Quin Etheridge-Pedden – Embark
Self-Released – 2017
Regarding the cultural and social histories of Canada, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the fiddle. Since the arrival of European settlers began in the 17th Century – immigrants from Britain and France bringing their traditional fiddle tunes with them – the instrument has been at the forefront of the development of Canada’s instrumental folk tradition. Subsequent waves of settlers from the Celtic nations, Ukraine, and other East European countries from the 18th to the early 20th centuries introduced their own fiddling flavours to the equation.
Today, the fiddle is as visible in Canadian roots music as ever it was, and it is no exaggeration to state that some of the country’s most beloved and successful music stars were/are fiddle players. For example, “Prince of the Fiddlers” Joseph Allard (1873-1947) and Don Messer (1909-1973) are considered national institutions; Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster has earned Gold albums and performed with artists ranging from Carlos Santana to Yo-Yo Ma, and her fiddler cousin, Ashley MacIsaac, has achieved double-platinum albums and even had hit singles.
Out of this centuries-old fiddling tradition has emerged the fiddle camp, where fiddlers of all ages and levels gather (often in idyllic, inspiring settings) to take lessons, attend workshops, network, jam, and rub shoulders with masters of their chosen instrument. Understandably, from these stimulating, creative environments brilliant youngsters of natural talent will rise to the surface, the latest of whom to cross my radar being Quin Etheridge-Pedden.
This accomplished fiddler (and guitarist) is just 15 years-old, and on the evidence of his first album, Embark (could there be a better title for a debut?), the young musician is heading for a sparkling career. Hailing from the 3,600-plus community of Lantzville on Vancouver Island, Etheridge-Pedden is under the guidance and tutelage of his nurturing parents (his photographer mother, Kelli, being responsible for Embark’s CD packaging) and Nanaimo’s Trish and Geoff Horrocks, founders of Cross Canada Fiddle. Considering Etheridge-Pedden received a Canadian Folk Music Awards (CFMA) nomination for Young Performer of the Year in 2017, between them they are doing quite some job on ushering this precocious talent into the spotlight.
Embark features three excellent originals – the opening Lenora’s Reel, 90 Year Adventure and The Resentful Vagabond. Otherwise, interestingly, of the remaining ten cuts only the closing set (Saint Patrick’s Jig / Moll in the Wad / To the Ladies) is traditional fare, while the other nine originate from an international spread of contemporary sources: from the US, Casey Driessen (Gaptooth) and Contra dance caller Rick Mohr (Indian Point), while Finland’s Ville Kangas (Displeasment Polka), France’s Gilles Chabanat (Crested Hens) and the UK’s Mike Cosgrave (Different Old Rubbish, paired with Indian Point). They all receive beautiful interpretations of their material in the skilled hands of Etheridge-Pedden, accompanied by Geoff Horrocks (piano, guitar, bass) and Micaela Pereira, adding a second fiddle on three tunes. (Alongside Etheridge-Pedden, Pereira and Max Day are members of the Horrocks’ youth fiddle group, Fiddelium, who have performed at several prestige events on Vancouver Island.)
Of course, Canada is also well represented on Embark, with tunes from Fiddleworks founder Zavallennahh Huscroft (Twenty Seven), Gordon Stobbe (Carabella / Last Dance), Calvin Vollrath (A Twist of Lemelin) and two (Millie’s Waltz and Eldiff) from the legendary Oliver Schroer (1956-2008) completing the track listing. (Schroer was a boundary-pushing fiddler and revered educator whose innovative brilliance continues to permeate Canadian roots music as a whole.)
Although officially released in May 2017, Embark is still enjoying album launch concerts locally. This protracted rollout is a logical approach, as the CFMA nomination ensures this lovely debut has plenty of mileage left in it before Etheridge-Pedden sets about crafting his sophomore effort.
The teenage fiddler is already on record as stating that he hopes to further his music education by attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass., the elite centre of learning whose Canadian fiddle alumnae and alumni include April Verch, Ivonne Hernandez (Fiddlemania, The Fretless) and Adam Iredale-Gray (Aerialists, Fish & Bird). If all goes according to his hopes and aspirations, the name Quin Etheridge-Pedden may well, like the esteemed musicians above, one day be referenced in a future FRUK review of a promising young fiddler’s debut album.
Photo Credit: Kelli Etheridge