Starting out as a Bluegrass band, Vancouver’s Viper Central have seen some changes over the years – in line-up and in musical direction. A constant since the band formed in 2007 is the main songwriter, fiddle player and lead singer Kathleen Nisbet, and the current Viper Central line up is made up of Steven Charles (guitar, banjo, bass, vocals), Mark Vaughan (mandolin, bass), Patrick Metzger or Joseph Lubinsky-Mast (Bass, vocals), Tim Tweedale (dobro, vocals) or Christopher Suen (banjo, guitar, vocals), and Leon Power (drums for their electric sets).
Having made a local reputation as a young hot live Bluegrass band, Viper Central capitalised on this attention by recording their first album in 2008 – ‘The Devil Sure is Hard to Please‘ which mixed solid Bluegrass instrumentals with racy new slants on suitable topics for Bluegrass to cover – ‘Shotgun Wedding‘ being perhaps the exemplar of the “hmm….not many bluegrass bands sing songs like that!” attitude that Viper Central were aiming for.
Never super-prolific in the recording stakes their second album ‘Thump and Howl‘ didn’t arrive until 2012 and showed a band starting to experiment with their musical palette with pedal steel highlighting some tracks, and the fiddle work now showing the influences of the Metis tradition. These new directions took full root with 2017’s ‘The Spirit of God & Madness‘ which in effect split the band’s output down the middle – half the album being pretty direct Bluegrass whilst the other half brought in Country – both of the Hank Williams style and some unmistakable Outlaw leanings. An eclectic mix for certain – which is what makes Viper Central a distinctive and exciting listen in the crowded bluegrass/old-timey musical worlds. As well as pushing musical boundaries Viper Central have become quite the touring machine – taking in Canada and North America of course, but also touring Europe several times with UK dates included.
Key tracks – well, any admirer of Bluegrass will enjoy ‘The Devil Sure is Hard to Please‘, particularly songs like the impressively fast-picked ‘Devil In The Hourglass‘ . At the other end of Viper Central’s music is the bluesy ‘Ned Kelley‘ from the last album. And from ‘Thump and Howl‘ ? Well, let’s try ‘The Mission‘.