Viper Central
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Viper Central

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF | AFM

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Folk Bluegrass




"Album Review "Thump & Howl""

This tremendous six piece band are proof that you have to be very careful when trying to put artists into a particular generic field. The first time I ever read anything about them they were described as a bluegrass band. Whilst I do enjoy some bluegrass, much of it seems to be made up of speedy instrumental histrionics that qualatively seems to get a higher rating the faster they play and the higher the singing. O.k, I know this is a huge over simplification that probably says more about me than this esteemed genre, but that is an impression I sometimes get. Describing Viper Central as a bluegrass band is like describing Frank Sinatra as a singer. There is so much more to this hugely talented group of roots musicians that come to their music from a diversity of musical backgrounds and which they have successfully blended into their own highly individual style.
They hail from Vancouver, Canada, a country that over the last five decades seems to have produced an ever growing number of incredibly talented and usually quite original bands and solo artists, with the Vipers being no exception, other than the fact that talent wise they are in the upper echelons. The band consists of Steve Charles on guitar and vocals, Kathleen Nisbet, fiddle and vocals, Mark Vaughan, mandolin, Tyler Rudolph, banjo and vocals, Tim Tweedale, dobro, lap and pedal steel and vocals andLorraine Cobb on guitar and vocals. All are experienced musicians, not only in the genre they choose to record in, but a myriad of other styles, as can be evidenced by the confidence and attack they show in this series of fourteen songs and instrumentals. Most of the band members have a hand in the writing of the songs plus there are a couple of traditional fiddle tunes as well as a couple of band written instrumentals and a gorgeous version of Bill Monroe’s The One I Love Is Gone. Stylistically it is probably easiest to say they play string band or bluegrass music, but there are also strong elements of old timey, traditional country, even at times having a strong western swing feel, a genuine mix of most sub genres within‘Country music!’ The singing is always strong and atmospheric with most lead vocals being taken by Kathleen Nisbet, whose versatility and mastery of ballads or uptempo songs shows up particularly well, and with the band harmonies always being excellent and having an appealing, slightly discordant edge rather than the cloying perfection of some
Album opener, the Kathleen Nisbet penned and sung Saskatchewan kicks off with a western swing style fiddle introduction then in comes Kathleen with a slightly laconic sounding vocal backed up by steel guitar and some tremendous harmonies. This is followed by the Steve Charles written Come ‘round, on which he takes lead vocal on a song that is almost a throwback to some great old timey music with tremendous edgy harmonies, with banjo, mandolin and dobro driving the song along. Tyler Rudolph’s tremendous instrumental Redwolf starts with the gorgeous sound of his dobro and then shows the expertise of the remainder of the band with breaks for guitar, mandolin, banjo and fiddle all being propelled by the thump of a double bass. There is a slow moody ‘hanging song’ in Hanging Ground on which Kathleen’s vocals have an almost jazzy, blues feel and on The One I Love Is Gone Lorraine Cobb has her only lead vocal on this album. Her beautiful mournful vocals and the dobro and strummed guitar on this lovely song gives this tremendous album yet more diversity with a gorgeous tale of lost love. This contrasts brilliantly with the preceding Captain a song that really does conjure up the hillbillies of old with Kathleen's lead and the keening female harmonies plus fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar on a song that is easy to imagine being played at an old Appalachian hoe down!
Not only do this tremendous band at times evoke the high lonesomeness of old time music but there is also a feeling of wide open spaces, probably due to the geography of their homeland and the warmth and drive of their music makes it obvious they are enjoying themselves as much as the listener is, which certainly in my case, is a huge amount! - American Roots UK

"CD Review "Thump & Howl""

