A brief stint with The Lost and Found followed before Junior took over the lead vocal role for BlueRidge. Junior has been nominated many times for Songwriter and Male Vocalist of the year. The other members of Ramblers Choice are Tim Massey, Darrell Wilkerson, and Billy Hawkes with a new mandolin player to be announced shortly.

Summertown Road is made up of Jack Hicks, John Rigsby, Bo Isaac, and Randy Thomas. The group has many years experience in bluegrass with Hicks playing with everyone from Bill Monroe to Conway Twitty. Bo Isaac has played with Ernie Thacker, Dave Evans and Larry Cordle and has an emerging artist of the year nomination as well as membership in the Kentucky music hall of fame to his credit. John Rigsby has played with Ralph Stanley and Melvin Goins and is a top notch fiddle and mandolin player. Randy Thomas is the heart of the music on bass and has played with Dave Evans, Tony Rice, Hylo Brown, and Don Reno to name a few.

The Doerfels are a family of nine boys and one girl that live and travel in a forty foot bus. The band is made up of the five older siblings with Kim on fiddle, TJ on banjo, Joe on bass, Eddy on mandolin, and Ben on guitar. The members range in age from thirteen to twenty and each one is an excellent musician. Kim who is the only girl in the family and acts as emcee is the darling of the bunch and puts up with all the high jinks of the brothers in good stride.

See you all there. Until next month don’t forget to support local country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 FM and on the internet at www.951fmcfcy.

Along the North Shore

CD released by Gerald Wagner

Gerald Wagner

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Gerald Wagner has been around the fringes of Island folk/country/bluegrass music for many years and up until recently never really took his position in the art very seriously. Well, finally he’s taken the plunge and recorded his very first CD.

Gerald is a fine singer and has written many songs based on his love of the water and fishing. He’s an inshore fisher by trade. The CD Along The North Shore also displays his love of home and the Island way.

This project contains five songs written by Gerald as well as a number of cover tunes from Hank Williams, a family favourite, to a tune that Gerald calls “Jack Monroe,” about a log jam on a river in Maine in the late 1800s.

Along The North Shore was recorded at Roy MacCaull’s Studio in Ellerslie with Roy providing most of the instrumentation as well as harmony vocals. Roy is turning out some good projects from his studio up west and is providing a valuable service to the folks in the western end of PEI. Gerald’s sister Audrey Barlow provides the other harmony vocal tracks and another Island legend, Don Olson plays fiddle. It’s good to hear Don again. He’s a great musician and perhaps not as recognized as he should be. He’s a bit of a legend in the Canadian bluegrass field having played on the very first bluegrass recording made in Canada.

Gerald and I have had many discussions over the years about a particular Island delicacy know as Earwig stew. This stew can only be made at the beginning of camping season and the ingredients can only be gathered at night. When I put the CD in the player low and behold the story of the Earwig stew appeared in song. This song has a Stompin’ Tom feel to it and is worth a listen for sure if you are into gastronomy.

Gerald has played in a number of Island country/bluegrass groups over the years, most notably “Gains Creek” back in the 1980s.

If you’re a fan of Island, back to the land, folk tunes and classic country this CD is a must have. Give Gerald a call at 902-831-2461 if you’re interested in buying a CD or just for a chat.

Next month we’ll delve into the new Rodney Savidant CD, Help Is On The Way. This is the third gospel offering from Rodney and he has a number of special guests that we’ll reveal next time.

Family Planning

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Well we’re back from the sunny south and prepare to take in whatever warmth the Island has to offer until summer comes. We took in one last event on the Florida musical calendar before we headed north. The Chasco Fiesta has been in existence for approximately 100 years and features all kinds of music as well as a great deal of native American displays and cultural exhibits.

We went on bluegrass day for the concert and took in a local group called The Palmetto Ramblers who have been a favourite in the area for many years. They put on a very good show for about a half hour in preparation for The Doerfel Family.

Now the Doerfels are a bit different than your typical family. There are nine boys and one girl ranging in age from 21 years to 2 years that live and travel in a forty-foot bus. The core group of musicians is made up of the five oldest children and they are all excellent at what they do. They use the typical bluegrass lineup of banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle and bass but their musical offerings are anything but typical. They write a lot of their own material which is quite fringey but it all harkens back to they roots of bluegrass. Kimberley, the only girl, plays fiddle, very well I might add, and is the emcee for the group. The act consists of the usual family high jinks of vying for stage space and acting up in general. The younger members of the family also take part in the stage show from time to time with two year old Charlie being the center of attention many times during the show. Generally they are a very good act and would appeal to bluegrass enthusiasts and non-bluegrass enthusiasts as well.

The Doerfels will be appearing at the 24th annual PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music festival in Rollo Bay on July 3, 4, and 5 and will also be featured in concert just after the festival at a venue to be announced shortly.

Some new developments are taking place on the local front as far as new product is concerned with Rodney Savidant about to embark on the recording of a new gospel project which also will feature the Bennett sisters from St. Martins New Brunswick. Rodney is a Music PEI award winner and he has a long history of excellent projects, especially his gospel work. This should be a good one.

Garnet Buell is also preparing to return to the studio for another CD. I’ve lost track of how many Garnet has done but I’m sure it’ll be another collection of classic country songs. I hear some word of there being a fiddle tune or two on this one as well.

Until next month don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island Sunday at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 in Charlottetown or on the internet at

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