Duane Andrews and Craig Young perform live for new CD
Two of the best guitarists in the province have combined their talents for an eclectic album blending bluegrass, jazz, traditional folk and country.
Released last month, “Charlie’s Boogie” finds Duane Andrews and Craig Young plucking the strings of their acoustic guitars on 12 tracks, mixing traditional tunes with the works of Émile Benoit, Bill Monroe, Django Reinhardt and others, including their own material.
Though they have only connected musically in recent years, the pair were aware of each other dating back to when Duane’s musician brother, Curtis, was attending university with Young’s sister, Fran.
“I never went long periods of time without talking with her, even when I was out on the road playing in country bands,” said Young, who is from the southwest coast of Newfoundland but now lives in St. John’s. “I remember calling her when she was living in St. John’s, and she’d tell me about Duane.”
Young spent many years in Alberta performing with well known Canadian country artists. He eventually moved to Nashville and spent eight years in the backing band for Canadian country singer Terri Clark.
Since returning to Newfoundland and Labrador, Young has released two solo albums. His most recent one, “Black Diamond Strings,” earned Young a country artist of the year MusicNL award and also included Andrews on one track.
“Then after we did that one track in the studio, we were like, ‘Well, we’ve got to do some more,’” said Andrews, who is best known for his instrumental work in the folk and jazz genres.
The pair reckons that about 20 songs were considered for the album before they settled on the 12 tracks that make up “Charlie’s Boogie.” The title song is an old tune by Canadian country songwriter Smiley Bates.
For Andrews and Young, being prepared prior to recording was an important factor in making the album a success. With only two guitars performing live together on every track, there would be no way to fix their performances after the fact.
Andrews can point out common elements in the music they performed on the album. Noting that bluegrass legend Bill Monroe and jazz great Django Reinhardt performed during the same era in the early 20th century, Andrews highlights the rhythmic similarities in their music.
“In that kind of swing jazz, it’s just downbeats on the quarter notes, which is similar to what you do when you’re backing bluegrass. So I think we found there were enough common elements in the styles that seem like they’re separate, like jazz and bluegrass, that we could just immediately fall into it.”
Andrews also notes Munroe’s interest in collecting tunes from Scotland, Ireland and England to help form the bedrock of bluegrass, much like proponents of traditional Newfoundland folk have done for decades.
Growing up in communities like Burgeo, Ramea and Francois, Young was primarily exposed to country music and did not hear mention of provincial folk legends like Émile Benoit and Rufus Guinchard for many years.
“The Irish music didn’t really make it over there except for Ryan’s Fancy,” said Young. “When I came back here, being in St. John’s, I was exposed to the Irish music and the true Newfoundland music. I recognized right away — I learned a lot of bluegrass living in Tennessee — there are some similarities. A lot of the bluegrass music has the same tunes, but they call (the songs) by different names.”
Mostly an instrumental recording, the album does let Young use his pipes for one song, a cover of Texas folksinger Jerry Faires’ “The D-18 Song.”
Working with so many styles did present some challenges. Young specifically cites the Reinhardt number “Babik” as “a monster for me,” while Andrews had to listen closely to Young’s playing in order to determine how he would work his way into Monroe’s “Tennessee Blues.”
“We reached and then went beyond our limits many times,” said Andrews, who is originally from Carbonear.
They will perform in Freshwater Friday night at the United Church Hall and the next night in St. John’s at The Ship.
The duo is also set to perform 1 p.m. Sunday at Fred’s Records and is scheduled to perform in the Annual Holiday Wassail on Dec. 15 at George Street United Church in St. John’s.
The pair only had one live show under their belt before venturing into the studio, but have since developed their arrangements further. Andrews said they have enough material for a second album.