The Barra MacNeils are one of Canada’s premier Celtic groups. The family band from Sydney Mines is deeply rooted in Celtic music, culture and history, and consistently wows audiences with their captivating vocals, harmonies and musicianship. After more than 25 years, the group is as busy as ever, having released two new recordings in 2012–a live album with Symphony Nova Scotia and a special project recorded with a variety of musical guests from Celtic Colours. With multiple lead vocalists, beautiful sibling harmonies, top-drawer instrumental prowess on a wide variety of instruments, dancing, storytelling, Gaelic songs and a journey through an ancient culture, The Barra MacNeils live in concert must be experienced to be believed.
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Heartwood Slacks is a five-man band from Cape Breton who, with their lineup of banjo, guitars, blues harp, mandolin and bass fiddle, could easily be mistaken for an American heritage revival band. The players have shared stages and bills for years—a variety of local “band-me-downs” who were weaned on blues, metal and country music. Heartwood Slacks principle songwriter John Gill bangs out incomparably sincere, catchy, melodic bar-room shout along songs. In their three-years together, the Slacks have been attracting attention with performances around the Maritimes and have just released their first album, cleverly named Heartwood Slacks.
Breabach delivers a thrilling and unique brand of contemporary folk music, which has earned the group international recognition on the world and roots music scene as one of the UK’s most dynamic and powerful bands. Voted Best Group at the Scots Trad Music Awards, Breabach have also received nominations in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and as European Folk Group of the Year in the German Folk Awards. The band intertwine highland bagpipes, fiddle, guitar, bass, flute, bouzouki, step dance, Gaelic and Scots song to produce a diverse and captivating performance.
Multi-instrumentalist Allie Bennett has toured internationally and has over 125 album projects to his credit as a studio musician. Frequently called on to play the role of musical director and band-leader for events like the East Coast Music Awards, the Cape Breton Summertime Revue and Howie’s Celtic Brew, Allie has won East Coast Music Awards for co-producing Dave Gunning’s A Tribute to John Allan Cameron and the prestigious Musician’s Achievement Award. Always in demand for studio and touring work, Allie has just released his second CD, “Full Circle”, a follow-up to his 2004 debut “It’s About Time”.
Dry Bones is the perfect combination of contemporary songwriting highly influenced both by traditional music and by the great songwriters of earlier times. In some ways it’s like new wine in an old bottle, you can taste the freshness but the ghosts of time past weave their haunting melodic strands throughout the music. Nathan Rogers, Leonard Podolak (the Duhks) and J.D. Edwards are all very experienced players and composers who individually have cut their own wide swath within the folk world. Together they form an imposing musical troika not to be trifled with; they are the young giants who will lead others towards the future.
Liz Carroll was born in Chicago of Irish parents. She’s a junior and senior All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, and has toured as a solo artist and with the Greenfields of America, Trian, String Sisters, and as part of the duo Liz Carroll & John Doyle. She’s featured on nine albums and has appeared on many more. Liz is a recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship Award (1994). In 2009 she became the first Irish-American musician nominated for a Grammy. In 2011, she became the first American born composer honored with the Cumadóir TG4, Ireland’s most significant traditional music prize.
The Modern Grass is a collective of musicians who all have some obsession with days gone by, contrasted with a vision for the future. Born in early 2011 in Halifax, they have since released five albums and toured the nation extensively and relentlessly. The group’s latest award-winning album, High on the Mountain, explores new territory in folk, roots, and bluegrass music. It shares forms and ideas from musical styles of the past, and tells the stories of a modern day troubador.
A high energy traditional trio comprised of Colin Grant (fiddle), Jason Roach (piano), and Darren McMullen (multi-Instrumentalist) is integrated with the rough and red-eyed blues/funk rhythm section of Merlin Clarke and Donnie Calabrese 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, earning themselves an international reputation as one of the most dynamic and versatile live acts in the Celtic music world (and beyond).