Sprag Session (formerly Colin Grant Band)
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Sprag Session (formerly Colin Grant Band)

Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada | AFM

Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada | AFM
Band Rock Celtic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Sprag Session : New Year, New Name, New Album!"

Sprag Session: New Year, New Name, New Album!
Posted: December 31, 2011

If you’re looking for an all-out grand time of it – I mean straight up rip-roaring, sonically-soaring never better – great time of it…do yourself a favour and take in a Sprag Session show!

What’s that? Never heard of them? Well I know you know The Colin Grant Band – and that’s them – same fellas, but with the New Year comes a new name, a new album and some stellar plans.

For those of you playing the home game those fellas – those marvelous musicians are as follows…Jason Roach (keys), Darren MacMullen (mandolin, guitar, banjo), Colin Grant (fiddle), Merlin Clarke (drums) and Donnie Calabrese (bass).

I wanted to get the scoop on what’s up with this truly cool group so I caught up with Colin Grant on this 31st day of December – before Sprag Session sets forth fiercely into this New Year.

What follows is our special NYE Q&A with Mr. Colin Grant.

SABS: Alright - let's start with the obvious - Why Sprag Session?

Colin Grant: So, as strange an idea as it seems to change our band name, it's actually a good opportunity we've been waiting to seize for a while now. With our first band record ready to release in a few months' time, and a new approach we've been taking to arrange our music collectively (rather than a "big band backing up a fiddler" sound), the time is right for us to re-identify ourselves as a team.

We started jamming two tunes in my parents' basement for my last solo album "Fun For The Whole Family" that motivated us to keep writing together, and in the 2 years since, a whole new repertoire of tunes has come bursting into the world, with tune-writing from Jason and Darren as well.

The word "sprag" isn't very well known, but it's meaningful to us because of the vast number of applicable definitions we've found for it...six to be exact!

They'll be listed on our website, but the main 3 meanings are "quick and lively", "a young man", and "scatterbrained" when discussing someone "of sprag mind". The word "session" reflects the traditional roots that influence our tune-writing, and the equal contribution that each member of the session brings to the table.

I can tell you it's really hard to name a band in the Celtic genre. All the good names are taken, or have the word "Celtic" in them. For example, "Celtic Thunder" or "Gaelic Storm". Unfortunately, we couldn't get "Highland Weather Event" due to copyright issues.

SABS: Anyone who has seen the band in action knows they are incredibly cool, tight and solid on stage...I've gotta believe it's based in talent but kindled by camaraderie right?

Colin Grant: I think like many bands, it's a potent combination of friendship, mutual musical respect, and foolishness. Onstage, it makes for a pretty upbeat, danceable show, that has a lot of interplay between us on both melody and accompaniment lines. Without vocals, the tunes have to be big and meaty, but sensitive to whatever instrument is stepping out at a given time.

Merlin's drumming balances funk/rock drive with a keen awareness of the tunes' phrasing, which gives us melody players lots of space to breathe. We call it "being in the Merlpool". Besides having played with Merlin and basically sharing the same brain with him to lock in with the tunes...

Donnie's playing gives edge and groove to Jason's left hand on the keys. Jason is a powerhouse that no musical straight jacket can harness, so we let him do what he does best; either play the tunes out with his right hand, or stretch the dynamics of the band’s sound to the furthest reaches of the arse of Satan.

Darren is the ear candy guy, who takes the tunes and writes harmonies and counter-melodies on the fly, and keeps me, the token fiddler, on the rails.

Live, the end result is music that hopefully makes people want to listen and dance; those are the same goals that trad Cape Breton music strives for.


SABS: Since 2011 is drawing to a close - I've been reflecting on my year and I don't mind saying - working with you was a highlight - beside that moment for you what other stand out moments can you remember for you and the band?

Colin Grant: Of course, getting to work with you on "Christmas By The Sea" was a highlight For the band, our first foray overseas to Ireland and the UK was pretty cool, especially a show we did in Limerick, where a lot of musical friends who came to study at CBU came out. Kansas City Irish Fest and Celtic Colours were both great to us, and I think one of my highlights was playing the Celtic Colours Festival Club very late the last night of the festival, and a concert with our steel drum-playing buddy Pepito Pinto from Jamaica. The week we spent together in Sonic Temple studio making the record was a highlight for me too. We're also proud of Darren on the long-awaited release of his second CD, which finally showcases the fine singing and songwriting skills he claims not to have. Like, c'mon D, you play everything else masterfully, so frig off.

