Old Sod Band

Back row: Philip Murphy, Tim Cutts, Ian Robb, and Ian Clark.
Front row: James Stephens, Greg Brown (occasional addition!), and Ann Downey.

The Old Sod Band has been playing contra dances for twenty-five years to the delight of countless dancers. While the Old Sod repertoire is drawn from the jigs, reels and waltzes of Ireland, Scotland, England, the US, Canada and even Denmark, the style definitely owes much to the strong, driving rhythms of New England dance music and the Old Sod Band is known for laying down beautiful fresh grooves for dancing.

In case you didn't hear it back in September 2014, Catherine Burns and the Old Sod Band were interviewed on CKCU's Canadian Spaces about the organization AND band's 25th anniversary. Listen here!

You can check out a couple of great YouTube clips of the Old Sod Band here and here.

The Old Sod Band is...

Philip Murphy

From Dublin Ireland, Philip is one of the founding members of the band, and provides the driving rhythm and eloquent chording that set him apart from many of his contemporaries. His unique approach to Celtic accompaniment on the guitar brings a freshness and vitality to the music that inspires those around him to play to their best. As well as chording, Philip is equally at home playing the tunes on the guitar, mandolin and banjo, also adding a percussive side with the triangle to bring yet another dynamic to the group. Philip also plays and has recorded with some of Ottawa's finest celtic musicians, including Frank Cassidy (Tin Air), Dennis Alexander (Tunes of Choice) and Don Kavanagh (A Dubliner & His Harmonica), all of whom are well respected in their craft.

Tim Cutts

Tim provides musical texture to the tunes, from melody to other rhythmic accompaniment on mandolin, mandola and octave mandolin as well as tenor banjo. A touch of harmonica and Jaw Harp are sometimes included to bring variety to a set. A long time fan of Scandinavian folk music, Tim has added the Swedish nyckelharpa to his instrument arsenal, where it can be heard on selected waltzes or the occasional jig. He and other Old Sod alumni played a short concert few years ago at the Museum of Civilization celebrating the Swedish Christmas festival of light. A long time volunteer with Old Sod from its beginnings, he is also a past host of CKCU's Music From the Glen.

Ian Clark

Hailing originally from Stranraer, Scotland, Ian brings a wealth of guitar playing experience to the band. Despite his long standing and keen interest in traditional music, Ian only began playing regularly with 'trad' musicians when he appeared on the Ottawa celtic music scene in the early 1990s. As a result, Ian's guitar playing (in addition to providing both sparkling detail and a solid foundation) reveals diverse and highly complementary musical influences. Ian can be heard on a number of CD recordings by artists including Erin Cassidy, Finest Kind, Pierre Schryer, and Alabaster Jar. Ian is a regular at local pub jam sessions, making the evening of many melody players!

James Stephens

James Stephens is known for his work as a performer and producer / recording engineer. In performance, he plays a multitude of stringed instruments with an emphasis on fiddling. James can presently be found performing with traditionally influenced groups such as The Brian Pickell Band, Finest Kind , Ecosse (Bobby Watt, Duncan Gillis and Rob Graves), renowned clawhammer banjo player Ken Perlman, whistle player/composer Frank Cassidy(The McGee Band), JIIG (James, Ian Robb, Ian Clark, Greg Brown) and newly formed fiddle collective EH!. James also performs regularly with singer/songwriter Ian Tamblyn as well as the duo, Healy and Juravich. James also teaches at music camps across Canada and in the US. James has been the fiddler for the Old Sod Band since Dan Schryer moved to Deep River in 2002.

