When he was a young man playing shows on the Burin Peninsula, Bob Tarrant would sometimes have trouble coming off the stage and find himself bumping into tables.
Some would say he was “blind drunk,” but the truth was Tarrant had night blindness, making it difficult for him to see in dimly lit places. In fact, the North River resident has never had a drink while performing.
The phrase ‘blind drunk’ recently took on new meaning for Bob, who started a musical project with his son and nephew. The band Blind Drunk has steadily gigged around the Trinity-Conception area, making regular appearances at breweries in Bay Roberts and Dildo and the local distillery in Clarke’s Beach.
Bob handles vocal duties for Blind Drunk and also plays guitar, accordion and harmonia. Patrick Tarrant, Bob’s son, plays the bodhran along with a trio of stringed instruments — banjo, mandolin and guitar. Andrew Frampton, a cousin of Patrick on his mother’s side of the family, looks after the low end on bass.
Music runs deep in the Tarrant family. Bob’s father Isadore was an accomplished fiddle and mandolin player and his mom Margaret sang at community events in Lawn and other towns on the Burin Peninsula (Isadore’s father, also named Patrick, brought home a fiddle for his son when he returned home from the First World War). Bob credits his father for instilling in him a deep love for music. He eventually found himself playing shows with his dad in the early 1980s as the Newfoundland folk tradition gained an increased profile.
“It was a bit of a resurgence for him as well, because at that time in the 80s, fiddle music was coming back in again,” recalled Bob, who moved to North River with his family in 2003. “You had Rufus Guinchard and Émile Benoit, and there was a demand for that.”
They played a lot of folk festivals and other events during the course of the next decade until Isadore’s death in 1994. In 2007, Bob found himself playing with his son and Frampton in a four-piece classic rock band called 57 Chevy that also included Ken Snow. Frampton’s musical bond with his uncle grew considerably after the Tarrants moved to North River.
“I like a lot of different types of music, but especially when Bob moved here … he definitely had a big influence on me, especially with the Newfoundland-side of traditional music,” Frampton said.
Patrick, who was primarily a drummer, went on to play in a number of rock bands in St. John’s, where he lived for a number of years before moving back to North River in March. It was through his dad’s love of music that Patrick decided to pick up the sticks at a very young age.
“When I was growing up, dad would always have his buddies in the basement playing in a band, so I was always around it,” he said. “That’s how I picked up the drums. I was just in the practice space and sat at the drums and realized I could keep a steady beat. I was four years old then.”
With music still firmly a part of his day-to-day life, Patrick is proud to maintain his family’s love for playing and performing.
“It’s definitely a common bond that me and my dad share,” he said.
While their collective tastes diverge at points, the three members of Blind Drunk do share a love Irish and Newfoundland traditional tunes, with many of the songs in their set list ones Bob used to perform with his dad back in the day. And with the Baccalieu Trail Brewing Company, Dildo Brewing Company and Newfoundland Distillery Company all offering performance opportunities, the timing for a new band seemed right on the money. These venues also offer a change of pace with earlier shows.
“For about 25-30 years, I played on the club scene throughout the province, and it was a hard slog really,” Bob said. “You never started until 10:30 or 11 o’clock at night and you’d usually play until 2 in the morning and when you got home it was 3 o’clock. These breweries have better hours for sure.”
Work is already underway on a CD tentatively titled “Drinking Songs.” This recording would include some original songs by Bob. He expects the album will appeal to fans of traditional folk music.
Blind Drunk’s next gig is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22 at the Baccalieu Trail Brewing Company to kick off the Songs, Stages and Seafood Festival in Bay Roberts. More information about the band and upcoming live dates can be found on its Facebook page.