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Concert review: Lonesome Ace Stringband – Feb. 17 at Hugh’s Room Live

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Hugh’s Room in Toronto continues to roll out some incredible shows as it did on Feb. 17 with an outstanding performance by the Toronto-based Lonesome Ace Stringband.

The band consists of clawhammer banjo player Chris Coole and fiddler John Showman. They are supported by a rotating cast of bass players, with James McEleny helping out on this particular evening.

The crowd filled the venue to capacity. Hugh’s Room board chair Brian Iler said this kind of turnout is becoming a common occurrence at the recently purchased site on Broadview Avenue in Toronto’s east-end.

The venue uses concert seating, meaning rows of chairs, rather than chairs and tables. Brian said this increases the number of seats and focuses the audience’s attention on the stage, something performers appreciate and something that adds to the intensity of audience-performer engagement.

The Lonesome Ace Stringband describe themselves as purveyors of “Americana music, bridging old-time, bluegrass and folk traditions into a seamless hybrid of original material that is at once fresh and timeless.” Pair this with their engaging performance style and fans can enjoy a terrific night of entertainment.


Chris and John never forget to engage their audience, as demonstrated in their storytelling, song introductions and interactions between band members, which adds much to the overall experience.

They are capable of presenting a high-energy instrumental virtuosity that can incite dancing in one moment and withdraw mournful emotions in another. They do this with perfect harmonies, in the style of the traditional Appalachian music that underpins much of what they do.

They frequently cite the influences of masters like John Hartford, Bill Monroe, Woody Guthrie, the Band and other lesser known-artists, before launching into a tune inspired or written by one of the aforementioned artists.

Their show is a well-designed mix of covers and original material. In their own writing there are references to opportunities provided by failure, BBQ-ing techniques, family life and even a potential existential crisis created by exposure to an incredibly talented Zydeco band John once heard in Florida—check out their songMidnight Band” to find out more.

Though fiddles and banjos might not be everyone’s cup of tea, taking a sip of the genre might lead to the discovery of amazing artists and entertainment, such as the Lonesome Ace Stringband. The jam-packed Toronto venue brimming with standing ovations and demands for an encore can certainly corroborate this.

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