4-Day Single User Pass - The Calgary Folk Music Festival 2017

The Calgary Folk Music Festival presents:

4-Day Single User Pass - The Calgary Folk Music Festival 2017

100 Mile House, AM Static, Archie Roach, BadBadNotGood, The Ballroom Thieves, Barenaked Ladies, Barney Bentall, Basia Bulat, Bellflower, Benjamin Longman, Betty Bonifassi, Billy Bragg & Joe Henry, Birds of Chicago, Blue Rodeo, The Bones of J.R. Jones, The Cactus Blossoms, Carsie Blanton, Charlotte Cornfield & The Provincial Archive, Choir! Choir! Choir!, Chouk Bwa Libète, City And Colour, Cœur De Pirate, Cris Derksen, Darlingside, Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin + The Guilty Ones, Dawes, Dione Taylor and the Backsliderz, DJ Shub, Donovan Woods, The Dustbowl Revival, The East Pointers, FARIS, Forbidden Dimension, Foy Vance, Ghostkeeper, Goldtop, The Iguanas, Jason Collett, Jeffery Straker, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton + Meredith Axelrod, John K. Samson & The Winter Wheat, John Paul White, Langhorne Slim, Leif Vollebekk, Lindi Ortega, Lucy Dacus, Mbongwana Star, The McCrary Sisters, Mélisande [électrotrad], Melvin Gibbs Magnum, Michael Kiwanuka, Mohsin Zaman, nêhiyawak, Parsonsfield, River Whyless, Reverend Robert Jones, Sargeant & Comrade, Sean Rowe, Son Little, The Sumner Brothers, Tanya Tagaq, Terra Lightfoot, Thee Holy Brothers, Turkwaz, Whitney Rose, William Prince, Yola Carter, Holy F*ck, Baracutanga

Thu · July 27, 2017 - Sun · July 30, 2017

Doors: 4:00 pm / Show: 5:30 pm

Prince's Island Park

Calgary, AB

$120.00 - $195.00

This event is all ages

Looking for Youth (13-17), Senior (65+) and Student tickets? They will be available for sale at the Box Office at the festival until 9PM on Thursday July, 27th.

The Calgary Folk Music Festival
The Calgary Folk Music Festival
From its origins as an eccentric kitchen party writ large to the major national event it has become, the Calgary Folk Music Festival embraces a singularly Canadian festival style - a broad-ranging vision of folk with an edge, and a festival with a wry, get ’er done attitude.
Our programming format, lovingly referred to as a series of ‘arranged marriages,’ creates wonderful opportunities for artists to meet and collaborate. These collaborative sessions group disparate artists loosely by themes, encouraging them to collaborate on each other’s material, creating coveted once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for audiences and artists alike.
For four days each July, a village fifty thousand strong writes their stories on the warm summer breeze and brims with the joyous sounds of musical exploration, community and inspiration. It’s an aural adventure; sweet and edgy, evolving and unpredictable. It’s the Calgary Folk Music Festival.
100 Mile House
100 Mile House
100 Mile House evokes trouble in your rear-view mirror; hope hidden in a box to be re-discovered later; stumbling over unwanted news while never letting go of your lover’s hand. Laced with violins, organs, and sweet prairie air, 100 Mile House’s music sounds like a soundtrack for sleepwalking through life, yet the lyrics reveal an acute awareness of the places where the sublime and the mundane make love. They somehow capture the wistful nostalgia of a prairie harvest moonrise even as their songs are dusted with Celtic longing.
Since husband and wife team of UK born Peter Stone and Alberta’s Denise MacKay released their first album in 2009, the pair have toured North America and overseas, gaining airplay, accolades and many awards for songwriting. The awards pay homage to a lyrical simplicity that lays bare hidden truths and gives you shivers when you suddenly recognize yourself in between the words.
(MLW)
AM Static
AM Static
AM Static resides midway between the organic and the technological, sculpting their soothing, soul-inflected songs from acoustic instrumentation and digital daydreams. Keyboards, strings, and singer Chris Austman's heartfelt tenor form the core of their sound, but it's the added textures that elevate it — electronic flourishes drifting gently through the mix like transmissions from the spaces between radio stations.
With their carefully calibrated synthesizers, machine-polished melodies and rhythms set for maximum chill, it's no surprise that one half of this duo makes his living as a sound engineer. It takes real effort to make music sound this effortless, but Austman and producer Nils Mikkelsen craft their electronic creations with an artisan's attention to detail, working and reworking each sonic element until it sits just right. The results are infectious, a fusion of futuristic R&B and softly sung pop that earned the pair a 2016 Juno nomination for Electronic Album of the Year for A Life Well Lived. Not bad for their first full-length collaboration, and a clear sign that they've tuned into the right creative frequency.
