'Queen City Jubilee' by The Slocan Ramblers: impressive bluegrass
The Slocan Ramblers

Toronto may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of bluegrass music. On the new album Queen City Jubilee, The Slocan Ramblers show that great bluegrass isn't restricted to just Appalachia.

If you're one of those people who doesn't listen to bluegrass because you have some aversion to the banjo, you should know that you're really missing out. Bluegrass musicians are often some of the most impressive ones around. "Mississippi Heavy Water Blues" is a good example to point to what you're missing. The picking in this song is incredible - especially the banjo and mandolin. Throughout the song, you hear the banjo part and you have to wonder how anyone's fingers can move that quickly. While the banjo and mandolin players seem to be having some sort of fast-fingers contest, the song is propelled by a bass line that is sure to get your toes tapping. On top of that, both the lead and harmony vocals are great. In other words, it's hard not to be impressed with this tune.

Every good bluegrass album needs a good instrumental, and this album is no different. "Down in the Sugarbush" is a tremendous showcase for the musical abilities of this band. It starts out with a feature of the acoustic guitar. Then comes a feature for the banjo followed by the mandolin. You don't have to know much about any of those instruments to know that these guys are really adept at what they do. Do yourself a favor when you listen to this one. Just sit back and appreciate the rare abilities of these players. "Shut the Door" is another instrumental song that will make you realize the skill of this band. The notes come at you so quickly and cleanly that you have to wonder how they do it.

If you like uptempo songs, you'll love "Sun's Gonna Shine in My Backdoor Someday". from the first notes on the banjo, this is an amazing display of fingerpicking speed. It's hard enough to keep up with listening to this song. It's hard to imagine anyone playing as fast as this band does in this song. The tempo is impressive enough, but the vocals are equally so. The harmony vocals bring to mind bluegrass greats like Flatt and Scruggs.

If you're a fan of bluegrass, this album will fit in right next to all your favorite traditional albums. The players are impressive and the vocals are steeped in bluegrass tradition. Queen City Jubilee will be available everywhere on June 15.