Review by Jan Cox
Janet McGarry and Wildwood
Serge Bernard, (banjo, guitar, mandola, vocals), Dylan Ferguson, (guitar, vocals), Denise McLeod, (fiddle, viola, vocals), Gail Mullen, (upright bass, vocals)
Multi bluegrass award winner Janet McGarry and her band Wildwood took to the stage for the opening night of “Janet McGarry, Music from the Hills of Home.” I must confess, this was my first bluegrass concert ever, and I was completely taken over by Ms. McGarry, the talented band that accompany her and the remarkable Harmony House Theatre. Janet’s voice is rich and true. Her personality, warm and genuine. An accomplished musician herself (mandolin), Ms. McGarry featured the many talents of her band members throughout the evening. A crowd favourite was a Gospel tune with a bit of a swing to it performed by Gail Mullen, “Back Up, Back Up and Turn Around.” Another Gail solo, a gutsy number titled, “Love Me or Leave Me Alone.” When introducing her, Ms. McGarry commented, “Gail can sing the fire out of it.” In reality, they all sang the fire out it! Most of the bluegrass tunes were based on soft harmonies and done really well by these singers. Their fine voices intricately twirled around one another. There was a good mix of traditional bluegrass and of course, heartfelt Gospel tunes. However, this gang puts the “F” in the word fun! Spurred on by the banter of Serge Bernard and a few stories from he and Janet, the group brings a lot of energy to the stage and you can sense they enjoy playing together and bringing this music to audiences across Canada and the States. PEI born (Iona), Janet McGarry has a wonderful way of making you feel like you are sitting in her living room. Such a natural. Such a wonderful evening.
While everyone works together in this show, Janet’s solos are sheer joy. Her voice reaches deep within her soul. Sincere and heartfelt can’t even begin to describe her performance. I had the privilege of briefly meeting her backstage, and let me tell you, her warmth continued.
Janet McGarry and her band bring you “Music from the Hills of Home” only on Tuesdays from now until August 28. Harmony House Theatre is a beautiful, recently renovated (11 years ago) 1836 United Church, and the perfect venue for this type of down home, sheer entertainment performance.