3x JUNO nominees and SiriusXM winners Sultans of String create, “Energetic and exciting music from a band with talent to burn!” (Maverick Magazine UK). Thrilling their audiences with their genre-hopping passport of Celtic reels, flamenco, Gypsy-jazz, Arabic, Cuban, and South Asian rhythms, Sultans of String celebrate musical fusion and human creativity with warmth and virtuosity. Fiery violin dances with rumba-flamenco guitar, while bass and percussion lay down unstoppable grooves. Acoustic strings meet with electronic wizardry to create layers and depth of sound, while world rhythms excite audiences to their feet with the irresistible need to dance.
Since releasing their debut album Luna in 2007, Sultans of String have continually strived to make each chart-topping album more original and meaningful than the last. That includes working with an orchestra (2013’s Symphony), teaming with Pakistani sitarist Anwar Khurshid (2015’s Subcontinental Drift) and even crafting a world-music holiday album (2017’s Christmas Caravan), which landed them on the Billboard and New York Times charts. Their ambition and work ethic have garnered them multiple awards and accolades, including three JUNO nominations, first place in the International Songwriting Competition (out of 15,000 entries), three Canadian Folk Music Awards and countless other honours, plus a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal (for bandleader Chris McKhool). Their 2020 release Refuge garnered many awards including two Independent Music Awards for Instrumental Song of the Year and World Music Producer of the Year, two songwriting awards from Folk Music Ontario, as well as the 2021 CFMA for Producer of the Year for Chris McKhool and John Bailey.
McKhool has an Egyptian-born mother who happened to play the piano, teach classical theory, and feed her young son as much Middle Eastern cuisine as she did music lessons. From there, the powerful violinist developed a taste for multi-genre string sounds and found a like-minded crew of all-world enthusiasts. When McKhool first heard founding guitarist Kevin Laliberté’s (Jesse Cook) rumba rhythm, their musical synergy created Sultans of String’s signature sound—the intimate and playful relationship between violin and guitar. From this rich foundation, the dynamic duo grew, featuring such amazing musical friends as in-the-pocket bass master Drew Birston (Chantal Kreviazuk).
Their live resume is similarly stellar. Equally at home in a concert hall, folk and jazz club or festival setting, the Sultans have gigged at JUNOfest, the legendary club Birdland in New York, Celtic Connections Festival (Glasgow) and London’s Trafalgar Square. They have sold out Koerner Hall three times (Toronto’s Carnegie Hall) and performed with the Toronto, Vancouver, and Edmonton Symphony Orchestras. They have played live on CBC’s Canada Live, BBC Radio, BBC TV, Irish National Radio, and the syndicated World Café, Woodsongs, and SiriusXM in Washington. Sultans of String’s musicianship and versatility are also showcased in collaborations with such diverse luminaries as Paddy Moloney & The Chieftains, Sweet Honey in The Rock, Richard Bona (Paul Simon), Alex Cuba, Rubén Blades, Yasmin Levy, Benoit Bourque, Béla Fleck, Crystal Shawanda and Ken Whiteley.
“Simply awesome!”- Mariposa Folk Festival
“What a great show and a full house on a Thursday is a first! Hope to have them back! – Sandhill Stage, Florida
“Sultans of String are so extraordinary and put on a sensational show.” – Lincoln Center, NY
“You get the feeling this is Strunz & Farah or Willie & Lobo or Gypsy Kings taken to the next level of the game, sometimes all at once… a sure bet to notch a JUNO and any other award winning hardware to come its way.“ – Midwest Record, Chicago
AL LERMAN is a veteran bluesman with a highly personal style, able to move seamlessly through the windows of Country Blues, Chicago Blues, Soul Blues, Americana and New Orleans Blues. With a great knowledge of the blues tradition on both harmonica and guitar, he brings that sensibility to songs that are written about his own contemporary life and times. His soulful playing, blowing and singing coupled with his wry and thoughtful songwriting make him an engaging and hypnotic solo performer. He is considered among the top harmonica players in the country, and he has been heard on countless recordings and live sessions. Al was founder and leader of the much-loved band FATHEAD, and worked with them from 1992-2016, garnering two JUNO AWARDS. After years of writing for FATHEAD and his own solo recordings, Al has a legacy of songs that few Canadian blues artists can match. His newest album “Northern Bayou” was released on April 12, 2019, where it remained on the Top Ten Canadian Album Chart for over six months. It charted internationally and ranked #4 in Canada on the annual Roots Music’s Radio Top 200 Blues Recordings of 2019.
