The Clover Point Drifters are a bluegrass band from Victoria, visiting the Snoring Sasquatch on May 2. Their repertoire consists primarily of traditional bluegrass songs, with a sprinkling of country, folk, blues and pop melodies served up in the bluegrass style. Their songs feature close heartfelt duet and trio harmonies, backed by strong banjo, dobro and mandolin accompaniment.
“These fellows — some sporting ball-caps, some with ZZ Top-style beards — are able to nail the high, lonesome harmonies that makes this style of music so compelling,” said Adrian Chamberlain in the Victoria Times-Colonist. “And the players are good, especially banjo-man Mike Kraft and slide-guitarist Larry Stevens. In an un-self-conscious way, the quintet captures the authenticity and honesty of old-time bluegrass music. Their sound is also flavoured with echoes of Hank Williams and Willie Nelson (the latter mainly conjured up by Stevens’s singing). The Clover Point Drifters also play original tunes in a contemporary folk style. All of this, combined with a jocular stage manner, made for a great opening set.”
The band has been active since January 2000, but the members each have a decades-long love affair with bluegrass music.
Mike Kraft (banjo, harmony, vocals) is one of Victoria’s secrets that don’t involve underwear. Besides being one fine banjo player, he also plays guitar in a variety of country, rockabilly and blues bands — basically, any band that wants a real musician tries to snag him. Kraft endured painful back surgery in 2003, but now that his aura has been properly aligned, he has re-established his rapport with the universe, and he shares his humour and stock picks. He is a former member of the Chance Brothers.
Larry Stevens (resophonic guitar, lead vocals) has a gift for singing the country song, good times and bad, love and loss, the past and even further past. For many years, he lived in Vancouver and played the dobro with several bands, including the New Nash Ramblers, who were the BC Country Music Association bluegrass band of the year. In 1999, he drifted over to Victoria, where his rich warm voice has become a welcoming and familiar sound.
George Robinson (bass, lead vocals) has the longest pedigree in the band, having played bluegrass bass since 1977. By good luck and happenstance that year, he managed to obtain ownership of Duke Neilson’s bass (Neilson played for many years with Don Messer and the Islanders, a Canadian musical institution if ever there was one). Being thus equipped, Robinson spent the next three years on the road with the New Silver Tone Rangers, with only two weeks off. Talk about cutting your teeth! Thanks to the unforgiving march of time, he has now been playing this bass longer than Neilson did. Other former bands include Every Day Street Band, Cedar Hill and Back at the Ranch.
Dan Parker (mandolin, lead vocals) drifted west from Ontario following a successful attempt to attain a higher education. He is one of those annoying people who, if given some new musical instrument, will spend almost no time at all making it sound like they have played it for years. And then he’ll show you the tune he has just written for it. If that isn’t enough, he also built his own guitar. Parker’s spirited and inventive solos complement the plodding efficacy of the old farts.
Alan Law (guitar, lead and harmony vocals) does most of the arranging and supplies the beverages for rehearsals. That makes him the band leader. He is strictly a rhythm guitarist — “I do not play any notes” — but his drive, passion and stamina are second to none. In a band of baritones, he enjoys the role of tenor singer, and he loves singing harmony more than almost anything you can imagine. Previous combos include playing with Robinson in Back at the Ranch and with Kraft in the Chance Brothers.
Tickets are $12 in advance, available at Black Bear Books and Kingfisher Used Books, and $15 at the door, which opens at 7 p.m.; the show starts at 8.