A bunch of baby boom teenagers from Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto playing in everything from punk bands to blues, country and rock outfits to African drum circles, classical and choral groups. Then comes a kaleidoscope of educational pursuits and careers. Marriages, mortgages, moves and 15 children follow over the next couple of decades.
Cut to a 21st century Saturday night. Under a full festival moon five sweating, exhilarated musicians take a bow to a dance-stoked crowd chanting five words: “Band take your pants off! BAND TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF!!!”
You’ve just entered the unpredictable, folklectic world of the five guys who call themselves The Ragged Flowers.
From their creative lair in Eastern Ontario -- a historic and artistic riverside jewel of a village called Almonte – the band still marvels at a formation-by-chance in their community's café scene in 1997. After discovering each other, roving jam sessions for handfuls of people quickly grew into a string of monthly music-food fusion events, pairing Santana, Joni Mitchell, Beatles, Van Morrison, Paul Simon and Bruce Cockburn cover tunes with spicy global cuisine and liberally poured libations. The result was that contemplative sit-down concerts more often than not exploded into sweat-soaked dance parties -- a phenomenon that exists to this day.
As their reputation and gigs increased over the late 90s, The Ragged Flowers tried out a few originals tunes – largely from previous musical involvements. They also began building their folklectic sound featuring dense harmonies, multi-layered percussion, double bass and lots of guitar -- including far-out electric and synth effects inspired by their 70s upbringing when folk, rock and world music were blurred for the first time in the name of anything-goes experimentation
Spurred on by Almonte's many visual artists, writers, musicians, nature lovers and eclectic souls from all walks of life, The Ragged Flowers released their debut CD, Love to Burn, in 2000. It's a live-off-the-floor recording co-produced with Toronto's Lurch (aka Chris Rudyk) of Broadcast Lane Studios, who has also worked with BB King, Burton Cummings, Barenaked Ladies, Chris Brown & Kate Fenner, and Scott Merritt. Love to Burn quickly lead to several premiere festival gigs such as Blue Skies, Stewart Park Festival, and the Ottawa Folk Festival, as well as Ottawa TV appearances, airplay on CBC across Canada and on indie stations in the UK and USA.
The highly percussive African, Latin, Celtic and Caribbean threads running through the band's music, combined with an energetic stage show and irreverent rapport with their audiences (one band member graciously removed a shoe when asked with his colleagues to remove their pants, thoughtfully citing workplace safety reasons versus simple-minded prudishness), has earned The Ragged Flowers a loyal fan base.
Over the years, many of the Flowers have also been pursuing new projects between band albums. Rob Riendeau has lent his bass playing to a diverse range of rock, blues and jazz band including Red Heaven and the Mississippi Jug Stompers. Nathan Sloniowski released a roots-canadiana CD called Who Rules The World in 2003, recorded at Broadcast Lane Studios in Toronto with Terry Tufts, Chris Brown and band members from the Rheostatics and Cowboy Junkies. In their group raintree, Ian Douglas and Steve Reside released Word-of-Mouth, an ambitious recording of original tribal and Celtic soundscapes and performs regularly to sell-out theatre audiences. The newest member of The Ragged Flowers (replacing Terry Tufts) is Almonte’s George Birchall. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter with a nose for pop hooks, George brings new compositions to the ragged repertoire and an exciting new voice to the band.
The Ragged Flowers 2004 CD, Story be Told, was co-produced and recorded with Ken Friesen in Almonte. Ken's credits include recordings with MonkeyJunk, Hawksley Workman, Sarah Slean, and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. Under Friesen's guidance, Story be Told leans into a more electric, driving, neo-psychedelic sound, with a stick-drum kit pushing the further down the frequency range. Throughout the recording the band retained passionate lyrics, six-stringed virtuosity, world-spiced hand-drums and shakers, sliding acoustic bass, and bright harmonies – everything from brooding folk to hip-shaking grooves and festival-making excitement.
In December of 2014, The Ragged Flowers released a CD of past live festival and stage recordings and performed at Almonte’s Old Town Hall Stage with Terry Tufts on lead guitar. A sell-out, and it was a groovy night of musical love on both sides of the stage.
From diverse musical paths, The Ragged Flowers have a line-up as unique as their music! All told, five distinct voices, poetic words, fiery rhythms, stirring melodies, tight arrangements, and adventurous song-writing — a brilliant, folklectic garden of music.
* George Birchall is the newest member of The Ragged Flowers. A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, George adds vocals, guitar, violin and melodeon to the band.
* Rhythm-master Ian Douglas contributes an African/Latin groove with his tribal array of hand-drums, and his low, mysterious voice. He also contributes keyboard virtuosity.
* Steve Reside brings radiance to his high-energy vocals and striking harmonies, set against the warmth of his acoustic rhythm guitar plus assorted shakers and percussion.
* Acoustic and electric bass man Rob Riendeau provides a sliding carpet of low-end grooves to root the Flower sound firmly in the earth.
* Nathan Sloniowski’s acoustic and electric guitars and uke add to the fretted depth along as well as his evocative, powerful vocals.