Gutter Anthems puts life in tired Celtic pop

After a month filled with (perhaps) too many roots shows, things slow down for April. The Vat Pub again hosts the guitar-based electric blues of Chicago’s Liz Mandeville April 11.


After a month filled with (perhaps) too many roots shows, things slow down for April.

The Vat Pub again hosts the guitar-based electric blues of Chicago’s Liz Mandeville April 11.

Billed as a “fusion of African and Canadian music, spirit, and culture,” Memeza Africa presents powerful vocals and dance routines integrated into a dramatic performance.

Tickets for shows at The Matchbox April 10 and 11 are available at the theatre, or by calling 403-341-6500.

This week’s CD reviews:

Dry Branch Fire Squad

Echoes of the Mountains

Rounder Records

Many have been a-waiting fresh music from Ron Thomason’s Dry Branch Fire Squad since hearing their last album, Hand Hewn, more than seven years ago. With only a live set surfacing in the interim, doubters can be forgiven for fearing the venerable outfit had sang and picked their last.

And then comes Echoes of the Mountains, as strong a bluegrass album as has been released this year, and one that equals or surpasses many of the dozen or so albums previously released by DBFS.

Few combine the stories of the mountains with the sounds of bluegrass quite like Thomason, and his voice hasn’t lost anything with the passage of the years. With his languid vocal delivery, Thomason places emphasis on the stories of the past. And what stories they are!

Within songs both familiar and new — but mostly familiar — we have death from cattle stampede and conclusion jumping, a fruitless, pained search for a lost sibling, reminiscences of times and ways long past, faithful dogs, some brimstone, and even Sam Cooke brought down to the home place.

Fancy, furious picking has never been a hallmark of the DBFS’s, but there is no doubting they can more than hold there own; the manner in which they rework Bring It One Home to Me or fire-up Grayson’s Train reminds listeners of the group’s instrumental dexterity.

A fine return from one of bluegrass music’s longest running institutions, and one that assures that age and experience are no hindrance to the creation of memorable music.

Enter the Haggis

Gutter Anthems

United for Opportunity

As someone who had enough of Celtic-pop after the fifth or ninth same-sounding album from Great Big Sea, Toronto’s Enter the Haggis renews a flagging interest.

The hard-touring band’s new album Gutter Anthems pounds out percussive beats enhanced by a battery of pipes, guitars, whistles, and keys that are engrossing and in many ways reminiscent of Wolfstone and Boiled in Lead, favourites from the Great Celtic Scare of 15 years ago.

Delve below the bombast and one finds substantive lyrical content. DNA looks at the nature of men, and whether the violence that too frequently occurs by their hand is a product of who they are or what they experience.

The Death of Johnny Mooring captures the final moments of a touring musician’s life, where Noseworthy and Piercy is a fine telling of a Maritime tale.

“I’m gonna bury my demons in the cold, cold ground,” sings the band’s third lead vocalist Craig Downie on Bury My Demons. But one shouldn’t think that ETH’s seventh album is an entirely heavy affair.

Brian Bchanan’s powerful voice brings a spry mood to each track on which he is featured, while Trevor Lewington’s is more other-worldy, but equally energetic.

Gutter Anthems is a rockin’ roots disc deftly capturing the rhythms of modern Celtic music.

Donald Teplyske is a local freelance writer who contributes a twice-monthly column on roots music; visit for additional reviews. If you know a roots music event of which he should be aware, contact him at

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