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Country Prose

by Charlie Hansen

George Jones (photo: Tody Dawe)They came to hear the hits and hear the hits they did as George Jones rambled through song after song at the Charlottetown Civic Centre. With fifty years of hits and almost one hundred top tens in his career there is no shortage of material to perform.

Although Jones’ first single, “No Money In This Deal” released in 1954 garnered little or no attention he quickly caught on to the business of music and released his first hit, “Why Baby Why” in 1955. Ever since then it’s been a steady string of charted material that has become the benchmark for all country singers that have followed him.

The years, and his well publicized, alcohol and drug abuse, have taken a toll on his seventy-six year old body but he still has the voice that has given him iconic stature in an industry that includes many performers that won’t last six months let alone fifty plus years. Jones himself said “since I’ve given up drinkin’, smokin’, and runnin’ around with women I’ve got nothin’ left to sing about.”

Jones has always carried a great band with him and this time was no exception. The group was solid, tight and reverently under stated in the best country music tradition. Absolutely no over the top drums here, just a good solid support system for a country legend. This edition of “The Jones Boys” is a relatively new combination and replaces the “Gaddis/Buchanan” Jones Boys that performed in Charlottetown a few years ago.

Jason Byrd opened the show with his guitar player Rod Jones and did a good solid set of his hits and those that he hopes will be along with a couple of covers. Byrd has a great voice, big and powerful in the best sense of the word, but his rhythm guitar playing lacked finesse and over powered the tasteful backup licks provided by Jones (Rod).

The lone Jones “Girl,” Brittany Allyn, also has a very good voice and sang a couple of good covers as well as providing harmony vocals for George. She has a CD on the market called Like A Butterfly that has a pop/jazz feel and is an excellent project.

Even though George Jones isn’t what he used to be and the ravages of a long tour had taken their toll his treatment of the ballads, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,” and “Yesterday’s Wine,” which he performed with Jason Byrd singing Merle Haggard’s part, can still make a true country music fan sit up and take notice. He has that unmistakable “Jones” sound that has thrilled millions of fans since 1954.

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 or on the web at Oh—and keep an eye open for the Kenny Rogers show at Credit Union Place later in the summer. Maybe we’ll have a word or two about that one as well.

Catch a Ceilidh

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Saddle River String Band share its music and banter with audiencesLately I’ve been taking in some ceilidhs around the area, some as a participant and others as a member of the audience and I’ve been impressed with the caliber of performance presented at these events. Many of the people that do the ceilidh circuit are seasoned performers that have cut down on the money making end of entertaining, if there is a money making end, for one reason or another and have taken to doing these, basically, non-paying events. The remainder are people that just play for the love of it.

You can see the difference in the two groups as far as quality of performance is concerned but the desire to entertain and bring a smile to the audience’s face is equally evident in both camps.

If you get a chance to take in a ceilidh in your local area, by all means do it. You may find an undiscovered gem of an entertainer.

I had the good fortune to take part in a bluegrass show on April 13 at the BIS hall on North River Road and I was amazed at the interest that is shown in this type of music by the non-traditional crowd. I had a lady approach me to tell me that her children were involved in the school music program and she wanted to expose them to a different, more rudimentary, form of music so that they would be able to form a different perspective. I’m glad to see these things happen because without the young people getting involved the music will die.

Saddle River String Band did an invigorating set of their blues and ragtime tinged music to a very large and appreciative crowd. They certainly have the art of entertaining down pat. Unfortunately, there are many groups that I see across the Island that don’t share that ability. The four guys, Troy, Tommy, Mike, and James show that they’re comfortable in their own skins and this very fact makes them engaging to the crowd. Many groups go on stage with a lot of inside jokes and banter that doesn’t include and engage the audience. Saddle River’s banter and on stage persona is open and inviting. Their self deprecating humour and clever asides all make for a very entertaining show and they did it in spades at the BIS.

An ever improving Bluegrass Revival played a very strong set of their own style of bluegrass that the crowd enjoyed very much.

Just one more item before I go. Garnet Buell has started his fourth CD project and should have it for sale in late May or early June. This CD is full of very old songs such “Moose River Goldmine,” and “Just Before The Battle Mother.” I’m sure all of Garnet’s fans will be keeping an eye open for this one.

Musical Fundraisers

Country Prose

by Charlie Hansen

Saddle River String Band in actionThis month just a word or two about a fund raiser that’s happening for the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival and a couple of ceilidhs that take place on a regular basis.