(PH)
Archie Roach
Archie Roach
Archie Roach’s home is half a world away from Canada, but the Indigenous Australian singer songwriter’s life story is heartbreakingly familiar. At three he was taken from his parents and sent to an orphanage, then to a series of non-Indigenous foster homes, oblivious all the while to the fact that his family was still alive. He studied music while living in one of them. He was eventually tracked down by a sister on the event of his father’s death, and she was able to tell him his family’s real story. A decade-long journey in search of his roots (including bouts of despair and alcoholism) followed.
He met his partner, Ruby Hunter, while living on the streets. Sharing a deep love of music, they formed a lifelong bond, had two sons, turned their lives around and went on to foster and raise an extended family of homeless children, while their musical partnership took them onto stages around the world.
Roach’s music proved redemptive. His 1992 debut recording Charcoal Lane, with its centrepiece “Took the Children Away,” an autobiographical lament to the stolen generation of Indigenous children, won two ARIA Awards (Australia’s version of the Junos), and was named one of Rolling Stone's Top 50 albums of 1992. The years that followed saw successful albums and tours around the world.
In a voice rich with humanity, filled with joy, pain, love and longing, Roach traces the journey of his people, and gets to the heart of what it means to be human. A man of few words, when he speaks or sings, those words lift, transport and humble you. He sees beyond race, religion, gender and ideology to get straight to the heart of what it means to be human. In 2010 Roach experienced the death of his wife Ruby, followed closely by a stroke and lung cancer. Undaunted, he has returned to music with life affirming optimism. Even in the face of loss, his latest album, the soulful Let Love Rule, chooses love in all its glorious, unruly incarnations.
(ER/KC)
BadBadNotGood
BadBadNotGood
It started with a class project. Three hip-hop-loving kids studying jazz at Toronto's Humber College in 2010, sick of being asked to perform uninspired interpretations of Nat King Cole. Finding each other at the school had been easy enough--just look for the Nikes in a sea of jazz-approved boat shoes. Working up the nerve to swap the standards for a performance of underground sensation Odd Future? That might've been harder. The response from their professor? "I didn't find anything of musical value in this performance."
Luckily, the trio also uploaded the session to YouTube. The response to that? Dropped jaws, thousands of views, and at a career that, to date, has spawned four increasingly ambitious albums, two Polaris Prize nominations and a full-length collaboration with the Wu Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah. It isn’t traditional jazz—mosh pits don’t break out at traditional jazz shows—but maybe there was value after all.
Seven years in and now a quartet, you still get the feeling that BADBADNOTGOOD are fighting back against uninspired music every time they play. Their foundation is still in the propulsive rhythms and moody chords of jazz, even as they’ve expanded their musical vocabulary to crib from krautrock, soul, and beyond. But their attitude remains pure hip-hop—never complacent, always searching for that fresher sound, that deeper groove.
(PH)
The Ballroom Thieves
The Ballroom Thieves
The Ballroom Thieves started small. When guitarist Martin Earley met percussionist Devin Mauch, he was using a mallet to hit a djembe lain on the floor, because that's all the drum kit that could fit in his Catholic college dorm. They found cellist Calin Peters at an open mic night, and had the good sense to persuade her to try singing; their soaring three-part harmonies give their folk/Americana its heart, and transformed the band from buskers to hometown heroes.
After the success of their debut album, they packed their old lives into storage units and opted for the grueling life of itinerant musicians, nights full of IPA pints and days full of angst and tension, writing songs in hotel rooms and long van drives along the interstate. That ever-present edge of loss and tension infuses their latest album Deadeye with more heft, more rock and blues, expanding and deepening their chops and ironically making them a tighter performing unit in moments when they were struggling to hold the band together. "Often the only thing that would bring us back together at the end of a hard day was to step on stage and play our music together," Mauch recently told a radio station in southern Oregon. The struggles of a band on the road are very real, but so too is the musical salvation they find onstage together.
(JM)
Barenaked Ladies
Barenaked Ladies
It’s possible that the Barenaked Ladies are currently the best-known Canadian band in the world. Never mind the slew of blockbuster hit songs over the years, from “If I Had $1,000,000” to “Pinch Me” to “One Week” to “Brian Wilson” (the list goes on); they have also been on everybody’s lips on a weekly basis with the theme song to the syndicated television show Big Bang Theory for the past ten years or so. Nearly every album they’ve released since 1988 has been successful, and the band has survived and thrived despite multiple membership shake-ups, including, improbably, the departure of one of the core songwriters.
Often bands who have sustained success at this level over such a long period of time do so by relying on touring and rehashing their early hits, but not so BNL. A band known for its adventuresome and early-adopter tendencies, BNL remains unafraid to scout new territory, whether it’s the many technological options for recording and releasing music, to projects like the space-to-earth musical collaboration involving the band and astronaut Chris Hadfield, along with the Wexford Gleeks, a Canadian student choir. commissioned by the CBC and the Canadian Space Agency. They recently recorded with NYC a capella group The Persuasions, and are currently working on their next studio album.
