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Banjo, fiddle, folk and bluegrass

Saunders, Salay splinter into two trios WHO: A Celtic Trio WHERE: The Dubh Linn Gate WHEN: Dec.

Saunders, Salay splinter into two trios

WHO: A Celtic Trio

WHERE: The Dubh Linn Gate

WHEN: Dec. 21-23

Maybe the strains of Sweet City Woman’s banjo-dominated melody won’t be on the set list this next week, but Cam Salay and fiddle-player Shannon Saunders from the musical group The Paperboys will be performing numerous folksy Celtic standards with guitar player Rob Thompson every other week in Whistler during the next two months.

Salay, a banjo/bass player whose ties to the Whistler area include working on the ski hill years ago, joined The Paperboys as a walk-on at Buffalo Bill’s seven years ago. Now retired from the band, he says living in Brackendale, 40 minutes south of Whistler, is ideal for the duos and trios he’s joined.

But his Celtic Trio, which is scheduled for a series of three-night stands at The Dubh Linn Gate during the heart of Whistler’s high season, was created by opportunity, he said.

"Even though I’m not in The Paperboys, Shannon’s still with them," Salay said. "And they take January and February off, so she has the time to do this. And of course she’s got her own band – The Splinters – on the go. And that’s a bluegrass band more than anything. But that’s certainly not what we play in Whistler They don’t seem to like it. I mean, with Rob Thompson in with us on guitar, the guy knows a million songs. We just put the banjo in where there isn’t normally a banjo on your standard songs."

Saunders, who released a bluegrass album in April with The Splinters called The Yellow Book , debuted in The Sea to Sky Corridor at the Brackendale Art Gallery Oct. 29. Saunders’ sister Julie plays guitar with The Splinters.

Salay feels that with him and Saunders playing banjo and fiddle "in unison" with the Celtic Trio at The Dubh Linn Gate the melodies have some unique strength and distinction. Added to the mix are what Salay calls "American breakdown" instrumental leads, which would be something like the banjo-led theme for the movie Deliverance.

You might conclude that a trio is a setback for Saunders. Actually, he says travel with The Paperboys was getting to be a problem. The band that won a Juno for its polished mix of Celtic, pop-rock and bluegrass music will have to go on without him, and he wishes them luck.

"I really enjoyed playing with The Paperboys, but I realized I’m missing my dog’s best years. I’m 42 now, and travelling all over the place? I don’t have to do that. I’m actually making the same or better money now and I have way more time at home. And I’m doing an alternative-country thing in the city with another band."

With a family-owned home in Emerald Estates still providing roots in the valley, Salay says he and his brother Joe – former guitar player for The Madronas – remain relatively close and manage a gig or two together from time to time. And as far as the ties that bind go, Salay will continue to do West Coast tour dates with The Paperboys. So maybe he hasn’t exactly left the band.

"It’s too bad in a way, because they do a nice Southwest U.S. swing through New Mexico, Texas, all through there in late February. I won’t be going of course but I’m sure the weather will be nice for them."