Seven-piece country-folk band The Washboard Union released their first album June 26 and have been making the festival rounds this summer to promote their new tunes.
Their next big gig is the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival, Aug. 11, and the Union boys are eager to share their latest three part harmonies at the annual event.
"Playing Deer Lake Park is something we've never done, and we're really looking forward to that," said singer and banjo player, Chris Duncombe.
For the past six years, Duncombe and his band mates have been working on shaping their sound and honing their skills on guitar, stand-up bass, drums, harmonica, fiddle, harp, and, of course, the washboard.
It wasn't until about a year ago that they found their sweet spot with outlaw bluegrass and changed their name from Run GMC to their current moniker.
During the past year the band spent time in studio recording their self-titled album with legendary Canadian producers Garth Richardson and Bob Ezrin.
While their sound doesn't neatly fit into any standard music category, Duncombe said "outlaw bluegrass" works because The Washboard Union is almost, but not quite, a bluegrass band.
"I'm sure that the bluegrass purists would frown on us having a drummer, and I don't think we've ever really been pure to what bluegrass does, so it's somewhere in the middle," he said of their genre.
Growing up listening to classic folk and bluegrass greats, Duncombe and the rest of the Union members have been influenced by Ralph Stanley, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, but Duncombe said the group sounds more similar to today's Abbott Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, or Trampled By Turtles.
Of course, the band's songs are a varied mix of a number of different instruments; sometimes with the harp, fiddle and mandolin thrown in for good measure.
"With seven guys, you can imagine everyone brings their own piece to the table," said Duncombe.
The group's touring schedule this year took them to Kelowna to headline the Canada Day festivities there, and they have dates booked at the Squamish Festival, Rifflandia Festival in Victoria, and farther north through B.C. and Alberta in the fall.
Though The Washboard Union has not played the Burnaby fest before, Duncombe said he is aware of the reputation of the annual summer event and is keen to play at Deer Lake Park this month.
"I think the people who organize Burnaby Blues and Roots have something really unique that they've always had, and I think they should be really proud of the festival that they've got and the fact that it's so well attended every year," he said.
Headlining the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival this year are the Indigo Girls, the American folk duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.
The lineup also includes blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughn, older brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn; Mamadu and Mariam, a duo from Mali; American blues/ jazz artist Kelly Joe Phelps; singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello; as well as Canadian bands The Deep Dark Woods, and No Sinner.
Deer Lake Park has general admission lawn seating with no reserved seats.
Organizers say they expect about 5,000 people this year, depending on the weather.
Gates open at 12: 30 p.m. and the show starts at 2 p.m. The west gate closes at 6 p.m. and the main gate closes at 9 p.m.
Parking near Deer Lake Park is limited during the festival, therefore organizers encourage ticket holders to use alternative modes of transportation such as taxis, carpools, bicycles and public transit. There are bike racks on site, and there is a free shuttle bus service available from the B.C. Institute of Technology campus (pay-parking in effect).
Organizers also encourage anyone interested in purchasing tickets to review the guidelines on the festival website: www.burn abybluesfestival.com.
The Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival is produced by the City of Burnaby and the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.
Advance single tickets are $70 and a pack of four is $200. On the day of the festival, single tickets will be available for $75. Children aged 12-and-under get in free with an adult.
For more information and tickets, call the box office at 6042053000, or visit www.burnabyblues festival.com.