By Saema Nasir
The breeze was pleasant; sun shining and grass peppered with eager concertgoers and music fans as the Boxcar Boys took their place on the main stage at Confederation Park in Ottawa.
Excited to hear the New Orleans-influenced band’s tunes, which promised to have influences of jazz, klezmer, Romani music and vaudeville, I settled in not sure what to expect.
I was not disappointed. From the first song to the last strum I was captivated, charmed and pleasantly surprised. The Boxcar Boys presented a mix of originals and covers stamped with their unique brand of mixed-influence and retro tunes.
I felt transported to a steamy jazz bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans as I listened to the folksy, pleasant and nostalgic music. Each song had its own character and none of these songs melded in each other. With their distinct sound and vintage-inspired outfits (think suspenders, bowties and beehives) the Boxcar Boys are a perfect choice for those who yearn for the music of yesteryear while still wanting a contemporary pep.
Beyond the twangs of Laura Bates’ fiddle and the melodic howl of Nicolas Buligan’s tuba the band’s vocals stood out as earthy, raw and a good compliment to the simple sounds of the songs.
I also really enjoyed John Williams excellent harmonica skills. The sweet, languid melody that poured out of his harmonica took me to a dusty Kentucky road where time stood still. Again I felt taken to a different time and era through the music playing before me. Unique songs like “Handcuff King” (about Harry Houdini) were a great departure from the standard, cookie-cutter and synthesized pop songs blaring from the radio and on Spotify at the moment.
All in all the Boxcar Boys charmed me and the Ottawa crowds with their excellent folk take on jazz.