Strung is a new musical possibility.
It brings together four names to conjure within deep roots music these days - Doug Cox, Tony McManus, April Verch and Cody Walters – and while the words "power quartet" have not often been heard together in contemporary acoustic music, the times they still are a changin'.
Their personal roots run from Scotland to the Ottawa Valley out to the Canadian West and finally the American Midwest Connecting those four dots runs about 8,500 Km, and the journey spans generations and musical traditions from Europe, India and all over the US and the UK. Collectively, their personal musical histories include making music with Long John Baldry, Martyn Bennett, Salil & Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Kevin Burke, Phil Cunningham, Liz Doherty, Amos Garrett, Andy Irvine, Seikou Keita, Dougie McLean, Natalie MacMaster, Catriona MacDonald, Bruce Molsky, Mark O'Connor, Dirk Powell, Kate Rusby on stage and in the studio.
Strung's skill sets include playing, performing, recording, composing, producing, backing, teaching, parenting and road warrior. This alone might conjure the term "power quartet" but this quartet's power does not come from proverbial stacks of amps at 11.
This quartet's power comes from listening… the kind of listening that comes with the territory when you are playing with some of the world's finest musicians. In some musical circles, instrumentalists with this level of focus and technique, are known as "the musicians other musicians listen to". Some European traditions use the term "virtuoso."
This is a new project, but it’s no “baby band”. These artists share more than 50 years of experience and choose their projects carefully. The result, the recording you hold in your hands, is proof that Strung is a quartet you want to keep an ear out for, and one you want to be in the room with when they get deeper into the music.
"This virtuoso brings the Dobro into the drawing room and the concert hall. It's no longer just a case of country backup, it's a front-and-centre solo instrument." ---JURGEN GOTHE, CBC's Discdrive
Doug Cox is a Folk da Vinci. “Jack of all trades” sounds more folky, but the truth is he’s mastered a number of them. As an artist, he’s earned an enviable reputation on five of the bigger continents, playing on some of the most respected stages in roots music. His most recent project, with Salil Bhatt, is being favourably compared to Ry Cooder’s recording with Salil’s father Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. The “da Vinci” element refers to the way his own music is an organic part of a much larger life. It starts with home and his family and also includes touring, composing, teaching, programming a major festival, co-producing a growing catalogue of musical “how to” DVDs and being one of the most respected voices in the Canadian roots scene. His MySpace page spells out (for nearly 3,000 friends) the time he dedicates to performing and also to teaching at music camps from Kerrville to the Cotswolds and back to BC and Alaska every year. It’s the schedule of someone who chooses their projects very carefully.
"The finest guitarist Scotland has ever produced” -BBC RADIO
It’s been a little more than 50 years since guitars first started hanging around the edges of Celtic music, looking for a way into the music pipers and fiddlers had evolved over centuries. Only a handful of guitarists have found that zone to date. Dick Gaughan is one. Tony is another. His personal sense of traditional music begins in Scotland but also includes Ireland, Brittany, Galicia, Quebec, Asturies, Cape Breton and Eastern Europe. From timeless traditional pieces to the Mingus classic “Pork Pie Hat”, his musical world is big and getting bigger all the time. There’s never been more people on the planet playing the guitar, but for a’ that, few on any instrument in any generation ever find a way of listening and a way of playing that strikes a punter as a distinct musical voice. Tony McManus has, and in doing so has given us all a new way to hear the heart of the music many thought they knew. Strung is the next step.
“Her voice…swings easily from contemporary country to traditional gospel…her fiddling at once articulate, crisp and spunky – is an endless delight…” --OTTAWA CITZEN
For a “new world” country, Canada has a lot of different fiddle traditions, Some are centuries old and some are being born right now. April Verch’s musical roots are in a tradition that not even hard-core folk music listeners can tell you much about. Like Cape Breton or Quebec, the settlers in the Ottawa Valley were Scottish and French, but unlike them, the settlers were just as likely to be Irish, German or Polish. After two hundred years of playing together, a very special and unique repertoire, style of playing, and even stepdance have evolved. April grew up in this tradition, step-dancing to traditional fiddling for three long years before her parents finally relented and got her the fiddle she’d been asking for when she turned six. The longest, and probably hardest, part of her path as an artist led her to becoming the first woman to win both the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle and Open Fiddle Championships. April is well into her third decade of music. She’s writing and singing her own songs as well as traditional material. She’s teaching and is still a serious student of other traditions, especially the Appalachian. Hook that up with technique that’s got it covered and the energy that only a younger artist can bring to the bow, with players like Mr. Cox and Mr. MacManus and you have a good reason to go out and listen.
Cody Walters grew up in rural northeastern Kansas, and started playing upright bass while attending college at the University of Kansas in 1999. The sound of the instrument grabbed hold of him and never let go. He has since played in various bands, performing different styles of music, from bluegrass to old-time, jazz to latin, folk and country and most spots in between. More recently he has begun to play clawhammer banjo to add a melody to the low end of his sound. He currently resides in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts and is performing with the April Verch band.