A little bit country, a little bit rock n’ roll! Brooks & Bowskill is the new brainchild of singer/songwriter Brittany Brooks and multi-instrumentalist, producer and recording engineer Jimmy Bowskill (The Sheepdogs, Blue Rodeo).
Bowskill’s professional music career started at age 11 when discovered by Jeff Healey. Immediately his first recording session was set up which led to Jimmy being the youngest Juno nominee ever.
Jimmy is currently the lead guitarist for The Sheepdogs and plays Pedal Steel, Mandolin, Fiddle and Guitar in Blue Rodeo — two of Canada’s biggest bands.
Brooks & Bowskill have quickly become known for their rich harmony vocals and their unique blend of classic country and folk rock music with a real retro sound! Opening the show and accompanying Brooks & Bowskill are The Hometown Beauts – a guitar slinging, dynamite band composed of Ian Mckeown (Bass), Kyler Tapscott (Guitar) and Daniel Neil (Drums).
This will be an incredible evening of original songs, blues and country classics and some fine pickin’.
Washboard Hank’s exploits as singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and comedic backwoods philosopher, have delighted and entertained people for over 35 years. He started as a street musician playing all over North America where he learned how to present a truly entertaining show.
Late at night he would have total strangers laughing and dancing in the grimmest of urban settings. This ability to spread joy has been Hank’s constant goal.
Imagine Stompin’ Tom with a really hot band. Hank’s music has become even more creative and entertaining. Together they are a very entertaining Country Roots group who make people laugh and feel good wherever they play. Washboard Hank’s latest combo, The Wringers, features the wildly creative guitar playing of Sean Conway, the wonderfully jazzy standup bass playing of Tyson Galloway, and on mandolin is Sweet Muriel, the June Carter to Hank’s Johnny Cash or an Olive Oil to Hank’s Popeye; performing music that is uniquely funny and skillful.
2ish is the musical collaboration between virtuoso instrumentalists Brandon Scott Besharah: acoustic fingerstyle guitar, hurdy gurdy and saxophones and Saskia Tomkins: nyckelharpa, viola and violin.
The music of 2ish has been described as a “ living film score”, or as the style often referred to as “Heavy Wood”. Purely instrumental, their original compositions often remind the listener of music once created by the artists Michael Hedges, Oliver Schroer, Stefane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt.
Saskia was born in the UK and began playing classical violin at 7 years old. She discovered folk music at 11 years, and jazz at 17. Because of her very mixed heritage, she enjoys exploring and connecting to each of these through the music.
Saskia gained a B.A.hons in Jazz from Middlesex University in London, UK, where her biggest influential teachers were Stuart Hall (from Loose Tubes), who introduced her to a myriad of music genres. Chris Batchelor (Julian Argüelles group) and classically, Mike Thomas from the Brodsky String Quartet.
Since then, Saskia has travelled the world learning different violin genres, playing with people such as Laurie Anderson, John Etheridge, Sin E, Uriah Heep, The English Shakespeare Company, The Chieftains, Toronto Tabla Ensemble, and various Dance and Theatre troupes. She has done much work with dancers and theatre companies and taught many summer schools.