Above all, the lads from BNL appear—despite all the usual aging pains of conflict and illness, addictions and relationship changes—to have maintained their irrepressible senses of humour. Nearly 30 years on, BNL’s music still delivers lyrics that move between witty and poignant, with gorgeous harmonies and a loose, unaffected and at times comedy-improv stage show that makes their music as fresh and appealing as it was when they first started.
(SS)
Barney Bentall
Barney Bentall
Bentall's story could be the template for all good and hardy Canadian musicians. There was his initial band with a short-lived record deal in 1979, followed by a '60s cover band and his emergence as Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts in Vancouver. Those days, his young family dwelled in a basement suite before the band saved enough to send him groveling to Toronto after parting ways with their high-profile manager. Desperate and missing two front teeth, he found power in a song – this one appropriately (or optimistically) called “Something To Live For.” Its MuchMusic success opened record company exec doors. A record contract and new management deal followed, kick starting a 10-year musical ride before stepping back from music after an unpleasant label departure to run a ranch.
Bentall jumped back into the musical circus in 2007, releasing three solo records. He still plays with the Legendary Hearts, the bluegrass band the High Bar Gang, his solo effort The Bonapartes, a trio with Shari Ulrich and Tom Taylor and a rambling, on-the-edge country and western 12 piece orchestra The Grand Cariboo Opry. The words "legendary" and "heart" define the man behind several classic Canadian rock staples, who’s also able to milk a wild range cow. From his infectious smile to the finger-licking ferocity of his smoking hot guitar, Bentall has earned his working class-cred through hard work and exceptional talent.
(KC)
Basia Bulat
Basia Bulat
When Basia Bulat released her first full-length album as a young autoharp-wielding singer-songwriter in 2007, her delicate folky vibe was charming and fresh. In the last 10 years Bulat has grown into a bolder, stronger artist who is willing to jump off emotional and artistic cliffs for the sake of pushing her music forward. The irresistibly catchy melodies, wide-eyed vulnerability, and purity are all still there, but with her newest album, Good Advice, Bulat continues on the trajectory that made her 2013 Juno- and Polaris-nominated album Tall Tall Shadow so widely celebrated.
Good Advice takes Bulat out of her comfort zone — she recorded it outside of the country (in Louisville, Kentucky) with a producer whose music sounds almost nothing like hers (Jim James of the much beloved My Morning Jacket) and layered her emotionally bare songs with some far-out vintage organ sounds. It’s a departure, but only of sorts —Bulat’s clear vibrato voice, open-heart and clear love for classic pop songwriting remain at the core of her work. Her almost-epic, highly energetic and joyous live performances are characterized by several costume and instrument changes. With little bit of darkness and a whole lot of light, multi-instrumentalist Bulat has proven that she’s willing to go where she needs to take her music to new and even deeper places and, best of all, she is willing to take her audience with her.
LS/FF
Bellflower
Bellflower
Bellflower songs often start out small, with some spare acoustic guitar or a simple piano riff and leader Em Pompa's sweet velvety vocals. But when an eight-piece band is playing, small doesn't last long. The brass moves it somewhere jazzy, even acidly so; the flute gives it an ethereal quality; the synth takes it into prog/space territory. More than songs, a Bellflower set is composed of relatively short odysseys. It's what you get when a group of mostly Université de Montréal jazz students are forged together in a city's indie scene that keeps producing ever-challenging, ever-more-intricate music. The minimal-maximalist aesthetic brings to mind Bjork or Cinematic Orchestra, but at best that's a very approximate geography, because with the next odyssey, Bellflower is sure to completely defy comparisons or labels.
(JM)
Benjamin Longman
Benjamin Longman
Originally from London (the one in England), and a new Calgarian, Benjamin Longman possesses a pure and yearning tenor voice that is equally effective singing tender and poignant ballads as it is delivering cutting and sardonic observations on the inadequacy of love. True to his homeland’s folk music, Longman is a skilled finger-picker, weaving intricate layered melodies on his acoustic guitar while yearning lyrically for greater connection, musing on entropy, or singing about the comfort of a fully committed relationship. It’s music that hits your heart; lilting folk played with elegantly with deeply felt passion. He is also a member of local band Rosalind, and produced their 2016 debut EP. With a pair of EPs under his belt, The Ghost Months Vol.1 & 2, Longman took a brief hiatus from music earlier in the year. Luckily for us, music is in his bones, and with a full length album due in 2017, he couldn’t stay away long.
(SS)
Betty Bonifassi
Betty Bonifassi
You might not know Beatrice “Betty” Bonifassi’s name, but you've likely heard her big soulful voice, on Django Reinhardt-inspired French cabaret (as one of the voices on the Grammy and Oscar-nominated Les Triplettes de Belleville soundtrack), ‘trip rock’ projects (DJ Champion, Beast) and her recent solo exploration of black protest songs. Half of the pulsating electronic blues rock duo Beast, she also provided lead vocals to DJ Champion’s album Chill ’em All and toured with him for five years.
