A band that will make you dance

Justin Brake
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The Dardanelles host free album release show tonight at The Ship

Tonight is shaping up to be one of those legendary nights downtown St. John's - the ones you hear people talking about only after you've missed something special, but they haven't.

The Dardanelles, a group of young musicians in their 20s who've roused some old spirits and perked some ears in downtown haunts over the past couple years, are finally celebrating the release of their first recording.

The Dardanelles will put off a free show tonight at The Ship Pub. Submitted photo

Tonight is shaping up to be one of those legendary nights downtown St. John's - the ones you hear people talking about only after you've missed something special, but they haven't.

The Dardanelles, a group of young musicians in their 20s who've roused some old spirits and perked some ears in downtown haunts over the past couple years, are finally celebrating the release of their first recording.

And founding band member Tom Power, who hosts the CBC Radio 2 program "Deep Roots," isn't afraid to say he's fortunate for the timing of his group's arrival.

"I think we're about to see a revival and I think the rest of the world and the rest of Canada and North America is about to stand up and pay attention to Newfoundland folk music," he says, fresh off a two-week stint with CBC in Toronto where he filled in for Rich Terfry on the national radio show "Radio 2 Drive".

"The Dards," as they've come to be known around town, have undergone some lineup changes in their four short years. But the current roster has cultivated a tight, energetic stage dynamic that's been recreated on the independent self-titled debut.

Under the guidance and mentorship of local musician and producer Duane Andrews, Power says the band recorded the entire album live in one week.

"We didn't have a tremendous amount of time and we were a little bit stressed about it," he says. "Duane gave us the confidence we needed. We rehearsed a lot, non-stop, for 10 or 12 hours a day in his living room, ordering in meals and just rehearsing and rehearsing so when we went into the studio we wouldn't need to do too many double takes and stuff like that.

"We played the whole record twice a day and chose the takes we liked best. It was a really nice organic way of making the record."

Among the record's many highlights are "Joe's Happy Ship," a medley of Emile Benoit tunes, and "The Boyd's Cove Singles," a set of accordion tunes band member Aaron Collis picked up using Figgy Duff's to-the-source research technique.

"He learned from a 92-year-old fellow named Brendan Newman out in Boyd's Cove," explains Power. "As far as we know they've never ever been recorded and have never been performed live, except by us, in a concert setting."

Having played festivals on the island in summers past, the band made their mainland festival debut this July at the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ont., joining a roster stacked with Canadian musical greats like Daniel Lanois, Valdy, and Buffy Sainte-Marie.

"This is the first time we got off the island," says Power, "and we got a really good reception, which just gave us even more confidence that we could do what we wanted to do."

All members are still in their twenties and doing such different things outside the group - Power has his radio show, fiddler and vocalist Kate Bevan-Baker is working on her Masters at MUN, Collis and his accordion are just entering university, percussionist and tin whistler Rich Klaas is in the military, and bouzouki and banjo player Andrew Dale is also a member of folk trio The Once and performs with rising star Amelia Curran - Power says getting everyone together is difficult at times, but given the recent popularity spurt they've made a commitment to each other.

Getting the band together is difficult at times, but given the recent popularity spurt, they've made a commitment to each other.

"It's almost like it's all happening without our control," Power says. "When we went to Mariposa we were like, 'Let's see how this goes,' and we got such a tremendous ovation that we said we can't not play. We got off stage and we said, 'We can't let this die. This is obviously something a little bit more powerful than the sum of our parts.'"

At home the public response to the band's music has been consistently similar.

"It's a wonderful feeling to just be playing the music that's been entertaining people for so long in our province, and to know that we can entertain a bunch of hippies," he laughs.

The Dardanelles perform a free show at The Ship Pub tonight. Doors open at 8 p.m. and showtime is 8:30 p.m.

For more on the band, visit their MySpace page at www.myspace.com/dardanellesmusic.

Organizations: CBC, The Ship Pub

Geographic location: St. John's, Canada, North America Newfoundland Toronto Orillia

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  • Eileen
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    All the best on your album release! When are you coming to the west coast??

  • Eileen
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    All the best on your album release! When are you coming to the west coast??