“Our band is a source of confusion, sometimes,” admits mandolinist Adrian Gross of Toronto’s internationally-acclaimed bluegrass prodigies The Slocan Ramblers.
“Our bassist Alastair Whitehead spent all his summers in Kaslo with his grandfather, so there’s the Kootenay connection. The ‘Slocan Rambler’ is an old ore mine near Kaslo.
“When the band started in 2009 we were just four young bluegrass musicians with no long-term plans. Our first gig came around, we needed a bandname, Alastair suggested it … and off we went!”
The natural chemistry and energetic live shows of the Slocan Ramblers have quickly made them the band to watch in Toronto’s thriving acoustic/roots music scene. They host a weekly residency at the Cloak & Dagger Pub, their debut album “Shaking Down the Acorns” (produced by Andrew Collins of the Creaking Tree String Quartet) has been warmly reviewed in Penguin Eggs magazine, and they received no less than three standing ovations at the Mariposa Folk Festival. And they’re performing live in Cranbrook at Lotus Books the evening of Friday July 26th.
“It’s a very exciting time to be an acoustic roots musician in Toronto,” Gross says. “Many great players around; the scene’s always growing quickly. Lots of young bands flourishing and intermingling with older, established veterans. It’s interesting to hear American bands and realize there’s a definitive Toronto bluegrass sound.”
Rounded out lineup-wise by guitarist Darryl Poulsen and Frank Evans on banjo, the Slocan Ramblers are certainly earning their growing reputation, which recently hit a high note at this year’s Toronto Jazz Fest, opening for Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers for an audience of 1700 who were all more than happy to hear them, er, ramble. And this being the Slocan Ramblers’ first Canadian tour, we asked Gross how they’re enjoying their ramblings.
“We enjoy it! We’re all close friends, and we’re either room-mates or neighbours, so we’re used to close quarters. For years now we’ve been performing at least three nights a week, so it’s good to continue the momentum. We work on new material by day on the road and try the ideas live at night. It’s exciting for us and the audience. We hope to make touring a regular occurrence…we’ve hard amazing things about roots music fans out west!”
The Slocan Ramblers are currently working on their new album, as well as video shoots with Jadea Kelly and upcoming tours of the US and Europe. And when asked what advice the Ramblers have for other hopeful roots musicians, Gross had this to say: “The best way to get yourselves out there is by playing tons of shows. Play lots of little shows wherever and whenever you can. Get everyone to know your band exists. That’s half the battle. We did it, and still do. That much playing gets you real tight as a band, and the sheer power of word-of-mouth exposure takes care of a lot of the rest.”
The Slocan Ramblers perform live at Lotus Books (33-10th Ave. S., Cranbrook BC) on Friday, July 26; showtime 8 pm. For more information please phone 250-426-3415.