The Sweet Lowdown: Trio truly travels rustic road
by Jared Curtis
Steeped in the tradition of bluegrass and traditional music, The Sweet Lowdown, of Victoria, B.C., have been entertaining audiences for four years with their lush harmonies and skilled musicianship. Shanti Bremer (banjo), Miriam Sonstenes (fiddle) and Amanda Blied (guitar) have been traveling the globe sharing their love of music with fans of all ages. Recently back from touring the U.K., they are prepping for a small run of shows in the Pacific Northwest, including a stop at the Green Frog on Thursday, June 12, before heading back to Canada.
“We all met in the Victoria bluegrass community playing in different bands and working on various projects,” Blied said. “I hadn’t been in a bluegrass/traditional act before meeting Shanti. We started as a duo and eventually ended up playing with Miriam as a guest musician.”
Realizing they were “playing lots of fiddle music,” the duo decided to bring Miriam into the mix.
“She played a few gigs with us and it went so well, we asked her to join the group and we’ve been a trio ever since,” Blied said.
Although the ladies do bring guest musicians on stage to join them from time to time, they enjoy the camaraderie of being a trio.
“We really work well as trio, so we are cautious about bringing in a permanent member, but we’re always trolling bands at festivals for guest musicians, especially bass players,” Blied laughed.
The band just recently finished recording their third album in a speedy manor as it only took them 10 days to complete the project.
“We go into the studio very prepared to work,” Blied said. “We also make sure that we have a good time, eat well and enjoy the experience.”
The group recorded the album at FiddleHead Studios on Mayne Island, B.C. The new recording should be out this fall.
“We like to get away from everyday life when we record, so we usually hole up somewhere,” Blied laughed. “We also recorded our second album May at Fiddlehead as well. We love challenging ourselves in the studio and working with Adrian Dolan, who has engineered our last two albums, has really helped us focus on our sound. Hopefully our fans will enjoy it as much as we enjoyed working on it.”
Blied believes the group has grown and expanded their sound over the years, allowing the recording process to become more of a treat than work.
“Recording our first album was a scary moment because we weren’t really sure what to expect. But over the years we have become better musicians and are more familiar with the recording process,” Blied said. “This time around we were more prepared than ever and it made the recording process a fun and relaxing experience.”
They write separately and then come up with harmonies and arraignments as a group. “The process seems to work very well and it really helps us to push the boundaries of our music,” Blied said.
For the new album, the trio is expanding their sound beyond the traditional/bluegrass roots.
“We’re still grounded in traditional music in many ways, but we have become more open and aware of what’s coming out,” she said. “We’re taking more risks in the production and added a more range of style than the previous albums. Our fans love our sound, so hopefully they’ll join us as we push the boundaries a bit more. All we can do is please ourselves and hope other people enjoy the music as much as we do.”
Heading out on U.K. tour immediately after the recording process has allowed the ladies to hone their live performances of the new songs, but it has hampered some songs as well.
“We already have a couple of the new songs on the set list, but we’re still working on others… We took off on tour so fast that we can’t remember some of the newer music,” Blied laughed.
Along with performing, the trio also teaches music during their down time as well as during festival performances.
“We all love to teach music and are committed to finding ways to spread music through the world,” Blied said. “We’ll often host workshops at festivals on specific instruments as well as creating vocal harmonies. We always get a wide range of people interested in learning and we love sharing music with our fans.”
They all love playing and teaching, and feel they are lucky to have enough time to do both.
“We love music first and performing second,” Blied said. “Performing your music to someone is a great experience, but seeing them learn something and become inspired makes for an amazing experience. We really do love both aspects and look forward to continuing doing both into the future.”