St. James’ Gate featured at Central Music Festival

  • Aug. 23, 2010 6:42 p.m.

Popular local Celtic rockers St. James’ Gate will be showcasing their raw and raucous collection of tunes this Friday evening as the Central Music Festival kicks off.

The guys’ latest disc of finely-crated Celtic/folk/rock-flavoured tunes, License to Kilt, was released last fall. The 14 tracks include nine originals, a few charming traditionals and two superb bonus live tracks (Peter’s Street and Fisherman’s Blues) recorded at The Vat in Red Deer.

As of late, Drummer Dave Grobe recently decided to leave the group and has been replaced by Martin Coyle, says Justin Stewart (guitars/bouzouki/mandolin/vocals).

“With him coming onboard, we’ll continue to evolve,” said Stewart of Coyle, who hails originally from Glasgow, Scotland and now calls Calgary home.

“People get used to hearing things a certain way, but I’m one of those people that believes change is good.”

License to Kilt was dedicated to the late Jimmy McMullen who was such an enthusiastic force behind the band’s success before his sudden death in July of 2007.

Meanwhile, the mandate of the band hasn’t changed. One of the defining characteristics of St. James’ Gate is their ability to have loads of fun with a tune – it’s not just about capturing the essence of a song, it’s about injecting every ounce of energy and soul possible into each piece.

Rounding out the band are Glenn MacLeod (guitar/mandolin/vocals), Dave Best (bassist/guitarist/bouzouki/vocals), Billy O’Neil (bagpipes/accordion/whistles/vocals) and Dwayne Marsden (guitar/vocals).

With their remarkable skills as musicians and flair for engaging audiences, it’s tough to believe forming a band wasn’t even the original goal for St. James’ Gate – the guys joined forces to play for a St. Paddy’s Day gig in 2000.

But a musical chemistry was unmistakable. Prior to License to Kilt, Juice of the Barley marked their third disc in 2006. Ride was released in early 2004 and Serve Extra Cold in 2002.

Stewart said the guys are currently in the process of remastering Ride which should be available soon. Some of the tunes are being touched up just a bit, a bit of extra vocals added here and some punched up guitar injected there. The sensibilities of what set St. James’ Gate apart of course remain intact, explains Stewart.

Next up, he’s got his own ideas for what he’d like to see the guys produce.

“I’d like to do a ‘best of’ in a live format.” Picking a couple cuts from all the past projects and tackling them in a concert setting could be just the ticket as the guys have a remarkable way of connecting with audiences as well. Plus, doing things ‘live off the floor’ fits well with the nature of Celtic tunes. It’s real and authentic, minus the sometimes overly polished studio sound.

“I like the little imperfections,” he says with a chuckle.

Meanwhile, organizers of the Central Music Festival are hoping for at least a thousand fans to settle in and enjoy the music this year.

The Friday night and all day Saturday family-oriented, outdoor festival takes place on farmland just north of the city on township road 392 (directions on web site). There will also be a beer tent, a kids’ show with Trent Tinney, crafts for sale and local vendors selling food and beverages.

Tickets are available at the Black Knight Inn ticket centre or on-line at the festival web site.

For more information check out the web site at

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