The Rogue Folk Club presents
Local Heroes

The Early Spirit Trio





Accessible All ages

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This concert is made possible by support from CANADIAN HERITAGE.

The Early Spirit Trio
is Gabriel Dubreuil (violin), Ben Kelly (percussion), and Jay Knutson (guitar). The first album came out just a short couple of years ago, but they have a new one in the works, and will be performing material from it at this concert.

This musical outfit is as intriguing as their diverse musical backgrounds and as captivating and exciting as a live band can be.(Remember live music?) From the first electrifying chord they will lead you through the musical mosaic of their own unique West Coast “Rockin' Folkin’ Rollin’ Jazzin’ Celtic Swing-Grass”. After the release of their debut album “Unrelated“, this band was sought after from coast to coast, and they covered a good chunk of it chasin’ down the Spirit trail, getting folks from Victoria to Inuvik and Winnipeg to Moncton up out of their chairs and dancing.They invite you along to throw convention out the window, let loose and howl. Rise up to Early Spirit!

Jay Knutson sings the lead vocal for Early Spirit. Previously, he arranged, performed, and wrote Celtic folk-rock music with John Mann and Geoffrey Kelly in their band Spirit of the West. Later, Jay worked with major Canadian artists including Hart-Rouge and Connie Kaldor. His solo material, a constant throughout his career, draws from jazz and roots music. As a singer-songwriter, Jay “puts the soul back into music, fun back into instruments, and conviction back into lyrics” (The Chronicle Herald, Halifax). He uses wisdom gathered from over 50 album projects to write for and perform with Early Spirit. Few performers in folk music can combine their experience with raw energy like Jay.

The North Shore Celtic Ensemble, a violin youth group that Jay co-founded in 1998, helped Early Spirit come together. Playing drums in this group was a young Ben Kelly, the son of Jay’s Spirit of the West bandmate, Geoffrey Kelly. Ben went on to perform and record with Fish & Bird, an eclectic folk music band from the Southern Gulf Islands, and he continued to lend his talents to touring independent acts. Ben’s musical heroes include the versatile session masters of the 80s, including his favourite drummer, Jeff Porcaro.. His drumming complements every style from children’s music to heartland rock.

Before Ben joined their lineup, Early Spirit began as the Gabriel Dubreuil Trio. Gabriel, a young Franco-Canadian fiddler, attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. He had already worked around North America as a young, in-demand session violinist before spearheading the trio in Vancouver. Gabriel honoured his passion for independent, genre-bending music, and started his own teaching practice and performing act; his talents span classical, folk, and jazz. He writes instrumentals with influences of Darol Anger, Casey Driessen, Jeremy Kittel, and Natalie MacMaster.

Gabriel, Jay, and Will Chernoff formed a trio and self-produced a recording, Back to Back Bay in 2016. With new, original instrumentals and songs, they began performing at music festivals on the west coast, particularly in the Francophone community. Welcoming Ben into the group gave them the rhythmic power to entertain on the big stage, and Early Spirit was born in late 2017.

Banjoist and producer Leonard Podolak joined the band’s team for the Unrelated project. Together, they arranged six songs and four sets of tunes. Two of these songs come from Jay’s time in Spirit of the West, but they would only be recognizable by true fans. “Mists of Crofton”, Early Spirit’s first single, is a progressive arrangement with deep groove and powerful violin leads. Also featured as a single is a brand-new set of tunes called “Reel du Cocotier”, where the band moves from swing jazz influences to dance-heavy reels.

Early Spirit is an ensemble that spans decades and was created through a unique take on folk music. They invite fans of all ages to remember how much they love music and get dancing!


"After catching Early Spirit at the 2018 Mission Folk Festival I immediately hired the group for the 2019 Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. This is one inspired quartet that delivers superb stand alone concerts and one that can help take the process of collaboration and spontaneous interplay to a most memorable level in workshops and side stage settings. Exceptional instrumentalists, fine singers armed with a deep songbook that draws on all sorts of influences, makes Early Spirit is a festival programmers dream."- Peter North,  - Artistic Director,  Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival.

"This is a hot example of Celtic music and jazz fused together by superb musicians." - The Celtic Connection

"A delicate balance between electric and acoustic songs,dark and catchy rhythms, soft and the ethereal" -The Ottawa Citizen

"The sound is a unique blend of rock and roll energy, of folk lyrical conventions centered around various facets of Canadian life" - Vancouver Province.