The Fretless Meld Traditional Irish Tunes With "Jenny Bear" (premiere)

Photo: Scott Ramsay

Arranging two Irish string tunes into a set, Juno-winning quartet the Fretless pay homage to their traditional roots.

The Fretless are a fiddling Canadian foursome who, like bands along the lines of Ayreheart, have been gaining renown lately for their keenness to revive traditional Irish folk music as part of the mainstream. They've been gaining steam quickly, too; in 2012, the band was formed, and they received a Juno award in recognition of their album Bird's Nest just four years later. The idea has been to effectively deconstruct and reform traditional string compositions and stylings in ways that simultaneously innovate and appeal to the masses. So far, that's turned out pretty well for them.

Their new album, Live From the Artfarm, decidedly takes advantage of their newfound acclaim while the iron is still hot. "We've made a record of our favorite pub tunes, but transformed them in our world of arrangement and intricacy," says fiddler and violist Trent Freeman. "We are hoping to bring the current pub crowd audience to us, and we are hoping to bring a new crowd to the pub, too."

"We want everyone involved, and there's no better way than to have you in the room with us. It's a give and take that makes the audience the fifth member of the band towards the end of the new album. As the enthusiastic response from the crowd grows, the band responds in kind."

Today, the Fretless are sharing a brand new set of theirs that will be featured on the album. Shot in the Artfarm itself, the band never ceases to impress with this meshing of two traditional Irish tunes.

"Eric first heard 'Jenny's Welcome to Charlie' played by the Vermont band, Nightingale, and then by Martin Hayes, who's playing made this an irresistible choice for the record," Freeman says of the arrangement, "Jenny Bear". "'Bear Island' was inspired by Fergal Scahill, a wonderful Irish fiddler."

Live From the Artfarm releases on 6 April.

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