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Maple Hill’s bluegrass is “music to explore”

By John McDonald on October 12, 2016

“I wrote this one about my mother.”

On this lazy Sunday, Pat Moore is seated comfortably in an oversized sofa chair, a dog resting at her feet. Back To You, the just released album from the reunited bluegrass band Maple Hill, is playing.

The song she is speaking of is “Lay Me Down”.

“It’s about my perspective of the day my mom died. She passed away in my arms. It was 30 years ago. I think that I needed that time to be able to write about that experience.”

Photo by Susie Shapiro.

Photo by Susie Shapiro.

The song, which is uplifting and positive, is one of 6 originals on the album. Recorded at Metropolitan Studio with Jason Jaknunas, the album also includes songs from Earl Scruggs, Grandpa Jones, and Gram Parsons.

“Choosing the songs was tough. We had a number of originals we wanted on the album, and then it was choosing from among the many favourite traditional and cover songs we do live. There are several that the audiences have been asking for, so it was a matter of narrowing down. What we have produced, really, is a segment of our live show. Garry’s “Back to You” is one of the originals that we’ve not performed live before. It’s a great song and we’re really excited to have it on the CD and now in our live performance. The banjo intro is awesome.” said Pat, who is a CKCU presenter and jewellery maker.

maple-hill-by-susie-shapiro

Garry is Maple Hill co-founder Garry Greenland. The Bluegrass Music Association of Canada, ValleyGrass, and The Central Canadian Bluegrass Committee recently honoured him for his contribution to bluegrass music in Canada. This year, he celebrates 52 years as a bluegrass road musician. Maple Hill is now in its twentieth year as a band.

The Maple Hill line-up is rounded out with banjo player Sean Lundy, and Kevin Golka on mandolin.

“Each of us brings something unique to the band. Garry has a big influence on our arrangements. Kevin and I tend to be the song-catchers, making suggestions on songs to bring to the stage, and I do most of the original writing. Sean rolls that banjo like he was born with it, and is the one who keeps track of our very lengthy catalogue of songs in our repertoire. With Maple Hill, the song and its story are always the focus with solos, duets, trios and quartets.”

Now, I’ve had very limited exposure to bluegrass. I can sing along to parts of “Blue Moon of Kentucky”. I’m aware of the Louvin Brothers, and the Carter Family.

Perhaps I have shied away from what I didn’t know. Back to You delivers all that I think of in bluegrass – great harmonies, accomplished playing, and a real love for the songs. I put to Garry that bluegrass, as a musical genre, is much maligned. There are those who will dismiss it without actually having heard the music.

“They certainly shouldn’t. Bluegrass is a type of acoustic Appalachia music with roots in British traditional music that is also influenced by blues, primitive gospel and jazz. Three and four part harmony is an essential element of the vocals. Typically the instrumentation is built on guitar, banjo, mandolin and bass. Definitely music to explore.”

There is an opportunity to explore as Maple Hill is currently playing locally. On Saturday, October 22 they will be at Manotick United Church. Joining them will be Pleasant Goat & Big Big Wolf with their debut performance.

Pat is excited about playing to audiences. “We’ve built the band on the foundation that ‘it’s all about the song’. And when we play, it’s also about the audience. We’ll be playing songs from the CD. We’ll also play songs that we spontaneously choose to put in the show, based on what that particular audience is digging. Of course, we include storytelling. After all, that’s a big part of bluegrass.”

Back to You is available at Maple Hill concerts and on their website.