The High Bar Gang will bring its unique take on old-time bluegrass to Parksville on Feb. 3.
The seven-member outfit, whose repertoire is mainly rooted in the golden age of bluegrass music, will visit Knox United Church (345 Pym St.) for the first time as a group, according to Colin Nairne, who plays guitar and mandolin.
Vocal harmony is a big part of the gang’s sound, which blends the voices of Shari Ulrich, Wendy Bird and Kirby Barber along with guitarist Barney Bentall and banjo player Dave Barber. The voices are also supported by Rob Becker on bass, along with Nairne.
The band hopes to work on and record its third album this year, which will include some original compositions, Nairne said.
So far it’s looking like the album’s starting point will focus on how British Columbians used to work in industries like fishing and logging.
“We always find it’s best to write what you know and bluegrass and folk music has a tradition of music about land and people,” he said.
The band was in the early stages of making the record when the pandemic put a halt to things.
“Our little Sunday afternoon writing sessions got curtailed,” Nairne said.
The High Bar Gang’s first two albums, Lost and Undone: A Gospel Bluegrass Companion (2013) and Someday the Heart will Trouble the Mind (2016) feature covers by the likes of Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers and Del McCoury. Both were released on True North Records.
Their debut album received several award nominations, including a Juno Award nomination in the ‘Contemporary Christian/Gospel’ category. The High Bar Gang was also nominated for three Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2014 and won ‘Best Vocal Group’.
“The second record is what we call a cheating and hurting record,” said Nairne. “So, sort of love songs. And they’re all traditional bluegrass songs.”
That album was nominated for a Juno Award in the ‘Traditional Roots Album of the Year’ category.
Getting everyone together to record or perform is not easy when members are spread out across B.C. in Vancouver, Penticton, Bowen Island and North Vancouver.
“The actual act of getting us all in one room is quite an amazing feat in itself,” Nairne added. “We’re looking so forward to getting back on the Island because it is a good spot for us.”
For Nairne, the best part of playing in front of a live audience is the immediate feedback.
“You’re usually looking at a group of three or four hundred smiling faces. If you’re doing your job right, they’re smiling and they’re happy,” he said. “It’s the sense of appreciation you get from an audience that you don’t get any other way.”
The show starts at 7:30 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $40 and available at Parksville retailers Close to You Ladies Fashions and Fireside Books, as well as online at Eventbrite.
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