For the third time in almost as many years, acclaimed British folk musician Dan Walsh is touring Atlantic Canada. His upcoming jaunt is comprised of nine shows in virtually all corners of the region, including two performances in the Metro Moncton area:
Walsh will perform at Moncton’s Plan b Lounge tonight, while ton Saturday evening he will head to perform at Parkindale Hall.
With three solo albums to his credit, Walsh and his mastery of the banjo has caused him to be a bit of a folk sensation in his native England. A past nominee for Best Musician at BBC’s Folk Music Awards, he first made his name as a part of folk duo Walsh and Pound, and also counts himself as a member of the award-winning Urban Folk Quartet.
“It all started aged 13,” Walsh begins. “I wanted to play the guitar from birth, and had doing so around age eight. Around the time I was 12 and 13 years old, I had started listening to a lot of Irish and Scottish folk music, in which the banjo was rather prominent. I heard that and just quite fancied giving it a go. My parents found me a wonderful teacher from a nearby town called Cannock to whom I owe so much. He taught 5-string melodic clawhammer banjo – a term which meant nothing to me at the time but I found out about a year into playing was absolutely nothing like the Irish stuff I’d been listening to.”
Asked what sets clawhammer banjo apart from other styles played on the instrument, Walsh explains the term has all to do with the technique in how the instrument is played.
“Playing clawhammer banjo is very rhythmic and a percussive style of playing. I was instantly fascinated by how many instruments it sounded like when it was first demonstrated to me in my first lesson. It was the absolute making of me; I had been a decent guitarist for my age, but it hadn’t become my voice or a way to express myself like clawhammer banjo did,” Walsh says.
“Probably the simplest way I could explain the style of playing is that I play the downstroke with the back of the nail and my thumb does the upbeats, all while your hand is in the shape of a claw, which is how the style got its unique moniker.”
Released last year, Incidents & Accidents is Walsh’s newest solo release. In terms of sound, the album is far more simplistic than its predecessor, 2012’s The Same But Different.
His newest record also reflects the distinct growth that Walsh has undergone in the last few years.
“I feel that I’ve grown as a songwriter. The album is reflective of the solo work I’ve been doing over the last few years. It just made sense to make a record that was reflective of my live show.
“In terms of the album as a whole, however, Incidents & Accidents is much more cohesive and the songs much more personal. I drew from my life experience with, rather than just social issues in general. I definitely feel more confident about my songwriting abilities this time around.”
With both solo shows and concerts with the Urban Folk Quartet scheduled between now and the end of the year, Walsh is looking forward to his imminent return to the Maritimes.
The first time he came through in 2013, he had been invited to take part in a songwriting partnership and subsequent tour with P.E.I. country musician Meaghan Blanchard. He shares that he had such a great time that when he was asked to return to the region last year, he and Blanchard rekindled their creative partnership, undertaking a number of shows as a part of P.E.I.’s Festival of Small Halls concert series.
Somewhat ironically, Blanchard is slated to perform in Walsh’s hometown of Stafford, England while he is busy playing throughout P.E.I, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Nonetheless, he is anticipating his return to the region.
“I completely fell in love with P.E.I., but generally speaking, I love everything about Atlantic Canada, including the scenery and the people. To be coming back for my third visit in about four years speaks volumes about how much I love your corner of the world.”
What: Dan Walsh
When & Where: Friday June 17, 9 p.m. at Plan b Lounge (212 St. George St., Moncton) / Saturday June 18, 8 p.m. at Parkindale Hall (3434 Route 895, Parkindale)