Melding prairie-roots, bluegrass and Appalachian old-time sounds with a charming splash of southern twang, Oh My Darling is hitting the road to introduce audiences to their ‘melting pot of musical languages’.
Having released their second full-length CD Sweet Nostalgia last year, the all-girl foursome from Manitoba performs March 16 at The Hideout, which marks the start of a string of dates across Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Formed in 2008, Allison de Groot asked her friends Vanessa Kuzina and MJ Dandeneau to put together an all female old-time band. Looking for a fourth who could play fiddle, de Groot’s step-dad called a band-mate from the 1970s which informed him that her daughter played fiddle. Rosalyn Dennett was brought into the mix.
“I met the girls pretty much the day I joined the band,” she says with a laugh. “We had a jam, and Allison asked me if I wanted to join. There was an immediate chemistry.”
As for the latest disc, the ladies opted for a simple, fast approach to the recording process. The project was wrapped up in a mere seven days. “We wanted to capture the energy of our live performances, so it was pretty much all recorded ‘live off the floor’,” explains Dennett. There wasn’t time to fret about redoing things or overdubbing this or that, and that suited the women just fine.
“It’s a snapshot of where we were at last spring.”
Individually, the ladies are also known as some of the hottest players on the Canadian roots scene. de Groot (banjo/vocals) is one of Canada’s best ‘claw hammer’ banjo players. Just before starting the band, she also began traveling down to West Virginia and other areas of the United States to learn more about Appalachian music and culture.
Dandeneau (bass/vocals) was already a veteran of the music scene before joining the band. Her tours with Nine Mile, Xavier Rudd, the Wyrd Sisters, Tribe of One, Pete Murray and Doug Cox have taken her all over the globe.
Dennett (fiddle/vocals) spent a year in Galway, honing her skills as an Irish fiddler. She has also made multiple trips to northern Manitoba to teach and experience fiddle in Métis culture. She grew up in a musical family, but professionally didn’t really pursue music until she joined the band. “It was part of everyday life. As a child, it really had a big impression on me.”
Kuzina (guitar/vocals) began to discover her voice in singing groups in high school. She’s been labeled the ‘cowboy poet’ of the group with her lyrics that tell stories about life on the prairies.
They started building an arsenal of original material and landed their first gig at the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg. They took on the name Fill’d’Riel (daughters of Riel), which celebrated the bands Métis heritage, while also acknowledging the range of influences in their music, including Celtic, French, Métis, and American.
After the festival was over, the name Oh My Darling emerged from the rubble of crumpled scraps of paper, baby name books, animal encyclopedias and tune lists.
Their self-titled debut EP was released in 2009 and ultimately honoured with a Western Canadian Music Award for Best Roots Album.
In 2010, they recorded their first full-length album with Lloyd Peterson (Wailing Jenny’s, James Keelaghan).
Meanwhile, the opportunities continue to unfold. Oh My Darling has played sold-out shows from coast-to-coast and been showcased at the Canadian Country Music Awards. They have also been interviewed by CMT, received play on CBC Radio, and were featured on CBC Radio 2’s ‘Canada Live’ concert series as well.
It’s a full-time job for the women, who are gearing up for a three-month European tour starting in May. Audiences gave them a warm welcome during a similar tour last year, and it’s that connecting with listeners that fuels the band’s energy onstage and ongoing passion for what they do.
“The most interesting part is playing in the communities that the music takes us to,” says Dennett. Performing in smaller venues provides more intimate settings. “For me, that’s where we have gotten more of an idea of how our music impacts people.”
The ladies are grateful to be pursuing their dreams full-time. “There’s absolutely nothing better than that. We consider ourselves very lucky.”
As to what’s ahead, the joy of collaboration provides reams of inspiration. Songwriting, for example, is increasingly a group activity.
“It’s still a learning process,” explains Dennett of the band’s evolution. “With our band, MJ is the consummate performer – she’s amazing. So I take a lot of inspiration from her. How we approach the stage is something that is definitely always evolving.”