First the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival fundraisers. These have been taking place on a semi regular basis over the last couple of months and the next one is taking place on April 13 at the BIS hall on North River Road in Charlottetown. This concert will start at 2 pm and go for a couple of hours with a break in the middle and a snack that usually consists of biscuits and jam along with some tea and coffee. There’s always a sale of fudge and great entertainment.

April’s concert features Glenda and Charlie, Bluegrass Revival and the PEIMA and ECMA Bluegrass Album of the Year winners Saddle River String Band. The boys are fresh from a couple of wins over the last year as well as some great showcases at the ECMA back in February. They caused quite a stir with their down home brand of string band music. They have a CD that’s doing well and it will be for sale.

Susan Pitre is hosting a ceilidh on the third Saturday of every month at the Sherwood hall. The ceilidhs start at 7 pm and go until everyone has their fill of music and food. The admission fee is only five dollars and there is a great lunch and fine home grown entertainment. The ceilidhs always feature a fiddler, step dancers and lots of singing and laughter. So plan to attend one on the 3rd Saturday of every month at the Sherwood hall. You’ll probably meet some of your friends there or maybe make a few new ones.

The other ceilidh that I’d like to mention this month happens at the Murray River hall starting in April. These ceilidhs are in aid of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital equipment fund and have, over the last few years, raised over $125,000 for this wonderful cause. Garnet Buell has organized these since their inception and acts as co-emcee as well as singer, guitar player and jack of all trades. The people of the area have been very supportive of these events and they also deserve a great deal of credit for their continued support.

Again, like most ceilidhs, the admission fee is only five dollars and there is a fabulous lunch setup by the ladies of the community. When you attend you definitely won’t go home hungry. The ceilidh features many local favourites such as, to name a few, Atwood O’Connor, Garth Gillis, Suandra Emery, and Joli Patkai. Why don’t you come down to Murray River and support the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Equipment fund.

Joe Casey Bluegrass

Country Prose

by Charlie Hansen

This month I’d like to introduce you to someone that you may or may not know. Surely the folks in the bluegrass community across the Maritimes and the eastern US will recognize Joe Casey. Joe has been a diehard bluegrasser for as long as I’ve know him, has produced a couple of fine bluegrass CDs and in the very near future will be launching a brand new CD, Four Seasons, with twelve bluegrass and traditional country standards on board.

This CD is Joe’s finest to date and bears the unmistakable mark of the Maritime’s granddaddy of bluegrass, Eddy Poirier. The CD was produced at Eddy’s E.J.P. Studio in Moncton, New Brunswick, with Eddy providing all the instrumentation as well as some vocal harmonies. Eddy’s wife, Rose, who travels with Eddy as a part of the Poirier Family band also provides some fine harmonies.

Although this CD is basically a bluegrass effort it also has a strong traditional country music flavour and Joe pulls it all together very well.

The more country sounding offerings include “Wild, Wild Rose,” “Four Seasons,” “Lillies In My Hand,” and the old Carl Smith standard, “I Overlooked An Orchid.” The bluegrass tunes run the gamut from the Jimmy Martin classic “Losing You Might Be The Best Thing Yet” to Larry Sparks’ “Winter Again In Miami.”

This CD is well worth a listen and if you’d like to have a copy you can contact Joe at 902-439-2344.

Joe will be launching this CD March 29, 2008 at his annual Bluegrass Old Country Jamboree at the Harbourfront Jubilee Theater in Summerside. All this will be part of a fabulous weekend that features a concert on Saturday night featuring New Ground, Michaela Taylor, and Joe Casey and High Tenor.

This is the ninth year for this event and it’s always a sold out show. So if you want to spend a weekend of great bluegrass and jamming with your friends make plans early. For tickets contact The Jubilee Theater at 1-800-780-6505.

There are weekend packages available by contacting the Garden Of The Gulf Quality Inn at 1-800-265-5511. For all other information on the event contact the promoter, Joe Casey at 1-902-439-2344.

Don’t forget, for a great weekend of bluegrass featuring the Bluegrass Old Country Jamboree and the launch of Joe Casey’s new CD, Four Seasons, the place to be is The Garden Of The Gulf Quality Inn and The Harbourfront Jubilee Theater on the March 29 weekend.

The CD insert says “Joe Casey Going Bluegrass” but it’s a certainty that Joe Casey has gone bluegrass long before this. I’d also like to mention that Joe has big plans for the tenth anniversary show in 2009 so keep your eyes and ears open for some exciting news on that front, you might be pleasantly surprised at who just might show up.

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 CFCY 95.1 FM or on the internet at

Jimi Remembers

Country Prose

by Charlie Hansen

For many years Jimi Platts has been a force in the musical community both locally and across Canada. He started playing in local rock ‘n’ roll bands as a teenager as a member of such groups as the Missin’ Links. His unique style on guitar propelled him to a life on the road and a reputation as a sought after musician.

