Ten Strings and a Goat Skin
ST JAMES HALL i
3214 West 10th Ave, Kitsilano
Accessible All ages
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Ten Strings and a Goat Skin
Age-old entertainments – sitting around the fire, telling tales – can take on ever-new faces. Young acoustic power trio Ten Strings and a Goat Skin from Canada’s Prince Edward Isle know this, transforming tradition with vigor, curiosity, and sparks of goofy humor.
They’re inviting a new circle of listeners Auprès du Poêle (“Around the Woodstove”; released June 12, 2016) for sometimes moody, sometimes high-energy set of original and traditional songs. Expanding on the Scottish and Acadian roots of PEI’s traditional music, Ten Strings and a Goatskin weave old-school Franco-Canadian, Breton, Irish, and Scottish tunes with wickedly current grooves and clever quirks, flirting with indie’s best moments.
“We’re less anchored in traditional structures, the way many players assemble dance sets,” remarks Rowen Gallant, one of the trio’s string players. “We’ve left them by the wayside. We retain the melodic elements, but we’re not opposed to messing with things.”
Working closely with producer Leonard Podolak of Grammy- and Juno-winning eclectic roots favorites The Duhks, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin push their music into new territory, adding B3 and crazed pump organ, clever effects and taut vocal harmonies, for a rich sound with a direct, funky edge. It promises to gather listeners outside of folk circles, where they are already darlings, around the warm glow of fast-burning tradition.
“Leonard really urged us to create themes and then keep coming back and hinting at them. We never do a movement the same way twice,” adds Caleb Gallant, whose main role in the group is traditional percussion. “We’re always refreshing the feel of the tune, as the idea changes ever so slightly.”
“It’s been a wild ride. It happened to us early,” explains Rowen, considering the trio’s rapid rise to prominence on the folk circuit. Already embraced by the Canadian folk scene, they recently made the Kansas City Star’s list of top traditional acts at this year’s Folk Alliance.
“We were fortunate to start touring and engaging more professionally in our teens,” Rowen muses. “There have been great resources to help us along in that change. But really, it’s only been in the last year or so, that we reached a point where we’re doing most of the songwriting and all the arrangements. The project has embraced more and more of who we are, with tradition acting as our anchor point.”
It’s been a lifelong anchor for the Gallants, who remember travelling with their mother to Irish and Scottish music sessions around the Canadian Maritimes. They started a band with schoolmate and guitarist Jesse Périard, sticking to traditional repertoire at first. Soon, however, inspired by musicians friends from PEI’s lively avant-pop and rock scene, they began exploring new approaches to arranging and began crafting their own songs and instrumentals. Their work with Podolak, a trailblazer in making folk fresh, urged them in dynamic, engaging directions.
“We love trad music and we have a long list of bands we listen to all the time,” notes Périard. “But we get lots of other ideas from other music. There’s lots of amazing music from PEI that’s less trad, more pop, and that’s shaped us.” “Coal not Dole” and “Maudit Anglais” (featuring the gorgeous voices of Montreal’s alt-folk favorites Les Poules à Colin) highlight this cross pollination.
Yet the trio never forgets its powerful ties to the many musics of PEI, the island’s rich mix of Celtic and Francophone elements that ramble from mouth music to foot percussion. Originals take their cues sonically from this wealth and lyrically from a deeply felt connection to the history of Eastern Canada (“Caledonia”).
The album’s title track, “Auprès du Poêle,” highlights where these connections twine with contemporary sensibilities. Caleb penned the poem after the first snow fell on PEI. It chronicles the joys of work completed, of chasing winter’s gloom away around the stove, a feeling that stuck with the trio as they recorded in Quebec with Podolak.
“We’d come home after a 12-hour studio day and enjoy the most wonderful elements of traditional culture in the winter,” recalls Rowen. “Lots of wonderful music was played all around us, thanks to Leonard and the Duhks,” who make guest appearances on the album’s party-set closer “Duhk Duhk Goat.” “Those moments became the inspiration for the record. There’s a culture of fighting off the doldrums of winter that’s build into the traditional home. The stove is an integral part of that.”
“Musically the song takes you in a bunch of different directions, and shows how far we’ve come as arrangers,” adds Périard. It’s something that all three of us put an even amount of work into, and we’re very proud of it.”