Her recent solo album Lomax is an homage to African-American 19th and early 20th century songs — mostly recorded by musical anthropologist Alan Lomax in prisons or fields with chain gangs — reimagined with fresh lyrical touches and a distinctive 21st-century treatment. A francophone artist, she was schooled on pronunciation, slang and expressions by Willie West.
The provocative result respects the soul of the songs and captures the suffering and strength of African people, while connecting to her mother’s Balkan heritage and their subjugation in Europe. The songs are deeply rooted in tradition, but the sound — thanks to the electronic and synth-oriented, brass and drum heavy contributions of her backing musicians and her powerful contralto voice — is completely contemporary. Her live show is a seductive, sweaty, give-no-quarter workout.
(SM/KC)
Billy Bragg & Joe Henry
Billy Bragg & Joe Henry
Railway stations, boxcars, and waiting rooms make for strange musical bedfellows. A 2,728 mile, four-day long train journey from Chicago to Los Angeles brought together irascible British punk-folkster Billy Bragg and American musical-limit-tester and critic’s treasure Joe Henry. The pair started at Union Station and recorded songs at every 20-plus minute stop, denuding covers of masters like Gordon Lightfoot and Hank Williams, and adapting classics like Woody Guthrie’s signature song, “Hobo’s Lullaby.” They recorded on platforms, in train cars, waiting rooms and stairwells, thus infusing the essence of the journey into every note.
While the pair recorded vintage songs at places boasting faded glory, their journey and song selections ratify the truths of today. They sing for both the the brakeman and the hobo, the established and the illicit, giving each equal weight in a world once again thrust into the nuclear shadow of us or them. They invite people on their journey, showing snapshots of the Dirty Thirties, of railroads forged by hammer and hand, of the great lost gathering places like Chicago’s Union Station.
And while Bragg and Henry may seem like an odd couple, their congruent histories as seasoned musical explorers bring them together. These songs may stem from Henry’s American turf, but they are re-drawn through Bragg’s British eyes. Their voices blend like a good marriage but each keeps their own style, working totally in harmony while inviting variance. They play guitar for guitar, heart for heart, uncovering moments of beauty and despair.
(MLW )
Birds of Chicago
Birds of Chicago
Allison Russell (of Po’Girl fame) and her co-conspirator J.T. Nero lead this raw and soul-rich band whose stark, elemental imagery feels like scripture or a lost folk song recovered. Drawing heavily on a gospel tradition, their hamony-filled music creates a new secular sound where every word and note counts. Music is the good news and Real Midnight, the band’s poignant new Joe Henry-produced album, throbs with an urgency that feels quietly seismic. They alternate moody rock swagger with the ghostliest of soundscapes for a melancholy – but never shoe gazing – suite, full of wayward, joyful, lonesome voices raised up against the night.
Blue Rodeo
Blue Rodeo
After over 30 years together, a Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction, and more than a few songs that have reached anthemic status, how can any band remain as consistently vibrant and relevant as Blue Rodeo? The magic is in the relationship between co-leaders Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy—the way the two men sing together, interact on stage, and generously lift each other’s songs represents the rarest of musical partnerships. Blue Rodeo’s popularity has never been defined by generation or genre—technically they fall into the realm of country-rock, with guitar-based songs punctuated by flourishes of keys and pedal steel, but whether it’s Cuddy crooning a ballad or Keelor delving into psychedelic rock, every Blue Rodeo number is built around a core of classic singer - songwriting.
Of course, Cuddy and Keelor don’t pull off this magic trick on their own: bass player Bazil Donovan has been with them since Blue Rodeo’s birth and most of the rest of the players have been part of the fold for a decade or two, making for a resoundingly solid on-stage crew. Whether they’re playing crowd favourites like “Lost Together” or “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” or new tunes from their latest album, 2015’s 1000 Arms, the effortless camaraderie among the members shines strong. Basking in the glow of a Blue Rodeo performance is not only a distinctively Canadian pastime, it’s an out-and- out pleasure.
(ECB)
The Bones of J.R. Jones
The Bones of J.R. Jones
The Bones of J.R. Jones is the alter ego of Jonathan Linaberry, who, as a teenager, immersed himself in the raunchy, dust-and-whiskey-soaked blues of classic artists, as well as contemporaries who were also influenced by the greats. What emerged was The Bones of J.R. Jones, a guitar and banjo-playing troubadour who stands behind a kick drum and a hands-free harmonica to create a veritable one-man raucous blues band.
Although all of the songs on his first record were originals, they crackled like covers of obscure pre-war tracks.
