May 26, 2010

Aaron Muir country CD celebrates family tradition

As published in The Erin Advocate

Whether it is a jamboree, a church event or Saturday night at the bar, Aaron Muir and the Muir Family Band have a versatile mix of country tunes to suit the occasion.

"We adapt to the venue and the crowd," said Aaron, who is releasing a self-titled CD next month. It seems there's a strain of country music in the family DNA. Aaron and his brother Brandon, who plays drums, were surrounded by music while they were growing up and have been performing since the mid-90s.

Their mom Donna, who sings harmony vocals on the CD, used to sing locally in a band with her brother Jeff Barry. She helped her sons produce the album, along with Bruce Ley, who did the recording at his studio in Mulmer, Ontario.

If you are at the 5th Annual Erin Rodeo, presented by the Erin Agricultural Society on June 5 and 6, you'll find the Muirs providing dance music for the cowboys and cowgirls. For more on the rodeo, go to

The following weekend, everyone is welcome at the CD release party – Friday, June 11, upstairs at the Erin Legion, 8 pm - 1 am. Admission is free.

Aaron has picked music from some of his heroes, especially Dwight Yoakam, for the CD. I listened to Yoakam's recordings of songs like 1,000 Miles, Miner's Prayer, Two Doors Down and I Sang Dixie, and can tell you that Aaron's versions stand up very well in comparison.

His voice is engaging and confident. It is on the raunchy side for upbeat songs like Rockin' My Life Away (written by Mack Vickery and a hit for Jerry Lee Lewis), which has a nice boogie-woogie feel; and suitably mournful for songs like Crying Time (written by Buck Owens and a hit for Ray Charles). Vickery's The Fireman, a hit for George Straight, is a strong lead-off song for the CD.

Overall the music is professional and well-balanced – not bad, considering they treat it more as a hobby than a career. The mixing is uncluttered, so the instrumental solos come through pure and clean.

The project features Aaron Muir on guitar and vocals, Paul Holmes on bass guitar, Brandon Muir on drums and percussion, Gerry Companion on electric lead guitar, Mike Slauenwhite on fiddle, Bruce Ley on piano, organ and guitar, Doug Johnson on steel guitar and dobro, Kim Ratcliffe on acoustic guitar and Donna Muir on vocals. Also with the group is Mark Parrish on fiddle.

They are working in the tradition of the Bakersfield sound (or California country), which is strong on electric and steel guitar and has its roots in American honky-tonk. It is a contrast to the slicker production of the Nashville sound, which is known for string orchestration, and "New" country, which is more pop-rock oriented. A medley from Bakersfield star Buck Owens is the final track on the CD.

Donna hosts a show on Erin Radio called Country Grass, on Thursday evenings. If you miss the CD party and want to get a copy, call and leave her a message at 519-856-9159.