"The second studio album from Prince Edward Island’s TSAAGS is a truly exciting recording. Indeed, Auprès Du Poêle carries on where their first, Corbeau, left off. This youthful award-winning Anglo/ Francophone fiddle/guitar/bodhran trio of Jesse Periard, Rowen Gal-lant, and Caleb Gallan have since made a big splash and garnered many great reviews. They present an accomplished potpourri of Irish, French, Acadian, and original music, well seasoned with world beat grooves. They’ve been eloquently described as, “A seamless, polished, barrel-drum-tight, rhythmically innovative and wildly entertaining traditional music powerhouse”. That quote serves as an excellent appetizer for those of you yet to hear them. Yet it still fails to do them complete justice. Since words can’t really explain how good they sound, you’ll have to listen for yourself. Get a copy, turn it up, and these boys will do the rest! - Penguin Eggs
"Ten Strings and a Goat Skin (from the album Auprès du Poêle) – Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province and home to Ten Strings and Goat. The Maritime trio play traditional and original tunes on their recent release,Auprès du Poêle. The French title translation sets the mood for the album as ‘around the stove’. The songs are homespun as Ten Strings and Goat Skin weave musical history into Auprès du Poêle with threads of Franco-Canadian, Breton, Irish, and Scottish melodies. The band’s Rowen Gallant cites that the group is ‘less anchored in traditional structures, the way many players assemble dance sets. We’ve left them by the wayside. We retain the melodic elements, but we’re not opposed to messing with things’.Auprès du Poêle rushes the rhythms on its title track, entering on lightning quick strums and beats as the fiddle flies. Stories find homes as they lay down in Folk music beds in “When First I Came to Caledonia” as the rhythms slow to match the unraveling of a “Small Town” while the fiddle cries to open a “Lament for Buckles”, and slowly pulls on its strings before letting go of “Shoot the Moon” to spin like a top. Ten Strings and a Goat Skin went to The Duhks Leonard Podolak as producer for Auprès du Poêle, blending together in closing cut “Duhk Duhk Goat”. - The Alternate Root
Ben Miller and Anita MacDonald
Ben and Anita blend the rich traditional sound of the Cape Breton fiddle, with the fiery edge of the Scottish Border pipes. Combining their creative vision with influences from Old and New World Gaelic traditions, they create a powerful sound. Since meeting at the 2013 Celtic Colours Festival, they have toured across North America and further afield, wowing audiences with their captivating blend of driving dance tunes and soulful Gaelic airs.
Ben is an American-born player of Scottish bagpipes, currently living in Halifax, NS. His interest in traditional music stems from his exposure to the pipes at a young age, in his hometown of Queensbury, New York, as well as his family’s strong connections to its Scottish and Irish roots, through both his American mother and Canadian father. He began studying the Highland Bagpipes around age eight, but by twelve he began to shift his focus to the bellows-blown Scottish smallpipes and Border pipes. Ben is also an academic, holding an undergraduate degree in Music, as well as a Master's degree in Scottish Ethnology, from the University of Edinburgh's School of Scottish Studies. His repertoire and style draw mainly on the Gaelic traditions of Western Scotland and the Canadian Maritimes, blended with a healthy dash of Irish tunes for good measure.
Anita is an accomplished musician, dancer, and Gaelic singer from Little Narrows, Cape Breton. She began step-dancing in the family kitchen at the tender age of four, and picked up the fiddle a few short years later, at age eight. She has been wowing audiences with her impeccable timing and neatly choreographed steps ever since. Anita’s fiddle playing has a distinctive sound, influenced by the deep roots of her musical family. Her energetic style has put her in demand as a performer and teacher, across Cape Breton and beyond. Anita is also the recipient of the Frank “Big Sampie” Sampson Award, nominated by the Celtic Colours Festival Drive’ers Association. Following this award, Anita released her debut album, “Stepping Stone,” during the Celtic Colours International Festival in 2011.
"... One of the most important folk acts on Cape Breton Island today." - CBC Main Street (Nova Scotia).
"... Fiery... Fresh, yet totally traditional... Excellent entertainment!" - Piping Today Magazine (Glasgow, UK)
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