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Wendy Rose: High & Lonesome — my best-kept secret

Members of the High and Lonesome Ramblers pose for a picture taken by Jody Richardson.
Members of the High and Lonesome Ramblers pose for a picture taken by Jody Richardson. - Submitted

I could pour out a novel’s worth of appreciation for The High & Lonesome Ramblers, but writing a review of the local bluegrass band is tough — because I’ve been actively avoiding putting the band in print for well over a year.

I kept this secret from you, because I want to know I’ll get a good seat at the show, with an unobstructed view of a six-piece band powering through a rousing old-timey bluegrass set.

I know that if I tell you about this absolutely awesome event, you’ll go. You’ll steal the table I like. This is a sacrifice I am finally going to make, because you need to hear this band.
 

I know that if I tell you about this absolutely awesome event, you’ll go. You’ll steal the table I like. This is a sacrifice I am finally going to make, because you need to hear this band.

A run-down of the band’s roster will tell you why: Dave Rowe of O’Brien’s Music on mandolin, Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra’s Carole Bestvater on fiddle, farmer/musician Matt Hender on upright bass, Mark Tracey, a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology on banjo, music teacher Clayton Saunders on guitar, and singer/songwriter Matthew Hornell switching between guitar and fiddle.
I rattled off this same list to two very impressed Americans at the bar Friday night, who were shocked by the avalanche of info. “How do you know all of this? Are you a stalker?”

For The High and Lonesome Ramblers, you could say that I am. I’ve followed them from their original venue of The Rose and Thistle, up to Bannerman Park for the 2017 Folk Festival, onwards to their new home at Erin’s Pub, and now, to The Ship Pub on a Friday night.

I’m to the point where I know the bulk of their set list. I can guess tunes by the intro banter, and I am able to sing along with most songs.

I keep returning because the musicianship is truly incredible. Cramming six bodies and instruments onstage, the band presents a vast set list, jumping from fast-paced pickin’ tunes to slow, tender ballads. No matter the tempo, the energy is always high, with impressive vocal harmonies captivating the audience.

The audience is welcome to join the band, with guests hopping on and off the stage throughout the night. On Friday, new musicians joined the six-piece, with Ontarians Luke Rose and John Moran adding guitar and vocals for a handful of tunes. Later, the band enlisted the talent of “Colin from Canada” on guitar.

Longtime local musicians also take part in the Wednesday-evening tradition, such as Crooked Stovepipe, Sherry Ryan, Craig Young, Chris Meyers and Len O’Neill (Green & Gold), trio Smith, Sandu, and Laite, Maria Cherwick (The Kubasonics), Pat Boyle, Joanna Barker, Mark Manning (Rum Ragged), Mark Bragg, Graham Wells, Josh Ward, Aaron Collis (Rum Ragged, The Dardanelles), Mick Davis, and many more.

Visiting musicians also seem to get wind of the event. I’ve witnessed a rousing cover of “Fox on the Run” with Ed Robertson (Barenaked Ladies), stared in awe as Jim Bowskill (The Sheepdogs, Blue Rodeo) shredded on mandolin, watched the performance with Greg Keelor (Blue Rodeo), and shared the magic with members of July Talk.

And now I’m reluctantly sharing the magic with you. If you find yourself looking for fun on a Wednesday night, head to Erin’s Pub and you’ll find it.
Did I mention the pie raffle? No? OK. I’ll omit those details. I don’t want to give you any more good reasons to steal my favourite corner table.

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