by Charissa Reeves
Formerly known as Saddle River, the Saddle River String Band from Summerside has re-grouped with one member change, a new album and a repertoire of original music.
The group’s newest member Tommy Desroches bought his upright bass after jamming with the group about three years ago, when former member Catherine MacLellan was still a member of the group. Desroches said he already played electric bass at the time and thought the group would be a good fit for him. “So I bought the upright bass and it took them a year and a half to call me.”
The current lineup includes Desroches on bass, James Phillips playing mandolin, Troy McArthur playing banjo and Mike Dixon playing guitar with all members singing both lead and backup vocals. “Everybody sings in the band, we all sing our asses off,” said Dixon.
The boys have been playing together since the middle of last summer and released their self-titled, 12 track CD at the Haviland Club on April 21, features seven originals, a guest appreance by Norm Bowser playing dobro (slide guitar) on some of the tracks and what Dixon calls “off-the-beaten-track covers.”
“They are traditional, they’re public domain, but they’re mostly blues songs we’ve covered, almost all of them and then we just kind of ‘Saddle River’ them.” finished Desroches.
Dixon said although the intruments make the group look like a bluegrass band at first glance the sound has a bit more of a rock edge. “If you play banjo in a band everybody thinks you’re bluegrass, but we’re definitely not bluegrass.” The band has more of a roots sound, he said. “I would typify it as bluegrass slash folk, blues, ragtime, country.”
Apart from playing with the Saddle River String Band, Desroches also plays with Nathan Wiley. Dixon and McArthur were the Rattlesnakin Daddies, while Phillips was a member of the New Drifts and Le Funk 6.
The band plans to play off-Island more in the future, said Dixon. “Actually one of our intentions isn’t to do the bar scene because we’re obviously not playing bar music. We’re actually trying to rent halls on the Island.” The band will also perform at both the Evangeline Bluegrass Music Festival and the 22nd Annual Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival in Rollo Bay this year.