Viper Central displays virtuosic chops on fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo and dobro, ripping through classic and original bluegrass pieces at barn-burning tempos. But perhaps the thing that makes this band the most unique and exciting is how far they’re able to wander from their home as a bluegrass band, turning the genre on its ear, while remaining true to their roots as such.
As a group of young friends who joined forces in their 20s to shake up the BC bluegrass scene, Viper Central gained a reputation as an excellent bluegrass band at festivals throughout western Canada. They quickly took to the road, touring the west coast of the United States, the UK, and continental Europe half a dozen times. In 2008, they released their debut album “The Devil Sure Is Hard To Please” which received excellent reviews, including “Top-notch bluegrass!” by No Depression .
Their second album “Thump and Howl” released in 2012 saw the beginnings of a departure from their roots as a bluegrass band; while banjo and fiddle remained central, pedal steel can be heard on several tracks and many of the melodies on the album draw upon a wide spectrum of influences ranging from Metis Fiddle to Klezmer to western swing.
A decade later, the group has found a maturity and confidence in their sound. “The Spirit of God and Madness”, released in March 2017, is the band’s boldest endeavour to date. As the band’s lead songwriter, Kathleen Nisbet has refined her skill as a storyteller to a new level of mastery, in the title track taking on the persona of her ancestor, Louis Riel, in another, that of a Saskatchewan Farmer-turned-musician, in still another, that of Katherine O’Hare–a woman who crossed the Rockies on foot in the 19th century.
The spirit that emerges from this album is as strong, unusual, original, and self-assured as the figures it celebrates in its songs. This spirit is reflected as much in the brilliant performances by band members, guests (John Reischman, Miles Black, John Raham), instrumentation, arrangements, and vocal harmonies, as it is in the songwriting itself.