Mon, Aug 19, 2013.
A grand time was held at this past weekend's Larlee Creek Hullabaloo in Perth-Andover, with a strong crowd and a couple fo dozen excellent East Coast acts. Headliner/local hero Matt Andersen was on top of his game, gathering hugs all around from friends and family, happy as always to be home, and proud as ever of the high-quality festival that has graced the town for six years now. The only dark clouds on the weekend happened right at the start, a downpour early Friday evening, but after that passed it was clear sailing.
I rushed up as soon as work was done Friday, missing the storm, but also in danger of missing a group I really wanted to catch. Luckily, the wet start pushed the schedule back just enough that as I was walking in, they were taking the stage. I hadn't seen Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys since being introduced to them at Music PEI in early 2012, and I was keen to see if they were as good as I remembered. That's been confirmed. Led by the rubbery-legged fiddler MacKeeman, the quartet rips through a blend of old-time, country, rockabilly and Western Swing, this is a full-on party band on stage, with lots of tricks and entertainment (two guys jamming on the doghouse bass at the same time), excellent solos, and obvious Maritime roots. MacKeeman has a true East Coast style to his fiddling, an obvious student of the local and national playing history, able to quote licks and influences from such past heroes as Al Cherny and Ned Landry.
The good news kept coming, as the group laid its new CD on me as well, called Pickin'-n-Clickin'. A 14-track affair, it features all the sides to the band, originals and traditional covers, instrumentals and vocals as well. There are high energy numbers as the boys break out on fiddle, banjo and guitar, and even some heart-touching ballads, such as the traditional P.E.I. number O'Halloran Road. Refusing to locked into the fiddle mold, you'll find jazzy touches in the sad bluegrass of There Is A Time, with Island girl Meaghan Blanchard providing harmonies, and Hay Boys (co-written by band multi-instrumentalist Thomas Webb) is a farming work song, but a lot more Klezmer than field holler. But there has to be some down-home cooking fiddle numbers too, and those are here, including a swinging take on Lawrence Welk's famed Champagne Polka. Even Guy and Ralna would get down to that one. And guitarist Peter Cann's Scrape The Paint is a fun bluegrass showcase for both himself and MacKeeman. Summerside's Nathan Wiley steps out of his usual rock world to produce and chime in with lots of instrumental and vocal help as well. Half the fun of Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys is seeing their expertise and antics, but hearing them lets you focus on what a tight and tasteful band they are as well.
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).