Canada has quite an active bluegrass scene, with musicians and festivals to be found across the majority of the country. Quite a few groups make their home in the province of Ontario, including the celebrated band Hard Ryde. The band members are frequent winners at the Central Canadian Bluegrass Awards, racking up awards in instrumental, songwriting, and album categories. In fact, their newest release, Composed, was recently named 2012 Recording of the Year. This album, out on Hapidawg Productions, is a collection of twelve contemporary bluegrass tunes with a few old-time influences.
Several of the songs were written by Melissa Sherman, an essential part of the group. While Melissa doesn’t play on stage with the group, she takes care of many behind-the-scenes necessities, including managing the band and organizing several bluegrass festivals. Sherman, who also took part in the recent Daughters of Bluegrass collection, has contributed seven songs to this album.
Among those is the swingy Money Can’t Buy, about a man who realizes that flowers, rings, and other nice things weren’t enough to win a fickle woman’s love, and Travel Safe, a peaceful, reflective tune about the passing of a loved one. Warm Day in June, one of the most traditional-sounding tracks on the album, is a nice mid-tempo song full of regret and lost love. Another Sherman cut is Rejoice, an upbeat traditional Gospel number which allows the musicians to cut loose.
One of the album’s standout tracks is the enjoyable opening tune, Echo, which shares the story of a man who keeps hoping he will hear more than an echo when he calls out for the love that left him. The instrumentation on this song is among the best on the album, with the band really seeming to mesh well together. Several of the other songs feel a little rushed or jumbled, with instruments seeming to play on top of one another.
While the majority of the album is straightforward contemporary bluegrass, the one instrumental (the familiar-sounding Shut Up and Drive) has a bit of an old-time feel, particularly in the fiddle parts. Interestingly, in the liner notes (which share the stories behind most of the tunes), it’s mentioned that this song’s composer (Chris Ricker) wrote the song in five minutes on his mandolin. The murder ballad Marina also seems to have old-time influences, with haunting banjo throughout.
Hard Ryde consists of Doug deBoer (guitar), Rich Koop (bass), Will Meadows (mandolin and guitar), Marc Roy (guitar), Luke Puckrin (banjo), and Shawn Kellett (fiddle). They are also joined by several special guests on Composed, including Chris Ricker (fiddle), D’Arcy Campbell (banjo), and Bill Koop (clawhammer banjo).
For more information about Hard Ryde and their music, visit www.hardryde.ca.
Their album can be purchased from their website.