The Canadian roots music scene is currently in buoyant health and this situation is further enhanced with the upcoming highly anticipated third release from Vancouver based five piece band – Viper Central. This new album titled ‘Thump and Howl’ will be having its launch aligned with a summer UK and Ireland tour and its blend of bluegrass, country and old time traditional will surely be enthusiastically endorsed by connoisseurs of this music.
The strength of the album lies within the fine string instrumental skills of the five vastly experienced band members each demonstrating their expertise with the blend of sounds from banjo, fiddle, mandolin and guitar, laced with a little lap steel to add a more county flavour to the feel of the music. Multi skilled Vancouver music activist Steve Charles is the architect of the band and is capably supported by Kathleen Nisbet on fiddle and lead vocal on around half the tracks, as well as Tyler Rudolph on banjo, Mark Vaughan on mandolin and a variety of steel sounds from Tim Tweedale. Together they take you on a forty minute journey of original material that combines talented finger pickin’ and entertaining storytelling to give ample evidence of the torch of traditional roots music being kept well and truly alight.
This well balanced fourteen track album contains seven songs delightfully sung by, now solitary female band member, Kathleen Nisbet with perhaps the highlight being the opening number ‘Saskatchewan’. This song celebrates the importance of old time music in Canada’s prairie province and Nisbet’s distinctive vocals, aided by a touch of steel, give it a real upbeat country sound. There is a similar feel, albeit with a slower tempo, to the song ‘Hanging Ground’ with its darker tones, a pace also repeated in ‘Captain’. Although all the tracks incorporate each band member’s instruments, the fiddle stands out on the title track ‘Thump and Howl’, likewise banjo on ‘A Northern Midwife’ and mandolin on ‘The One I Love is Gone’. However all these sounds complement the fine vocal skills of Nisbet.
Steve Charles steps forward to take the lead on two of the tracks, which both have a unique feel about them amongst the collection of songs that comprise this album. The listener is left with little doubt of the bluegrass qualities attached to ‘Come ‘Round’ while the folk orientated ‘The Donkeyliner’s Waltz’ is a well constructed traditional storytelling song. The latter, whilst predominately sung by Charles, includes a brief duet interlude with Nisbet. The five remaining tracks are all instrumentals with the more memorable being the Celtic influenced fiddle tune ‘Drops of Brandy’ and the banjo inspired ‘Cobro’s Last Call’.
Overall the slightly eclectic sounds may not satisfy the bluegrass purists but for those who prefer to savour a more general range of what traditional Canadian and American roots music can offer, this interpretation from Viper Central will warrant a place in a personal music library. As well as recommending this album, it is fairly certain that a musical evening in their company will be an opportunity not to be missed during their visit this summer.
David Hughes
- Fatea Records

"Brighton concert review"

"Comparisons to Old Crow Medicine Show are inevitable, but if tonight was anything to go by, this group proves that Vancouver could easily hold its own against North Carolina."

- Excerpt from concert review by Steve Clements in the Brighton Source
June 6, 2011 - Brighton Source

"CD Review"

"This is blistering bluegrass, original, fresh and energetic."

- John Davy, from CD review of The Devil Sure is Hard to Please on No Depression
April 25, 2010 - No Depression

"Steve Clements Review"

"Comparisons to Old Crow Medicine Show are inevitable, but if tonight was anything to go by, this group proves that Vancouver could easily hold its own against North Carolina."

- Excerpt from concert review by Steve Clements in the Brighton Source
June 6, 2011 - Brighton Source

"Pete Wrench review"

"A warm feel; strong, mutually supportive, ensemble playing; and a likeable bunch.... They mix traditional and classic material with their own stuff to good and varied effect."

- Pete Wrench, Eden on the Line
June 8, 2011 - Eden on the Line


"A warm feel; strong, mutually supportive, ensemble playing; and a likeable bunch.... They mix traditional and classic material with their own stuff to good and varied effect."

