Like a musical locomotive hurtling ’round the bend, Union Duke is a Toronto folk quintet that’s taking the world by storm – one captivating performance at a time. Bridging soulful indie rock with bluegrass and country, these city-slickin’ whipper-snappers unleash soaring vocal harmonies over heel-stomping beats, in a growing collection of irresistible songs that set hearts and dancefloors ablaze.
Union Duke’s 2014 release Cash & Carry was recorded in a log cabin in the Ontario woods and features songs of love, loss, and a cheap shirt. On the heels of 2013’s Bandits & Bridges, these five energetic troubadours delivered their second self-produced record in as many years, and their runaway train shows no signs of slowing.
As sweet as their albums have proven to be, the real buzz surrounding Union Duke has come from their energetic live performances. Touring across Canada these past few years in the same beat-up van that delivered them to their very first show, they have left a vast trail of amazement in their wake, selling out venues as headliners and topping the must-see lists at countless festivals. With banjos rambling, guitars wailing, and superb melodies shining through each tune, an infectious magnetism emanates from every stage they’ve had the privilege to grace.
The legend of Union Duke begins well over a decade ago, when founding members Matt, Ethan and Jim were drawn together by their teenaged hooliganism and a penchant for timeless music. They skipped class to jam on battered instruments in an old workshop, wrote as many songs as they could conjure, and soon enough were sneaking into bars around Toronto to play gigs at the tender age of 13. Their rough and rowdy dynamic was matched by newest additions Will and Rob, natives of Port Hope and Red Deer respectively, and the five road-ready pals haven’t looked back since.
Come hell, high-water, or hitch-hiking, Union Duke is driven by grit and determination to make people dance the drunken two-step wherever they may roam. Catch ‘em when you can.
“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