The Glengarry Bhoys, a Celtic-rock band, will perform Oct. 26 at the Canton Palace Theatre. The event benefits the Jackson Local Schools Foundation.
The professional trajectory of Glengarry County, Ontario-based Celtic-fusion band The Glengarry Bhoys has been as unorthodox as its uniquely theatrical approach to both live and studio recordings.
“I always had a focus on not doing what everybody else is doing in other Celtic bands,” said band founder and Scottish born guitarist-vocalist Graham Wright. “We will go to Celtic festivals where there are 200,000 people and walk from tent to tent and hear the same songs. So why would someone hire ‘Joe Blow’ if they are going to get the same thing?”
Reaction to that attitude from promoters and Celtic music fans has worked to Wright and the Bhoys’ favor. Still, being a pioneer is never a smooth sail. And The Glengarry Bhoys have traditionally avoided tradition even in its arrangement of familiar Irish and Scottish numbers.
“I have stood by my guns — it’s not pub music, it’s a concert,” Wright said. “And you don’t go to see Rascal Flatts to hear ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia.’ So even when we do bring in old Scottish and Celtic songs, we research and make sure they haven’t been done in 20 or 30 years, then we completely revamp them. You have to change them up or it’s pointless for people to come to shows.”
Change, as it were, has been a constant both on and off stage for the 17-year-old band.
Formed in Wright’s adopted hometown of Glengarry County, The Glengarry Bhoys began as an offshoot of the former Cornwall Police Service officer’s burgeoning solo music career.
“I think it all started in ’96 when I moved to Glengarry and was doing a lot of solo shows,” Wright said. “Things had just started growing, and I was going to Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and then west and into the U.S. So I brought in a drummer (fellow police officer G.S. “Ziggy” Leroux) and formed the Glengarry Boys; or rather, it sort of morphed into that. (The band) got so big so fast (that) it kept expanding and kind of took on a life of its own.”
The “alt-Celt” band eventually released nine CDs and sold a quarter of a million copies of the catalogue along the way. Album titles ranged from 1999’s “Full Contact Highlanding” and 2002’s “Juice” to more traditionally dubbed offerings like “Rhoots” (2004) and “The Mill Sessions (2006).”
The band also took its signature sound to the people via numerous TV and radio appearances and tours of Ireland, Scotland and the U.S.
Along the way, band members came and went but Wright’s attention and approach to both music and life remained a constant.
“A lot of people have been in the band and left, and now they are working at McDonald’s or I don’t know where,” Wright said. “I’m older (than the other band members), and I always tell the guys that this doesn’t last. Celtic music is popular per se, and you can make a living and be comfortable, but if you make one mistake, you’re gone. If you are doing drugs, or with some other woman, it’s not a badge of honor like that is in other genres. And if you (mess) up, you’re gone — and you are scrambling for a paycheck.”
Page 2 of 2 - For this reason, Wright also has encouraged his band mates to look beyond their life in music altogether.
“We could have chosen to do this full time, and we would have the work, but the road is a cruel mistress,” Wright said of the band’s decision to both pursue outside careers and pare down live appearances.
“I was a police officer and now I am an engineer, the fiddle player (D’Arcy Furniss) is a lawyer, the bagpiper (Stephen McIntosh) is a doctor,” Wright said, adding that the group is rounded out by drummer-vocalist Adam Malone, who has been a Glengarry Bhoy for the past two years. “Now, (shows) are more desirable because … it’s an event.”
Having performed at venues such as the Falls River Square Amphitheater in Cuyahoga Falls, Wright said the band has built up a great rapport with both Northeast Ohio audiences and certain fans in particular.
The Glengarry Bhoys will return to Ohio Oct. 26 for a 7 p.m. show at the Canton Palace Theatre, 605 Market Ave. N. Proceeds from the show benefit the Jackson Local Schools Foundation.
“We are looking forward to coming back to Ohio. We don’t get there often enough,” Wright said. “I make a lot of friends through music but not a lot of close ones; Jeff Moloney is one of my good friends now.”
Moloney, a former Glengarry Bhoy and member of the Jackson Local Schools Foundation Board, said he was thrilled when the band agreed to play the event.
“I was looking for something different and unique that people would enjoy,” Moloney said. “And I am really looking forward to it.”