On his recent second outing, Spirit’s Furnace, Linaberry’s real life has started to compete with his Bones persona. As the message he presents to the world becomes clearer, his music has become a balance of what’s going on in his life with musings of his fictional vagabond doppelganger. Twisted through the spectrum of The Bones of J.R. Jones, real life observations get darker, yet are more rooted in and relevant to the here-and-now than his previous work. No matter who shows up, Bones or Linaberry (it’ll likely be a little of both) you can expect a sound that has been described as “haunting stomp blues tempered by a touch of honey.”
(ER)
The Cactus Blossoms
The Cactus Blossoms
Their crisp, vintage sound is a drive-in movie screen showing images of a bygone era – an age reminiscent of convertibles sporting tail fins, lovers’ lanes, jukeboxes and uncluttered melodies that choose being perfectly crafted over pretentiously clever. While at first listen The Cactus Blossoms seem like they pickpocketed their analog analogies from the 1950s, these songs also belong to our daily “now,” capturing flashes of bliss and longing. They bring us moments of exploring romance, pining for past loves, and stealing stoplight kisses.
Brothers Page Burkham and younger sibling Jack Torrey come by their Everly-lasting moments honestly. They started with a house gig at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota, and played a mix of obscure old country songs and popular heartbreak tunes, eventually blending their original melodies into the mix so smoothly most people couldn’t tell which was which. No wonder their debut album was named one of the most anticipated albums of 2016 by Rolling Stone and Nick Lowe fell for them at first listen, taking them on tour as his opening act. Hear their uncluttered gems and bounty of voices and you will understand why – it’s like finding a photograph of your first love, sweeping you instantly back to sock hops and simpler times.
(MLW)
Carsie Blanton
Carsie Blanton
Carsie Blanton is completely, deliciously irresistible. Part lindy-hop chanteuse, part jazz baby, part rockabilly hoyden, part pin-up girl—well, you start to get the idea. Blanton is witty and wicked, smart and sexual, coupling 21st century attitude with vintage fashion and rhythms to consistently provoking effect. Her vocal delivery is reminiscent of Eartha Kitt’s unrepentant ballsy mischief, transgressing boundaries in every direction, and daring you to admit that you love every second of it. Blanton describes her current album So Ferocious as “a playful pop album about ferocity, authenticity, pleasure and liberation.” But make no mistake, all of this sass and attitude comes with some pretty hefty musical bona fides. Accompanying herself on guitar or piano, Blanton has been writing and playing music since age 13, whether the influence was funk, swing dance or folk-pop, and touring more than 100 dates a year for the last ten years. With lyrics like, “I know I’ve got a dirty mind, I consider it a service/This ain’t 1954, what’s the matter do I make you nervous?” or “Your body’s an animal that wants some food and a soft touch, why not let it out to play/I hate to give away the ending, but you’re gonna die someday,” Blanton jams her freak flag in the ground and dares you to come and play.
(SS)
Charlotte Cornfield & The Provincial Archive
Charlotte Cornfield & The Provincial Archive
There is an innocent charm in the melodies of The Provincial Archive. Their unfenced tunes are wandering soundscapes flowing down a laneway, sitting beside you at a movie, stumbling up a staircase with a new crush, and dancing towards the dawn. And also never one to build fences, singer, songwriter, and drummer Charlotte Cornfield partners with TPA, adding songs that spill into assorted genres as fluidly as mist overflowing a river. Her sometimes smoky, sweetly soaring vocals deliver no-nonsense lyrics reflecting journeys both vast and mundane.
Wrapped in sweet banjo phrases, open tinkling piano, mandolin, accordion, and yes, your classic alt-pop synth, TPA takes winking delight in referencing the style of soundtracks and everyday jingles. Add Cornfield, whose songs have appeared internationally in films and TV shows and who is no stranger to musical-risk taking and eclectic lyrical pathways herself, and their music erects adjacent mirrors reflecting both the unexpected and the familiar. This music is a cinema-scape panning from the melancholy to the upbeat, a soundtrack for those days you feel like walking the streets at 3:00 a.m., beer in hand, sulking, celebrating, and living.
(MLW)
Choir! Choir! Choir!
Choir! Choir! Choir!
An academic study into the effects of collective singing at one Mideast protest found that it helped the group vent negative emotions, strengthen solidarity, foster hope and experience spiritual transcendence. That's also a typical review of a Choir! Choir! Choir! experience.
And it is an experience, more than a show or a gig. Choir! started as a weekly event at Clinton's Tavern in Toronto, where anyone with $5 and any skill level could show up and sing along. As word and YouTube videos spread, they begin taking the experience on the road. The onstage setup is simple: usually, just an acoustic guitarist and somebody waving their arms (the conductor). The audience does the heavy lifting. No audition required: Choir! leaders hand out lyric sheets, divide the group into highs, middles and lows, teach the harmonies — and then a radio staple by Tragically Hip, Rihanna or a '90s grunge band becomes a beautifully shared moment. Hope, solidarity and spiritual transcendence are often outcomes of a great Folk Fest stage, but never quite like this, where the magic emanates from all of you.
