The second half of the Aurora Trail lineup of the Home Routes program began in February, with three house concerts planned between Feb. 1 and April 14.
Home Routes sends performers out to do about a dozen house concerts, six times a year, in 11 different touring zones from the Maritimes to the Yukon. We are part of the Aurora Trail, which includes a bit of northern British Columbia and the western tip of the Northwest Territories.
This season, living rooms are being filled with good music in Dease Lake and Atlin in B.C.; Crag Lake, Marsh Lake, Haines Junction, Faro, Mayo, Dawson City, Old Crow and Whitehorse in the Yukon; and Inuvik in NWT.
In February, the Corn Potato String Band came up to Dawson. Normally a trio, the band was whittled down to a duo for this tour, including Aaron Jonah Lewis (fiddle, guitar, banjo and beard) and Ben Belcher. (guitar and banjo.)
These guys are specialists in obscure banjo tunes, often reclaimed from an era before jazz became the dominant genre in America, when the banjo was more than bluegrass and country. The banjo as a classical instrument may seem odd now, but this pair makes you believe in what they have reclaimed from what they call “the dustbins of history.”
There were lots of lively fiddle and guitar tunes and some vocals as well. It was quite an evening at the Hakonson’s lovely home. The pair also worked with a local fiddle group and spent some time in the Robert Service School while they were here.
Between Feb. 28 and March 15, Winnipeg-based Madeleine Roger was on the Aurora Trail. She is described as a contemporary folk singer who uses multiple tunings on her guitar and sometimes sounds a bit like a young Joni Mitchell.
Her website says the following:
“A former thespian and a lifelong traveler, she is prone to absorbing stories and questioning the way that things are, creating songs with imaginative melodies and honesty that bares truths about being alive.”
Her website also links to a number of videos and simple live performances that persuade me she will be worth seeing and hearing in person. She will no doubt be travelling with copies of her debut album, Cottonwood, which came out last October.
Alberta-raised fiddler Daniel Gervais will round out the season between March 31 and April 14. He will be travelling with guitarist Graeme Poile. Gervais was Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Champion in 2011 and again in 2016. He plays classical violin as well as the fiddle. He currently teaches as sessional faculty at MacEwan University in the jazz and popular music program.
Gervais performed at the 2012 London Olympics as a cultural ambassador of Alberta. He has toured with Zéphyr, a French-Canadian dance group, and at numerous festivals in Canada, the USA and France. He has taught in many settings, including with the Suzuki Strings and Fiddleheads in Whitehorse.
His website also includes several dozen of his tunes, both interesting covers and original material.