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Grass roots 

Notre Dame de Grass bring urban and rural to the bluegrass genre

click to enlarge Notre Dame de Grass are pickin' and grinnin'
  • Notre Dame de Grass are pickin' and grinnin'

The Appalachian mountain range, from New York to Alabama, is considered the home of American bluegrass. Just a few miles north of the range, in Montreal, five-piece bluegrass band Notre Dame de Grass has been perfecting the folk-revival tradition for the last 10 years. At The Carleton on Wednesday, NDG hits both the peaks of bluegrass and the valleys of invention.

"You will hear lots of Stanley Brothers, Red Allen and Bill Monroe tunes at NDG shows," says rhythm guitarist/lead singer Matthew Large. "But we needed to put our own stamp on the wonderful music Bill Monroe created. Writing our own material has allowed us to have a personal relationship to the songs. It helps us relate to the audience in a more meaningful way."

To bring together the traditional and the modern, NDG's goal has been to find the most gifted players around for each instrument, Large explains. "In addition to high-level musicianship, we've been concentrating on writing original Canadian bluegrass too," he adds.

With traditional bluegrass instruments–the fiddle, the banjo, the mandolin and the double bass–NDG is creating its own tradition. The members come from BC to NB to Belgium, meeting up in the west-end of Montreal. "The rural is as implicit as the urban in our band," says Large. "Despite all living in the city now we have some real country boys, cowboys and farmers in our band, and that former rural life inevitably shapes this present urban one."

Touring the Atlantic coast, NDG is inspired by the relationship between new and old.

"Bluegrass music is not an antique," says Large, "It is a living, vibrant art form that is continually moving and changing. We will never sound like the American greats, so we don't try. Instead, we do our best to be true to the music while being ourselves." AY

Notre Dame de Grass
Wednesday, July 17 at 9pm, $10/$12
The Carleton, 1685 Argyle Street

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