Moonshine Ramblers
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Moonshine Ramblers

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | INDIE

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada | INDIE
Band Alternative Americana

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"Reviews - Moonshine Ramblers, Debut"

Released back in February, the self-titled debut album from Moonshine Ramblers, a Nova Scotia group of musicians talented well past their years, was received with great success, almost instantly becoming nominated for both Bluegrass/Country Artist/Group Recording Of The Year at the Music Nova Scotia Awards and Alt-Country Album Of The Year at the Independent Music Awards.
Moonshine Ramblers play string-oriented bluegrass with elements of classic country and blues mixed with southern rock. The album was recorded live off the floor, giving them only one take for each song and is scattered with blues guitar solos, multi-part vocal harmonies and, of course, the string section, consisting of acoustic and electric guitars, banjos and a dobro. The rhythm section isn’t without its charm, with a double bass pumping out great lines throughout and a percussion section, preventing them from being a folk string band.
"Way Downtown" opens the album and introduces the banjo led strumming sound and vocal harmonies of Moonshine Ramblers. "South Mountain" and "Lonesome Road" are two tracks at the start and end of the album that have a Willie Nelson feel to them. "Heavy Drinkin’ Woman" is definitely another highlight, a southern rock song with perfectly executed tempo changes mid-song.
After listening, it’s easy to see how Moonshine Ramblers achieved immediate success on their debut album. The CD is bluegrass at its finest, start to end. - Beatroute Magazine


"The Moonshine Ramblers Light it Up"

Halifax’s Moonshine Ramblers may be the new kids on the block, but their ties to the roots of the music they play are far closer than most.

Even better, judging from their performance on last week’s Free Tuesday lineup at the Horseshoe Tavern in downtown Toronto, they do what few other young musicians seem capable of before hitting the stage: they’re already masters of their respective instruments. I checked out the Moonshine Ramblers’ live show on a hunch, after listening to—and liking—their first self-titled release. The release is highly animated and lively – mashing bluegrass to elements of rock, blues and old-time country – not unlike so many other newgrass-friendly bands of late.

Yet the Ramblers ring with authentic country roots and their ability to pluck, play and plunder underlines that they’re a collection of serious players, first and foremost. In other words, they’re positioned to go in whatever direction their music wants to take them.

Positioned in some of the press notes as a variation on North Carolina’s Avett Brothers, I’m happy to report they’re nothing like them. Despite their Mountain Dew®-looking cover graphics and a preponderance for cheap baseball hats and worn flannel, the Moonshine Ramblers are a rough’n’tumble collection of musicians who can each hold their own as soloists but clearly enjoy working as a team. And this music works even better live than it does on their live-off-the-floor debut.

The players are Mark Gallant (banjo/lead guitar), Alex Hastie (lead guitar, acoustic guitar and lead vocal), Adam Pye (bass), Matt Gallant (drums), Andrew Sneddon (dobro, banjo, acoustic guitar) and Scott MacCormack (mandolin). Surprisingly younger than their playing ability, they wasted no time in demonstrating their skills with guest singer Tom Terrell opening the show (Tom has another band – the Modern Grass Quartet – with two of the Ramblers, and he’s joined this tour). Terrell, himself an accomplished acoustic guitarist and singer of great presence, lead the band through four songs, additional Ramblers joining them on stage until it was packed for a rousing, if not rowdy, rendition of “Mojo Workin’” as the stand-off-ish Horseshoe crowd ambled closer and closer to the stage.

As Terrell relinquished the stage, the audience was treated to even more masterful tunes – all new and unrecorded but one – with Hastie and Sneddon trading lead vocals above a barrage of banjo, dobro, electric and acoustic guitar, driven home by the crack rhythm section, assisted by MacCormack’s glowing-red mandolin strings. Sneddon seems the more seasoned of the vocalists and plays dobro that would give Jerry Douglas cause to spill his beer. Their collective sound gels as one, drop-dead harmonies tying it all together while any rough edges add to the allure.

Their influences aren’t at all obvious, but beyond the comparably sloppy edge of the Avetts, this music has some Byrds/Burritos in its gene pool, not to mention the Outlaws, Marshall Tucker and other distinctly southern rock sounds.

Brilliant, frenetic leads by Gallant, Hastie and Sneddon kept things moving in circles, adding to the experience. “Down to the River” featured dark guitar served up at a hyper pace while “Dead of Night” featured three vocals as the music spun itself into a controlled frenzy. Hastie’s softer vocal on the live set’s sole album track, “Heavy Drinkin’ Woman”, with its two-speed delivery, proved a suitable set closer although, by this point, people were dancing and clearly wanted more.

