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Georgetown musician's twist on traditional Métis music earns Juno nomination

Red River Ramblers up for traditional Indigenous artist or group of the year
The album Reverie has earned the Red River Ramblers a Juno nomination for traditional Indigenous artist or group of the year. Members of the band, from left, are Douglas Sinclair, John McEleny, Stephen Dayfoot and John Showman.

When the Red River Ramblers released their first album in January of 2020, the band’s leader, Douglas Sinclair, was looking forward to playing it live. 

Those plans were dashed a couple of months later when the COVID-19 pandemic closed live music venues and had much of the population sheltering at home. While people tried to find ways to entertain themselves, it was, artistically, a boon for Sinclair. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever had that much time on my hands to work on music,” the Georgetown musician said.

Sinclair had a group of songs in various stages of completion and suddenly found himself with a lot of time to finish them.

While the band’s first album, Métis Fiddle Music, was a collection of arrangements of traditional Métis music, the second includes six original compositions. Recorded in the summer of 2022, Reverie is the result of Sinclair’s musical work during the pandemic.

The Red River Ramblers earned a Juno nomination for traditional Indigenous artist or group of the year. Members of the band, from left, are John Showman, Georgetown's Stephen Dayfoot and Douglas Sinclair, and John McEleny. Kaitlin Sinclair photo

“It’s rooted in the traditional Métis music, but it adds an interesting spin on the genre,” Sinclair said.

He was obviously successful in doing so, as Reverie has earned the Red River Ramblers a Juno nomination for traditional Indigenous artist or group of the year. Sinclair was in a meeting when the announcement was made and learned about the nomination from a work colleague.

“It’s exciting,” said Sinclair, who will attend the March 24 awards in Halifax and play at one of the events leading up to the Junos.

Sinclair has played in various bands since high school, playing everything from punk to rock to blues. But he always found himself going back to the traditional Métis music that was part of his childhood. 

“It's nice, upbeat music that you can dance to,” said Sinclair, a citizen of the Métis Nation, registered with the Manitoba Métis Federation. “It’s moody, it’s vibey and a lot of people have told me it’s very cinematic.”

When it came time to record Reverie, Sinclair recruited “one of the best fiddlers in Canada,” John Showman, bassist John McEleny and then reached back to one of his former Georgetown bands for Stephen Dayfoot to handle percussion duties.

It was recorded over two days, with the band performing live and then choosing the best of the three or four takes they did of each song. 

“There are no overdubs,” Sinclair said. “It’s an efficient and affordable way to record, but it’s also very honest and really demonstrates what we can do.”

The album’s opener, Road to Pembina, was released as the first single, but Sinclair said Buffalo Hunt probably best captures what the band is about. 

“It’s fast and it opens up a world of imagination,” Sinclair said. “It’s that feeling of what it would be like to be taking part in the hunt through sound.”

In addition to the six original compositions, there are two arrangements of traditional Métis songs, Rougarou Reel and Old Reel of Eight.

Sinclair hopes the Juno nomination might open some doors in terms of getting on the bill at some Canadian folk festivals, expanding the reach of their music. In the meantime, they will have some upcoming shows at the Red Harp in Acton.


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Herb Garbutt

About the Author: Herb Garbutt

Herb Garbutt has lived in Halton HIlls for 30 years. During that time he has worked in Halton Region covering local news and sports, including 15+ years in Halton Hills
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