SABS: I'll pay ya later for that first part (hahahaha) - but back to it - the new name is perfectly timed for the New Year - what's up for Sprag Session in 2012?

Colin Grant: More traveling! And band bonding. Our album goes up for sale at www.spragsession.com January 1, and our single "The Gwanwitcha" will be part of the pre-order package, so hopefully folks will check it out, and look for a live studio taping of the track on our YouTube channel www.youtube.com/spragsession , or Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/spragsession. We look forward to keeping in touch.

SABS: Before I let you go - have you made any New Year's resolutions?

Colin Grant: Yes, to practice and write more, and try to enjoy the little things more that make gigging fun...new places, music, and kind people. This is what keeps us going for the long haul. - SeaAndBeScene.com

"Grant not fiddling around with ECMA nominations"

Dec 13, 2006 (excerpt)

By Laura Jean Grant

SYDNEY - It was a distraction Colin Grant didn't mind.

Just minutes before sitting down to write an exam, the Université Sainte-Anne student learned he picked up his first East Coast Music Award nominations.

"I got a phone call from Dad just before I had to write my statistics exam," he said. "I did really well on the exam but it was a little hard to concentrate."

Grant is nominated in the roots/traditional solo recording category for his self-titled debut album and was part of the Cape Breton Lyrics and Laughter group nominated for roots/traditional group recording. He's also featured on BLOU's album, Pied-A-Terre, which is up for francophone recording.

"It's a pretty exciting day," he said. "I was definitely pleasantly surprised."

"Hopefully it'll get a few of the tunes out there and heard by a few more people," he said.

The 2007 ECMAs take place in Halifax, Feb. 15-18 and will culminate with the ECMA Gala Awards Show, broadcast on CBC Television, Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. - Cape Breton Post

"Colin Grant: Making Cape Breton Proud!"

by Wanda Earhart
May/June 2005

Whoever may have said that you have to be born and bred on Cape Breton Island in order to stand out in the fiddling world, never met or heard the incomparable style of Colin Grant. Having recently taken part in no less than seven distinguished performances during ECMA weekend in Sydney, Nova Scotia, this determined young performer is well on his way to making his mark on the local and international stage.

