Gordie MacKeeman exemplifies the term natural showman. An ace fiddle player nicknamed “crazy legs” for his frenetic loose-limbed step- dancing, he just loves to perform. Combine that exuberance and onstage dynamism with the stellar musicianship of his multi-instrumentalist comrades His Rhythm Boys, and you have an unstoppable roots music force. That potent combination has made the group highly sought-after performers on the international roots music circuit, thrilling audiences from Adelaide, Australia, to Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Prince Edward Island-based combo has released three albums to date: 2011’s self-titled debut, 2013’s Pickin’ N’ Clickin’, and 2015’s Laugh, Dance & Sing. These have brought the lads impressive airplay and multiple awards, though Gordie stresses that live performance remains his true calling. “I’d say we consider ourselves a live band more than a recording act,” he explains. “We just love being onstage in front of an audience. We view our albums as a souvenir of the live show, so we record live off the floor as much as possible.”
The group comprises Gordie MacKeeman (fiddle, acoustic guitar, feet percussion, vocals), Peter Cann (guitars, banjo, vocals), Thomas Webb (guitars, bass, banjo, steel guitar, vocals), and Jason Burbine (bass, percussion, guitar, vocals). They have been together for six years, but many of the members played together in different combinations prior to that, as is audible in their aural chemistry. The fact that each member is skilled on multiple instruments gives Gordie MacKeeman and The Rhythm Boys a high-powered musical arsenal. The result is an eclectic signature sound that draws upon bluegrass, old time country, folk, rockabilly, swing, Celtic, and other styles in genre-defying fashion.
The hard-working combo has regularly delighted audiences at such major international festivals as Glastonbury, WOMAD, Celtic Connections, and the Orkney, Shrewsbury and Woodford Folk Festivals. In 2012, they won the Galaxie Super Nova Award at the Ottawa Folk Festival for their electrifying performance, while their 2015 and 2016 Music PEI Awards for Entertainer of the Year are also attributable to their performance prowess. Their first two albums collected multiple East Coast Music and Music PEI Awards in the roots categories, while Laugh, Dance & Sing won 2016 Music PEI Awards for Album, Group Recording, and Roots Traditional Recording of the Year.
Both live and on record, Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys serve up a neat balance of traditional tunes and well-crafted group originals, in both instrumental and vocal styles. “For the traditional tunes, I try to find ones that are a little more obscure, though it’s nice to have a few that are very recognizable as well,” says Gordie. A fine example of that on Laugh, Dance & Sing is the lovely cover of Gene MacLellan’s “Song To A Young Seagull,” a comparatively little-known composition by the East Coast songwriting great.
“This band is a real breath of fresh air and fun. Given the generic ‘roots’ label, there are heavy influences of bluegrass, western swing, Celtic and even Scottish country dance music in here. It all adds up to a mighty fine package.” – Maverick Magazine, UK
Meet the boys!
“Laugh, Dance and Sing, the new album Canadian four-piece Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys defies all labels. Each track stands alone with its own style and influences from the rockabilly of Song To a Young Seagull to the distinctly Celtic feel of Dusty Derby and the dreamy 1960’s folk vibe of Cavan Road. This makes the record as a whole an enjoyable listen. This wide mix of styles showcases the bands talents with a range of instruments including guitars, banjos, a mandolin, cello and even an accordion all played with energy and skill. However it is the beautiful fiddle playing of MacKeeman which really pulls this collection of songs together into a cohesive whole. Overall a great album to Laugh, Dance & Sing along to!.”Maverick Magazine, UK
“Sometimes an album covers says it all, and this one has good time written all over it. Gordie and his three accomplices, come not from Prince Edward Island; it gets cold up there which explains why the stuff this band come up with burns from start to finish. ‘Song To a Young Seagull’ is an unexpectedly jumping slice of rockabilly, ‘Cavan Road’ a strum along pop song, while Back 40 Ripoff’ careers along at warp speed, a show piece for Peter Cann’s Chet Atkins picking. So, push back the chairs and break out the Jack Daniels. These guys take no prisoners.””Acoustic Magazine, UK
“THE HIGHLY UNOFFICIAL TOP 10 MOST POPULAR FESTIVAL ACTS…with great pride and exhaustion I give you the Top 10 Festival Acts of 2015 – #2 Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys.”Colin Irwin, Spiral Earth, UK
“If this album’s title is intended to be an instruction, then it is a superfluous one. From the opening notes to the closing chord of Laugh, Dance & Sing I’m grinning involuntarily, my feet are tapping instinctively and I’m soon singing along as I drift away on a warm wave of infectious rhythms.”Ian Taylor, www.folkradio.co.uk
“From the beginning bars of ‘Ridin The Fiddle’ you know what you’re in for. This blistering fiddle tune is a mighty fine opening statement and whets my appetite for whites to follow. Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys are renowned for their high-quality musicianship and astounding stagecraft and have been wowing audiences around the world. And this album of mostly original songs will only further cement their growing reputation.”Fatea Records, UK
“It is not often you will get to see a musician dance while
playing the violin – easily the queen of musical instruments and one of the toughest to master. But Canadian fiddler Gordie MacKeeman not only dances expertly with his stringed piece but also gets you on your feet dancing to his tunes. A high-octane performance that is heavy on energy from start to finish, Gordie’s trademark is his ‘crazy legs’ style of dancing while playing the violin.”
“It is their live shows which have cemented their reputation as one of the most dynamic and engaging acts to come out of the East Coast in the past few years. These guys were all solid players to begin with, but touring as relentlessly as they have over the last couple of years, playing everything from small concert halls to major European festivals, has sharpened the band to a fine edge. There is serious chemistry between MacKeeman, Webb, Cann and Geddes, the kind that only comes from living out of each other’s suitcase for extended periods of time. “Laugh, Dance & Sing” is now one of my favourite feel-good records. I suspect when award season rolls around it will be in the running. It deserves to be.”Doug Gallant, The Guardian
“More rollicking fun and good-time charm from Gordie and the boys, with a stronger focus on the whole band, not just the crazy-legged fiddler. There’s a surprising number of vocal tracks including originals plus some killer covers too. But that just points out that this P.E.I. bunch are a different take on the normal Maritime fiddle-led group.”Bob Mersereau, CBC New Brunswick
“If you have ever seen Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys performance live, then you’re well aware that the show entails as much acrobatics as it does music. From beginning to end, Gordie does not stop moving – no wonder the nickname “Crazylegs” has followed him around the world.”Q Magazine
“It’s amazing Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys were able to stop moving long enough to stand still in a studio and record a new album, but fans of lively Maritime folk will be glad they did. Recently ranked number 2 on a list of the most popular acts at European folk fests in 2015 by U.K. site Spiral Earth, MacKeeman & co. show why on Laugh, Dance & Sing as the high-stepping fiddler and singer puts the lads through their paces. Produced by Dale Murray at his Port Howe studio, the record runs from old-time fiddle tunes and burning bluegrass to a touch of surf rock and even a Tom Petty cover, with an energetic sense of fun throughout to generate some extra heat during the coming winter.”Chronicle Herald
“If there is ever a sequel to the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, I hope Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys record the soundtrack.”thehalifaxmusicphile
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