After years on the road, some of which weren’t always easy, Jimi returned home and settled into the Island musical landscape. He got a day job and got used to a life style that wasn’t particularly familiar to him after so long away.

Once Jimi settled in he put his pen to work as well as his guitar and the songs began to pour out. Songs of remembrance, lost love, and comment on life as he sees it. Some of his songs are sad, some are funny but they’re all straight from the heart.

In December Jimi released his second CD called I Remember. This CD contains songs that are brand new, but it also contains songs that were written thirty-five years ago while he was a musician in Toronto. “If I Could Close My Eyes” is one of Jimi’s earlier efforts, and is as straight country as country can be. In the 1970s this song went to number twenty-four on the Canadian country music charts as recorded by The Country Edition of which Jimi was a member. “Shuffle Me To Death” is a song that was spawned during a Saturday afternoon jam session and is Jimi’s way of remembering his good friend, the late Joe McGarry, as is “The Yellow House.”

This CD is a showcase, not only for Jimi’s guitar playing but also for his song writing and his ability to turn out a fine product.

Jimi plays all instruments on the CD except for pedal steel which is capably handled by George Webb who has been a friend of Jimi’s for many years. Keila Glydon provides some strong harmonies on “If I Could Close My Eyes” along with Jimi who sings his own harmony on most cuts.

If you look closely at the picture of Alan Sentner’s 1953 Fargo on the CD cover you’ll see a hat hanging on the

driver’s side mirror. This hat belonged to the late Paul Myers one of Jimi’s closest friends and the gentleman that wrote this column until his passing in 1995. This and the fact that he wrote songs about his friend Joe McGarry tells us that Jimi “Remembers.”

If you would like to have a copy of this CD you can contact Jimi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 902-566-3011.

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jimi on many occasions and I can tell you that his song “No More Country Music” is not necessary a true reflection of the situation. As long as Jimi is around there will be lots of country music.

Until next time don’t forget to support country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening on 95.1 CFCY and on the net at


Country Prose

by Charlie Hansen

Saddle River String Band, seen here at the PEI Music Awards have a showcase spot at the ECMAs in FrederictonNow that all the turkey is eaten and the gifts are unwrapped it’s time to settle down for the long cold winter that has already taken a grip on us with a vengeance.

The ECMAs are coming up in Fredericton from February 7­10 and there are a number of PEI performers included in the showcase stages including Two Hours Traffic, The Chucky Danger Band, Jenn Grant, Lennie Gallant, Timothy Chaisson, Tanya Davis, and The Saddle River String Band. Most of these entertainers have been multiple winners at the Music PEI Awards over the years and this experience has, no doubt helped along the way.

This year the showcase performers seem to be more evenly distributed over the entire maritime region. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the exposure that these people have received at the Music PEI awards or it’s a bi-product of better promotion and the availability of digital distribution and exposure to their music through the Internet. I’m sure the easy access to their music doesn’t hurt but the work done by Music PEI (formerly PEIMAA) has given many of these artists a great boost in their climb to recognition.

We wish all the artists that are showcasing or nominated in their chosen field all the best for success at the ECMAs.

Several ECMA ticket packages are available now. These packages include the 20th Anniversary Concert and the ECMA Music Awards Gala package, and the “Super Pass” which encompasses the above shows and the five showcase stages. They will go fast, so don’t wait!

For tickets call 506 454 ECMA (3262). Tickets will be on sale for the Saturday Night, 20th Anniversary Concert and the Sunday Night, Music Awards Gala at the Aitken Centre box office or online. Tickets for all other Showcases, including the Super Pass (which includes 20th Anniversary Concert and Music Awards Gala) are available at the Playhouse box office, or online.

Another organization that deserves a mention in this column is The PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Society which has been instrumental in promoting bluegrass and old time music on PEI for twenty three years and will be presenting their 23rd annual festival in Rollo Bay on July 4, 5, and 6, 2008. The society is in the process of organizing a series of fund raising concerts that will be the last Saturday or Sunday of each month until the festival in July. These events will be held in various venues across the Island and will feature many of the bands that will perform at the annual festival. These events are a major fund raiser for the society and the festival so be sure to attend at least one. There will be special draws and other features at the events as well. Stay tuned for more information.

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 FM 95.1 in Charlottetown or at

Bingo Country

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Of all the ceilidhs that dot the Island landscape there is one that stands out as a stalwart in the midst of transition. While many ceilidhs sprout up during the summer tourist season to entertain people visiting the Island on holiday and relieve them of some of their loose cash the Bingo Country ceilidhs are a constant, year round feature that tend to cater to the local people.

