Long time friends Brian Cathcart (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Matt McNeil (Mandolin, Guitar), Colin Gillis (Harmonica, Bass, Vocals), Redmond MacDougall (Banjo, Percussion, Vocals) and Scott MacLean (Guitar, Mandolin) starting performing together in 2012. The band’s name is a nod to a Cape Breton local who embodied the love of playing and performing music. No matter where they tour or travel, Pretty Archie will always be representing their hometown.
Pretty Archie, their sixth studio album, is one of which they are justifiably proud. It represents a quantum leap forward in the evolution of the group’s sound. ”I feel each of our other records was a step ahead of the previous one, but this one is six steps ahead,” declares Colin Gillis. “We are proud of everything we’ve put out, but this is at a different level.”
Pinning down the ‘Pretty Archie sound’ hasn’t always been easy. Their style has incorporated elements of bluegrass, folk, country, and had that ‘East Coast vibe’. Describing the new album, Brian states “it is more focused, even though you still can’t quite put a finger on it. For us it definitely has way more of a country vibe. This is an alternative country or Americana-style…”
Helping the group realize the formidable creative achievement that is Pretty Archie was internationally-acclaimed record producer and engineer Mark Howard, whose star-studded resume includes work with the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, U2, Tom Waits, The Tragically Hip, Peter Gabriel, and more. Howard’s fortuitous recent relocation to Cape Breton afforded Pretty Archie the opportunity to take advantage of his skills, and the band couldn’t be happier with the results.
“It was all basically recorded live off the floor, with minimal overdubs,” adds Colin. “That’s something we had always wanted, and Mark was able to do that. There’s a certain ambience and energy in recording that way.”
With every record and tour Pretty Archie carries a little piece of home a bit farther afield. Since their 2013 debut album, Steel City, the band have built an ever- larger following on the east coast, across Canada and are now set to continue growing their International audience.
Cathcart explains that “as a band, we wear our East Coast hearts on our sleeves. We are very proud of where we are from, but our focus now is exposing people internationally to our part of the world.” Gillis adds that “if you are genuine and true to yourselves, then people will attach themselves to that, no matter where you are from.”
Pretty Archie have long been regional favourites, with a stack of Music Nova Scotia and East Coast Music Award nominations to their credit. They are now looking globally, and with Pretty Archie they have an album ready for international prime time play.
The upbeat and joyous “Familiar Feeling” and catchy “Reasons” showcase the band’s instrumental prowess, while Brian digs deep vocally on the haunting ballad “Feel It In My Bones.” At Howard’s suggestion, “Someone New” became a duet, featuring Austin-based Maritime honky-tonker Whitney Rose, and the contrasting vocals add real resonance. Brian is especially proud of “Maritime,” a song written right in the studio that features these poignant lyrics – ”If your heart breaks down, we’ll use mine. It is weathered and weary, but it is Maritime.”
Pretty Archie’s genuine, heartfelt writing connects listeners with a saltwater perspective on modern living. Their fun loving and at times heartbreaking music finds common ground in the blurred genres of Country, Folk, Bluegrass and Americana. Their unique sound and energetic shows leave listeners with a lasting memory.
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