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Bluegrass music may suffer from an identity crisis, but the Hoss Mountain Stringband doesn’t mind

Bluegrass and folk music has found a home in Victoria 
Hoss Mountain String Band.

It’s been said that bluegrass music is a genre with an identity crisis. 

“It’s music that borrows from blues, old-time folk, Irish and Scottish traditions and just about any kind of music you can think of,” said Paul Moquin, the frontman for the popular Victoria bluegrass group, the Hoss Mountain Stringband. 

“It incorporates all kinds of music into its style, but that’s what we like about it. We love the high, lonesome sound of the music combined with close three-part harmonies.” 

Moquin shares that love of bluegrass with the rest of the band, made up of Mark Johnson on stand-up bass and Kris Boyd on the mandolin. They’re joined by two long-standing blue-gass musicians with a long history in Victoria – Mike Kraft on the banjo and Alan Law on the Dobro. 

(For the uninitiated, the Dobro is a brand of resonator guitar originally manufactured back in the 1920’s by a company founded by the Dopyera brothers.) 

“The Dobro is sort of like a steel slide guitar, and it’s a classic bluegrass instrument,” said Moquin. “And nobody plays it better than Alan.” 

The group originally met through the Victoria Bluegrass Association where they’d gather for weekly jam sessions. 

“We were jamming there, and the bluegrass festival needed somebody to sing. I got these guys together and we went there and jammed some songs, and the reception was amazing, so we decided then and there to form the band.” 

The group now plays a variety of gigs all around the Island and recently took the main stage at the Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival at the Laketown Ranch Music Park, at Lake Cowichan. 

“That was sort of a dream come true,” said Moquin. “I’d been volunteering at that festival for years and now I finally had a band that was good enough to play the main stage.” 

The following for bluegrass has experienced a significant upswing in recent years with artists like Billy Strings, Alison Krauss, Sam Bush and a host of others bringing the niche of Appalachian music into mainstream popularity. 

“This is great music,” Moquin said. “It has tight harmonies, fast pickin’, swing elements and, most of all, it tells stories. In fact, we like to think of ourselves as storytellers. 

In addition to playing their catalogue of traditional bluegrass favourites, the group has added some original material and hopes to do some recording in the coming winter.  

And although the band is slowing down their live performances for the remainder of the summer, fans of bluegrass need not despair. The Victoria Bluegrass Association is hosting a series of Backyard Bluegrass Jams this summer at 1528 Davie Street. They’ll run from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. on July 2, 23, 30 and Aug. 6,13, and 20. 

In addition, you might want to check out some amazing Victoria musicians at their weekly sessions at ‘Norway House’ located at 1110 Hillside Ave. in Victoria. Shows start at 7:30 every Sunday and feature some of Victoria’s best folk and bluegrass musicians.