(JM)
Stay tuned for special programming featuring Choir! Choir! Choir! at this year’s Boot Camp vocal instruction sessions and a performance as part of “Canada Far and Wide” at the Jubilee on Wednesday July 26.
Chouk Bwa Libète
Chouk Bwa Libète
From the countryside of the New World’s first free black republic, Chouk Bwa Libète plays mizik rasin, Haitian creole for “roots music.” The roots of this music reach across the ocean to Africa, and the vodou ritual that the band's northwest Haiti community of Petite Rivière Bayonnais is well-steeped in. Encompassing enthralling percussion, dance, call-and- response singing, work songs, vodou and Holy Week rara music, there's a theme of spirit possession that courses through this band’s performances. Drummers lead the way: trancelike at times but with ever-shifting rhythms, it informs the call-and-response singing and inspires the group's dancers. The dancers’ steps are not choreographed; movement springs forth from the throbbing, evolving beats. This can get intense, and this can get joyous — at its best, it's a wonderful mixture of the two. Chouk Bwa Libète’s raw, exciting sound is an homage to Haiti, a country with an indomitable spirit and an ancient mystery.
(JM)
City And Colour
City And Colour
City and Colour, the solo project and pseudo-namesake of songwriter Dallas Green, built a devoted following on the strength of Green’s emotive falsetto soaring over stripped down folk-rock and acoustic ballads. Things will be a bit different for his third Folk Fest appearance, though. Instead of the more intimate arrangements of his first few albums, Green will be bringing the revamped sound showcased on 2015’s If I Should Go Before You, a record that largely eschews the acoustic guitar for louder electric sounds, pop melodies with touches of R&B, and even psychedelic guitar. But while he’s embracing a more bombastic sound, longtime fans shouldn’t fear that Green has abandoned the steadfast modesty that endeared him to audiences eager to avoid the larger-than-life personas of rock stars past. This is still City and Colour; honesty and authenticity are still at its core. And while we’re sure to get a taste of his new sound on the island, the faithful can expect him to delve into the intricate folk rock that Green cut his teeth on when he first started his side project to post-hardcore Alexisonfire five albums ago.
(SM/PH)
Cœur De Pirate
Cœur De Pirate
Songs of regret, reconstruction, defiance, temptation, hope, wisdom and delirious love: all of these are within Coeur de pirate’s wide and varied repertoire. Born Béatrice Martin, Coeur de pirate’s style varies from '60s-style French pop to North American folk, bouncing effortlessly back and forth across the Atlantic between time and genre. And although she sings in French, no knowledge of the language is necessary to catch the foibles, frustrations, self-recriminations and inside jokes of the journey from love to heartbreak and back again (although it helps).
She credits herself with having the heart of a pirate, but she has the soul and discipline of a highly skilled musician; Martin began playing piano at age three and entered the Conservatoire de Musique du Québec à Montréal at age nine, where she studied for five years. Her eponymous album, released in 2008, was embraced by her native Québec and nominated for the Francophone Album of the Year at the 2009 Juno Awards. Since then, Martin has been touring and winning acclaim across the globe. Martin's distinctive, gorgeous voice can hold its own either with a full orchestra or the quiet moment between one note and the next on her piano. Perhaps the pirate analogy is less about being an outlaw, and more about the love of living on her own musical edge.
(TLG)
Cris Derksen
Cris Derksen
Some music simply has to be heard to be understood. You can list the constituent parts, break it down genre by genre but, in the end, analysis doesn't come close to doing it justice; understanding the sound intellectually and experiencing it physically are two different things. Cris Derksen's cello-based music isn't hard to describe in the abstract. After years collaborating with orchestral, folk and pop bands E.S.L, Lightning Dust, Tanya Tagaq and others, her solo work and compositions are now centred on blending Western classical and traditional pow-wow music with contemporary electronic accents. But the power of that combination, and the skill with which she pulls it off, create music that words alone can’t do justice to.
Derksen's musical alchemy is a reflection of her own blended roots — North Tall Cree chiefs on her father's side, Mennonite homesteaders on her mother's — but while it draws from the past, it's seemingly unbound by tradition. Bolstered by a loop pedal which allows her cello to build on itself in increasingly complex loops, and a fearless compositional sense, her songs follow their own path, energetic, emotionally rich and always surprising. But those are just words. Let the music speak for itself.
PH
Darlingside
Darlingside
“Literary minded, baroque folk-pop”—so says NPR of the Boston-based quartet Darlingside. Hard to argue with that as this group, whose members first met in college, offer up lush harmonies in the vein of the Byrds and at times, Simon & Garfunkel, floating over an array of stringed instruments — mandolins, banjos, acoustic guitars and violin. But their sound is not merely a throwback. Lyrically they veer between high minded concepts and the whimsical but always focused on contemporary topics. Live, the foursome huddle around a single microphone at the centre of the stage in the style of many bluegrass acts, and offer intimate performances that have earned raves across North America and Europe. This is music made for a sunny afternoon on the island, seated in the grass, head nodding, foot tapping, smile spreading.