Her recording career covers over 30 albums and numerous Radio broadcasts including work for the BBC. She is an all Britain Irish Fiddle Champion. Since arriving in Canada in 2007 with her family, she has been embraced by the music community. Saskia is currently working with 4th Line Theatre Company and Mackenzie Roe Theatre Company; with an Irish/Canadian trio, Cairdeas: is principle viola in the Northumberland Symphony Orchestra and co-runs an Irish session in Bowmanville.
Saskia frequently works with 4th Line Theatre Company, David Newland, Kim Doolittle, an Irish/Canadian trio, Cairdeas which includes her husband Steafan Hannigan, and is principle 2nd violin in the Quinte Symphony Orchestra.
Brandon Scott Besharah, multi instrumentalist, composer, performer, educator.
Brandon has studied advanced acoustic guitar technique in France under Pierre Bensusan, and with Canadian guitarist Don Ross for two years. He also studied Jazz saxophone under Kirk MacDonald. and Jazz theory under New York based musician Barry Harris as a participant in his workshops.
Brandon has performed with Don Thompson, Oliver Schroer, Don Ross, Haygood Hardy, Guido Basso, Pat LaBarbara, Mae Moore to name but a few. He has shared performances with Jeff Healy, Ani Defranco, Lighthouse, Colin James, Michelle Wright, Jane Bunnet, Albert King and other well established artists. Brandon currently works out of Toronto Canada as a music educator, composer and session musician.
He has made several appearances on all the major television networks and has had his music video “Try” played regularly on Much Music. Brandon’s instrumental prowess was also featured on the 1998 Juno Award winning album by Judy and David. He had also composed the theme for the 2001 Juno Awards.
Brandon has been awarded several Ontario Arts Council, Factor, VideoFact and Canada Arts Council Grants for several projects during his career.
He had won the award for Best Performer of the year on CIUT’s “Acoustic Workshop” radio show. Brandon has also spent two years working for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as a member of their orchestra, and as assistant Musical Director, traveling all over the world playing music.
Through the North Toronto school of music, and privately, Brandon has been teaching Guitar, flute, clarinet, saxophone and music theory for over 25 years.
Brandon works out of Toronto as a busy session musician and sought-after composer. He has provided over 300 original compositions that include 24 string quartet pieces, a retail acoustic guitar package for Sound Ideas , Rock, Jazz, Funk and World Library music for CTV Music, French Cafe music for Nightingale Music and many thematic titles for use in feature films.
John Northcott, host of CBC’s Entertainment Tonight, said in reference to Brandon that,“when you cross a jazz saxophone player with a guitarist, the result is some remarkable guitar work!”
“Outrageously talented!” is how Kingston’s All Folks Festival described Brandon Scott Besharah.
Recording artist and guitarist, Don Ross, says that Brandon is “an impressive performer…a bright light on the acoustic guitar frontier.”
The Amazing Kreskin had this to say about Brandon’s song composed in his honour with wordsmith Lizzy Shanks:“The song is called the Amazing, but you tell them, they’re amazing, these people really did some job! I’m going out to have a ball this next week when I come to Toronto”(the trip he was referring to was to host Besharah’s CD release at Toronto’s Glenn Gould Theatre.)
Suzie Vinnick, 10X Maple Blues Award winner, 3X Juno Nominee was a Finalist in the 2013 International Blues Challenge Solo/Duo Category in Memphis, TN. She was the winner of the 2012 CBC Saturday Night Blues Great Canadian Blues Award and the 2012 SIRIUS/XM Blues Artist of the Year has released a new album entitled Live At Bluesville, a collection of roots, blues and gospel tunes featuring Suzie and her parlour guitar, Mabel.
A little history…in 2011 Suzie sent a copy of her first solo acoustic blues album Me ‘n’ Mabel to Bill Wax and the album ended up charting for seven weeks on B. B. King’s Bluesville “Picks to Click” reaching number three. This gave Suzie exposure to wider markets and very positive feedback on Me ‘n’ Mabel from fans. In November 2011, as part of a two week tour in the US, Suzie and Mabel spent a few hours recording at the Sirius/XM Radio studio with Bill and his team. Suzie felt so good about the recording session that she wanted to share it with her fans.
Suzie’s album Me ‘n’ Mabel received a 2012 Juno Nomination and opened many doors for her including numerous US and international performances – opening for John Hammond at the Madison Square Park Conservancy inNew York City and performing in Germany at the Women in (e) Motion Festival in Bremen.
Live At Bluesville features Suzie and her parlour guitar, Mabel, and will appeal to fans of her album Me ‘n’ Mabel and her earlier, roots-music based album, Happy Here.
Four ferocious players, masterful composition, and a genre-bending sound—Juno award-winning The Fretless is a Canadian quartet that has firmly taken its place on the map to a progressive form of “trad”.
A supergroup of celebrated solo artists, The Fretless has been creating a singular and signature sound that dares to expand the idea of what a string music quartet can be—transforming fiddle tunes and folk melodies into intricate, beautiful, high-energy arrangements that have quickly gained a dedicated following and accolades from around the world. Within what appears to be a simple construct — two fiddles, a viola, and a cello — The Fretless has created a sound that is distinctly rich, multi-layered, and uniquely percussive. This tonal quality is pushing traditional music to new heights, producing a completely fresh approach to Folk music.
Starting with its debut album in 2012, The Fretless had a breakout year winning Instrumental Album of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards and Instrumental Group of the Year and Ensemble of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards(CFMA). Their self-titled follow-up album, “The Fretless”, took home Ensemble of the Year at the CMFA’s and features the tune “Waving To Ryan”, currently approaching nearly two million Spotify plays. In 2015, they released “Bird’s Nest”, an album that solidified them as a force among the world’s roots music scene and earned them a 2016 Juno award for Instrumental Album of The Year. Recorded in a historic barn, live off the floor in upstate New York, they released “Live from the Art Farm” in 2018, an expanded rhythmic, harmonic, and stylistic exploration of the many folk genres they play. This album not only won them a CFMA for Best Ensemble but earned them a second Juno nomination.
Since the band’s inception in 2011, The Fretless has been successfully touring at home in Canada, as well as globally throughout Australia, South and North America, and six European tours. From iconic and intimate concert halls to some of the worlds most prestigious stages, The Fretless has had the pleasure of performing at the Cologne Philharmonic, Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra Hall, Shetland Folk Festival, Festival Internacional Cervantino, two sold-out shows at Celtic Connections, as well as sharing the bill with Canadian fiddle legend, Natalie McMaster, for Canada Scene at the National Arts Centre. A Fretless show is infectious, dynamic, and impressively relentless. They not only deliver expert musicianship and an electrifying performance but always invite the audience to feel the passion they hold for their music.
The Fretless is excited as they look toward 2021 with plans to release their most ambitious recording to date — Open House: a 10 track guest singer collaboration, featuring an astounding list of powerhouse vocalists that will absolutely solidify The Fretless as an ever-evolving, truly transcendent group.
Outreach and inspiring the next generation of string players is very much a part of The Fretless’ ethos. They continue to support numerous fiddle camps, masterclass’ and workshops around the world, not only as instructors but as mentors. Over the past few years, they have connected with notable organizations such as the Calgary Youth Orchestra and the Luxembourg Youth Orchestra, creating and performing full orchestral arrangements of Fretless tunes.
The Fretless is Trent Freeman (Fiddle/Viola), Karrnnel Sawitsky (Fiddle/Viola), Ben Plotnick(Fiddle/Viola), and Eric Wright (Cello).
They not only deliver expert musicianship and an electrifying performance but a show that makes you feel the passion they have for the music.
2017 Juno Award – Instrumental Album of the Year
2019 Juno Nomination – Instrumental Album of the Year