Bluegrass vets bring attitude to Elks

Some bluegrass with an attitude is coming your way.

The Special Consensus stops at Elks Lodge in Red Deer on Sunday.

The Special Consensus stops at Elks Lodge in Red Deer on Sunday.

Some bluegrass with an attitude is coming your way.

The Special Consensus band, featuring award-winning Cape Breton vocalist Ryan Roberts and steadfast banjo player Greg Cahill, stops at the Elks Lodge in Red Deer on Sunday (March 21).

While playing a mixture of traditional and original music, the four-man Nashville-based group has seen numerous members come and go since starting in 1975.

The one constant has been the band’s founder and acclaimed banjo picker, Cahill.

The Chicago native has been playing bluegrass for nearly four decades with The Special C, as well on solo projects and collaborations with other musicians and bands, including the ChowDogs. Cahill is also a highly respected banjo teacher.

This time around, The Special C lineup features lead singer Roberts, a five-time winner of the Eastern Canadian Bluegrass Awards’s Songwriter of the Year (2005-2009), whose solo recording also won Bluegrass Album of the year in 2009.

Roberts, from Cape Breton, N.S. is a gifted guitar player with a multi-octave voice. He has performed with his wife Roxeen, and The Janet McGarry Band for several years, as well as writing and performing music for countless commercial jingles, recording projects, and film scores.

The band’s other newer member is multi-talented Missouri-raised mandolin player Rick Faris, who joined up last fall. He and bassist David Thomas will help sing the baritone, bass and tenor parts.

At this point, Thomas is practically a Special C veteran, having been with the band since 2006.

In fact, the Alabama-born Thomas and Cahill are the only current members who were with the band when The Special C recorded its last album, Signs, released early in 2009.

The group lost two respected members when guitarist Justin Carbone got engaged to be married and left to open his own demo studio last fall, and mandolin player Ashby Frank went off in January to perform freelance gigs and contribute to the band Mashville Brigade.

Frank wrote the title-track for Signs, which spent a lot of time on the bluegrass charts.

But these departures were smoothed over with the entry of the talented Faris, and of Roberts, who has actually written and recorded songs with Roberts including the tune Leaving This Old Town, which was used on Signs.

It shows the world of bluegrass is a very small world indeed.

The Waskasoo Bluegrass Music Society presents The Special Consensus, Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 6315 Horn St. in Red Deer. Tickets are $25 (children under 16 are admitted free) from the Red Deer Book Exchange, Parkland Mall service desk, 53rd Street Music, and The Keyhole. For regional ticket locations, please call Gale at 403-347-1363.

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