Seemingly more mature than their collective years, these Moonshine Ramblers had to leave the audience hanging – their time was up. Yet, as leaving an audience wanting more is a band’s surest way to be fondly remembered, it’s hoped that they won’t be too long in coming back.

- Eric Thom - Rootsmusic.ca


"Halifax Band Rambling Down The Road"

Up to now, Halifax indie-roots quintet Moonshine Ramblers has kept its rambling to the highways and byways of the Maritimes, but tonight the band bids farewell to Nova Scotia with a hometown show at the Seahorse Tavern before embarking on its first cross-Canada tour.

Granted, the tour starts with baby steps, first to Charlottetown for the ECMA weekend showcases and then a few New Brunswick shows, but soon enough the Ramblers will be taking their bluegrass-country-rock and roll hybrid to Quebec City and points west in a vintage van once owned by Cape Breton rock icon Matt Minglewood.

"I’m looking forward to playing every night for 35 days," says bearded singer-guitarist-dobroist Andrew Sneddon over a cup of joe at Java Blend.

"We’re touring with Tom Terrell’s Modern Grass Quartet, and I play in both bands so it’s going to be a true test of my stamina.

"What’s not fun about a tour? A bunch of dudes in a van going across the country doing whatever we want."

The tour also performs the service of ferrying Ramblers Mark Gallant (vocals-guitar-banjo) and Alex Hastie (vocals-guitar) to their summer jobs planting trees in British Columbia, but along the way the group has high hopes of drumming up more fans among listeners of acts like Gram Parsons and Neil Young, who changed the course of music by blurring the lines between country, folk and rock.

"We’re definitely not purists of any kind," says Gallant, before Sneddon chimes with a grin, "Oh no, there’s no purity in our music."

Hailing from the Annapolis Valley, East Hants and Eastern Passage, the members of Moonshine Ramblers first distilled their sound at University of King’s College in 2004, gathering an audience at venues like the Company House and Foggy Goggle’s Wednesday night bluegrass jam.

On Moonshine Rambler’s self-titled debut CD, the mood ranges from the high lonesome Way Downtown to the hell-bent, bluegrass-honky-tonk-rock hybrid St. Stephen’s Fire. The band can shift gears several times in the course of a set and play for a variety of audiences, but they still tend to get pigeonholed as a bluegrass band.

"Our name is the Moonshine Ramblers, and there’s banjo, acoustic guitar and stand-up bass, so people automatically peg us as a bluegrass band," says Sneddon. "Which we’re not, by any means.

"I do play in a couple of traditional bluegrass bands but we are definitely not that. We have electric guitar and drums, and some of our songs are closer to rock and roll and punk than bluegrass. I don’t think we’d be welcome on the bluegrass festival circuit, they’d probably run us out of town."

Recently Moonshine Ramblers were welcomed by the town of Lunenburg, where the group played the Folk Fiesta and earned a slot at this summer’s Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. Sneddon figures they leaned towards their softer side for that show.

"But then you play on a Friday night at the Seahorse Tavern and you have to cater to that crowd. We go on last, so you’ve got to make it faster and louder."

Sneddon and Gallant says many of the newer songs Moonshine Ramblers have been working on since their CD’s release last year fit the "faster and louder" description.

Gallant grins, then says that one tune sounds like Black Sabbath, as well as "darker and weirder," as they explore the nature of musical folklore.

"One song we just demoed is super dark, it’s kind of inspired by the recent swarmings," says Sneddon. "I live in the neighbourhood where a lot of them took place, there were a couple of incidents right by my house and that affects you.

"Our music has always had a bit of a dark edge to it but it seems to be going more in that direction. . . . That’s what I love about a lot of the old bluegrass songs. They’re some of the most heartbreaking, horrible things you can think of. They sound upbeat but the lyrics are about killing your wife and throwing her in the river."

Maybe the distance between bluegrass and Black Sabbath isn’t as wide as you’d think.

Tonight at the Seahorse, Moonshine Ramblers will be joined by Tom Terrell, with Ben Caplan and Whiskey Bent and Hellbound. Doors open at 10 p.m., admission is $8. - The Chronicle-Herald


"Music Production from the Ground Up"

Money can be tight when you're a student musician, which is why many stu-sicians turn to the cheaper alternative of self-recording.

Yet this approach can have its disadvantages when stacked against the reliable equipment and experience of a professional recording studio.

Local country-rock band The Moonshine Ramblers learned this lesson the hard way in the spring of 2009 when they attempted to make their debut album.

After days of recording their material, they looked on in horror as their computer system crashed - deleting their entire musical livelihood.
"It was really hard to deal with at first," says banjo player and King's College graduate Mark Gallant.

"We invested so much time into that album that when it happened and we were so close to finishing, it was almost surreal that such a silly technical glitch took all of that away."

