Bluegrass Beyond Borders: The Stiff Family from Prince Edward Island

There’s something to be said for family ties, especially when it comes to making music. The Jacksons and the Osmond Brothers proved that point long ago. The McCourys did the same while making their mark in bluegrass, as did The Lewis Family and countless others.

Now we discover The Stiff Family, based on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, who carry on a family tradition by procuring a sound and style of their own. The group consists of David Stiff, the dad (guitar); Heather Stiff, the mom (bass, band coordinator); and their children Aaron Stiff (banjo and dobro); Hannah Stiff (mandolin); Elizabeth Stiff (fiddle); and Abigail Stiff (fiddle).

“We began in 2013 playing as a family, first in church, senior’s homes, and then beyond,” Heather says. “Our children studied under JK Gulley and Shane Guse of The Western Swing Authority.”

The group utilizes four-part harmonies while performing a variety of traditional bluegrass songs, instrumentals, hymns, plus gospel and Celtic music.

“Our family enjoys listening to, and is inspired by, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, as well as Dailey & Vincent,” Heather says when asked to cite their ongoing influences.

To date, the group has traveled throughout much of North America, from north to south. “We have toured throughout Ontario Canada, parts of the Maritimes, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, and Alabama,” Heather continues. “The festivals we have performed at include Lake Itasca, PEI Bluegrass Oldtime Music Festival, Evangeline, and Nova Scotia Bluegrass & Oldtime Music Festival. There are a number of smaller festivals here on the island that we also participate in as well.”

They’ve also had opportunity to share stages with a number of notables, including Janet McGarry from the band Daughters of Bluegrass, JK Gulley, and the Chapelaires . 

Heather added that they”ve enjoyed an especially enthusiastic response in their hometown environs. “The Island is happy to see younger artists who still have a passion and desire to perform bluegrass,” she mentioned. “They are also intrigued by seeing a family performing together.”

To date, the Stiff Family can claim four inspirational albums, all of which are available on their website and found on Spotify. They include Still the Greatest Story Ever Told, When I Wake Up To Sleep No More, In This Love, and Power of Prayer.

“We have written and performed seven original songs, but mainly focus on the works of other artists,” Heather added.

She also offered an astute opinion on why bluegrass maintains such ongoing popularity. “Bluegrass is easy for the listener to sing along to, and its rhythms are energizing and toe-tapping!”

We couldn’t agree more!

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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.