“Equal to or perhaps beyond Patrick Ross’ virtuosic command of the fiddle, is the easy and entertaining style in which he commands a performance. I’m blessed to have shared his stage.”
-Rusty DeWees Actor, Comedian, Musician, Author, Producer –
Flannel. Hot. Put those two words together, and you’ve got the jarring juxtaposition of an adjective designed to scintillate, and a material so homespun it’s downright humble. Hot Flannel, a head-turning foursome of handsome country-boys-turned-men making newgrass music like there’s no tomorrow, embodies that same unexpected twist of grounded and ground-breaking, cozy and cathartic.
It’s been a rough or a smooth day, or a mix of both—don’t worry, this quartet is comfortable with contrast–and you’re ready to be transported into the realm of soul-lifting music where gifted musicians are mere channels for ancient messages passed through the generations to our waiting, wordless souls. You’re in good hands. Four men of the hills, clad in jeans and flannel, bearded and every-day, stand casually on stage, and we are at once at home with their unassuming strength and clear, quiet purpose. As their fingers align on the strings, the instant transformation occurs as flannel gives way to heat, and a timeless, perfect ripple of sound and meaning envelops us and carries us away. When musicians play this comfortably, this well, this harmoniously together, the musicians themselves recede as the musical ride becomes our only experience. Hearing Hot Flannel is like floating on a tidy raft of trusty timbers down the clear running waters of an old Vermont river in the bright, hot sun. The river’s always been there, we’ve just never experienced it quite like this before. And it will never look quite the same to us again.
This particular Vermont river, like any other, has its origins deep in the nestling hills of New England. Let’s trace the varied streams that feed the river, walking back in place and time to their springs.
Vermont-born Patrick Ross doesn’t just play the fiddle—this unassuming master seems to sing the fiddle, or rather, the fiddle itself seems to sing soulfully in his strong and graceful hands. As he plays, he sometimes leans his head over, like a boy in his mother’s lap, listening quietly to the words of the stories being told to him. It’s easy to forget he’s playing at all—rather, we feel that he’s a conduit for phrases sung long ago in ancient languages. During performances, Patrick narrates in English, Quebecois, and a host of perfectly imitated accents he’s heard and naturally absorbed. A fifth-generation fiddler of French Canadian folk tunes, Patrick grew up bilingual in a close-knit family, in a tiny town on the border between the US and Canada. His ear is attuned to the sounds and contrasts of voices, cultures, and resiliency in trying times, and his music carries meaning more mature than any 30-something human has had time to invent. He’s a listener, and when he plays, we ride the memories of sound he recounts so effortlessly.
When the music ends, we feel somehow satisfied, as if the story has reached its conclusion, or the river has found the sea. Those same four guys with their earthy wooden instruments stand comfortably before us, yet they don’t look quite the same—we’ve glimpsed the sacred clothed in everyday flannel, heard the ancient voices singing through the fingers of regular folk. Ross, Shrag, Perkins and Melvin weave their instrumentation together so readily, so joyously, with seemingly no thought other than a common destination, that they carry us like a single raft along a stream of pure, woven sound. Cool flannel has never radiated quite so much heat.
-By Shaun Machia
When you were 19 you moved away from Vermont, studied in Nashville and traveled all around the world playing music. What made you want to come back to Vermont?
True, I left Canaan at the age of 19 after living at home for one year. During that one year between graduating high school and moving to Nashville, I toured with a Vermont band called, “Smokin’ Grass”. A bluegrass band that blended elements of folk and roots rock. I was asked to join the band on a cross country tour. Needless to say, I was more than excited to participate. It was a great way to see the massiveness and diversity of America while developing my skills as a young musician. We started in Upper State New York and ended up at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California after many stops including Tennessee, Colorado and Nevada. After that, I was offered a job in Nashville to play in a Celtic Rock band, “Ceili Rain” The fiddle player was bowing out, so she recruited me to replace her. My audition was over the phone with the band leader, Bob Halligan. I moved to Nashville and became room mates with another fiddle player (Casey Driessen) I had met along the way. I lived in Nashville for 4 years practiced until my fingers bled and made lots of great connections while continuing to perform all around the U.S. and Canada.