(SM)
Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin + The Guilty Ones
Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin + The Guilty Ones
As kids together the Alvin brothers—Dave and Phil—loved the blues, and would travel to the big smoke to see blues legends Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and T-Bone Walker. That love of the blues inspired them, and they became the backbone of the legendary roots-rockabilly-R&B band the Blasters, a group that, along with Slash Records label mates X and Los Lobos, shook the L.A. punk scene in the early ‘80s. Phil’s raspy, blues-shouting lead vocals went perfectly with the retro rockers penned by brother Dave who also twanged it up on lead guitar.
In the great tradition of siblings in the entertainment biz, the two had a falling out. Dave stayed with music, playing with a variety of L.A. bands before settling in solo as a critically acclaimed singer songwriter, fronting his band The Guilty Men. Phil left for the world of academia (he’s a math prof with a degree in artificial intelligence). But eventually the bonds of brotherhood and a passion for the blues drew them back together. Their first reunion recording was a collection of Big Bill Broonzy songs, then another blues-soaked LP.
About their musical reunion after three decades apart, Dave Alvin says, “You get to a certain age and you realize you’re not immortal, so what the hell; let’s make a little music together. Let’s go back to our common ground, the blues.”
(ER)
Dawes
Dawes
California in the ‘70s saw the rise of the singer songwriter scene, where musicians threw off the yoke of ye olde folk songs to try their hands at new, more personal creations that melded the personal, the political and the heartfelt. California roots rock band Dawes ably carries that musical torch, even recording their first album live to analog tape in a studio in Laurel Canyon. If you need a recipe for Dawes’s sound, imagine poignant and melodic songs, heartfelt lyrics, sweet harmonies mixed together in a package that’s just a little rough around the edges.
The band’s founders are brothers Griffin and Taylor Goldsmith, so they come by the sweet sibling vocals honestly. Turns out the band’s name is part of their family roots. Dawes is Taylor’s middle name, inherited from his grandad who really liked the idea of keeping the connection and introduced them to two of their favourite artists, Bob Wills and Hank Williams. Dawes mines five albums worth of originals and occasionally serve as the backing band of their old friend and collaborator Bright Eyes (Connor Oberst). And they spread their modern take on ‘70s music, touring folk and rock festivals in the U.S., building a loyal audience for their distinct brand of indie California folk rock.
(ER)
Dione Taylor and the Backsliderz
Dione Taylor and the Backsliderz
A small prairie city and a young woman with a voice too big and beautiful to be contained – that's Juno nominee Dione Taylor’s start in a nutshell. Her blood is full of music; all her family members on both sides are performers, and carry with them all the cumulative intensity of 200 years of black spiritual musical traditions.
So intrinsic to her being was that musical pull, and so great her talent that, by age 10, she was the organist and the musical director for her father’s Shiloh Assembly Church in Regina. As a young woman, she embarked upon a jazz program at Toronto’s Humber College, and it was here her big, smoky-sweet voice came into its own. This powerhouse jazz/R&B/blues talent has since gone from strength to strength, performing at the White House for Black Music Month and singing for Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. Amid all the accolades and advancements, Taylor has never forgotten her prairie roots, and that rural feeling informs all of her new EP, Born Free, a mixture of salvation gospel, delta blues and vocal jazz, that seek to soothe in troubled times and is the master of her “gospeldelic prairie blues."
(FF/LS)
DJ Shub
DJ Shub
A Tribe Called Red. Dan "DJ Shub" General, along with Ian "Deejay NDN" Campeau and Bear Witness combined indigenous powwow vocals and drumming with high-energy electronica for a multi-millennia spanning sound that compelled listeners to join the frenetic party, shining a spotlight on systemic racism, promoted an uncompromising pride in indigenous heritage and talent. Since parting ways with ATCR three years ago, DJ Shub has been busy creating a new body of work that incorporates his love of hip hop, indigenous culture and mad technical skills. On his first EP, PowWowStep, DJ Shub, who hails from Mohawk Six Nation, continues pushing forward with the sound he helped pioneer with ATCR, combining driving dance beats with samples of traditional singing and drumming with a social justice conscience. When DJ Shub cranked up the pow wow step at Block Heater this past February, he turned Festival Hall into another wicked dance party – a celebration of music, community and spirit.
(SM)
Donovan Woods
Donovan Woods
When most of us think of traditional folk music, the classic singer-songwriter is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Clearly, the palette of folk and roots music is a broad one, but when you boil it down to its essence — beautiful songs built on strong, lyrical stories — there are few artists who better personify that folk tradition in 2017 than Toronto’s Donovan Woods.
