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Great Big Sea brings folk mix to the Bing

Courtesy of Great Big Sea Great Big Sea lands at the Bing Crosby Theater on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Great Big Sea)
Courtesy of Great Big Sea Great Big Sea lands at the Bing Crosby Theater on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Great Big Sea)

Great Big Sea will always have a sound that is close to home – home for this Celtic folk-rock trio being the eastern tip of Canada.

Hailing from “the far east of the western world,” Great Big Sea plays music that’s tightly tied to its birthplace of St. John’s, on the island of Newfoundland.

Accompanied by instruments such as bouzouki, diatonic accordion and goatskin drums, the trio sings modernized versions of traditional songs sung by sailors from Portugal, Scotland and Ireland.

It’s melting-pot folk-pop with just as many love songs as songs about living on an island in the middle of nowhere.

So moving to New York or Los Angeles wouldn’t necessarily have been a wise move for Great Big Sea. Instead they toured relentlessly, serving up their cultural stew all over the world while maintaining their roots and singing songs about home.

In the early years, Great Big Sea toured as many as 300 days per year to establish its cult following and eventually caught fire in Canada and abroad. The multiplatinum selling band in its home country has been nominated for several Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys.

Fifteen years and nine albums later, the group remains constantly on the road, led by the trio of Alan Doyle on vocals, guitar, mandolin and bouzouki; Sean McCann on vocals, bodhran, guitar and tin whistle; and Bob Hallett on vocals, bouzouki, fiddle, accordion, mandolin, concertina, bouzouki, whistles and bagpipes.

Mixing traditional folk songs and sea shanties, Great Big Sea comes to the Bing Crosby Theater on Tuesday, touring in support of its 2008 album, “Fortune’s Favor.”

Following the more traditionally based “The Hard and The Easy,” “Fortune’s Favor” is considered to be Great Big Sea’s experimental album, pushing boundaries by incorporating styles that recall the likes of Nickelback, The Clash, Ben Folds, Bob Marley, Johnny Cash and Neil Young.

Band members recently locked themselves away with a handful of songwriter friends for a writing binge and came up with 14 new songs in four days, according to their blog.

Great Big Sea also took some downtime from touring this summer so Doyle could finish his film debut in the forthcoming “Robin Hood,” directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett.


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