The Grass Mountain Hobos
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The Grass Mountain Hobos

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Band Americana Folk


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"You don’t need to see to see the light"

The Guardian

Last Saturday evening, as I sailed along Route 2 on the way from Charlottetown to Summerside, it was one of those times where I just became awestruck in taking in the beauty of everything I passed by.

Surely every Islander must experience this, especially in at this time of year — that feeling where all you can do is just shake your head in wonder as you ponder how you could be so fortunate to be living in a place like this. It brings a thankful smile to your face and a lump-in-your-throat all at the same time.

Countless shades of green rolling on and on through the hills, arrays of wildflowers in their overgrowth of abundance, fresh bales of hay dotting the fields, peaceful villages where folks sit idle on their front porches, tranquil river inlets where the sun glistens brightly off the water, luscious life everywhere you look.

Do we really realize how lucky we are?

I asked myself this question even more so when I reached my destination that evening — Metro Credit Union Place in Summerside, where I saw the world-famous, four-time Grammy Award-winning Blind Boys of Alabama.

As they were slowly led by helpers up on stage, holding onto each others’ shoulders in a train, and took their places at their microphones, Jimmy Carter, the group’s leader who has been with the boys since their 1939 beginning, greeted the crowd.

“Well, well, well. Here we are,” he said. “We are The Blind Boys of Alabama. It is an honour for us to be here tonight. We’ve been to many places in Canada. But never here on Prince Edward Island,” he smiled, as the crowd responded in applause.

And after I thought, “Well, the honour is obviously ours, Jimmy.” I imagined what that could be like — to tour the world and not be able to see it; to come to places like our own and to pass by all this wonder that I have just touched on and not be able to take it in.

“What an incomparable gift the sense of sight is,” I thought, of course.

But, as surely as Carter said near the end of the night, “God has been good to the Blind Boys. And we have had a wonderful time with you folks tonight,” there are many, many other ways to experience the beauty of a place.

And even though it might seem that a lack of vision would mean a gap in one’s ability to enjoy life, as soon as you hear the Blind Boys of Alabama sing a note in powerful harmonized unison, you know that there is absolutely nothing lacking in those souls: there is only gratitude, honour and love.

Before the group took the stage that night, the evening began with a solid performance from western P.E.I.’s Grass Mountain Hobos.

It was intense, full-throttle twang as the crowd of about 1,500 stomped their feet to the old-time string band tunes of this rollicking six-piece, and by the end of their 45-minute set, they had everyone off those feet in a standing ovation.

Their new, highly-anticipated CD is due out in two weeks, so check them out soon. They’re live at the Evangeline Bluegrass Festival this weekend or at www.

At about 8 p.m., three blind vocalists, by the names of Jimmy Carter, Billy Bishop Bowers and Ben Moore took the night over with their four-piece backup band consisting of a bassist, electric guitarist, keyboardist and drummer (all of them had sight except the drummer).

“The Blind Boys — we don’t like a conservative crowd,” Carter said near the beginning. “We like a lively crowd, ’cause gospel music is feel-good music, and we like to shout it out!”

So in return, the Summerside crowd did its best to reciprocate with the soul they received that night.

But, let’s just say that when you’re dealing with that amount of soul being thrown at you, it’s a bit of a tough job.

From tunes like Down by the Riverside, Spirit in the Sky and Amazing Grace (done in such a unique fashion to the tune of The House of the Rising Sun) to There Will Be a Light and Free at Last, the Boys just delivered phrase after spirit-fired phrase to our welcoming ears.

And all I wished for was that we were taking in this kind of glory in a church, or at least some kind of smaller venue, as I just felt that the power they were feeding us was being diluted in the arena we were in.

But, The Blind Boys of Alabama’s soul-of-the-south magic evidently got straight through to the hearts of all in attendance, as they received two standing ovations by the night’s end.

And again, I don’t think they needed to be able to see to know the smiles they brought to Islanders’ faces upon their brief gift of a visit to our home.

- The Guardian

"Fundraiser huge success for Kids West"

The Journal Pioneer

ALBERTON – What’s a lemon meringue pie worth these days?
Well, one auctioned off during a dinner and dance in aid of Kids West recently fetched $575.
The opportunity to press the pie into the face of Warren Ellis, one of the organizers, brought in another $1,200.
Ellis and staff from Warren Ellis Produce teamed up with the Grass Mountain Hobos to put on the dinner, dance and auction for Kids West.
“Never in our 14 years, the life of Kids West, have we ever experienced anything like this,” said pre-natal nutrition co-ordinator Colleen Parker upon receipt of the proceeds.
Ellis and sons Josh and Brody drove to Alberton with cheques totalling $12,000 and a truckload of toys, disposable diapers, clothing and food items.
“Christmas came early,” Ellis said. “It was so great to see the tree.”
Loading everything up and delivering it to Kids West’s headquarters was also gratifying for the businessman.
Son Josh is a member of the Grass Mountain Hobos, which has been nominated for an East Coast Music Award for recording of the year.
Josh discovered the night before the big bash that he was going to serve double duty as auctioneer.
The auction was a last-minute addition to the fundraiser and generated about $7,000.
Parker said Kids West is filling boxes with food, toys and gifts for about 50 families this Christmas season. Some of the boxes are sponsored by area businesses.
The money and other items received through the benefit will assist Kids West with its mission throughout the year, she said.
“We’re so excited for the families,” Parker said.
While the mandate of Kids West is support for families with children six years of age and under, support at Christmas is extended to families with children 18 years of age and under.