- Pete Wrench, Eden on the Line
June 8, 2011 - Pete Wrench

"Georgia Straight"

"From bittersweet old-time ballads to fiery bluegrass breakdowns, the acoustic moonshine they distill is 160-proof"
- Georgia Straight

"Independant Press"

"...a new generation of Canadian artists is embracing the tradition, establishing a repertoire of original Canadian music in an otherwise traditionally American genre. The Vancouver scene in particular is bursting with new talent and bands like VIPER CENTRAL are at the pulse of a dynamic movement shaping acoustic music in Canada today. So what if their name makes us think of some one-hit glam metal band from the 1980's? They're obviously not too concerned about it. And with top-rate musicianship, excellent original songwriting and a sound vision for the future of their music, this slithery ensemble has little chance of disappearing anytime soon."

- Dean Gannon, Independant Press November 2006 - Dean Gannon

"Brackendale Bluegrass Festival"

"A hot new band from Vancouver. Extremely talented, passionate musicians. Beautiful playing and exquisite vocals. Every note shines."

- Cam Salay, Brackendale Bluegrass Festival - Cam Salay

"Viper Central in Brackendale"

"Viper Central’s impressive mix of bluegrass, folk and country is attracting attention at home and abroad for its smoky smooth instrumentals and potent vocal harmonies.
This snake’s venom feels more like serum to the ears."

"The band will be drawing from its most recent album entitled The Devil is Sure Hard to Please, which was original released in 2008 and features fierce instrumental picking on songs like Devil in the Hourglass and ironically merry harmonies on Shotgun Wedding.

Part of what makes Viper Central special is the members’ ability to balance original songwriting and aural twists to a traditional genre. The balancing act’s origin is found in the members approach to music. For example, while mandolin player Mark Vaughan is described as a true student of bluegrass material, members like Charles and dobro player Tim Tweedale add backgrounds in jazz.

The mix of tradition and experimentation makes a powerful fusion. And since all members contribute to songwriting, the music takes on a form of its own."

"Brackendale Bluegrass Festival co-ordinator Cam Salay said he is very pleased to have the band back. Their stage presence is mood enhancing and makes audience members want to dance.

“The vocal harmonies are really strong and they have a really fun energy onstage,” said Salay.

“They really seem to enjoy what they’re doing and every person is fantastic on their instruments. It’s a really good bunch of players that have met each other.”

- Neil Judson - Squamish Chief

"Whiskey Hollow Bound CD Review"

"Somewhat interchangeable as most bluegrass bands tend to be or lose their secret membership cards, I still feel like Viper Central might be the best of the lot thanks to the singer's good-goofy voice and an extra sinister playing of fiddle on Shotgun Wedding. Also points for subject mater and leaning towards "old-timey". Their "Devil in the Hourglass" also kicks my ass."

-From Fish Griwkowsky's review of Whiskey Hollow Bound in the Edmonton Sun - Edmonton Sun

"CD Review - Matt Large"

"Drawing on the deep well of ancient tones found in old-time and blue grass music, Viper Central have created a batch of sophisticated and authentic tunes and songs on their first major recording project “The Devil Sure is Hard to Please”.

With a lean eight tracks, seven of which are original compositions, the recording showcases the formidable instrumental and vocal talents of Steve Charles, Lorraine Cobb, Kathleen Nisbet, Tyler Rudolph, Tim Tweedale and Mark Vaughn. As with many urban centres across Canada, Vancouver is home to a wide range of artists and bands concentrating on traditional music from Appalachia and its many modern composites. Vancouver bands like Dyad, the Breakmen, Redgrass and many others are straddling the blue grass and mountain music border with grace and respect for the originators.

Of particular note on these recordings is the inventive and rollicking banjo work of Tyler Rudolph. He works with dark and often modal tonalities but uses the melodic banjo technique of Don Reno and Bill Keith to achieve a very interesting sound, and a style all his own."

