Drawing on Tradition
The Punters, Atlantic Canada’s latest group to draw on the wave of Celtic/traditional popularity that is sweeping the musical landscape, released their second independent CD in June titled said she couldn’t dance... , the album reflects the experience and maturity that has helped season the group since the release of its first album a year and a half ago.
Originally a five piece unit, the band was down-scaled to the present quartet only after it was decided a replacement for the departing member would not be necessary. The present lineup includes: Larry Foley on lead vocal, guitars and mandolin; Patrick Moran on vocals, fiddle and accordion; Brian Kenny on bass; and Bob Hiscock on drums and percussion.
The four member band has come a long way since the release of their first album. The production values are among the most notable differences. Thanks largely to producer Dave Panting (of Rawlin’s Cross’ fame), the album is a concentration of traditional Newfoundland influences that is tightly exhibited. Panting has helped The Punters reach the next level in terms of cohesive musical delivery crossed with carefree toe-tapping abandon.
Band leader Foley credits Panting as the catalyst for the group’s gelling on the new disc.
"We wanted someone from here [Newfoundland] to produce the album," Foley relates. "Someone from here who knew the sound from here. We thought of Dave and thought 'who better than him?' We approached him and he was more than happy to take this project on."
Indeed, perhaps there is no person more qualified than Panting to produce a traditional Newfoundland album. In addition to his accolades as the principal songwriter with Rawlin’s Cross, Pantings’ roots go back to the original Celtic/rock pioneers, Figgy Duff, and he has played with or been very close to every traditional musician that has come out of Newfoundland in the past 20 years.
Juggling a hectic schedule between his commitments with Rawlin’s Cross and traveling to Newfoundland to produce the new CD, getting together with Panting was a challenge in itself for The Punters. But itineraries were worked out and it all came together with just enough time for the group to catch its collective breath and gear up for the release and the summer touring schedule that accompanies it.
The band saved a lot of time by going through the pre-production stages during the winter. When Panting gave the green light to hit the studio in May, The Punters were ready, having most of the songs worked out in form and awaiting Panting’s penchant for fine tuning.
said she couldn’t dance... allows the band to focus around a traditional sound while exploring other directions. The album is also comprised of pop, country and rock influences. "Conscience Calling" is a good example of this eclectic mixture; Moran’s fiddle work is reminiscent of southern-country riffs overlaying the band’s tightly knit, upbeat performance.
The varying styles on the album, while maintaining a traditional base, came as a pleasant surprise to the band.
"Within the same group of people you find a pool of influences that you never thought of or bothered with before," Foley explains. "But by just investigating them a little and incorporating the variety that you’ve discovered with your basic sound, you’re able to transcend the labeling or pigeonholing and offer something of yourselves. It helps you to give something back, to help the whole genre evolve."
The result is an album that Foley feels is more accessible, not as Newfoundland and St. John’s-centered as The Punters’ first album.
"This album helps us spread our wings," he says, adding "it’s not as focused on Newfoundland political humour like the first one was."
Foley wrote or co-wrote seven original songs on the new offering, collaborating with Panting on one number.
"Actually a lot of the songs grew out of our relationship with Dave," says Foley. "He’s a virtual wealth of Newfoundlandia and traditional music in general."
The Punters are planning on their first video in the coming months and will hit the mainland for a tour in the Fall. This summer they’ll be concentrating on sticking close to home with a healthy dose of Newfoundland folk festivals. They will travel to P.E.I. for the Festival of Fathers in August. October will see the band do a tour of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Arts and Culture Centre circuit.
The band should go over well wherever they play. After all, if you say you can’t dance to this stuff, you must be pulling their legs!
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