With the release of the new album Rove, Nova Scotia's powerhouse Còig has cemented its status as one of today’s most exciting new North American Celtic groups. With a combined total of over 30 group and solo awards and nominations, the four members of the band are already recognized as major stars of the Celtic world. Rove is drawing rave reviews from fans and critics and has recently been recognized with a 2018 East Coast Music Award for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year, a JUNO Award nomination, and 2017 Canadian Folk Music Award and Music Nova Scotia Award nominations.
Còig's like no other, thanks to the unique mix of four different talents. They all have traditional roots, but each brings something more. Fiddler Chrissy Crowley has touches of world and contemporary music. Pianist Jason Roach has a jazz degree, Darren McMullen (guitar, banjo, mandolin, etc.) has worked everywhere from Irish to rock groups, and fiddler Rachel Davis is the most Cape Breton trad, but with folk and roots infused flavours as well.
The group’s debut Five, released in June, 2014, earned them the 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award for Traditional Album of the Year, the Music Nova Scotia Award for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year, and the 2015 East Coast Music Award for Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year. That was followed by 2015’s Carols, already a yearly holiday favourite.
Ask anyone who has seen them, from New England theatre stages to huge European festivals to their own beloved small halls of Cape Breton, and you'll always hear about Còig's energy. Trad fans love them of course, and the crowds are growing all the time. "We really feed a lot on the energy we get from the crowd, everybody is hootin' and hollerin' and clappin' and stompin' and goin' on," says multi-instrumentalist Darren McMullen. "We want our shows to be more where we're all just having a party together."
Còig's music is a unique combination of influences that could only come from these four players. It's traditional for sure, but it's performed in a lot of non-traditional ways.
"We all come from sort of a traditional background, but then we have different influences that we're interested in," explains fiddler and singer Rachel Davis. "Jason (Roach, pianist) has a jazz degree, and listens to a lot of different music. Chrissy (Crowley, fiddler) likes to dive into a lot of world music, Darren (mandolin, guitar, banjo, etc.) comes from a kind of Irish theme from playing around Halifax. More of the traditional Cape Breton stuff is really what I love, plus all the folk songs, so it's an interesting mix.”
Rove sees the group move from playing all instrumentals to including several vocals, from both Davis and McMullen. Crowley says they all knew Davis had a lovely voice, but she had to be coaxed into it. "In her mind she could sing a little bit, so the songs got staggered slowly into the show. With every performance somebody would say that it adds to the energy."
McMullen played another wild card, which has turned into one of Rove's most popular numbers, a Celticized version of Peter Gabriel's song Solsbury Hill.
"Everybody seems to really like it," he says. "When we were putting together songs for the record I thought we always have older songs and trad songs and Gaelic songs, but a fresh take on something people might recognize is a cool thing."
Each member brings in their own songwriting and ideas. "With this record, they were all allowed," says Crowley. "I think everybody was in the same head space to move forward. Jason has a couple of tunes that don't fit in the traditional box, same as myself. Darren, ironically, has the most traditional sounding ones, because he's the one who didn't come from a trad background. So we've inherited each other's qualities."
That leads to the other magic ingredient in Còig. It’s a band of fast friends, people that grew up together, played together, and knew each other way before they ever considered being in a band together.
"With that first album launching us into that whole crazy world, none of us saw that coming," says Davis. "We just saw it as a side project, and now here it is a couple of years later and it’s our main focus, so it's amazing. We all want to see it last for sure."
The best in trad music, in a non-traditional way. That's Còig.
AWARDS & NOMINATIONS
- 2018 JUNO Award nomination for Traditional Roots Album of the Year (Rove)
- 2018 East Coast Music Award win for Roots/Traditional Recording of the Year (Rove)
- 2017 Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for Traditional Album of the Year (Rove)
- 2017 Music Nova Scotia Award nomination for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year (Rove)
- 2016 East Coast Music Award nomination for Roots/Traditional Recording of the Year (Carols)
- 2016 Music Nova Scotia Award nomination for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year (Carols)
- 2015 East Coast Music Award win for Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year (Five)
- 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award win for Traditional Album of the Year (Five)
- 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award nomination for Instrumental Group of the Year (Five)
- 2014 Music Nova Scotia Award win for Traditional/Roots Recording of the Year (Five)
- 2014 Music Nova Scotia Award nomination for New Artist Recording of the Year (Five)
"...every number is convincing and compellingly delivered. This group's ability to back songs on piano, fiddles, cello, guitars and more gives them enormous scope, and keeps the surprises coming throughout Rove. Slow reels and strathspeys, smooth fiddle and staccato banjo, plenty of their own material as well as the best of three centuries of tradition: there seems to be no end to Còig's talents, and I'm sure their story will continue well beyond this outstanding recording." - Alex Monaghan, FolkWorld