Colin Grant was raised in Toronto, and together with his family, moved to Cape Breton just seven years ago. His interest in music had begun by age 4, at the Royal Conservatory, where he studied classical music for 6 years, and shortly after began to explore Cape Breton influenced playing with Sandy MacIntyre. Before long, he began the yearly tradition of attending summer classes at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s.
“I began to immerse myself in fiddle at that point, and took lessons from people like Stan Chapman and Rodney MacDonald.”
He recalls that his home was always filled with the sounds of east coast recordings from the Rankins to Jerry Holland and Howie MacDonald. “I always had a keen interest in those styles of playing.”
Some of his favourites growing up included Ashley MacIsaac’s Hi, How Are You Today? and Natalie MacMaster’s early recordings. “I really enjoyed their original ideas, and of course there is Howie, who I feel is just an all round great player.” He says it was his familiarity with the culture that likely helped to ease any anxiety that might have been caused by the relocation to the island. “I don’t really recall it being a worrisome time, if anything I thought of it as a chance to be closer to the music.”
Immediately upon arrival in Cape Breton, Grant immersed himself into the cultural life of his new surroundings, taking lessons from Allie Bennett and eventually performing on stages from Mabou to Glace Bay. In 2002, he was invited to join the cast of Lyrics & Laughter at the Louisbourg Playhouse (a musical/comedy revue type show that showcased young up-and-coming performers) to rave reviews from the mix of both local and international audiences that frequent the venue. “The response from the crowds was so great, and we were able to grow as performers with each performance.”
By 2003, Grant had been accepted into the National Artists Program (Canada), which brought together young performers and fine artists to produce a gala show at the Jeux Canada Games in Bathurst, New Brunswick. He also toured Scotland and had the opportunity to bring Cape Breton music to Indonesia, hosting several concerts and conducting workshops at the Jakarta Performing Arts Institute.
Lyrics & Laughter also helped Grant’s reputation, not only as an accomplished fiddler but as a comedian. His comedic skills caught the eye of other local producers. In 2004, he was asked to join the final run of the award winning Accents On Christmas musical/comedy performances. Throughout the seasonal run, Grant was able to capture the respect and admiration of audiences, with his original musical arrangements, as well as his uninhibited approach to the comedic roles that came his way.
“The Accents shows were just so much fun, a great bunch of people to work with, for sure!”
After graduating from Sydney Academy, Grant has been attending Université Sainte-Anne in Church Point, Nova Scotia. “For French immersion, this is definitely the place to go,” explains Grant, “my plan is to earn a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education, French with a History minor. This is such a culturally rich environment, and I am enjoying my time here very much.” He has also been continuing to teach private violin lessons while attending university.
“I have been very lucky with my music, and it’s certainly not at all like work, but rather a lot of fun.” He cites one of the more challenging experiences as performing in Mabou. “At first that was a bit intimidating, the play pretty close to the floor, and know their stuff, but in the end it was an incredible rush to play for a dance up there.”
As for his ECMA weekend, Colin Grant hardly had time to breathe, but says it was everything a performer could ask for in terms of exposure. “It did seem to go by in a blur, but to have the chance to play during so many events was awesome.” Among his itinerary were the Opening Reception at the Casino for Mayor John Morgan and the ECMA sponsors; the 72 Hour Jam; the Ice Jam Charity Hockey Game; Coastal Radio’s Acoustic Café with Jason MacDonald and Doug Johnson; Celtic Colours Festival Club; the official after party at the Sydney Ports Terminal with Allie Bennett; and of course his Showcase in the Roots Room, which had an amazing crowd on hand that garnered a standing ovation for their last set of tunes.
“We dished up a wide range of music for a twenty minute set, including a ‘close to the floor’ march/strathspey/reel set of traditional and original tunes, a jazzed up jig set, and upbeat original song called ‘Roll on the Cove’ written by Andrew Tyne that he sang, and a final blast of traditional and original reels, with a step-dancing duet thrown in!”
Grant says he owes a lot to the success of his showcase to the fact of having close friends joining him onstage, including Adam Young on piano, Jason Murdock on guitar, Andrew Tyne on bass and vocals, Meaghan Grant step-dancing, and Duncan MacMillan on drums. “I don’t think I could have asked for anything more out of that weekend!”
For now Colin Grant is looking forward to a very busy few months, with plans for some recording over the summer, and hopefully a CD release soon thereafter. He’ll not only return for another season of Lyrics & Laughter in Louisbourg, but will also join the cast of the Savoy Theatre’s second annual production of Island Mania, slated to begin June 9.
So it is safe to say that there should be plenty of opportunities to catch one of the the most sought after young Cape Breton entertainers.
(For more info and updates visit www.colingrant.ca)
- Celtic Heritage Magazine

"Check out Colin Grant’s first CD: It certainly won't be his last"

October 26, 2006
By: Dan MacDonald

Colin Grant has performed across Canada, in the U.S., in Europe and as far away as Indonesia. He toured and recorded with BLOU and for the past number of years has been part of Lyrics & Laughter at the Louisbourg Playhouse. And all this before he reached his mid-twenties!

On Thanksgiving weekend, Colin released his first solo CD. Self-titled, it contains well over an hour of music spread across 15 cuts.

With Colin’s background and exposure to so many different styles of music, one might have been justified in expecting a contemporary style recording with a harsher, rockier edge. Such is not the case as he gives out a much more laid back and traditional feel, sticking to familiar styles mixed with an interesting variety of tunes that includes a good sock of traditional and old Scottish works but also four of his own compositions.

So what makes this recording stand out? The playing is both powerful and soulful as required, with crisp and clean fiddle work. The arrangements are creative. You can never be sure when a banjo or guitar will pop out and add something extra (and special) to the mix. The backup is superb as Colin stuck with his longtime musical companions for most of the CD (Adam Young, Jason Murdock and Andrew Tyne), with help here and there from a few others (including his father John, who takes the lead on the bagpipes on one cut).

