Union Duke is a Toronto folk act that bridges big-city rock with bluegrass and country, defined by their entwining rambling banjos, soaring vocal harmonies, chicken-pickin’ electric guitars and a fast driving, heel-stomping beat.
The three original members, Matt, Ethan, and Jim, were drawn together by their teenage hooliganism, skipping class to play music on battered instruments in an old workshop basement. It wasn’t long before they were sneaking into bars around the Toronto circuit to play shows at the age of 13. They picked up Will and Rob, natives of Port Hope and Red Deer respectively, and since then their rough and rowdy dynamic has continued to thrive, on and off the stage.
Union Duke has played alongside Elliot Brood and have a number of festivals under their belt including Mariposa Folk Festival, NXNE, Burlington Sound of Music, Lupercalia, Halifax Urban Folk Festival, Bloor Ossington Folk Festival, Fred Eaglesmith Picnic, and Pitter-Patter. Since then, they have been working hard on their latest album. Recorded in a shotgun shack secluded on the shores of Lake Ontario, Bandits & Bridges captures the voracious energy and unrefined, unrestrained performance that encompasses their live show.
Union Duke are five guys, 24 beers, and a half-ton truckload of foot stomping folk rock.
“Union Duke’s appearances at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 2013 were met with enthusiasm and surprise by the audiences who got to see them. Who were these young bluegrass musicians and how did they get to be so good? Their tight and incredible musicianship, their tuneful repertoire and their engaging manner with the audience made them one of the “hits” of the festival. As artistic director, I have done something that I rarely do and that is hire this great band for a second year in a row. That’s how much I think of Union Duke!”
- Mike Hill, Artistic Director, Mariposa Folk Festival