REVIEW: The Slocan Ramblers, The Bristol Folk House

Award-winning bluegrass, Americana, folk and roots band the Slocan Ramblers astounded the audience at their Bristol Folk House gig with their immaculate technical skills and transportive intensity

Words and photographs by Libby Smith @myfavouritedays

I ventured down to Bristol Folk House on a September Sunday evening to experience the sounds of the wonderful Canadian bluegrass quartet, ‘The Slocan Rambers’. Having no idea what I was truly in for, I made my way through the venue, a hidden gem tucked away near Park Street, and found my seat right at the front. 

I began making conversation with those around me as they quickly began filling the seats, and realised that Bristol had a lot of love for The Slocan Ramblers, and they had quite the UK following. Beginning in Toronto, Canada, the band consisted of Frank Evans on the main vocals and a banjo in hand, Darryl Poulson beside him with a guitar, Casey Campbell on the mandolin, replacing their usual member Adrian Gross due to him recently becoming a father, and the incredible Charles James on the double bass. Their immaculate skills combined took us on a fast-paced rollercoaster of bluegrass wonders throughout the entire evening, whilst also making time to interact with those that had come to see them during the break in between acts.

Their performance throughout the two hours consisted of sharing songs from their new album, Up the hill and through the fog, as well as nailing covers of songs from throughout the world of country and bluegrass, such as the legendary Tom Petty, bringing an incredible energy that could only be described as Deep South merged with modern and uplifting pop country. One song would give me the urge to bounce around the room, and the next would transport me to a front porch in Texas, rocking in a chair with a piece of straw in my mouth, and it was hypnotising the entire time.

Their inconceivable skills on each instrument left the entire venue in awe of how they were able to play so fast that their hands became blurred, whilst at the same time being able to flawlessly cover deeply intense and slow ballads, such as John Hartford’s popular bluegrass anthems. It is very rare at a gig that each song is entirely encapsulating, but the Slocan Ramblers managed to do just that, leaving the crowd completely speechless before finally erupting into a room of applause, shouts and claps as they finished the last song on their UK tour, and despite knowing that this four piece band had been given many awards throughout their career for being an exceptional staple in the bluegrass scene, I was simply blown away by the intense energy coming from them and their instruments, and couldn’t help but roar along with the crowd at the end.

For more exceptional live folk music from a host of artists both international and closer to home,
visit the Bristol Folk House website