Bluegrass banjo at Bistro

Port Moody café offers live music with an int’l flair

Devon Wells grew up in Calgary, surrounded by country music.

His mom played the piano and his dad, a Saskatchewan native, had a sweet spot for cowboy and bluegrass tunes — songs that were inspired from the Appalachian Mountains that mixed in Celtic and jazz elements.

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At 13, after seeing Marty McFly dazzle with Johnny B. Goode in the movie Back to the Future, Wells was sold on the guitar.

And by the time he graduated high school, Wells knew that music was going to be in his future.

His guitar teacher recommended he enrol at York University as the Toronto institution accepted applications by audio cassette.

But during his undergraduate studies there, he saw a show that would change his life. New York City native Béla Fleck and the Flecktones came on strong, he remembered of the concert.

“I didn’t realize what he could do. He plays bluegrass on the banjo but it just goes into space,” Wells said while waving his hands in the air.

Afterward, the banjo became a kind of obsession and Wells dove into sounds from Earl Scruggs and the American South. The banjo, he said, “has a lot of character. The guitar is one of the two most popular instruments to play but the banjo adds a unique twist and a certain sound that is appealing to many people.”

In 2002, Wells moved to the west coast and became a regular on the bluegrass circuit, touring Canada and the U.S. for eight months with The Clumsy Lovers, and playing gigs with his current quartet The Tishomingo String Band.

Now, the Coquitlam musician and composer teaches acoustic and electric guitar as well as banjo to about 25 students in his home studio, Blue River Music Academy, and online through Skype.

He also has a smaller ensemble with Chris Russell (guitar) and Russell Sholberg (bass) called The Devon Wells Trio, which next week will kick off a five-concert series in Port Moody called Global Sounds.

Their hour-long set at the Gallery Bistro — a Clarke Street café run by well-known Port Moody artists Rainer and Helen Daniels — will include appalachian, folk, bluegrass and original music — perhaps even a few from his new instrumental solo album The Waxing Moon, due out Nov. 7.

“We’ll be playing some great music that you don’t hear so often in B.C.,” Wells said.

For the past year, Gallery Bistro has been hosting jazz jam sessions and other free and ticketed events; however, the Daniels wanted to present a broader range of musical genres in their small setting.

Alan Walsh, of the Celtic band New Fish, suggested to the Daniels a varied line-up of international flavours for the month of September.

“We’re really impressed with the high calibre of musicians that will be participating,” Helen Daniels told The Tri-City News via email. “Hopefully, this five-concert series will appeal to people wanting to enjoy a fun night out with great live music, food and drink close to home and will lead to more special music events.”

• Tickets for a Global Sounds show are $12 (plus tax). Call 604-937-0998 to book a seat, or a dinner at an extra cost. Visit

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