Doug Dorward Makes Waves in Newfoundland Trad with Debut Record

Credit: Marc Lafrenière (cropped)
"When he moved to St. John’s two years ago, Dorward quickly assimilated into the local traditional music scene, and began pairing his musical roots with the traditions of his new home."

From a very early age, Doug Dorward grew up in a musical family, playing the fiddle and learning the traditional music of his homeland – not in Newfoundland, but in Scotland.

When he moved to St. John’s two years ago, Dorward quickly assimilated into the local traditional music scene, and began pairing his musical roots with the traditions of his new home.

“I fell in love with the traditional music of Newfoundland and Labrador when I first moved to St. John’s,” he says. “I was inspired to record Waves by the musicians I met here and was honoured to work with many of them on the album.”

That album, Waves, is his debut. It’s made up of music from both Scotland and Newfoundland and features an all-star roster of local players. All of the The Dardanelles, Andrew Dale of The Once, Duane Andrews, Josh Ward and more all underscore Dorward’s virtuosic fiddling. The Dards button accordion master Aaron Collis features most heavily, however, also taking on production duties.

Through the album’s ten tracks, Dorward alternates styles as often as he does musicians, blending Scottish and Newfoundland music seamlessly. “The fiddle styles of Newfoundland and Scotland compliment each other nicely and I’m extremely proud of this album,” he said, and Dorward plays tunes by Rufus Guinchard and Emile Benoit just as passionately and proficiently as those that were sung to him by his grandmother as a child.

Waves kicks off with “Morag and Binker’s,” a pair of the fiddler’s own tunes. Aaron Collis’ accordion doubles Dorward through every turn and flourish of the melody, as the arrangement grows and builds with every phrase. The rhythm section is also tight and drives the set forward.

“Good Morning You Would Like Some Tea” slows things down, starting with a march from Cape Breton before lifting off into a pair of Rufus Guinchard doubles. The next track, “Crossing the Bridge,” is a set of Scottish tunes, including one by John McCusker, producer and collaborator with English folk singer Kate Rusby. These tunes have more modern melodies, yet Dorward’s deft touch shows in the arrangements, his fiddle gliding above the rest of the players.

Waves closes with a bang with “Naxos Dance Party Breakdown,” a set of four reels – two Scottish, one Newfoundland, and one of Dorward’s own. It features the largest arrangement on the record with a full rhythm section and a trumpet. The fiddle playing shines with the full band, even taking a rocking turn at the end with crunchy electric guitar and a full drum kit.

Throughout the record, Dorward’s own original material stands out among the best, with sets like “Alfie’s New Home” and “Morag and Binker’s” showing his vast knowledge of the tradition. Both his playing and compositions add a different colour to the new wave of traditional Newfoundland musicians, and Dorward proudly represents Scotland as well as his adopted home.

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