The McDades:
just who are they, anyway?

Just who are the McDades, anyway?

When I first met the band four years ago, at a previous Celtic Colours engagement, I could have answered that question easily. They were a fun Celtic band from Alberta. (You can check out my original interview with the band and see for yourself.)

But things have changed over the last four years, and the answer has become a little more complex.

"We don't know. We don't have a label," said Shannon Johnson, eyeing me over her red sexy-librarian glasses and a plastic cup brimming with red wine. "If you can come up with one, we'll use it. It'd be cool to have one ... just to answer all the people who ask us that question."

Ah, a challenge. At first hearing, the band's latest CD, Bloom, suggests "gypso-celtic" as a suitable alternative, but the more you hear the more you realize that doesn't cover it.

Shannon's brother, bassist Solon McDade, approaches the matter more philosophically -- at first. "We're approaching music without any sort of cultural bounds," he said, pondering the question one evening in the Green Room at the Celtic Colours 2007 Festival Club. "If you hear something you like, add that influence to your music. ... It can be limitless. But that can be bad, too, because you can go anywhere. It gets washed out, too unfocused."

It's important to remember that Solon and his brother Jeremiah are both trained in jazz, which definitely has a great effect on their music. Even when playing straight Celtic tunes, he said, "we find ourselves improvising over jig and reel forms."

Shannon tackles the question again after returning from a brief break out back. ("She smokes," Solon whispers, conspiratorily.)

"I don't know, roots?" she asks. "It's hard to pigeonhole our music without using a whole lot of words." Soon, she and her brothers are tossing around phrases like "prog-Celtic" and "an improvisational gypsy-jazzo-Celtic melange."

"From a marketing standpoint, it would be useful," Shannon admits. "But musically, we don't really have a category. It's a shame, people would like to have something to call us."

[ visit the artist's website ]

interview by
Tom Knapp

20 October 2007

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