Done mainly at Lakewind Sound, the CD was made possible by a grant of recording time from Lakewind and money from the Celtic Colours Festival Volunteer Drive’er Association. All together this is a fine piece of work, well crafted and well presented, a very enjoyable listen by a very talented young performer. This may be the first CD from Colin Grant, but I’m sure that it will not be his last.

- Cape Breton Post

"Colin Grant Soaks Up Styles"

February 25, 2010

I’ve been lucky enough to catch Cape Breton fiddler Colin Grant on stage a couple of times during trips across the causeway, including the CD release bash for his self-titled debut at Celtic Colours in 2006, and discovered he’s everything you could hope for from a Celtic musician: energetic, adventurous, serious in his study of music but always eager to have a good time on stage and in the studio.

Those traits carry over to Grant’s new CD, titled Fun for the Whole Family, which he launches this week with a series of shows around the province, starting tonight at Governor’s Pub in Sydney with guest Carlton Stone Drives the Big Wheel, with two shows at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Colin Grant and his band will perform this weekend in Sydney, Church Point and Halifax. Band members include Donnie Calabrese (bass), Colin Clarke (drums), Jason Roach (piano), Grant (fiddle), and Darren McMullen (guitar, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki).

On Friday, Grant returns to Universite Sainte-Anne in Church Point, where he’s been a student and a teacher, to perform at Theatre Marc-Lescarbot at 7:30 p.m. with guests Nathalie Saulnier and Allie Mombourquette.

Then on Saturday, Grant is in Halifax for an afternoon ceilidh at Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub on Argyle Street from 2 to 6 p.m. The shows feature a crackerjack band made up of bassist Donnie Calabrese, drummer Colin Clarke, pianist Jason Roach and multi-instrumentalist Darren McMullen, a cohort of J.P. Cormier’s, recently seen around the province with the duo of Gillian Boucher and Andrea Wittgens.

Grant’s something of a musical sponge, soaking up the Scottish and Acadian fiddle styles of Nova Scotia, and even a wee bit of the Irish, and can go from a stone trad set like Donald Angus Jigs to a contemporary track like Beoga’s Surprise without batting an eye. It shouldn’t be a surprise he started studying Cape Breton fiddle with Sandy MacIntyre in Toronto at the age of 10, and continued with Allie Bennett when his family moved to Cape Breton in 1998. As a result, his music brims with confidence, but also reverence, as Fun for the Whole Family includes tributes to the late fiddle titan Jerry Holland, the Beatons of Mabou, and of course his respected teacher MacIntyre.

This weekend’s shows will also include new tunes that Grant and his band plan to record later in the spring, taking advantage of the extra musicians to explore a fusion of Celtic and progressive sounds. Definitely worth a sneak preview. - Stephen Cooke, The Halifax Herald


Fun For The Whole Family (2010) Independent

The Toy EP (2009) Independent

Colin Grant (self-titled) 2006 - Independent release
(Nominated for 2007 East Coast Music Award: Roots/Traditional Solo Album of the Year)



Lingering somewhere amidst the rich, soulful roots of traditional Cape Breton music and the grooves of a thousand branches of rock and funk, Colin Grant embarks on his latest project: a dynamic and thoughtful mingling of beats and melodies from an extensive host of musical influences. Far from the awkward malaise of mohawked bag-pipers and kilted punks, the Colin Grant Band has created a kind of Celtic fusion that is as much Steely Dan and Yes as it is Ashley MacIsaac.

With a trad trio comprised of the manic Jason �leaden-left-hand� Roach (piano) and embarrassingly talented Darren MacMullen (bouzouki, mandolin, guitar, banjo) Grant hooked up with the rough and red-eyed blues/funk rhythm section of Merlin Clarke and Donnie Calabrese (drums, bass). Together, the group produces a fervent yet calculated rhythm that backs an expressively diverse range of tunes. While the lively sound never strays too distantly from its Celtic roots, the Colin Grant Band has found an open ear in everyone from indie scenesters to blue-haired bingo stampers.


Band Members