A traditional trio comprised of Jason ”leaden-left-hand” Roach (piano, Dawn and Margie Beaton), the embarrassingly talented Darren McMullen (mandolin, guitar, banjo, J.P. Cormier), and fiddler Colin Grant is integrated with the rough and red-eyed blues/funk rhythm section of Merlin Clarke and Donnie Calabrese (Tom Fun Orchestra) to produce a kind of Celtic fusion that is as much Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and Frank Zappa as it is Ashley MacIsaac. While their lively sound never strays too far from its Cape Breton roots, Sprag Session has caught the ear of everyone from indie scenesters to blue-haired bingo stampers.
Six time Grammy winners, The Chieftains are now recognized for bringing traditional Irish music to the world’s attention. They have uncovered the wealth of traditional Irish music accumulated over the centuries, making it their own with a style as exhilarating as it is definitive. Although their early following was purely a folk audience, the range and variation of their music very quickly captured a much broader public, making them the best known Irish band in the world today. The Chieftains played at the first Celtic Colours in 1997 and since they’re on their 50th anniversary tour, we figured it was only right to have them back this year.
From their beginnings as three actors who also loved to sing together, The Once has embraced a different vision of Newfoundland music. Their sound does not come from the noisy pubs and dockside taverns that fuel so much of the Island’s energy. Instead, their music comes from a quieter and more thoughtful place. Lead singer Geraldine Hollett is accompanied by Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale on guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bouzouki, to create a perfect blend of voice and melody. Sometimes melancholy, sometimes funny, always poignant, The Once sound like nothing else that has ever come from Newfoundland.
Victor Tomiczek is a Cape Breton songwriter and musician who fronts the rock and roll band Ladyslippers and writes and performs his own acoustic troubadour brand of country songs. Since 2005, Tomiczek has toured Australia, Ireland, Scotland, England, and Canada as banjo and guitar player for the Tom Fun Orchestra. Co-producing the Cape Breton Protest Song Project in 2011, Tomiczek recruited an ensemble of local musicians to write music to the protest poetry of the early 1900s labour movement, bridging two artistic eras and carrying forward the words of the workers from Cape Breton’s strong industrial past.
Bruce Molsky stands today as the premier old-time fiddler in the world, the defining virtuoso of Appalachia’s timeless folk music traditions. In addition to a prolific solo career, performing on fiddle, guitar, and banjo, Molsky frequently joins genre-busting supergroups like the Grammy-nominated Fiddlers Four, Mozaik, and Celtic giant Donal Lunny. He also performs in a trio with Scottish fiddler Aly Bain and Sweden’s great Ale Moller. In the spring of 2012, Bruce become a member of the Berklee faculty for a semester teaching old-time and traditional music. Bruce returns to Celtic Colours this year after being Artist in Residence at the Festival last year.
April Verch is from the Ottawa Valley, an area with a rich, distinctive musical and stepdancing tradition shaped by the diverse roots of the immigrants drawn to the region’s lumber camps. With her band, she plays traditional and original songs that draw from all over the world, but are clearly filtered through her immersion in the style she grew up with in the Ottawa Valley. The April Verch Trio consists of world-class musicians Hayes Griffin on guitar and Cody Walters on upright-electric bass and banjo. Together, these three passionate musicians tour tirelessly across Canada, the United States, the U.K., Europe and Australia.
Ben Furey grew up in Coxheath, Cape Breton Island. A graduate of St. Francis Xavier’s music program, he writes and performs songs on his own and with bluegrass rowdies Crowdis Bridge. Quickly becoming an accomplished guitarist, mandolin, and banjo picker, Ben is establishing himself as a quality utility player in multiple genres, most recently being called to play alongside Darren McMullen, Chrissy Crowley, Sprag Session, and J.P. Cormier. After playing festivals in the United Kingdom and France this summer, Ben is excited by the possibilities and looks forward to creating similar opportunities in the future.
Roger Stone introduces Clawhammer style and basic frailing and drop thumb banjo techniques.