Award-nominated Canadian band, The Wardens offered up an evening of mellow ballads and melodies to a crowd of more than 100 at the Lester Centre, on March 18.
In the first maskless event since the lifting of pandemic restrictions, a preceding night concert was held at the Mount Elizabeth Theatre in Kitimat to a crowd of over 150, on the second to last stop of a two-week tour.
Scott Ward, songwriter and guitarist, told Black Press Media that the tour is the first one for the 12-year-old band since the pandemic’s start. The band usually has 50 gigs per year, but since the pandemic, the number has dropped to half.
The folk group has shared the stage across Canada and the United States with Blue Rodeo, Ian Tyson and Pharis and Jason Romero. They have performed at Folk Alliance International, Canmore Folk Festival’s main stage and for a royal audience in Edmonton.
The Rocky Mountain-based band blends folk, roots and western-style music, reflecting the wilderness they have protected as national Canadian park staff.
“We are park wardens — we’re not be confused with prison wardens,” Ward joked.
The musical formation consists of Ward, a retired park ranger from Canmore who is a songwriter and guitarist; Ray Schmidt, a national park ranger from Jasper who is the group’s upright bass, mandolin, and guitar player; and Scott Duncan, the group’s fiddler who is a full-time musician.
The trio’s three-part harmonies and lyrics are rooted in tales of the return of the wild buffalo, wrangling grizzly bears, environmental crises and lonely nights on the pack trail.
The Wardens have produced four albums, two of which have been recorded since their last tour through the Northwest, Ward said. At the Ironwood, the latest album was produced during the pandemic in 2021.
Starting their tour two weeks ago the ensemble has played to some packed houses and sold-out shows along the way, but some audiences haven’t been as strong as pre-covid concerts, Ward said.
“It’s still pandemic, so it could be a while yet for previous numbers to attend. Every show along the way has been positive,” the songwriter said.
Audiences can expect a combination of ballads and new material of “real Canadiana.” Songs are segued with “gripping stories” of real-life adventures, accounts of mountain rescues, avalanche control and historical characters.
One particular narration is about a mountain rescue specialist the park wardens worked with who survived the longest fall in mountaineering accident history and survived.
Videos and slideshows are projected behind the performers to enhance the richness of the show, Ward said.
“People seem to really enjoy the show … We do write our own songs … This year Ray Schmidt was nominated for the Canadian Folk Music award. We’ve previously had other songs nominated for folk song of the year.”
K-J Millar | Editor and Multi-Media Journalist
Send K-J email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter