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Bluegrass music is analog in a digital world

Putting a youthful spin on bluegrass music, the Slocan Ramblers are taking the stage Friday night at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener.

Adrian Gross plays mandolin for the Ramblers, and says there are new audiences for the traditional style of music they play.

“It depends on where you are. There is definitely that older bluegrass crowd for sure, and they are big supporters of the band, which is great to see, but there is also a pretty big younger crowd,” he said. “There are a lot of young bluegrass fans, a lot of young bluegrass players and there is a real community around the music, with a few other similar styles in there. We are all cut from the same cloth in a way. In Toronto, we have experienced that multi-generational scene, which is great.”

Made up of Frank Evans on banjo, Gross on mandolin, Darryl Poulsen on guitar and Alastair Whitehead on bass, the band released their debut album, Coffee Creek, in 2015, and has won a couple of awards for their sound, including the Emerging Artist Award at Edmonton Folk Fest in 2015. They were also nominated for Traditional Album of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards last year.

Gross says they can’t wait to share their music with Kitchener-Waterloo audiences after a sold-out show at the River Run Centre in Guelph at the end of March.

“It is a high energy show, and we are working on a lot of new material, trying it out on live audiences, so it is always cool to see how they react. I think people have a good time. We try to keep it all high energy,” he said. “There are definitely dips and variety in the show. When you play one dynamic for the whole show it can get boring, so we make sure to switch it up a little bit. Hopefully there will be a good arc to the show.”

Toronto-based bluegrass band, the Slocan Ramblers, will be visiting the Registry Theatre this weekend, sharing their brand of bluegrass music. From left to right, Alastair Whitehead on bass, Adrian Gross on mandolin, Frank Evans on banjo and Darryl Poulson on guitar. [Submitted]

He says bluegrass music has a special kind of appeal, especially for music fans that haven’t delved into the genre before. There is something different about live bluegrass music.

“It is actually interesting, even if the audience members may not have been a bluegrass fan before,  I think they will find something unique at our shows,” he shared. “I find bluegrass gets this visceral, immediate and emotional response from people. I think most art and culture and music you get today, has gone through some kind of filter or processing – adding something that wasn’t human to make that music or that art happen, whether it is CGI in a film or auto tune on a record, I think there is almost nothing we take in these days that goes directly from one human to another. I think that what we are doing, it is just a bunch of musicians playing acoustic instruments, right into the microphone. It goes right into the audience. There is no filtering, and none of the effects you see in commercial music that is pervasive these days. That kind of immediacy, simplicity and directness makes it refreshing.”

Their name has a bit of history attached to it, but was decided on in a pinch before one of their early shows.

“Slocan Rambler is actually an old abandoned silver mine in the interior of British Columbia and our bass player, he is from Newfoundland, but he spent all of his summers in the Slocan,” explained Gross. “So we had a gig coming up one day, really before we existed as a band and we needed a name like five minutes before we were supposed to go on stage. He had been reading about the history of the region and he was reading all about this silver boom and this rush to get access to the interior that was really interesting and traumatic. There was this old mine that he used to go hiking in called the Slocan Rambler and we thought that was just a cool name. So we just said, ‘okay, we will be the Slocan Ramblers tonight,’ and it just stuck.”

The Slocan Ramblers take the stage at the Registry Theatre Apr. 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $27 and can be purchased online at www.registrytheatre.com or by calling 519-578-1570.

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