Paul MacDonald is a musician of many talents who has traveled throughout traditional music circles both at home and abroad. An accomplished guitarist, Paul has performed with musicians such as Jerry Holland, Joe Derrane, Sharon Shannon, John MacLean and The Boys of The Lough. Paul is also a skilful and creative music producer and engineer and his audio restorations have put many fine old recordings back into circulation. Since 2003, Paul has lectured on Celtic Music at St. FX University, Antigonish, presenting old recordings he has collected throughout his career. Paul has performed with violin-maker and composer Otis Tomas since 1988.
Ray Legere is one of today’s most honored Bluegrass fiddlers. His many awards include five-time winner of the Eastern and Central Division Bluegrass Awards in the categories of Mandolin and Fiddle, winner of two Open Mandolin Championships and finalist in the Canadian and Nashville’s Grand Masters Fiddle Championships. Ray’s extensive tour schedule includes backing artists like Michelle Shocked, Tony Rice, John McDermott, Alison Brown, Rita McNeil and finding time to be “house fiddler” for a popular French Canadian music TV series. He has recorded for hundreds of sessions and graced world-renowned stages such as Carnegie Hall and the Grand Ole Opry.
Sydney Mines native Shane O’Handley has played in bands encompassing a multitude of styles: the cluster-rock ensemble of The Tom Fun Orchestra, the power rock trio sound of Carmen Townsend, Three Piece Suit’s surf rock, the shambolic punk of Mess Folk and Airport’s indie rock acoustic weirdness. Known mostly for his bass playing, Shane’s solo performances weave skillful guitar picking with his gift for melody and his soft, reassuring vocal. His full musical skill set is on display when his band, The Jaynes, perform with Shane at the helm switching between bass, mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar.
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.
Armed with a love of jigs, reels and ballads honoured in Newfoundland, and an energy found more often in 3 piece punk rock bands than 5 piece folk acts, their accordions, fiddle and talent have shaken national festivals including Winnipeg, Mariposa, and Vancouver. Barely into their twenties, they’ve intuitively become the keepers of the songs we love and have sought out tunes that may have otherwise been lost to the culture forever. A new breed of folk musician with a wide sense of the world and a firm belief that Newfoundlanders can hold their own with the best players the world has to offer.
Conor and Rory Makem continue the lineage of one of Irish music’s dynasties, begun by their grandmother Sarah Makem, who was sought after by song collectors for her store of traditional Irish songs. Their father is Tommy Makem, the modern day Bard of Armagh. The Spain Brothers also learned Irish songs at their father’s knee. Mickey’s rich, baritone voice and Liam’s mastery of stringed instruments quickly found a home when the Makems met the Spains and the brothers realized the power of their combined talents. With a host of instruments and precise harmonies, the Makem and Spain Brothers honour the legacy of Irish folk songs.
The Men of the Deeps is a choir of working and retired coal miners from Cape Breton Island, organized in 1966 as part of Cape Breton’s contribution to Canada’s Centennial Year. The Men of the Deeps have released nine albums, been the subject of two NFB films and one book, toured around the world and frequently been featured on TV and radio. Today the Men of the Deeps are more than a singing group – it is a social institution. There is a camaraderie amongst the members of the group that carries over to their audiences wherever they perform.
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.