Patrick Ross: Fifth generation Vermont fiddler
By Janelle Faigant
Arts Correspondent | March 06,2014
“Music was a huge part of my family growing up,” Fiddler Patrick Ross said in a recent interview. “I took to it naturally.”Ross is a fifth-generation fiddle player whose father and grandfather both played, and taught him at a very young age. He grew up in Canaan, near the Canadian border, and his grandparents came from Quebec, where there’s a strong tradition of fiddling.
The 32 year-old is making a name for himself with his band Hot Flannel, which will perform at the West Rutland Town Hall at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 8, to celebrate the release of their album, “Live at the Rialto.”
Ross’s grandfather taught him to fiddle, until he passed away when Ross was just 7 years old.
“He saw me in the beginning stages of my fiddling,” he said.
Ross’s father continued to teach him, and had the biggest influence on him, until he, too, passed away while Ross was still young.
“I found him dead of a heart attack when I was 11,” Ross said. “In a backhanded way it inspired me to carry the torch.”
While Ross was young, to keep him focused on practicing his father came up with inventive ways to keep Ross interested the fiddle, “because at 7 or 8 or 9 years old a lot of kids just want to go outside and ride their bikes and play in the dirt.”
“He had me try different things,” Ross explained. “For example, a wooden baseball bat. Just drawing the bat across the strings. Or a wooden coat hanger. You don’t necessarily have to have the hair of the bow to draw across the strings. You can draw anything across the strings and it’ll make a sound.”
While the sound is not the same as horsehair, which is what a violin bow uses, the creative technique stuck with him. Ross recently invented a power bow for his fiddle – a battery operated reciprocating bow.
“So that I don’t have to move my arm,” he said. “I pull a trigger on this battery operated power tool and the bow moves back and forth.”
The invention came about after a skiing accident that inhibited movement in his elbow and shoulder, and prompted him to find a way to attach a fiddle bow to a reciprocating saw.
The enthusiasm for fiddling his father instilled in him began to pay off as Ross caught the attention of Smithsonian Folkway Records, who came to Canaan, documenting regional folk music when Ross was 12. They recorded him on the front porch of his family’s home. The local press attention it garnered caught the eye of members of Vermont band Smokin’ Grass, and when they felt that Ross was old enough, they invited him to play with them.
“For years I wasn’t even old enough to be in bars but I was playing music in them,” Ross said. “Often times I would have to hide out where they stored all the liquor so that the liquor commissioner wouldn’t see that I was there.”
Recently Vermont actor Rusty DeWees found Ross through his performances at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center, when DeWees was looking for a fellow Vermonter to fill out “The Logger Holiday Variety Show” tour.
“One of the things that he encouraged me from the get go, was that I put together a band,” Ross said. “Now we’re doing all sorts of shows as a follow up to the tour with Rusty.”
With the release of their live album at the upcoming show at West Rutland Town Hall and several songs available on iTunes now, the band is getting busier.
“If I feel myself losing track of something or not being able to figure something out,” Ross said, “I sit back and close my eyes and really think about why it is I’m doing what I’m doing. And I know that my dad would be pretty damn proud of me.”
West Rutland Town Hall
Patrick Ross and Hot Flannel will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at West Rutland Town Hall. To reserve tickets, call 802-866-3324; for information, go online to www.patrickrossmusic.com. A free CD will be given to the first 10 people who wear flannel to the concert.
Summer of 2002 – Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
By Stephen Pedersen
The Halifax Gazette
Patrick Ross, an unknown 23 – year-old fiddler from Vermont wrote two songs in the last three days, showed up unexpectedly at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival’s late-night party Friday night, unpacked his fiddle and blew the veteran, professional folk musicians and singer/songwriters into a seventh heaven of delight.
Bruce Guthro was so impressed he invited Ross to accompany him for his afternoon set in the Main Stage Tent. Relying entirely on his ear, since he was hearing Guthro’s songs for the first time, Ross wailed and crooned and gave out the rhythm with astonishing appropriateness and musical sensitivity.