Lead singer and former King's College student Andrew Sneddon says the experience completely changed the band's approach to recording.

"We're doing it a lot differently this time. We've backed it up on four hard drives this time and borrowed some gear from friends to record on almost no budget."

The band has been hard at work over the past few weeks rerecording their music, which surprisingly turned into a completely different album with new songs and different arrangements.

Gallant says this tragedy might be a blessing in disguise, since rerecording the album allowed them to start fresh with new material and taught them a harsh lesson.

"I think this album's going to be a lot stronger because of it," he says.

"In terms of material the album is pretty much all new ... there was no question that we were going to do this better than the first effort. So we sucked it up and we're really happy with the outcome." - Unews


"Talking about The Moonshine Ramblers"

In a little house on Windsor Street lives a group of hardworking musicians, known as The Moonshine Ramblers. They struggle with the grind of making money in a city where many live-music venues have closed and a sense of community is essential. Since they moved in last year, the Ramblers have brought the community to their home, holding house shows and hosting practices.

"You can get a hundred people in here. We had such a nice space in our attic that we just had to share it with other people, and hell, it's fun to play with as many people as possible," says Andrew Sneddon, poet, giant and local bluegrass hero. "It's how you get better. The more music you take in, the more music you can put out."

The foundation of this musical house also includes bassist Adam Pye, bluegrass veteran Scott McCormack, guitar player Mark Gallant and cynical sound engineer Evan Cox, all in their mid-20s, working their nights away to realize their dreams.

Their house shows are legendary, from poetry to punk, mimes to noise bands, rock 'n' roll to reggae, blues to bluegrass, and the list goes on. While they're into every type of musical genre, they love to argue about their preferred artists almost as much as they like to play. During the interview, they debate musical greats and have a difficult time not playing their instruments while answering questions.

"Sound is only made when people hear it," says Cox, over guitar strumming by Pye. "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it...does it make a sound? The answer is no." As a result Cox makes sure that pretty much all the music performed in the attic is recorded. Most of The Moonshine Ramblers' upcoming album was recorded at home after their first attempt at a release failed when two hard drives crashed last April.

This hasn't stopped the boys from experimenting with different genres and both new and familiar approaches to making music. Weird sound experiments are commonplace---last night they played a banjo through a vocoder. Weird houseguests are equally common.

"We have had senior citizens wailing to spoken word poets, and a drunk smashing in a window because he thought he knew someone's name and didn't," says Gallant. "All the weird shit comes hand in hand with the best space we could ask for."

They have no idea who built the studio, or why. The house's previous occupant was a man on a pullout couch who stayed there during weekends. Now it's the home of a whole community of musicians who need a place to play. And usually an out-of-town musician is crashing on their couch.

"Sometimes music is how we make our living," says Sneddon. "But music is always what we live for." Expect to see The Moonshine Ramblers out of the attic in February when they release their first album and tour the Maritimes.
- The Coast - Dec. 24, 2009


"Album Review - "Banjo picks dance around guitar licks""

A few months ago I gave my friend in Toronto a couple of passes to see The Avetts play at the Horseshoe. She was new to the band, but more than willing to risk a night of letdowns to see a band I had showered with compliments for years. When I asked her what she thought, her response was very fitting.

"It was love, man. From the band. From the fans. From everyone."

While Haligonian bluegrassers, Moonshine Ramblers can't match The Avetts emotional narratives and heartbreaking balladry (although they try on Darkness and Stars), the love they show for the music they play is certainly on par. Their debut record - recorded live off the floor with some nicely executed vocal overdubs - finds the band paying homage to the past (Lonesome Road could easily be mistaken for a traditional number) in a modern, unique way.

Banjo picks dance around guitar licks, 60's era harmonies and a solid rhythm section, but the boys make sure that their appreciation of the greats doesn't result in a simple exercise of name the influence. Chicken Skull shows the musicianship is top shelf, as the harmonies are spot on, but it's the way The Ramblers slow things down with an almost sludge-y, guitar and stand up bass breakdown, before spiking the tempo back with a riff that would make the Duke boys proud. It might seem like a minor detail, but it helps the quintet from dating their efforts. The heavier tone they take on the United Steelworkers of Montreal inspired St. Stephen's Fire and the surge they deliver on Heavy Drinkin' Woman do the same.