Woods weaves magic out of the most minimal of ingredients, delivering poignant, whispery vocals over spare guitar work to create haunting melodies and memorable musical vignettes. Woods’s reputation as a stellar songwriter is solid — his compositions enjoy vibrant lives beyond his own guitar and microphone and have been recorded by a bevy of artists, ranging from indie up-and-comers to bona fide stars like Tim McGraw, Charles Kelly, and Alan Doyle, and have also been featured in a number of television shows and major motion pictures. Still, there is no substitute for hearing the songs come from the man himself and hearing familiar songs from an artist with an intimate connection to them is a real treat.
(IS/ECB)
The Dustbowl Revival
The Dustbowl Revival
At first blush, a band with their moniker suggests a throwback to old-timey Vaudeville-era ditties. Best think again. While this California band is steeped in the musical traditions of the Dirty Thirties, it has evolved into something much more. A love of bluegrass, gospel, New Orleans swing and blues brought this gang of eight together in 2007. They're masters at melding diverse genres and time periods into a danceable stew that can travel from the moors to the bayou to the Blue Ridge in the space of three minutes during dervish-like performances. They were Huffington Post clickbait in 2015 when their video for "Never Had to Go" featuring Dick Van Dyke and his wife went viral. The Van Dykes were so taken with the band’s music after seeing them open for the Preservation Jazz Hall Band that they invited them into their home to record the video.
Their mash-up of horn band plus string band turned them into group of brassy, vintage soul-meets-country-blues swingsters who have become known for their free-flowing and joyous live shows, fronted by lead vocals cloaked in bayou brassiness, bluesy sass, chatterbox nightclub swagger, and jazz-chanteuse sweetness. Their latest recording has introduced newer, edgier original material that's more emotional and experimental. Whatever the mood, expect a good 'ole revivalist party.
(ER)
The East Pointers
The East Pointers
The East Pointers are the proud recipients of this weekend's 2017 Juno Award for Traditional Roots Album of the Year. The timelessness, complexity, and visceral energy of the East Cost Celtic musical tradition continues to compel and captivate listeners the world over, and in the case of the East Pointers, the compulsion to play it is as natural as breathing.
Cousins Tim and Koady Chaisson, are from the seventh (!) generation of musicians in their family — a family well known across the East Coast for their commitment to traditional music. They and their friend Jake Charron formed the band as a casual vehicle to do some companionable playing, but their combined talents and palpable chemistry swept the trio to commitment, world touring and a Juno-nominated full-length album, Secret Victory, in 2016.
With the PEI trio’s traditional banjo, fiddle and guitar lineup, audiences will find much that is loved and familiar here. Their sound may be rooted in centuries past, but they update it with a 100% original repertoire, and they sometimes traipse off the traditional path with songs penned by Tim — himself an acclaimed and award-winning solo artist.
Bringing youthful energy and expert musicianship to bear on their deep Celtic roots, The East Pointers represent the latest flowering of that ever-growing, evergreen musical tradition that always causes hearts and glasses to be lifted and sets feet to dancing — as natural as breathing.
(LS/FF)
FARIS
FARIS
This enticing music – born in West Africa’s Sahara regions, exported to America and returned to its source – has been adopted by a growing number of artists, and coined “desert blues” by music journalists in the ‘90s. Amongst the style’s originators are the nomadic pastoralist North African Touareg people whose deep and storied history, rebellion and culture naturally lend themselves to the blues. Born to a Touareg mother and Italian father, guitarist, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist FARIS grew up in a multi-faceted musical environment while living in several countries.
On his debut album Mississippi To Sahara, FARIS takes early Delta songs, drags them through the mud and back through the sands of time. His is a unique twist on the desert rock phenomenon that brings early rural, sharecropping delta blues songs and repatriates them by translating lyrics into Tamasheq and accompanying himself in a hybrid style that combines the loping assouf guitar stylewith the bottleneck slide. Percussive scratches and knocks on his guitar are linked to hypnotic musical mantras, multi-lingual lyrics, and snatches of recognizable Western melodies. An endearing scribble of desert sounds remain while giving musical staples a new life, but the true magic of FARIS is his ability to give voice to the pain, suffering and hardship, as well as the indomitable spirit of his nomad culture.
(KC)
Forbidden Dimension
Forbidden Dimension
Like a brain-eating zombie that can’t be taken down, Calgary’s Forbidden Dimension has been spreading darkness across Western Canada for almost 30 years. Led by the gruesomely enigmatic Jackson Phibes, Forbidden D’s horror-rock fixates on the deranged, the dastardly and the downright evil. But don’t mistake the band’s morbid stage gear and spooky personas as pure schlock — Forbidden Dimension has thrived for decades by staking a claim as one of Western Canada’s finest purveyors of garage punk, with healthy doses of ‘70s metal and ‘60s psych-rock thrown in to keep things interesting. Phibes and drummer P.T. