Steve Fisher

Kluane Grass members find a special bluegrass connection

You know your band’s something special when a live recording of your very first concert is good enough to play on radio.

You know your band’s something special when a live recording of your very first concert is good enough to play on radio.

Kluane Grass has been sparking with CKUA Radio listeners and other audiences since its first impromptu concert at a bluegrass festival in Whitehorse, Yukon, in June.

The group’s guitarist and CKUA’s Fire on the Mountain host, Steve Fisher, recalled the powerhouse quintet was formed on request last summer from a variety of musicians with long and distinguished careers in Western Canadian bluegrass music.

The organizer of the Kluane Bluegrass Festival needed a band to entertain at the end of a week of music workshops. He asked the available instructors: “Would you guys form a group and play a set?”

It sounded like a comfortable enough gig to Fisher, who had already played “at different times, in different places” with many other musicians at the festival.

But the minute the Calgarian started jamming with banjo player Chris Stevens and bassist Jenny Lester (both from B.C.), as well as Edmonton mandolin player Marc Ladouceur and Virginia fiddler Merle Johnson, a special alchemy began brewing.

“It all came together really well, and the response from the audience was phenomenal!” said Fisher of that very first concert that was recorded live.

The ad-hoc band had created such as great vibe that all of the musicians decided they’d have to play together again sometime soon.

The ‘sometime’ turned out to be this fall when Fisher got a chance to do a small Alberta tour that stops at The Hideout south of Red Deer, on Sunday.

When other members of his usual band, Restless Lester, weren’t available, Fisher called up the Kluane crew and most everybody was game to get together. Only the American fiddler had to be replaced, because of logistics, with Edmontonian Matt Hotte, who fit the group like another finger in a glove.

Fisher believes Kluane Grass generates an energy on stage that jives well with toe-tapping bluegrass standards.

Familiar tunes such as Freeborn Man, by Jimmy Martin, Down the Road, by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Sea of Regret, by the Stanley Brothers, and I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome, by Bill Monroe, will likely be on the bill at The Hideout.

The Kluane musicians also intend to perform some original tunes created by Lester. “Jenny is an excellent songwriter and has done some amazing songs along the traditional line,” said Fisher.

One of her compositions, The River, Mother Nature and Me, has become something of a Canadian classic. Fisher said his guitar students are always eager to learn to play the “beautiful” song.

Like much of bluegrass music, it draws from images of nature. “There are certain common themes in bluegrass songs, and one of them features a young man, or sometimes woman, going to the big city to work because of hard times in the country,” said Fisher.

The lyrics are “about how much they miss of the place they left behind — the hills, the trees, the air. . . . ”

He isn’t sure what’s in the air for Kluane Grass, admitting the band hasn’t made any long-term plans yet.

But he hopes more tours and perhaps even a recording project will be on the horizon.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are $10 at the door. For more information, call 403-348-5319.

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