Qristina & Quinn Bachand find footing with Family

My first exposure to family music was The Lawrence Welk Hour. It was a painful Saturday night ritual but, if you wanted to see Petticoat Junction (and we did), ‘twas a rite of passage.

And, as it turned out, it was Lawrence’s “musical family” in name only, save a few Lennon Sisters’ drive-bys. Genetically, there have been many famous musical families – the Stanley Brothers, the Carpenters, the Rankins, the Cashs, the Judds and those beach-friendly Wilson boys.

However, all achieved fame at later stages of life compared to young upstarts, Qristina & Quinn Bachard (who in Qhrist taught them how to spell?). But they’re surely headed in the right direction with the release of their second album, Family – and how a propos.

Like most family acts, they play from a connection deeper than most – each note created by a connection that stems from growing up together, if not from swimming in the same gene pool. That Qristina is 20 and her brother, Quinn, is 14 is not worthy of mention, except to underline such ageless talents at such an early stage.

They play from a place lightyears beyond their time on earth. On Family, the duo’s penchant for running jigs into reels accounts for the double and triple song titles across the release’s twelve tracks. The titles, alone, reveal their Irish roots and the duo have already earned themselves the Irish Music Association’s Top Traditional Group for 2010 (Festival, Pub and Concert category).

Opening for the likes of Liz Carroll & John Doyle (their musical counterparts), Lunasa, Lau and Le Vent du Nord, the Bachands have wasted no time in elevating the status of Canadian Celtic fare on an international level.

This recording, co-produced with Adrian Dolan (who also volunteers accordion and mandola) includes Oliver Swain (bass/vocals) Zac Leger (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle), Scott Senior (cajon, bonjo, shakers, percussion), Bryan Skinner (bodhran) and Felix Prummel (low whistle).

Qristina’s fiddle skills are the true highlight: beautiful tone and crisp delivery. Brother Quinn anchors the rhythm with his clean guitar playing when he’s not leading the charge with his lightning quick fingerstyle picking on acoustic, electric and banjo.

Qristina also offers up lovely, delicate vocals on one of the disc’s best tracks, “Smile Or Cry” and, again, on the banjo-led and the decidedly Celtic-free “Red Rocking Chair/Halfmoon Bay”, adding in a smidgen of Western Swing as Qristina’s voice rekindles the laidback sweetness of Suzy Bogguss.

Other favourites include the heartfelt “Lonesome Eyes”, composed by the late, great Jerry Holland, blending deep respect and a dash of melancholy. The beautiful “Rights of Man/Cup of Tea/Rakish Paddy/Tripping Up The Stairs” begins with Qristina’s jaunty strain on fiddle that picks up steam, as Quinn’s guitar picks up the lead, adding banjo as it accelerates skyward.

The CD’s most infectious track is surely the breathtaking “Inisheer”, a traditional Irish tune which reveals a passion in the elder Bachand fired by love and happy memories. You can’t play this song enough, it seems.

Some might say there’s a glut of Celtic music in the marketplace and, although this release is free of any bumps or burrs due to its slightly over-crystalline production, it’s got the true spark of youth and brings that much more appeal to a wider audience than might normally be theirs.

The Bachands have got the Celtic fever in spades and play it superbly. At the same time, they’re finding their footing and have time on their side. Let’s hope they fan out as musicians (and perfectionists) to develop their muse across an even wider spectrum.

Recommended to anyone who leans to tapping both feet.


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