Going bluegrass - with a little help

High Bar Gang to play Brackendale Art Gallery this weekend

The Brackendale Art Gallery becomes a bluegrass paradise Saturday (Feb. 26) as the Vancouver-based High Bar Gang brings some old-time sounds and top-notch players to the intimate venue.

Formed by Legendary Hearts guitarist Colin Nairne, the High Bar Gang is a seven-piece outfit consisting of veteran musicians and some old friends.

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"This was something Barney (Bentall) and I had wanted to do for a while," said Nairne. "We always said this would be something fun to do when we were older and now we're older."

After recruiting his former band mate, Nairne then set his sights on more players.

"I thought about the people who were local and that I wanted to play with," he said. "And the lineup was just there."

Nairne brought in multi-instrumentalist Eric Reed and bassist Rob Becker, both veterans of stage and studio, and then singers Angela Harris and Wendy Bird.

"They have such strong voices," he said. "But we also wanted a third strong voice, and we also needed a fiddle player."

So Nairne called upon Shari Ulrich to round out the band's sound.

"She's usually so busy, but we asked her anyway," he said. "And she said yes."

The band started rehearsing right away, but soon the players were anxious to get in front of an audience.

"Rob Becker said if we were going to be rehearsing, we should be doing it for a show," said Nairne. "So, we went to the Eagles Club in North Vancouver and we booked shows."

The band also needed a name.

Bentall, who moved to B.C. in 2000, lives in the Cariboo region where he came across a suitably cowboy-sounding place called "High Bar" near the Fraser River, and so the band became the High Bar Gang.

Incidentally, they ended up selling out their first two shows at the Eagles Club.

"We forced our friends to buy tickets," joked Nairne.

The band plays a mix of traditional and contemporary bluegrass and gospel tunes and arrangements, which Nairne said are a perfect fit for the BAG's more intimate setting.

"There's a timelessness to those bluegrass and gospel vocals," he said. "And it's all acoustic instruments. And we cluster around two mikes, so we like close, intimate venues where we can connect with the audience. It's as old school as it gets."

When not playing bluegrass in intimate settings, Nairne also works at Macklam Feldman Management, a music management company that represents names like Elvis Costello, Ry Cooder, James Taylor, Dianna Krall and the Chieftains.

The High Bar Gang play the Brackendale Art Gallery Teahouse Theatre on Saturday (Feb. 26) at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 at BAG or the Bookshelf.

Go to www.highbargang.com for more info.

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