Got a roots music lover on your holiday shopping list? Consider Lost & Undone: A Gospel Bluegrass Companion, a brand-new release by The High Bar Gang on True North Records.
Surrey audiences got acquainted with the bluegrass-infused, Gospel stylings of The High Bar Gang at this year’s Canada Day performances in Cloverdale on July 1.
Don’t know much about bluegrass? This album is the perfect place to start.
With songs like “I Saw the Light,” “Angel Band,” and “Hand in Hand with Jesus,” it’s a given some listeners will have heard these songs before.
But the arrangements sound fresh and lively, remaining faithful to the spirit and intent of the originals without sounding too reverential or plodding.
But don’t take my word for it. Country Music People magazine in the UK gave the album a five-star review. Not bad for a collaboration among friends and fellow musical travellers that began in an utterly ad hoc fashion.
“This was meant to be a fun project among friends,” read a recent post on the band’s facebook page.
“Who knew that the fun would continue long past the first summer gathering over bluegrass, wine, food and laughs!”
The band describes itself as Classic bluegrass for modern times.
With such notable performers and solo artists as Barney Bentall, Shari Ulrich, Angela Harris, Wendy Bird and others, it’s difficult to disagree with an early tag as a roots supergroup.
Bentall’s fellow Legendary Heart Colin Nairne brought the gang together a few years ago.
The Juno-winning collective also includes Eric Reed, and Bob Becker, and takes its name from the High Bar region of the Cariboo, near the Fraser River, where Bentall spends part of the year.
The album was recorded, live, in mono in Bentall’s living room. They used four microphones, without overdubs.
With sweeping harmonies, plucky mandolin, fiddles and banjo accompanying gorgeous melodies, the album bubbles along like a North Shore mountain creek. The songs – some of the best-loved gospel standards around – make it a fitting soundtrack for this time of year.
Nairne may have gathered these folks together based on friendship, but the the result couldn’t have been more perfect if it had been done in a more calculated fashion. They really make beautiful music together.
Their press material notes The High Bar Gang went from performing their earliest gigs at the tiny North Vancouver Eagles Club to opening for Blue Rodeo – another band that’s recently released its own gorgeous new album, In Our Nature, recorded in a farm house.
That album is also worth a spot under the tree this year.