The group was originally formed in the mid 1980s as a street-busking operation in downtown Toronto. The line-up consisted of guitarist/ song-writer Charlie Angus, vocalist Michelle Rumball and fiddler/accordionist Peter Jellard.
In 1987, stand-up bassist Tim Hadley joined the band, followed by drummer Peter Duffin. This marked the move of the Angels to Toronto bars like the Cabana Room and the Horseshoe. In 1988, a series of demos were put together as the independent release Toute la Gang.
If there was a career object at the time, it was wrangling a free summer vacation by touring western Canada. On tour, however, the Angels found that their street busking past-time was winning over hardcore followers. The band was soon being featured at folk festivals in Edmonton, Calgary, Jasper, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
In 1990, the Angels seemed poised for big things. With the release of One Job Town in Canada, Europe and Japan, it looked as if Toronto's ragged folk band was about to become a major act.
It didn't happen. Singer Michelle Rumball left the group soon after the CD was released, and songwriter Charlie Angus moved home to northern Ontario. Many in the music industry assumed the band was finished. They weren't.
They garnered two Juno nominations (Best Roots/Traditional album - 1991, and Country Band of the Year - 1992).
In 1993 the Grievous Angels released Watershed a 17 track CD.
In 1994, Macleans Magazine chose the Angels as one of the hottest up and coming bands in the country.
In 1996 they released Waiting for the Cage, a dark and moving portrait of life in northern mining and smelting towns. The CD-ROM beat out entries from around the world as the top interactive CD-ROM at the New York Expo of Short Film and Video. The Toronto Star described it as a “groundbreaking achievement.”
The song War Down Below was used in the soundtrack to the movie Giant Mine.
The Bill Barilko Song was used as the soundtrack for the movie The Hockey Card.
In 1998, the band released 22 Trailer Park, a rambunctious pop/electric work. In the summer of 2000, drummer Pete Duffin retired from the music scene and Tim Hadley accepted a gig touring with Stompin' Tom Connors.
Band leader Charlie Angus was then derailed by a massive civil disobedience campaign against the Adams Mine dump -- which threatened his rural region of Temiskaming. Over the next three years, Angus was at the centre of a number of political wars against toxic waste and land exploitation, both among rural northern residents and with the Algonquin Nation in Quebec. This marked Angus’ move from music to the world of politics.
In the meantime, Peter Jellard had found fulltime employment with the band Swamperella.
The band returned to the studio in 2003 with Angus, Hadley and Jellard augmented by two other Northern Ontario musical players – Dave Patterson on electric guitar and Al Lamore on drums. They released the album Hanging Songs.
Les Siemienuk, writing in Penguin Eggs, described the album as:"The songs are still beautifully written from the heart in a dark and simple fashion. Clearly the Angels have matured and taken a musical step forward. There’s no one in Canada that can write a song that’ll tear at your heart like Charlie Angus.”
In 2004, Angus was elected to Parliament as the New Democratic Party member for the vast region of Timmins-James Bay. This put an end to the touring and recording of the Angels for a number of years, although they continued to play sporadically.
In 2011 Angus recorded Diamonds in the Snow with fellow musician and MP Andrew Cash. The song has become the theme for the Shannen’s Dream campaign for equal education.
In 2013, the band returned to the studio to record new tracks for the Great Divide album.
Check out their website here.
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