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Probably my favourite bluegrass band of the moment, Vancouver’s Viper Central are back with a new album of eleven original songs, one Bill Monroe cover and a couple of old tunes from the Canadian Métis tradition. Their debut album, The Devil Sure is Hard to Please married wonderful musicianship with original, contemporary songs absolutely steeped in the tradition. This new album, again produced by band member Mark Vaughan, retains all the virtues of their first collection whilst being a notch sharper, richer and self confident.

      From the opening bars of the first track (Saskatchewan, written by fiddler/singer Kathleen Nisbet)  you’ll know you’re in the company of some high-grade musicians; they create a relaxed vibe as they ease into gear, their well-practised togetherness sounding as easy as a front porch swing, even as their joy and enthusiasm for making this music shines brightly. One of the many good things about this band is that the six players all bring wide experience of other musical enthusiasms to this particular project. Between them they seem to have played everything from classical to jazz, Hawaiian to gospel, and this breadth of expertise seems to give them more scope in their arrangements. It all sounds like bluegrass, but Tyler Rudolph’s Donkeyliner’s Waltz can sound like an old time folk ballad, whilst Thump and Howl sounds more like classic country-meets-swing. At all stops along the way there’s some glorious playing from every band member to relish, from Tim Tweedale’s versatility on dobro and pedal steel to Kathleen Nesbit’s spirited fiddle playing.

       Sharing the writing and the singing around the band works really well for these guys; to have as characterful a singer as Kathleen Nesbit is one thing but to be able to call on three other vocalists just as strong and characterful is quite marvellous, and makes for a really rich experience for the listener. They ring the changes on their arrangements too, keeping it pure and simple for the Métis tunes (just Kathleen on fiddle and Mark Vaughan on mandolin) and the Bill Monroe cover (a quite magical combination of Lorraine Cobb’s vocal and Tim Tweedale’s dobro), or going the whole hog on the likes of A Northern Midwife with some nice’n’easy harmony vocals and pretty much everyone joining in and getting their moment in the spotlight, in traditional bluegrass style. I’m tempted to imagine that their distinctive sound owes much to them being a Canadian band, though I really couldn’t tell you how that works. I just know that these guys make music that’s so straightforwardly joyous, you just can’t resist them.

John Davy

Medicine Show Videolog of a recent visit 

Viper Central play The Medicine Show Stage at Southern Fried Festival Perth and Wild West Fest Bogbain Farm Inverness at the end of July. 

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This site is the sister site to The House Concert Hub community and has been inherited in the main by kind donation of Shaun Belcher and Trailer Star.

It is the sum total of over ten years of tending a tender love of music by Shaun, a life time with Trailer Star and five or so years of an association with Rob Ellen from Medicine Music.

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May 2018

John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Continental Song City
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Columbia Records
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Eight 30 Records
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Bloodshot Records
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2

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