Review: Ross Family Ceilidh

A rousing, toe-tapping good time

Review | by Chris McGarry

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The finest in Scottish and Acadian inspired Island roots music was brought to life in a lively, energetic performance by the Ross Family at The Guild in Charlottetown on July 2.

The Ross Family Ceilidh, which plays at The Guild every Tuesday until October 1, showcased the amazing talents of siblings Stephanie, Danielle and Johnny Ross as they entertained the full-capacity crowd (most of whom were visiting PEI) with sprightly jigs and reels, hilarious tales of Island life and as well as insightful stories of the background of their PEI-based roots traditional music, which has a rich heritage dating back to 1803, when the Ross Family ancestors first arrived on the shores of Abegweit.

After making their grand entrance, the Ross Family kicked off the sparkling evening of music and storytelling with an exhilarating number titled “Rattling Bog” that had the entire audience clapping their hands and stomping their feet. The guitar/fiddle and piano-infused songs were not all fast-paced jingles that took a lighthearted approach to the Island’s Scottish and Acadian cultures.

There were masterful compilations such as “Fiddle and Bow”—a stirring, beautiful ballad that demonstrated the brilliant fiddle playing prowess of Danielle Ross—as well as a haunting Celtic melody sung by Stephanie Ross in old-style Gallic. Johnny Ross, well-known around PEI for his work in various bands, including Fallback, had the excited audience on the edge of their seats with his energetic style of piano playing and hilarious stories that poked fun at the local Scottish heritage as well as Island stereotypes, such as Islanders asking people whom they just met where they’re from and who their father is. Johnny perfectly displayed those skills on the group’s version of “Tennessee Waltz” and old-style rock and roll songs, including a classic number from Jerry Lee Lewis.

Halfway through the show, the siblings’ mother, Dorothy Ross, joined her children on stage with her amazing step-dancing talents. While the show placed considerable emphasis on Scottish roots music, the audience was also given a good taste of the Clinton Hills-based trio’s French ancestry, taking them by a song on a ten-minute tour through the Evangeline region of Western PEI.

Throughout the evening, Johnny, Stephanie, and Danielle created a dynamic, never dull atmosphere with their vigorous performance of music and tales passed down through close to eight generations. They also explained the significance of the fiddle in Island music, particularly centuries ago when in their free time people enjoyed playing the popular instrument (which originated in 10th century Europe) at kitchen parties, a legacy which lasts to this day.

For those who are visiting PEI and are eager to become immersed in some of the finest illustrations of traditional Island roots music, then the Ross Family Ceilidh is the place to be on a Tuesday night at The Guild or at the family’s concert venue in Clinton Hills every Monday and Wednesday at 7:30 pm to October 2.

Chris McGarryreview