The Fretless
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The Fretless


Band Folk Celtic




"'Waterboud' by The Fretless"

When was the last time you heard something musically original? I don’t mean a fresh take on the rock combo or power trio, retro duo, singer/songwriter, global big band, DJ/sound designer, electro dance or whatever label already exists out there. When was the last time you heard someone or some people truly reinvent the wheel? While you’re struggling with that, let me tell you about The Fretless. Great name, right? Even at the outset they succeed where others creatively bog down. Their debut called Waterbound introduces us to a totally fresh idea; a Celtic chamber quartet made up of fiddles, viola and cello. The arrangement says chamber but the execution is lively as a ceildh can be. And, they get to put their own label on it, which they’ve chosen to dub ‘Rad Trad’. The Fretless are Ivonne Hernandez, violin, viola, step dancing and vocals, from Victoria, BC. Trent Freeman, violin, viola and feet, from Vancouver, BC. Karrnnel Sawitsky, violin and viola from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Eric Wright, cello, from Los Angeles. The Canadians met up through the competitive fiddle circuit and their American cousin completed group after meeting Ivonne at Berklee. Utilizing podorhythmia and a bowing technique known as chopping, the quartet adds percussive pulse to the chamber arrangement that evokes purity and modernity. Recorded in Victoria by Juno-winning producer, Joby Baker (Alex Cuba, Locarno, Tillers Folly) Waterbound is a celebration of wood and strings by our talented musicians with huge synergy and arrangement skills. I demand as solo artists and teachers, it’s hard to believe that they haven’t been playing together all their lives. Two guest vocalists make beautiful contributions to the disc. Ruth Moody from the Wailin’ Jennys melts the speakers on the lilting title track - a spectacular performance on a Dirk Powell-penned melody. Anyone who’s felt the overwhelmed by the pace of the world should listen to the poignant Karine Polwart lyric of Harder To Walk These Days Than To Run, sung by Norah Rendell. Box Man by Liz Carroll and the Iggy and Squiggy Set, a Jerry Holland personal favorite launches the disc with plenty of energy and sheer joy that earmarks every track to follow on Waterbound. It restores one’s faith that originality not only still exists but can be immediately accessible and inspirational. - World Beat Canada

"The Fretless - "Waterbound'"

Berklee College of Music grad and occasional Boston resident Ivonne Hernandez has been one of the more active practitioners of “chambergrass,” which combines Celtic, old-timey and other folk/traditional styles with
chamber music in- strumen- tation and dynam- ics. After having co-found- ed the Folk Arts Quartet (now sad- ly defunct) with other Berklee-
ites several years ago, fiddler/violinist/violist Her- nandez – who also plays occasionally with another impressive, more straightforward Celtic band, The Outside Track – is back with a new ensemble, which has refined chambergrass to what they call “rad trad.”
But whatever name their music goes by, The Fretless, which also includes Karrnel Sawitsky (violin, viola) and two more of Hernandez’s Berklee acquaintances, Trent Freeman (violin, viola, foot percussion) and cel- list Eric Wright, is masterful at playing it. More to the point, they adeptly toe that fine line between musical genres, capturing the precision, tone, and virtuosity of chamber while bringing forth the simple emotive qualities and spontaneity associated with folk and trad. “Waterbound” is full of swooping, darting melody lines, ambitious harmonies and counterpoint, and chugging, even funky rhythms, usually courtesy of Wright.
The source material covers a commendably wide, diverse territory: On the first track, for instance, The Fretless have a go at the Liz Carroll jig “Box Man,” peppering it with both sweetness and slyness, before letting fly with the late Cape Breton master fiddler Jerry Holland’s “Iggy and Squiggy”; another imagina- tive pairing has the band careening through the barely contained frenzy of “Pressed for Time” (one of many great compositions by the late Scottish piper Gordon Duncan), then abruptly shifting down and gradually rebuilding tempo for the traditional Irish reel “Bunch of Keys”; the final track, distinctively French-Canadian, begins with a pairing of fiddles and Freeman’s Quebe- cois foot percussion – buttressed by an appropriately ominous cello drone – on the traditional tune, “Growl- ing Old Man and Woman,” segues into the Sawitsky original “Growling Cousin,” and ends with Calvin Vollrath’s “Teepee Creeping,” which is punctuated by a riff encompassing a rapid-fire succession of harmonic notes from each player.
Guest vocalists Ruth Moody of The Wailing Jennys and Ruth Rendell from The Outside Track further enliven the proceedings on the CD’s two songs. Moody lends a suitably high, lonesome sound to the bleak landscape of Dirk Powell’s “Waterbound,” while Ren- dell and the band turn “Harder to Walk These Days Than Run” – Scottish songwriter Karine Polwart at her characteristic dark cloud/silver lining best – into a jig-by-the-graveyard romp.
Listening to the CD answers categorically any ques- tion as to whether The Fretless is a chamber music group trespassing in the folk/trad world – they are, in fact, a collection of talented, creative musicians whose exposure to classical/chamber has enhanced rather than diluted their folk and trad essence. Actually, listening to “Waterbound,” you’re liable to be enjoying yourself so much the question won’t occur to you at all. - Boston Irish reporter (p. 14)


Artist: The Fretless
Running Time: 38:24
Release Date: March 2012

1. Box, Man
2. Beads at the Market
3. Waterbound (feat. Ruth Moody)
4. The Northern Three
5. A Bunch of Time
6. Brigitte
7. As We Pray
8. Harder to Walk (feat. Norah Rendell)
9. Growlin'



The Fretless is a new approach to folk music that is quickly gaining high acclaim around the world. This unique band is taking string music to fascinating places as it transforms fiddle tunes and folk melodies into intricate, beautiful, high-energy arrangements.

In November 2011, Karrnnel Sawitsky (Fiddle), Ivonne Hernandez (Fiddle), Eric Wright (Cello) and Trent Freeman (Fiddle) got together for the first time on Vancouver Island to start rehearsing this project. After 10 days straight of writing, arranging, practicing and an absurd amount of tea, The Fretless emerged as a band.

With the release of their debut album Waterbound in early 2012, which features their fresh styles, compositions, as well as collaborations with singers Ruth Moody and Norah Rendell, the quartet grabbed the attention of critics and fans across many genres. This recording fueled a busy summer of festivals across Canada, a month long tour of Germany in the fall, and world wide sales and radio play. The year was capped with 3 awards, bringing the album, and the band further into the public eye; Instrumental Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards, and at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, the Fretless walked away with both Ensemble of the year, and Instrumental Group of the Year.

The Fretless is an innovation in music that must be heard. They harbor all the energy of fiddle tunes, while shattering all expectations in writing, creativity and performance.