On Saturday night, organizers pried apart the schedule to give Ross his own, five-minute solo set between the Lustre Brothers and The New Pine Grove Boys.
The tent was jammed as he played for the first time in public his two latest tunes: The Bluebelly Reel and the Incognito Mosquito. Open-mouthed and quiet as the lull before the storm, we listened to him play a series of scrapes and scratches using on the first centimeter or two of the bow right up against the frog, punching and accenting the rhythm with short, chopping strokes of the bow with a sound like a steam-engine starting up.
By the end of his set he was playing as high as you can go on the fiddle, his left hand jammed up against the top bouts, his fingers probing the strings within millimeters of the horse-hair on the bow.
Accomplished, innovative, imaginative and supremely musical, Ross captured the adrenalin of a thousand hearts. As the last note spiraled into the stratosphere and evaporated, the crowd sprang to its feet and roared for more.
Outside the tent Ross told me he was completely self-taught. Three years ago, at the age of 19, he left Vermont for Nashville where he played with a variety of artists and groups for three years. He performed with several pop-rock bands, one of which, The Counting Crows, shared shows with Willie Nelson, and another called, Blue Merle caught the attention of the record companies.
“They offered us lots of money to sign,” Ross said, “but I didn’t feel right about signing a records deal with that band. I love biking and hiking and just being young.”.
So he left Nashville.
“I feel free,” he said, “I’m going to do a bike tour to Alaska.”
Lunenburg and Nova Scotia felt very right to Ross, not only for the enthusiasm with which he and his talent was received, but because, five generations and 400 years ago, his father’s family were Acadians. His father is of Scottish decent. What do you want to bet that Ross will be back for a full set on the main stage next year?
GORHAM – HOT Flannel featuring Patrick Ross to perform
at the Medallion Opera House
From the hills of Vermont comes a band that has chewed through the electric fences and let the cows loose. The farmers knew HOT Flannel could not be contained. Patrick Ross plays his 99-year old fiddle like a machine and has played at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center. Matt Schrag plays one of the best built mandolins in the world (made in Burlington). If you’ve never heard Doug Perkins play his ’69 Martin guitar, then, ladies and gentlemen, be prepared. Pat Melvin is one of the most sought after upright bass players in Vermont. They all sing and all belong to the 10,000 Hours Club. “It’s Newgrass,” exclaims Patrick. Everyone will have a good time knowing that the members of HOT Flannel know how to work their instruments. Even if the place catches on fire and the band has to take off their flannel, people will talk, good or bad, people will talk… They are ready for people to talk.
As a follow up to his performances with Rusty Dewees (The Logger) during a 2013 Holiday Variety Show tour that packed venues across Vermont, Patrick has been booking shows with his own band, HOT Flannel. “There has been really good feedback and people are asking me when I’ll be playing in their town.” HOT Flannel is an acoustic band including lead vocals, fiddle, cello, mandolin, guitar, and upright bass. It’s a New England blend of Bluegrass, Folk, Americana and barn-burning fiddle tunes. “Singing was something I had always left to others. But not anymore. Rusty encouraged me and featured me as a singer in all the shows.” For music and video of Patrick and HOT Flannel go to www.patrickrossmusic.com.
HOT Flannel, sponsored by Mr. Pizza, The Tassey Group, SAaLT Pub and White Mountain Cafe will be performing at the Medallion Opera House, 20 Park Street, Gorham, NH on Friday, March 28th at 7:30 pm. Wear your hottest flannel for a chance to win a free CD. Tickets will be $12 per person and will be available at the door, in advance at the Gorham Town Hall, White Mountain Café and online at www.medallionoperahouse.org.
Patrick Ross was born and raised in Canaan, Vermont, on the border of Quebec and New Hampshire. There, his Dad taught him how to fish, hunt, and how to play music without reading notes. He wanted to be like him, so he started learning a mix of Outlaw Country and French Canadian Folk tunes at about age 6. He was lucky to have begun so young. It was a head start that led him to his first real gig at age 11. He has branched out and has been playing professionally ever since. He and his wife live on a farm in Eastern Vermont where their two big dogs keep them company and the view of the White Mountains is magnificent. Arthur would be proud.