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?
Scottish headliner, unknown Vermont fiddler shines in Lunenburg
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