Bluegrass Beyond Borders: Spooky Ride in Montreal

Spooky Ride, a band based out of Montreal in Canada, isn’t at all as ominous as their title may imply. The brainchild of dobro player Pascal Richard, the group’s aim has always been to bridge the divide between traditional bluegrass and abject Americana, while adding a hint of jazz-like virtuosity to the mix. And this combination manages to showcase each individual member’s instrumental acumen.

The band currently consists of Richard himself on dobro, Guy Donis on banjo, Pierre Côté playing guitar, Robin Boulianne on fiddle, and Sébastien Pellerin anchoring it all on upright bass. “I’ve been friends with most of these guys for a long time,” Richard notes. “We’re all freelance players around the province of Quebec, and I knew they were the right people for this band.”

He also made mention of the fact that the group leans towards a more progressive stance in terms of their orientation, making for a sort of fusion-esque approach that distinguishes them from the norm. Yet, at the same time, they immersed themselves early on in the sounds of those who brought bluegrass to the fore, as far as a contemporary credence was concerned. 

“Like a lot of guys of our generation, a whole new world opened up for us when we heard the likes of Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas and Béla Fleck,” Richard recalls. “You know, the usual suspects. That being said, digging deeper and learning more about the history of the music brought us the utmost respect for the founding fathers like Flatt & Scruggs.”

He went on to say that the group had considerable success playing around their region until the pandemic put a pause on their efforts. “Our record was released just around the time when COVID hit, so we did hit a rough spot to say the least,” he says.

The band’s initial album is, quite naturally, titled Spooked. Richard mentioned that the band is in the process of recording a new, as yet untitled, album as well. “We play all original music, but our love for the Beatles got us to record a few of their tunes that we arranged for our band’s instrumentation,” he adds. “We’ve written the next record and are about to start rehearsing the new music. Hopefully we will have new material ready by the end of the year.”

In the meantime, the group is aiming to get itself established on the festival circuit. “We’re trying,” Richard says emphatically.  “We’re still attempting to establish solid American contacts to do so as soon as possible.”

The individual members of the band have had ample opportunities to share stages with quite a few major acts from their native Quebec, musicians whose efforts range from country and pop to jazz and classical.

“People really seem to dig it,” Richards says of the response they’ve garnered thus far. “Since there isn’t a super strong bluegrass scene in Quebec, we tend to fall into the world, acoustic, and jazz categories.”

As for the name of the band itself, Richard offers a simple explanation.

“I was driving along the highway and saw a sign for a ‘Spooky Wagon Ride’,” he recalls. “I thought that sounded like a cool band name, and so it became ‘Spooky Ride’!”

He also shared some thoughts as to why he believes bluegrass enjoys such enduring… and, for that matter, international… popularity. “It’s because the community is very welcoming,” he suggests. “The music rings true and the musicianship is incredible.”

More about Spooky Ride can be found at their website. In addition, their music can be heard on most streaming platforms.

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.