Tim & The Glory Boys: Country Bluegrass for the Soul
By David DeRocco
Here’s a music question for all you followers of everything Juno. What’s the only Juno award category that lumps artists together based solely on lyrical content and not by the style of music they make. If you guessed “Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of The Year,” give yourself a well-deserved hallelujah. From hardcore metal to rap to bluegrass to traditional gospel, blues and R&B, the award often nicknamed “the Jesus Juno” seems to annually lump together artists whose music could easily compete in genre-specific music categories; instead, they usually wind up at the musical version of the kids table at Christmas – a collection of musical misfits competing for legitimate industry attention and pigeonholed into the Christian category.
Thankfully, Tim Neufeld is a forgiving fella who understands the bias associated with being a contemporary artist singing about “Christian” themes. As a founding member of Starfield, an award-winning Christian rock recording act that spent nearly a decade touring the world in the 2000s, Neufeld experienced the pros and cons of an industry that has little time for acts not entirely geared for the mainstream charts. That hasn’t stopped him and his current bandmates in TIM AND THE GLORY BOYS from doing what they do best: making music, releasing albums, touring the country and winning awards – including the aforementioned Juno for their 2016 bluegrass and country hybrid, Hootenanny.
“I think that anytime I win anything it’s a fluke,” laughed Neufeld, in reference to the band’s 2017 Juno win. “I have a pretty well established imposter syndrome. It allows me to accept the awards but not take them too serious, but to appreciate the accolades from the industry. I’m not sure that we made Hootenanny thinking we’d come close to being nominated for a Juno. But it gave us confidence and helped fuel the next thing.”
The “next thing” for Tim and The Glory Boys turned out to be their latest album, THE BUFFALO ROADSHOW, released on September 13th. The album picks up where Hootenanny left off, delivering a collection of slickly produced, hook-laden tunes with a decidedly pronounced contemporary country music feel to them. The new single, “Blessed,” is reflective of that country-flavoured sound, but it still carries the kind of message that connects the dots back to the Neufeld’s prolific gospel past.
“Our gospel roots are real and they didn’t go away,” said Neufeld, who’s heading into St. Catharines with The Glory Boys December 7th as part of the band’s current 55-date national tour. “We still love playing churches and hanging out with church folks. I don’t think they’re as different as we may have thought they were, these two different worlds. Country music is absolutely rooted and established in gospel. It wouldn’t exist without it and it still plays a big part. We’re just trying to find our role in that balance.”
Like a West Coast version of Toronto’s bluegrass darlings The Slocan Ramblers, the Abbotsford, BC based Glory Boys are all about the live show. Their current tour – dubbed The Buffalo Roadshow: No More Horsin’ Around – finds the band playing churches, clubs and concert halls with equal enthusiasm and all amps on 11.
“It’s a country bluegrass hybrid, so there’s dobro and banjo and fiddle,” said Neufeld. “There’s also electric guitar and upright base, so it’s kind of the perfect mashup. The show has those moments, on stage and off. We often jump into the crowd for 20 minutes and take requests. It’s always a hoot, sometimes it works and sometimes it’s awkward (laughing). That’s kind of our M.O., not taking ourselves too seriously and trying to have fun, to shake people out of their normal concert etiquette where I stand there and sing songs. I don’t feel my job is done until people are walking away saying that’s the best show they’ve ever been to.”
As for any worries that the new mainstream country direction will alienate the band’s devout Christian fanbase, Tim acknowledges there are always detractors suspicious of any change in direction; however, the end game is to attract a congregation of fans who appreciate Tim and The Glory Boys for their music, for their message and for the pure joy of their live performance.
“It’s not that we’re out there singing about whiskey and loose women. It’s real life stuff, the struggles, the joys, the sorrows. Country music is still attached to the emotional stories, the bring a tear to your eye emotion. That’s the connection. It taps into nostalgia more than any other form of music, with so many songs about fatherhood or family or romance. Country music embodies that more than Christian music ever did. We’re moving into a different realm on this tour. It’s 55 dates, with 20-something in theatres, the rest are churches and maybe a couple community halls. It’s strategic. The end goal is to play neutral venues, mostly because they’re just better venues. We want every event we do to be comfortable for everybody, and not everybody is comfortable going to a show at a church. For now, we want to be who we are without apology. If they don’t show up this time, then perhaps they will next time we play a theatre."
See Tim & The Glory Boys December 7th at Central Community Church, 240 Scott Street, St. Catharines. For tickets visit EventBrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tim-the-glory-boys-the-buffalo-roadshow-st-catharines-on-tickets-46516770914.