Matt Large, Hello Darlin' Productions
- Hello Darlin' Productions

"Radio Review"

"One has to marvel at the longevity of old-time music. Here we are in a new millennium and it seems that every day there's another group popping up who has tweaked things just enough to add their own spin to it, while still remaining faithful to the genre. As someone who has been watching the Vancouver scene for over a quarter of a century now, it seems like an especially vibrant time. The old guard is being pushed aside by the up and comers. It's interesting to watch. A prominent example is that band with the intriguing name of "Viper Central" The self-described "six-piece acoustic ensemble specializing in that old southern sound" is making their mark these days.
Most of them sing and compose the original music that sets them apart from the pack. The thought that really gives one pause is that they are just really getting going. There's a lot of promise and potential in Viper Central to say nothing of enthusiasm. And oh... Did I mention? They've got really great lookin' t-shirts. That's important too."

-Paul Norton, Host and Producer of "In the Pines" and "What the Folk?" on CFRO 102.7 FM - -Paul Norton

"Wildy's World CD Review"

Vancouver's Viper Central knows what roots music is all about. The Devil Sure Is Hard To Please is the most strikingly brilliant mix of bluegrass, folk and country I have heard in 2008. Viper Central has gone so far to the roots on American music that you can't even properly call them Americana, I'd hedge by calling them pre-Americana. Shotgun Wedding is country music rolled almost all the way back to its Celtic roots with some good old Appalachian styling thrown in. Gold Road comes forward to a more traditional bluegrass sound with some amazing slide guitar work and finger picking going on. Viper Central reminds me a bit of one of my favorite bluegrass bands, The McKrells, but Viper Central perhaps exceeds even that vaunted, erstwhile band.

Mountain Of Trouble is a great listen, but Down in Western Virginia recalls the mix of country and rockabilly that fed the early Sun Records recordings. Down In Western Virginia features the most striking vocal harmonies on the disc, and you'll be humming this tune for days. Devil In The Hourglass is a work of dexterity for guitar and banjo and should be approached with extreme caution. If you're going to try to learn this one to play along you might want to start at quarter-speed. Roving Gambler is a gorgeous traditional tune that features Lorraine Cobb on lead vocals (something we could all stand to hear more of). Sadie's Ghost is a dark flavored tune that blurs the line between bluegrass and Celtic traditions and is one of the more interesting listens on The Devil Sure Is Hard To Please. The album closes with Come Along, a rousing instrumental that is the perfect aperitif here.

Viper Central gets down to the roots of American music in a way that revitalizes the sound and makes it new for today. Each generation needs at least one band to get into the metaphysics of its country's musical lineage and make sure that the music is preserved and expanded upon. Viper Central has answered that charge with gusto. The Devil Sure Is Hard To Please is a stellar offering, a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc, and a must-have for true music fans.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Viper Central at or You can purchase a copy of The Devil Sure Is Hard To Please at
Posted by Wildy at 5:00 AM
Labels: Appalachian folk music, bluegrass, Desert Island Disc, Sun Records, The McKrells, Viper Central - Wildy's World

"Thump & Howl CD Review"

Probably my favourite bluegrass band of the moment, Vancouver’s Viper Central are back with a new album of eleven original songs, one Bill
Monroe cover and a couple of old tunes from the Canadian Métis tradition. Their debut album, The Devil Sure is Hard to Please married
wonderful musicianship with original, contemporary songs absolutely steeped in the tradition. This new album, again produced by band
member Mark Vaughan, retains all the virtues of their first collection whilst being a notch sharper, richer and self confident.
From the opening bars of the first track (Saskatchewan, written by fiddler/singer Kathleen Nisbet) you’ll know you’re in the company of
some high-grade musicians; they create a relaxed vibe as they ease into gear, their well-practised togetherness sounding as easy as a front porch
swing, even as their joy and enthusiasm for making this music shines brightly. One of the many good things about this band is that the six
players all bring wide experience of other musical enthusiasms to this particular project. Between them they seem to have played everything
from classical to jazz, Hawaiian to gospel, and this breadth of expertise seems to give them more scope in their arrangements. It all sounds like
bluegrass, but Tyler Rudolph’s Donkeyliner’s Waltz can sound like an old time folk ballad, whilst Thump and Howl sounds more like classic
country-meets-swing. At all stops along the way there’s some glorious playing from every band member to relish, from Tim Tweedale’s
versatility on dobro and pedal steel to Kathleen Nesbit’s spirited fiddle playing.
Sharing the writing and the singing around the band works really well for these guys; to have as characterful a singer as Kathleen Nesbit is
one thing but to be able to call on three other vocalists just as strong and characterful is quite marvellous, and makes for a really rich experience
for the listener. They ring the changes on their arrangements too, keeping it pure and simple for the Métis tunes (just Kathleen on fiddle and
Mark Vaughan on mandolin) and the Bill Monroe cover (a quite magical combination of Lorraine Cobb’s vocal and Tim Tweedale’s dobro), or
going the whole hog on the likes of A Northern Midwife with some nice’n’easy harmony vocals and pretty much everyone joining in and getting
their moment in the spotlight, in traditional bluegrass style. I’m tempted to imagine that their distinctive sound owes much to them being a
Canadian band, though I really couldn’t tell you how that works. I just know that these guys make music that’s so straightforwardly joyous, you
just can’t resist them.
John Davy - Flying Shoes Review


