The Canadian Brass doesn’t sound like a BBS project

Ask a Brass Brooks fan which of the group’s 22 studio albums is the best, and chances are high that they’ll sift through classic numbers like “Old Devil Moon” or “Circle State,” and maybe…

The Canadian Brass doesn’t sound like a BBS project

Ask a Brass Brooks fan which of the group’s 22 studio albums is the best, and chances are high that they’ll sift through classic numbers like “Old Devil Moon” or “Circle State,” and maybe add one of the four tracks from 2005’s Juno Award-winning “O Canada.”

Bandleader Eric Ratushniak, bassist Kevin Devine, drummer Chris Nickel and guitarist Rick Murphy might all agree that it’s the album that marked the group’s first pairing with American alt-rocker Lukas Nelson for an electric pop-folk vocal number, “The Head and the Heart.” And yet, while Canadian Brass enjoys the opporunity to work with many established world-class vocalists (anybody who mentions Paula Cole, Ylvis or Céline Dion’s duet with Michael Bublé in concert goes way back), Ratushniak swears “Canadiana” doesn’t sound like a BBS project.

“We were inspired by the poetry of David Amram, and in the last year of his life, was writing a lot of traditional Canadian folk songs that are more than just pop songs,” Ratushniak says. “We felt that was actually very Canadian: almost more patriotic than pop.”

And the All-American flag is a jumping-off point. Delicate honeyed harmonies float under delicate, tasteful banjo. Ratushniak sings a country-style song about “where I’m from,” showing off his own soothing country voice. On the poppy “Old Bay Wine,” the band’s jamming banjo and saxophone overlay a lighthearted tune reminiscent of Hank Williams’ “If You Think You’re Lucky, You’re Lucky.”

“It’s a nice way to marry two musical styles.” Ratushniak says. “With folk music, the melody carries all the emotion and it’s like a melody on a bagpiper’s stick. Like, all you have to do is hit the right notes at the right time and the narrative behind it. With country, as soon as I say ‘country,’ I have this cool groove, like something Joni Mitchell or Emmylou Harris would sing, but she’s carrying it like a rural country tune. So I tried to merge those two musical styles together, and I think in the end it gave it a nice Scottish feel.”

Ratushniak and crew are having a moment in the jazz spotlight this year. With the upcoming Dec. 1 DVD release of “Lost Beach Music,” the first part of the 2018-19 tour documentary, Ratushniak has also announced the December dates of a Canadian Brass holiday tour. He plans to pick up a hatchet and wield it after Christmas on a few gigs, a fun tradition he started with his father in the early 1970s.

“He’s done it now every year until I graduated,” Ratushniak says. “Once he got into the business, he went out and picked up a scalpel and did a pretty good job.”

Ratushniak continues to do his best father imitation, accenting his “Canadian” with a certain twang (the sound produced by a washboard on his 1955 Martin B6). He also insists, so far, on putting off all the basic things found in every kid’s tool kit: hockey stick drills, soccer balls, golf balls, the necessities of life.

“I’m doing things that go back to the music business, like playing guitar and writing and stuff, like what I was taught by my father,” Ratushniak says. “At the same time, I think my father taught me to kind of get on my hands and knees and scrape the pavement, and so I keep that kind of a grounded sensibility around how I look at life.”

CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

The Canadian Brass performs at The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria on Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. $35, www.thebirchmere.com.

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