The High Bar Gang is a classic bluegrass group for modern times, featuring Barney Bentall, Shari Ulrich, Angela Harris, Wendy Bird, Colin Nairne, Eric Reed and Rob Becker.
Each member of the High Bar Gang has played music pretty much their entire adult life, and each member brings something unique to the music, and yet for all of them, it’s a great learning experience.
If on one hand bluegrass, demands the best of your musical skills, on the other it commands you to be at your most passionate.
In the band’s set, the music of Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley is played alongside contemporary arrangements of traditional gospel tunes by Crooked Still or new gospel songs by Julie Miller. The lineup allows the band to explore this music both instrumentally as well as vocally.
The High Bar Gang performs at the 30th annual Filberg Festival in Comox this Saturday.
• Barney Bentall (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar) — Born in Toronto, Barney grew up in Calgary, moving to Vancouver in 1978 to try his hand at music. A dedicated family man, he faced a struggle to keep writing and performing music while supporting four children.
In 1988 at the point when a day job seemed imminent, Barney formed The Legendary Hearts and signed with Columbia/CBS Records. Their self-titled debut sold over 100,000 copies and featured three hit singles in Canada, winning a Juno in 1989.
In 2000, Barney moved to the Cariboo to operate a cattle ranch. Barney also formed The Grand Cariboo Opry with a variety of musicians as a way to help raise funds for needy residents of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
• Shari Ulrich (Vocals, Fiddle, and Mandolin) — Born in California, Shari moved to B.C. in the early 1970s. She was first heard with Rick Scott and Joe Mock in Pied Pumkin playing fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer, flute and sax. Her big break came when she was hired to tour with Valdy and his Hometown Band. Shari won a 1982 Juno for Most Promising Female Vocalist and received Juno nominations the following two years for Best Female Vocalist.
• Angela Harris (Vocals) — Raised in the rural Chilcotin region of B.C., Angela has three CDs and a single, Family Matters, to her credit. Honoured by a total of 17 award nominations, Angela was recently awarded the 2011 BCCMA Roots/Canadiana Award. In 1992, she took her guitar and a suitcase full of her demoed songs to Nashville to study songwriting. Angela has graced stages with such artists as Emmylou Harris, Barney Bentall, Shari Ulrich, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller, Ridley Bent, John Reischman and the Jaybirds, Ruthie Foster, Ray Wylie Hubbard and many others at major festivals.
• Wendy Bird (Vocals) — Wendy is one of the great secrets of the Vancouver music scene. A natural singer, she is blessed with a deep blue voice, and a lot of soul. For the past five years, Wendy has been a member of Barney Bentall’s Grand Cariboo Opry.
• Colin Nairne (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar) — Colin has played with Barney Bentall for over 30 years, first with the Legendary Hearts, and now in the High Bar Gang. He has years of experience on the acoustic guitar, electric guitar and mandolin, and is known as a great player who passionately loves and understands music. In 1989, Colin won a Juno with the Legendary Hearts, and in 1997 he was nominated for a Juno in the Best Roots & Traditional Album category for the Murray McLauchlan album Gulliver’s Taxi.
• Eric Reed (Banjo, Mandolin, Dobro) — Eric has a 20-year history as a full-time multi-instrumentalist, producer and sound engineer, in demand with his reputation as a steadfast craftsman.
• Rob Becker (Vocals, Bass Guitar) — Rob is a freelance bassist living in Vancouver. He plays regularly with Taylor James, Gary Comeau and the Voodoo Allstars, Silverlode and Paul Laine. He also tours with Leslie Alexander, Barney Bentall, Colin James and Ridley Bent.
The 30th Filberg Festival in Comox happens Aug. 3 to 6. This festival raises the money needed to restore and maintain the beautiful Filberg heritage property. Tickets are $15 daily or $40 for a weekend pass.
For more information, go to www.filbergfestival.com.
— Filberg Festival