Halifax-based bluegrass bombardiers, The Modern Grass, swing into Victoria’s Solstice Café June 29 in support of their recent release High On The Mountain.
The Modern Grass’ music trundles and twists with lightning fast finger-picking, head bobbing, boot stomping rhythms and an easy-feeling blend of yesteryear’s dustiest and gutsiest musical traditions.
The band formed in Halifax just over a year ago when lead-singer and guitarist Tom Terrell, a former mainstay in Victoria’s bluegrass scene, jumped from the West coast to the East and joined forces with resophonic guitar player Andrew Sneddon, double-bass man Adam Cyril Pye, fiddle player Donald Maclennan and, more recently, banjo and mandolin player Daniel Maccormack. Drawn together by a fierce dedication to music making and an iron-willed determination to carve a life out of doing just that, the band remains constant in its focus and growth both as individual players and as lovers of music.
“As players and listeners, we have come a long way since the last album,” says Terrell over the phone from a friends house in Victoria where the band is based while they play a slew of shows on the Gulf Islands. “The traditions that resonate with us are many and we draw on things like country, bluegrass, swing, bebop, jazz, manouche, Chicago blues, Texas blues, Delta blues and even classical music.”
For High On The Mountain, The Modern Grass found themselves recording in Halifax’s CBC Studio H with producer Karl Falkenham. While Falkenham was mixing a live concert recording the band did at CBC, they approached him about working together on their new project. After putting together a quick budget and realizing it was feasible, the band set to work rehearsing relentlessly for months before stepping into the studio to craft a cohesive batch of barn-burners (The Twin Butte Breakdown), twangy toe-tappers (Tears & Laughter) and bluesy ballads (Like You’re Gone).
“We took two days to record the album and one day to mix it,” Terrell says. “This decision was made largely by our budget because we wanted to record in the best studio in town, with the best equipment, and with a producer who could make a great album possible in a small amount of time. There was a lot of pressure to nail the tunes because a no-good take equaled money down the drain. I think the album gives you a snapshot of the band where we stand, or stood then.”
And a fine snapshot it is. Capturing inventive musicianship and songwriting that speaks to the bands acute awareness for detail, High On A Mountain’s rich tapestry of sound offers something new with each listen.
“I am not so much proud, but relieved,” Terrell says. “To discover that this dream we have of playing and recording and marketing music the way it used to be done, homegrown and with dedication and focus, and to be able to come out with a product that we are happy with and that is allowing us to continue doing what we love, it is such a relief. It was an experiment and the results so far are amazing.”
Catch the show Friday at 7:30 p.m. $10. M
By Dylan Toigo