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Slocan Ramblers

The Slocan Ramblers may be Canadian, but they've carved out a solid place in the world of American bluegrass. They were selected as the IBMA 2020 Momentum Band of the Year Award winners and were nominated for a 2019 Juno Award. This past November, these ramblin' men took a special moment to be still, finding themselves with a sure and perfect grounding in a place they probably never expected they'd ever land: On the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.


"It was kind of an amazing experience to play music in a setting where everybody we learned from got their footing in that same place," explained The Slocan Ramblers banjo player and vocalist Frank Evans.


The appearance followed a period of support of the band's 2022 record, "Up the Hill and Through the Fog." Evans said the 12-track recording – filled with "honest and heartfelt" compositions – was a bit of a departure from their previous records. The process – and its resulting sound – were driven by something over which they had no control: Covid-19. The end result, though, has served them well.


"It was a little bit of a departure from how we normally do it, and that was basically because of Covid," Evans explained. In the past, they'd shape records around what were essentially live performances. In this case, they had to do their parts in-studio. Live recording simply wasn't in the cards.


"We didn't have that luxury this time," Evans said. "It really is kind of a studio album…but we had a lot of fun creating music that way."


Evans is joined by fellow "ramblers" Adrian Gross (mandolin) and Darryl Poulsen (guitar and vocals). Although not an "official" band member, Charles James (bass and vocals) is a somewhat permanent fixture attached to the Ramblers, adding his talent to recordings and live shows.


Evans said something new is on the horizon; fans can already start looking forward to new music.


"We're planning on recording a record this year and will probably do it in Nashville," Evans said. He explained that they'll be aiming even higher for this forthcoming record. He said they've "always tried to make as big a sound as possible with four instruments," but the next record will include guest musicians who will "fill in to make the sound even bigger."


Evans has been at it for a long time; he started on banjo around age nine or 10. His parents took him to a concert in Toronto where he was introduced to the variety of sounds made by different variations of his instrument, including Irish tenor banjo, gourd banjo and bluegrass banjo. He ended up taking lessons for a year from a clawhammer banjo player who had participated in that show.


Evans said his influences – and, in part, the band's inspirations as a whole – run the gamut. He said his listening preferences over the years have "kind of gone from one end of the spectrum to the other" and have included everything from "old time, archived music on old scratchy recordings" to more modern bluegrass, such as Ricky Skaggs. He said a lot of the old music still affects what The Slocan Ramblers perform today.


"Sometimes the classics are what get people excited," Evans said. "Everybody goes crazy for the Monroe stuff."


On the West Coast, fans might be able to catch a show in April when The Slocan Ramblers head out for a California tour. They're also excited to return for a second time to teach at the RockyGrass Academy at Colorado's RockyGrass Festival in July.


While the group appears to be making the western U.S. its ramblin' territory this spring – and will be recording here in the U.S. in Nashville – they're still Canadian. This fact hasn't stood in their way.


"Being a Canadian band playing American music, It's not always clear where we fit in," Evans admitted, "but it's always been completely welcoming. It's always blown us away how welcoming the community is."



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