Ian Robb

Perhaps better known as a singer than a concertina player, Ian Robb has played festivals, concerts and clubs across the continent since his arrival from his native England in 1970. Ian appears as a solo performer, and as a member of Toronto's well-known Friends of Fiddlers' Green and Ottawa's Finest Kind singing trio. More recently he has teamed up with other Old Sod Band regulars James Stephens, Ian Clark and Greg T. Brown to form JIIG, whose 2005 Album won Ian that year's Canadian Folk Music Award for "Best Singer: Traditional". Ian has five recordings to his credit (in addition to Friends of Fiddlers' Green and Finest Kind recordings) and his 1994 CD, entitled "From Different Angels", includes four tracks by the Old Sod Band. All his recordings are available through Fallen Angle Music. Ian is also well known to Ottawa folk audiences as a co-founder and erstwhile Artistic Director of the Old Sod Folk Music Society.

Ann Downey

Ann Downey is a singer and multi instrumentalist, fluent on upright bass, clawhammer banjo, and guitar. In the Old Sod Band she can be found anchoring those cool changes on bass, as well as keeping tempo with occasional percussion. Ann sits in comfortably with old-time Appalachian, country, swing, bluegrass, celtic, and klezmer music, for starters. She has performed across North America and parts of Europe, including several European tours playing bass and banjo with American style clogging groups. Ann grew up mostly in the American Southwest, but is now well settled in Ottawa, where she sings, plays, travels and records with Finest Kind, Pat Moore and the Vinyl Frontier, as well as being frequently on call for upright bass and, harmony vocals on roots related projects in the studio as well as on stage. She's yet to yodel in the Old Sod Band, but lives in hope.

Want to dance to the Old Sod Band?

The band plays monthly as part of the Ottawa contra dance series and from time to time plays for dances in other communities. For further information or to enquire about bookings, contact Ian Robb by email.

The Old Sod Band recording GRASS ROOTS!

Released a decade ago, Grass Roots easily remains a recording that any dancer or folk music enthusiast would enjoy. While many of the tunes are of traditional origin making links back to various 'roots', the recording features some favourite original jigs, reels and waltzes from around the globe. Based on a strong melody line delivered by Ian Robb (concertina) and Dan Schryer (fiddle), Ann Downey (bass, banjo, percussion), Ian Clark (guitar), Philip Murphy (guitar, mandolin) and Tim Cutts (mandolin, mandola, tenor banjo, nyckelharpa) provide solid accompaniment and a unique flavour and drive to each set. Guest appearances include Denis Lanctot, Don Kavanagh, and Raj Mudha. Album produced by James Stephens.

A note for dancers: some sets are long enough to be used at your bandless dances!

Watch a video clip on the making of GRASS ROOTS

... Oh, the lucky dancers of the Ottawa Valley! The Old Sod Band has been playing contradances for the Old Sod Folk Music Society of Ottawa for just over a dozen years. The six band members hail from Scotland, England, Ireland, the U.S. and Canada, and all these musical traditions are reflected in the energetic arrangements of dance tunes - even adding a Scandinavian influence with a nyckelharpa on the Swedish waltz 'Johsefins Dopvals' (written by Roger Tallroth of Vasen). Arrangements are tight, liner notes clearly explain the sources, and the mix of old and not-so-old tunes is inspired. There is a drive to this music that keeps the toes tapping and fannies jigging in the seats. What are you waiting for? Push back those tables and chairs, clear the floor, and start dancing! An absolutely brilliant recording. (SH)

Dirty Linen (April/May 2002, Issue #99)

The tunes on Grass Roots

  • Julia Delaney - Tam Lin - The Banshee
  • Miss Sarah McFadyen - Princess Nancy - Hills of Sharon
  • Far Away - Old Madera
  • Vingt Quatre Juin - Reel de Fauberg - Pointe au Pic
  • Margaret Brown's Favourite - Ben Keily's Delight - Pay the Reckoning
  • Johsefins Dopvals
  • Trip to Durrow - Paddy Ryan's Dream - Sheila Coyles
  • Sonny Brogan's - Brian O'Lynn - Blue Jay
  • Over Land and Sea - Reel Beatrice

How to obtain your own copy of 'Grass Roots':

Contact Fallen Angle Music.