Thump & Howl - 2012
Live at The Street Church - 2010
The Devil Sure Is Hard To Please - 2008



Viper Central can rip it up bluegrass style with sweet n' crunchy harmonies and tight melodic breaks that'll make your heart soar, your feet shuffle and your blood curdle! 

Canadian roots and the traditions of American Bluegrass, Métis, Country, Rockabilly and Old-time have influenced their ever evolving style. The songs reflect  Canadian landscape and experiences and the result is entirely natural, effortless and delightfully original.The band consists of Kathleen Nisbet (Fiddle, vocals), Steven Charles ( Guitar, Banjo, Vocals) Tim Tweedale (steel guitars, Vocals), Mark Vaughan (Mandolin), and Patrick Metzger (Bass).  VIPER CENTRAL is a five-piece acoustic string-band that takes that "high lonesome sound" to new places. All five band members contribute original songs, but won't hesitate to deliver up their take on an ages-old mournful waltz or bring the house down with a barn-burning bluegrass standard.

The band came together through a love for the old timey sounds of such artists as Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Hazel Dickens, and the New Lost City Ramblers along with the more contemporary styles of acoustic innovators David Grisman, Bela Fleck, and David Lindley. Everyone brings a colourful resume and a unique sense of creativity to this collaboration. While the members of the band play significant roles in many other roots music projects ( The Fugitives, The Blue Island Trio, Just A Season, Headwater, Petunia & The Vipers) the chemistry of the six members gives Viper Central a one-of-a-kind sound that sticks with audiences long after the show is over.

In the summer of 2008, Viper Central released their debut album, The Devil Sure is Hard to Please. Blending instrumental prowess with innovative arrangements and creative vocal harmonies, the album showcases the diverse songwriting talents of every member in the band and quickly earned them a reputation as an act to watch for in Canada's thriving roots music scene. In 2010 they released a live gospel album, "live at The Street Church", showcasing traditional harmonies and old fashioned live energy. The band was also featured on the Whiskey Hollow Bound compilation, which features six Vancouver bluegrass and old time bands and has been receiving rave reviews across the country since its release in 2007.

Over the past four years, Viper Central has toured North America and Europe, performing at festivals such as the San Francisco Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival, the Southwell Folk  Festival (UK), and the Willisau Bluegrass Festival (Switzerland).

They released Thump and Howl on May 2nd, 2012.  This third release marked a coming of age for the Vipers - there’s maturity and a confidence that they have found their own sound. While the banjo and fiddle remain central, pedal steel can be heard on several tracks and the melodies draw on such diverse influences as Metis Fiddle, Klezmer, Bluegrass and Rockabilly.  Most importantly the songs come from Canadian landscape and experiences and the result is entirely natural, effortless and delightfully original.

This Fall they have been working on a new studio album with John Raham at Afterlife Studio,  to be released March 2016.

Band Members