For five dollars you can go and see a number of veteran as well as up and coming entertainers strut their stuff for two and a half hours or so and get a lunch besides. Where in the world can you get a better deal.

About six years ago Marion Boyce and Olive Bryanton thought that they would like to establish a place where the local people, mostly seniors, could go for a night’s entertainment at a reasonable price. Boy did they hit a home run. In an interview with Herb MacDougall, who along with Judy Low, co-ordinates the entertainers for the bi-weekly event I was given a run down of people that have played at these ceilidhs in various stages of career development and the list is long. Fiddlers like Richard Wood, Cynthia MacLeod, Courtney Hogan, Billy McInnis Jr., Dave Thomson, Gary Chipman and Ward Allen MacDonald to name just a few. If I were to name all the performers that have played Bingo Country over the years the column would have to be three pages long.

Singers and dancers have always been a staple of the ceilidhs with various Judy MacLean dancers being regulars. Singers over the years that have taken a walk across the planks, or plywood of the Bingo Country stage run the gamut from Kendall Docherty to former MLA Mildred Dover with Susan Campbell, Dino Dunsford, Jimi Platts, and Arlene and Brian Curley thrown in for good luck.

The house band is made up of Herb MacDougall, Judy Low, Joe Penney, and Dave Moore. These folks start proceedings every night with some lively tunes and songs that everyone can clap along to. You can also dance if you’d like and singing along, although not compulsory is encouraged. There’s always a friendly, relaxed atmosphere at the ceilidhs and you can be sure you’ll meet someone you know. It’s all about a good time at Bingo Country.

If you want to get a taste of the good times the next ceilidh is December 3 at 7:30 pm and with Christmas coming on you will probably hear some seasonal songs. For five bucks you can’t beat it and don’t forget the lunch, it’ always a great one.

If you want to take in a new ceilidh, Susan Pitre is holding one every month on Saturday at the Sherwood hall on Maple Avenue. I’ll have more about that one next time.

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

Grass Still Growing

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Blackstone Valley Bluegrass BandAlthough the fall weather is firmly entrenched on the Island that doesn’t mean that summery events don’t still happen. This month has a couple of bluegrass events happening that are worthy of note.

First is the Laurie Blue Memorial Bluegrass Festival Nov 2, 3, and 4 at the Loyalist Lakeview Resort in Summerside. This is the third annual event and it promises to be a great time headlined by the Blackstone Valley Bluegrass Band from New England and supported by a long list of local and regional groups.

The second bluegrass event to take place in November is a concert by The Saddle River String Band and One Shot Deal. This show takes place at the B.I.S. Hall on North River Road in Charlottetown on November 17 at 7:30 pm. This event will be a great showcase of Island talent with the Saddle River String Band fresh from an appearance at the PEI Music Awards on November 10.

Saddle River String BandThe Saddle River String Band, who took its name from the Canadian cult film “Road To Saddle River,” has been performing on PEI for the last 5 years with the most recent lineup of Tom Desroches, Troy McArthur, James Phillips and Mike Dixon being a unit for over a year. The band’s sound runs the gamut of traditional North Americana sources from pre-war blues, ragtime, country, bluegrass and string band music to the more modern ‘folkie’ styles pioneered by such artists as Steve Earle and Neil Young. The boys have played many establishments in both western and eastern PEI including the Landing in Tyne Valley, Kaylee Hall in Poole’s Corner & many places in between. They have performed at the Evangeline Bluegrass festival for many years and were a crowd favourite at this year’s PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music festival at Rollo Bay, being voted the Island's top act.

All four have been involved in the Island’s musical scene for many years in such bands as the Rattlesnakin’ Daddies, The New Drifts, Stone River, the Nathan Wiley Band, Stephane Bouchard & Le Funk 6. As well Troy and James have produced CDs for many of the Island’s top artists, including Catherine McLellan and Brooke Miller, under the banner of their SunzaHorse production partnership.

In 2007 Saddle River released their self-titled debut album which boasts 7 original songs about love lost and squandered, poverty and their fair home of Prince Edward Island and also off-the-beaten-track covers of traditional material by blues giants Son House and Mississippi John Hurt and country music pioneers The Carter Family.

“One Shot Deal” is made up of PEI bluegrass veterans Norm Bowser on banjo, dobro and vocals, Ivan Bulger on guitar and vocals, Glenda Johnston on bass and vocals and yours truly on guitar, mandolin and vocals.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9:00 (or so) on CFCY 95.1 FM and on the net at www.

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