Putting a little alt in the country

Fans of Corduroy Road have two chances to see the local alt-country band perform this weekend, when they fill The Commercial Tavern with their original music from the past 11 years on Friday and Saturday night.

The band consists of Reg Arthurs, Andrea LeBlanc, Stephanie Grimm, Craig Galbraith, Brian Ward, Janna Pardy and Mark Rye.

They’ve been playing at Paul Weber’s venue for the past two years, a place they say feels more like a party in your living room than a concert.

“It’s just been a great place for us to grow as a band, having a spot like that with an owner like that and audience as supportive as they have been,” Galbraith said.

If you’re not too sure what alt-country means, you’re not alone. Arthurs says he borrowed the term from Blue Rodeo front man Jim Cuddy, who uses that as a way to describe his band’s sound.

“The logical question is what do you guys sound like, what type of music are you. Well our answer’s always been by default we kind of sound like Blue Rodeo as far as Canadian alt-country goes. So I guess it’s kind of rootsy-country sounding, but yet it’s rock and roll rhythm with a lot of harmony too,” Arthurs said.

Corduroy Road formed in 2005 and has released two albums. They’ll be drawing from those two albums for their shows this weekend, along with some new tunes they’ve been working on, as well as covering some other country musicians.

Guelph-based Corduroy Road brings a mix of original songs, old and new country to shows Friday and Saturday night at the Commercial Tavern.
Guelph-based Corduroy Road brings a mix of original songs, old and new country to shows Friday and Saturday night at the Commercial Tavern.

“We definitely do some older, traditional country songs that people recognize. We do some Johnny Cash, we do some Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, and we do some newer country … Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Dixie Chicks,” LeBlanc said.

Those who haven’t been out to a Corduroy Show are welcome to attend and hear what a seven-piece band has to offer. LeBlanc notes they have three-part harmony and four singers in almost every song. They also include dueling guitar and every member is a great musician in their own right.

And they love coming back to the Commercial Tavern because the audience seems to really appreciate live music, Pardy adds.

“We play so much at the Commercial now and we have a little bit of a following there. When we play our original tunes, the audience actually recognizes a lot of them and they’ll cheer and clap when they hear the intro and they’ll dance. It’s actually great that we get that kind of reaction for the original music and not just the covers,” Pardy said.

The band members have a long history together, dating back to when they lived in the Maritimes. LeBlanc, Grimm and Arthurs worked at a dinner theatre together in New Brunswick. They all loved to play music and decided to move to Toronto to try to make a name for themselves.

Then they hooked up with Galbraith, who had already moved to Ontario, when they needed a drummer. Galbraith had gone to high school with LeBlanc and Grimm, who are sisters.

“A lot of us are East Coasters in the band, we have lots of fun. We rehearse twice a week and we’re pretty regimented on that. We really work hard on keeping our sound polished,” LeBlanc said.

Their first CD was released in 2007 and was shortlisted for a Juno in the roots traditional category. They funded a tour out east after that, playing numerous gigs on the way to and from Saint John. Playing the Imperial Theatre was a big moment for the band.

Last year they performed at the Havelock Country Jamboree, Canada’s largest live country music and camping festival.

“There were a lot of people there. That was great. The sound was great, the stage was so fun to play,” LeBlanc said.

Pardy agrees.

“Havelock was actually one of my big highlights. It was a big stage, it was a big deal, that and the sound was great,” she said.

She also mentioned their 10th anniversary concert where they sang a bunch of songs they hadn’t sung in a while.

Looking ahead, the band is hoping to record their next album in 2017.

“It’s going to be awesome. Reg has been writing a lot of music since we released our last album. There’s actually some tunes that we’ve tried out live that have become audience favourites and there are some new tunes that I don’t think we’ve played publicly that I just can’t wait to record,” Galbraith said.

They also hope to do another little tour once the album’s out, maybe even to Nashville.

But for now, the band is happy to play their music for the country music lovers at the Tavern.

“Paul’s just a wonderful man and he’s done so much to promote live music at his tavern,” said LeBlanc. “He’s a talent in his own right and the people who support Paul are really good people. There’s a really good mix of people there and there’s a real nice crowd. They love country music.”

It’s a place they’re glad to call home.

“We’ve played a lot of places but I don’t think we’ve ever played a place that was so open to original music, let alone original country music. It’s just a real rare find these days to find a place that supports local artists doing their own thing,” Galbraith said.

Corduroy Road hits the Commercial Tavern stage at 8 p.m. on July 29 and 30, and the show runs for three hours. Cover is $10 per person.

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