Four of the island’s premiere guitarists unite in Fretboard Journey, crafting a timely holiday album sure to cause merry feelings with Christmas Picks
What do you get when you combine four of the very best guitarists to ever call Newfoundland and Labrador home with tried and true holiday tunes? You get an early Christmas gift for music buffs and a surefire staple for your holiday listening list for years to come.
Christmas Picks is the latest collaboration between Sandy Morris, Duane Andrews, Gordon Quinton and Craig Young. The prolific foursome, whose contributions to the music industry include various stints with the likes of The Wonderful Grand Band, The Swinging Belles, Ward Six, Terri Clark and George Canyon, operate on the stage-name Fretboard Journey, a title synonymous with each man’s mastery of the guitar.
The idea for a holiday album stemmed from a performance on local television some years back, where the foursome tackled tried and true Christmas tunes, realizing how fun, yet challenging, the performance could be.
“We all love to play Christmas music, but Christmas music is hard!,” shares Morris. “There’s more chord changes and melodic twists and turns in Christmas music then any other music you can play practically. A lot of it was written by the old tin pan alley songwriters. It’s serious songwriting. You need chops to play Christmas music, so it appealed to us from that point of view.”
There are of course familiar favourites like Frosty The Snowman, Silver Bells and Jingle Bell Rock, coupled by some more obscure yet welcome additions like Gordon Lightfoot’s Song for a Winter’s Night.
“We had a long-list,” explains Andrews on the album selection process, noting that the band aimed to tackle a mix of holiday tracks that they could make their own.
“We did kind of exhaust our inner store of Christmas related music and made a longlist and whittled it down from there.”
Fretboard Journey operate on the principles of collaboration, musical exploration and trust in your fellow bandmates. That mindset has led to the merging of styles and genres that would perhaps falter in the hands of less experienced instrumentalists.
“It’s interesting for me, because I play solo guitar,” explains Quinton. “With this group I have a chance to improvise and it’s interesting to hear all the interpretations. I generally stick to the melody. All of a sudden Sandy comes in and Craig with all kinds of varied interpretations. I find that interesting in this group.”
“It’s a real exercise in listening to each other and that’s where it all comes from,” adds Morris. “If I can’t hear Gordon I’m playing too loud, or too much. If we have one really positive trait it’s that we all listen to what everyone else is doing and stay out of the other guys way. It’s better to not do too much. We always say lets skip the fancy stuff and just keep it simple.”
The album features no click tracks, no overdubs. It’s real and raw, direct from the studio floor for your listening pleasure, a testament to the ability and professionalism of all hands, who understand when to hold back and when to take the lead.
“You have four guitarists, the same instrument, the same range. You can be pretty diverse in how you play guitar, but generally someone is playing the melody and someone else is accompanying it,” says Andrews. “It does sort of settle.”
“You can’t have 24 strings going all at the same time,” adds Morris with a laugh. “You have to be reserved.”
For four of our island’s finest to ever pick up a guitar, each and every member of Fretboard Journey learns and matures thanks to the efforts of the other, this Christmas album adding yet another layer to that collected experience.
“The very first time me and Duane got together I noticed I immediately started to play more like Duane,” says Young. “You move towards that and you listen to everybody, your ear takes and you learn it. It’s a never-ending process.”
“I’ve been playing for years and years and I feel like I’m learning new stuff all of the time when I play with this group,” shares Quinton.
Christmas Picks is available for digital purchase on all major platforms and physically where local music is sold. For more visit the official Facebook page @fretboardjourney