But at the end of the day, this band is a bluegrass, banjo driven band and a talented one at that. With Old Man Luedecke getting ready to win the province (and the country over) with his claw-hammering, it might pave the way for this hardworking bunch of musicians to get back some of the love they give out. - Herohill


"Raamb Roundup 03/10"

The other week I was invited to a pretty stellar show here in Halifax, NS, to see a band that I'd never heard of before. I didn't know their name or what they sounded like, and was left feeling pleasantly surprised by the end of their set. The band in question are called Moonshine Ramblers and they've just recently released their debut album which is available in a couple of shop in Halifax, and also via the internet. Head over to their MySpace and take a listen - It's folky sounding music but with a modern, alternative twist. - Raamb Roundup


"Album Review: Moonshine Ramblers"

Hair, booze and banjos. Sounds like a folk country band? Yup, the Moonshine Ramblers from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, have just self-released their debut album, recorded live off the creaky floor of a loft converted into a recording studio of sorts. with just a few vocal overdubs to iron out the wrinkles.
Music that feels like a pair of jeans that is on the brink of falling apart but still fits like a glove. The influence of The Band is obvious and there is a nod to Neil Young here and there, but you can also spot a bit of Nick Cave in a cheery mood. Somewhere in the distance the ghost of Hank Williams gives a thumbs up. - Here Comes The Flood


"New Music Canada Track of the Day"

"I love great harmonies. These guys have those in spades ...Great music, well played. I hope tour plans bring these guys west because I need to see these guys live."
- Craig Norris - CBC Radio 3 Podcast 10/01/06


"The Moonshine Ramblers – S/T (Self Released 2010)"

Thanks to a post at over at My Aimz Is True, I was introduced last year to Canadian bluegrass outfit Huntley Slim and The Suburban Cowboys whose self-titled debut album owed it strengths to its organic origins, treading a similar path here’s another Canadian outfit who peddle their own brand of bluegrass infused roots music, in a similar vein to the Huntley Slim it’s self-titled and was recorded live this time in a loft-turned makeshift studio, complete with creaky floorboards located in the north end of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Moonshine Ramblers are Andrew Sneddon (Guitar, Dobro, Harps, Vocals), Mark Gallant (Guitars, Banjo, Vocals), Alex Hastie (Guitars, Vocals) Gary Peacock (Percussion) and Adam Pye (Big Bass Fiddle), the album is a solid ten track debut of original songs that draw inspiration from the past without letting it constrain the bands vision for their music, there’s an abundance of sweet melodies, single mic harmonizing and smart picking on display on the album, check them out. - Beat Surrender


"Album Review - Moonshine Ramblers"

Just like with acts such as The .357 String Band, I love it when rough and tumble front-porch pickers get it right. As I’ve said before, here on The Knob, I was getting sick of hearing a ton of alleged punk-flavored string bands act rebellious when they sounded anything but.

I’ve really been enjoying the self titled debut album from Canada’s Moonshine Ramblers (Myspace) lately. To be fair, it’s not a straight-up acoustic or string-based album. The occasional use of drums and even a stratocaster actually give the album a bit of a punch that helps keep the album from veering off into monotony (give “Chicken Skull” a listen for what I’m talking about). Those electro-country touches are nice, but the heart of the album is the ramshackle glory that tracks like the opener, “Way Downtown” provide when the five-piece act gathers around the microphone and belts it all out, together. - The Gobbler's Knob


Discography

Moonshine Ramblers - Feb 27th, 2010

Photos

Bio


The Moonshine Ramblers offer their take on folk music, fusing bluegrass with country, rock, and blues. With an intent to dust off forgotten melodies while laying down fresh bootprints, their sound has been described as "banjo picks dancing around guitar licks, 60's era harmonies and a solid rhythm section... the musicianship is top shelf, as the harmonies are spot on." (herohill)

On February 27th, 2010, they released their debut record. The album was recorded live off the floor of a loft turned studio in the north end of Halifax.
Reception to the album has been strong, picking up a nomination for "Bluegrass/Country Artist/Group Recording of the Year" from Music Nova Scotia and "Alt-Country album of the Year" from the international Independent Music Awards and picking up their "Vox Pop" award, voted by their fans.
The record has been spinning all over CBC and on college radio across the country, coming in at #4 on CJSF (Burnaby BC) , and entering the folk/roots charts on CHRY (Toronto, On) at #1.

On March 26th 2011, the Ramblers competed in the Lunenburg Folk Fiesta! at the Pearl Theater and came out on top, earning them a spot at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival 2011 alongside Harry Manx, Joel Plaskett, Madison Violet, David Myles and The Wailin' Jennys.

The Moonshine Ramblers have completed the nationwide Prohibition Tour in the spring and summer of 2011, including 35 dates in towns and cities from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

Returning to their hometown, they have turned their focus to a follow-up album and plan on touring the country again.

"The Ramblers ring with authentic country roots and their ability to pluck, play and plunder underlines that they’re a collection of serious players...they’re positioned to go in whatever direction their music wants to take them." - Eric Thom, Roots Music Canada

Website: http://www.moonshineramblers.com

Booking Contact: Mark Gallant (902-293-1918)
ramblingmusic@gmail.com