Composed of siblings Solon McDade, Jeremiah McDade, and Shannon Johnson, The McDades are on a quest to “craft a new Canadian sound.”
Their Celtic and Roots-inspired music, love for improvisation, and boisterous live performances make for a redefinition of the traditional folk music sound. The band’s latest single, “Sundown”, is an upbeat, Celtic-bluegrass cover of the Gordon Lightfoot original. The song, featured on their upcoming album, The Empress, set for release in October, is crafted expertly with a classic McDades twist. “Sundown” incorporates tight harmonies, melodic violin, steady rhythmic guitar, crashing drums, and a most welcomed saxophone solo.
The overall vibe of this single is much more free-spirited than Lightfoot’s original version, and the jazz improvisation influence is strikingly evident. In true McDades fashion, this track, although a cover, is made entirely their own.
The McDade siblings were born into a world of music. Growing up, they played all over Canada with their parents in the McDade Family Band from 1974-1994. The band, as we know it today, was officially formed in 2000.
Since then, the band has won a JUNO award for Best Roots/Traditional Album Group, an Independent Music Award for Best World Album Traditional, and Canadian Folk Music Awards for both Best World Group and Best Instrumental Group. As well as receiving numerous awards, the band was also the subject of the 2013 feature-length documentary, The McDades: Brother, Brother, Sister Making Music.
The group has a sound that is simultaneously familiar to the listener, yet beyond comparison to much else in their musical sphere. Each of the members has a unique way of giving their own respective instrument a lyrical presence. Their music features Solon’s rich upright bass, Jeremiah’s soaring Irish pennywhistle, and Shannon’s bright and lively violin, each instrument working alongside vocal harmonies so precise they could only come from siblings.
The McDades have a profound knack for high-spirited performances, full of jazz-like improvisation and sounds akin to that of Western Europe, transporting the listener to another place and time. In listening to this seasoned group, it’s evident they’ve got music in their blood and boundless inspiration aimed to celebrate tradition of days gone by.
Photo by Dustin Delfs of Laughing Dog Photography