"—this is a walloping good set from these young lions of East Coast trad. There are five songs and seven instrumental tunes on Rove, all wonderfully engineered and mixed by Dave Gunning. I’m really happy to hear them increase the singing this time around. Rachel Davis and Darren McMullen both have fine voices, and McMullen’s take on Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill was a very pleasant surprise. The purity of Davis’s vocals shines on Down the Road. Instrumentally, few can match these folks. Jason Roach, who is at his thunderous best on the fast and furious numbers, gives fine accompaniment to the superb fiddling of Davis and Chrissy Crowley. McMullen plays guitar, cello, bouzouki, mandolin, mandola, banjo, whistle, and flute—his choices of instrument perfectly complementing the rest of the band on every track. There are plenty of reels, jigs, and strathspeys as you’d expect, as well as a surprise addition of a Dave Brubeck tune. That’s Three To Get Ready played by four, in a band called five in Gaelic. What’s not to like?" - Tim Readman, Penguin Eggs
"Cape Breton Celtic ubergroup Còig realize their sonic potential with their third full-length release Rove, a twelve track treasure trove that will wash over you like the sea upon Nova Scotia shores. Featuring the fiery fiddling duo of Chrissy Crowley and Rachel Davis, the playful piano of Jason Roach, and the musical musings of multi-instrumentalist Darren McMullen, Rove takes listeners back to simpler, gentler times, when Saturday night ceilidhs brought communities together to sing, dance, drink and celebrate their rustic roots. Jigs, reels, ballads – and a brilliant cover of Peter Gabriel’s Solisbury Hill – showcase both the quartet’s strong chemistry, and the region’s rich musical history. Còig are the real deal, folks, and they just might inspire you to set sail for Atlantic Canada." - Celtic Life International
"It's an added bonus to have the singing among the jigs and reels, happily pushing the envelope sometimes, while then coming back to the solid, traditional Celtic base that makes them ideal ambassadors for the Cape Breton sound. Rachel Davis and Darren McMullen each take a couple of turns at the mic, with songs both old and new. McMullen has the biggest surprise, a subtle interpretation of Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill, with his mandolin leading the way and Davis providing a sweet harmony. Elsewhere, the fiddles of Davis and Chrissie Crowley fly, while Jason Roach provides the crucial middle, his piano bringing all the strings together. McMullen colours each set differently, providing guitars, cello, bouzouki, mandolin, mandola, banjo, whistle and flute. The reels, jigs and strathspey sets are imaginative, drawing in themes from local Cape Breton heroes, the group's originals, and wild cards such as Dave Brubeck's Three To Get Ready. There's a lot of thought, and a lot of joy in this collection." - Bob Mersereau, The Top 100 Canadian Singles
"— a delightful 12-cut collection of driving tunes and carefully selected songs, a nice mixture with something for everyone. It’s the combinations and arrangements that make things distinctively Còig, as tunes change timing and instrumentation in surprising ways, weaving in, out and around each other to create something greater than the sum of its musical parts. This is a terrific recording and you won’t go wrong by having it in your collection." - Dan MacDonald, Cape Breton Post
"Còig is one of those staples for Atlantic Canada’s traditional music. With all the fiddle and mandolin (and piano, guitar, banjo, viola, bouzouki, whistles and about a dozen more instruments), they’re a mainstay in the genre. They’ve mastered many a jig, and if you haven’t already seen them perform, chances are you will sometime." - www.theeastmag.com
“This is a blast from the past, featuring all your favourite hits of the 18th century.” The crowd clearly loved all of it, clapping and stomping along. The band would take turns on some of the songs to come to the front of the stage to jig. They got a standing ovation twice, and came back out for a triumphant encore. If you ever get the chance to hear Còig live – GO! And bring your dancing shoes. My feet still move every time I hear one of their songs (and up to half an hour afterwards). Until then, check out their CD – it’s a joy." - Leilah Thiel, BucketListMusicReviews
"Trust me, there was no shortage of powerful workouts that held true to the raucous music that has rattled the roofs of kitchens in the East Coast for generations. You don’t sweep award nominations by being slackers, and there was not a single instrument lagging on that stage over the course of their dynamic showcase. Over two sets, Còig allowed for far too many highlights to isolate any single one in particular, but a Gaelic singalong proved pretty popular with the audience members. Darren McMullen switched frequently from banjo to bouzouki, Rachel Davis and Chrissy Crowley were a blur of seated step-dancing and fiery fiddles. I never did get to see the whites of Jason Roach’s eyes at any point during the show, but with the intensity and speed he was banging on the white AND black keys of his piano, the sound folks had to quickly tape his keyboard to the stage, lest it inadvertently join the nervous fans in the front row." - Dan St.Yves, The Calgary Herald
"A bit of French, a bit of Irish, a wee dram of Gaelic and a full helping of Cape Breton Scotch: this is a mighty powerful fiddle cocktail from Còig." - Alex Monaghan, FolkWorld
"Sometimes I get tired of wading knee deep through reindeer poop looking for the genuine Christmas music treasures. But, when you find those sparkly diamonds, it's suddenly all worthwhile. "Carols" by Còig is just such a gem. And, true enough, as it was released last year, I should have found it then (though, in my defense, news from Canada seems to come with a built-in time delay). "Carols" is exceptional, from start to finish. And, sure, it's overall a Celtic set, but the band brings a multitude of influences to the music which not only keeps the whole thing sounding fresh and original, but should also draw in some folks more partial to Folk, Classical, Contemporary Pop, and there's even a little bit of Swing. The musicianship and vocals are perfect, there's a nice balance of instrumental and vocal pieces and "Carols" is a robust 57.5 minutes long (no skimpy wish sandwich here). Hard to pick favorites, since its all so good, but the opener--"Carol Of The Celts"--grabbed me when Còig shifted into high gear about 2 minutes in. And if "Swingle Jingle Bells" doesn't put a smile on your face, I think there might be something wrong with you. Just sayin'." - Stubbyschristmas.com