Chris Coole got his first banjo when he was 17 years old after falling in love with the sounds of folk and early country music. Today, Chris is known internationally for his clawhammer banjo style, songwriting, and singing.
Early on, Chris discovered the joys of busking. His practice halls were the streets and subway of Toronto. He spent 10 years as a busker. :
“I would play clawhammer banjo for many hours a day. Sometimes I would play the same tune for an hour without stopping, coming up with variations and unconsciously working on my tone. Later, I learned to play guitar from busking with fiddlers like Ray Sullivan, Scott Prouty and Matt Haney. Me and Joey Wright learned to sing harmony together down there - singing duets and watching the world go by. It was a great time in my life that I wouldn't trade for anything.”
In 1995, along with Dan Whiteley and Chris Quinn, he founded “One Horse Town”, one of the earliest bands in what is now a thriving bluegrass scene in Toronto. At around the same time, Chris began playing clawhammer banjo duets with Arnie Naiman. Naiman's clean and tasteful playing was a considerable influence and the two went on to record “Five Strings Attached with No Backing" Vols 1 (1997) and 2 (2000) - both of which have become classics in the clawhammer banjo scene worldwide.
In 2000, he formed The Foggy Hogtown Boys, one of the most popular and enduring bluegrass bands in the country. Many of Chris’ original songs have found their way into the band’s repertoire. To date, The Foggy Hogtown Boys have recorded 7 albums and has toured throughout the U.S., Canada, Ireland, the UK and Israel.
His first solo album “Old Dog” was released in 2010 to warm reviews and drew attention to his intimate songwriting style. In 2016 he released “The Tumbling River”, a follow-up of highly narrative story songs featuring seven more originals, firmly establishing his reputation as a unique, and grounded songwriter. This is evidenced by the fact that his songs have been recorded by artists such as The Sweet Lowdown, Megan Lynch, Bill Evans, and Jenny Whiteley.
Coole is a sought-after teacher of both banjo and guitar at workshops and festivals across Canada and the U.S. His teaching approach is featured in the instructional DVD “The Elements of Clawhammer Banjo” (Woodhall Music).
Apart from his own albums, Chris can be heard as a sideman and/or producer on over 150 recordings by artists such as Sylvia Tyson, Jim Cuddy, Natalie MacMaster, Cara Luft, John Reishman, April Verch, Justin Rutledge, The Slocan Ramblers, and David Francey.
Apart from solo performances, Coole plays regularly with Ivan Rosenberg, The Lonesome Ace Stringband, and The David Francey Band.
“Renowned for his clawhammer banjo picking, Coole now establishes himself as a gripping songwriter”
— Penguin Eggs Magazine
“"Unassumingly excellent old-time country music"”
— FRoots Magazine
“Chris Coole's banjo playing is, frankly, incomparable”
— Mitch Podolak (co-founder of the Winnipeg and Vancouver Folk Festivals, and all around solid person)