Friday, 23 September 2011 10:27

The Crooked Brothers bring their sound to the Hat

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By Rose Sanchez — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A Winnipeg folk-bluegrass band is bringing their unique sound to Medicine Hat this weekend, when they perform in Ye Olde Jar Bar on Sunday.

The Crooked Brothers are known for their ability to play a menagerie of instruments and a variety of sounds.

Songwriters Jesse Matas, Darwin Baker and Matt Foster make up the trio who are touring with their new album Lawrence, Where’s Your Knife? Their sound is a mixture of country, blues and rock, depending upon who penned the lyrics and takes up the lead microphone.

“It’s more about what comes out of us,” says Baker, as opposed to the band choosing to sound a certain way based on musical influence. “The inspiration strikes you. Sometimes it’s country and sometimes it’s more rock or blues.”

All three performers are talented musicians playing banjos, mandolins, dobros, guitars and harmonicas.

Their set lists when they perform are geared to fewer instrument changes just so the flow isn’t interrupted, but for audiences that means a different show every time they perform.

The group has been The Crooked Brothers for the past four years, but Baker and Foster have a longer history than that, having played in a band together before. They started to jam together focusing more on a country music and acoustic sound, before picking up Matas to join the group.

It was an interesting progression to choose their name.

“The brothers part of our name relates to the archetypical bluegrass, folk, family band idea. We’re essentially brothers every way, but biologically,” explained Matas, in a news release.

“The crooked part is derived from a book we all read called Ironweed by William Kennedy. He used the term ‘crooked’ to described people after they’ve died. He says ‘they’ve gone crooked’, or ‘he was all crooked’. It seemed to fit with our band. One of our original goals was to see beauty in everything including death.”

No stranger to life experiences, the trio base many of their songs on the events they’ve gone through. In fact their newest album includes a lot of “heartbreak songs” tackling the end of relationships. Two of the band members went through some “pretty heavy heartbreak” while writing material for their new CD.

“You definitely end up with a better song if you put part of yourself and your own experiences into it,” says Baker.

The trio also weaves history into their songwriting. The song 17 Horses, on the new piece of work, paints a historic depiction of hard times during a rural anthrax epidemic in the spring of 1931.

“It’s somewhat historical, rooted in a story about a bunch of horses passing away when they were building the Trans Canada Highway through Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park,” said Matas. The horses had kicked up some naturally-occurring anthrax in the soil, leading to their demise.

 For the trio of performers, one of the best parts about music is meeting people while out on tour. Baker likes playing the smaller venues and talking with the small business owner who is starting his own restaurant or pub. He enjoys seeing how entrepreneurs in small towns are trying to keep their communities unique.

“While there’s something to be said about playing to a giant crowd, there’s a more personal connection when you’re playing in someone’s living room.”

The tour so far this year has been fun for the “brothers.” They cram their instruments, bags and themselves into a hatchback.

While time in the car gets a little tiring, an addition of a Coleman stove this time around has made for some nice meals on the road.

They’ll be in Medicine Hat Sunday, set to perform at Ye Olde Jar Bar at 7 p.m. The cost is $15 at the door. More information about the band is available online at:

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