Dec '09 - The Journal Pioneer

"How About Those Hobos"

September, 2009
How about those Hobos
Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Let’s talk about the Grass Mountain Hobos. Actually there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said. They have been honoured with Music PEI awards, ECMA awards, done national touring and shown massive improvement in all aspects of their game.
These improvements have been topped off by the release of a new CD called Zoot. This project utilizes their undeniable skills as song writers and their amazing abilities as arrangers and musicians.

I’ve watched this group rise from nothing to a confident, competent group of entertainers in very few years. Moving from winning the showcase at the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival to achieving national prominence in such a short time is amazing.
Now back to their new project, Zoot. There are ten songs written by members of the band—five by Josh Ellis, three by Thomas Kirkham, two by Peter Cann as well as two covers of well known old timey pieces, “Kansas City Kitty” and the bluegrass standard “Ramblin’ Letters.” All these songs harken back to the days when string bands prowled the nation doing tent shows and playing in any hall that became available, sometimes using the boxcars of the railway for transportation.

My favourite tune on the CD is “Zoot Suit,” a sprightly little number with a definite swing edge.

Other songs on this project are “Hear A Train,” “Scrape The Paint,” “Blackbird Sing,” “Whiskey Night,” “Graveyard Shift,” “Kneel Down and Pray,” “Hillbilly Fix,” “Get Out,” and “L’il Guitar.”
The musicianship in this group is second to none in this genre of music. Gordie MacKeeman is at his best on “Kansas City Kitty.” The swing fiddle style is right at home in his hands and the solid help from Peter Cann, whose guitar playing is impeccable, and guest pianist Johnny Ross make this a masterpiece.
Josh Ellis’ vocals are on top in this project and Thomas Kirkham and Peter Webb do a fine job on mandolin and banjo. The on again off again presence of Thomas Webb in the group is certainly a plus as the bass glue that holds it all together. Is there anything that you can’t play Thomas?

All in all this project is fun and should garner the group a great deal of notice at the Music PEI and ECMA awards shows.

This CD was recorded at Big Grey Sound in Charlottetown and mastered by JP LaPointe in Halifax.

For a copy of this CD, which I’m sure you’ll all want, contact Josh Ellis at 902-853-5552 or email . I would go out on a very firm and safe limb and say that this is the best Island produced CD of 2009.

Support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 pm on CFCY FM 95.1 or at - The Buzz


Grass Mountain Hobos - Self-titled (2008)

Grass Mountain Hobos - ZOOT! (2009)



Website -

The Hobos are the 2010 East Coast Music Awards Bluegrass Recording Artist of the Year!

The Hobos are of another time. A time when pleasure usurped profession; when live music provided the soundtrack for excess; this period they bring to life on stages across Canada. With a stage show that harkens back to the days of the travelling salesman, The Hobos are the cure-all elixir for those requiring entertainment. Their brand of music is authentic and complex, mixing equal parts of the carnival, farm, tavern and circus. Two acoustic guitars, a banjo, mandolin, doghouse bass and a fiddle create the unique backdrop over which the 6 vocalists paint malevolent yet harmonious works of art. Their music drives and swings while they stomp - the crowd smiles and joins in.

A swing, bluegrass, blues, and folk infusion – The Grass Mountain Hobos give a carousing performance that is bound to entertain audiences Canada wide. With music full of humour and musicality, the band has received a standing ovation from every festival crowd that they have played to. Touring constantly, The Hobos bring with them music of the wandering dreamer and the train hopping adventurer in a way that engages audiences both young and old.

"It's truly amazing how naturally this old-time music pours out of you guys."
- Shelagh Rogers, Host of CBC Radio's Sounds Like Canada

Recently The Hobos...
- Winner of the 2010 ECMA Bluegrass Recording of the Year "Zoot!"
- Winner of 2010 Music PEI Bluegrass Recording of the Year "Zoot!"
- Winner of 2010 Music PEI Entertainer of the Year
- Winner of the 2009 ECMA Bluegrass Recording of the Year "Grass Mountain Hobos"
- Winner of 2009 Music PEI Bluegrass Recording of the Year "Grass Mountain Hobos"
- Winner of 2009 Music PEI Entertainer of the Year
- Winner of 2009 Music PEI Weekend Warrior

- Completed 3 Cross Canada Tours

Performed multiple shows in Vancouver as a part of the 2010 Olympics

- Showcases include:
OCFF (Ontario Council of Folk Festivals)
Contact East
Atlantic Film Festival - Music & Image
Music PEI
Showcase PEI

- Performed at Stan Rogers Folk Fest 2009

- Headline performer on Canada Day 2009 in Charlottetown as a part of the Festival of Lights

- Performed at The Cavendish Beach Country Fest with the likes of Tara Oram and Tim McGraw in front of 10,000 fans.

- Opened for international touring acts Fred Eaglesmith as well as the Blind Boys Alabama

- Performed at the 2008 Lunenburg Folk Festival with internationallly renowned acts David Myles, Cara Luft (of The Wailin' Jenny's), Raymond McLaine, Mike Stevens and Murray MacLaughlan

- Were selected for the 2008 Music and Image Complilation CD, a partnership program between the ECMA and the AFA

- Won Best New Talent at the 2007 Rollo Bay Old-Time Music Festival, securing them a spot on the schedule in 2008.

- Won The 2008 Lunenburg Folk Fiesta Talent Search

- Played 70 shows in 4 months in summer '08


The Hobos have performed for crowds of up to 10,000 people in many well known venues throughout Canada.

With each member boasting upwards of 10 years of live performance experience The Hobos have produced an extensive repertoire of music which has allowed them to play sets ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours.