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The distinctive sound of a dobro guitar


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He’s been in the business for decades, and his work appears on an assortment of CDs, but it’s only now that Bob Tremblay has recorded an album of his own. Dobro is an ode to the instrument that’s been his passion for all these years.

The dobro, an acoustic guitar with a bowl-shaped metal resonator built into its body, has a distinctive sound that’s been adapted into country, bluegrass, western swing and blues music.

“It’s a real sound all of its own – completely different,” said Tremblay of the instrument, part of his guitar-oriented repertoire.

In putting together the album, he narrowed it down to 19 songs from an assortment of styles, all of which have meaning for him after decades of playing with a variety of artists. Given the number of years he’s been playing, choosing was no small task.

GOING ON RECORD Bob Tremblay, considered by many to be Ontario's premier dobro guitarist, will perform at a CD release party Feb. 20 in Maryhill.

Like a lot of kids, he took music lessons, starting with the guitar at the age of 9. Unlike most kids, he had a professional gig by the time he was 14. Call it good timing, but the Silver Bar Ranch Boys had just lost their steel guitar player when Tremblay happened along.

“They hired me on the spot. Two weeks later, I was playing on TV for them.”

The show was a staple on Kitchener’s CKCO-TV through the mid-1950s, airing every Saturday evening from 7-7:30 p.m.

Later, he and his two siblings would tour North America as the Tremblay Brothers. There was also The Sherwoods, a trio that would lend its name to Sherwood Music in Kitchener, which he co-founded.

Through the years of working outside of the music industry, he always kept his hand in it, refining the style that would make him perhaps the finest dobro player in Ontario.

Today, he plays regularly at the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill, which will host his CD release party Feb. 20.

Paul Weber, owner of the Maryhill fixture, appears on the album, playing bass and rhythm guitar. Dan Howlett, on fiddle, mandolin and guitar, and Grant Heywood, on drums, round out the lineup.

On the day of the release, Tremblay will be playing with the musicians who recorded the album with him.

Songs from the album will be mixed with other favourites. And other musicians will be invited up for a jam session.

One musician who’ll be there in spirit only is fiddler Mike Slauenwhite, to whom Tremblay dedicates the album’s cut of “Amazing Grace.”

Slauenwhite, who died in December after a battle with cancer, was part of the Silver Bar Ranch Boys all those years ago, and they’d played together frequently over the past three years or so. In fact, Tremblay played on Slauenwhite’s debut album released last spring. Like that CD, Dobro comes at the prodding of Floradale’s Lynn Russwurm, a tireless songwriter, performer, producer and advocate for the genre.

“I’ve been on lots of other people’s albums. Lynn kept saying, ‘Bob, you should be cutting something yourself,’” Tremblay explained. “When I go out and play, people ask me for CDs. I guess it was time.

“In this day and age, it took quite a bit of nerve to do an instrumental CD, especially dobro,” he added with a laugh.

The CD release party for Bob Tremblay’s album is set for Feb. 20, 1-5 p.m., at the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill.

“It will be some good family fun for the long weekend, since Monday’s a holiday. It will give people a place to go if they’re not heading away for the weekend.”

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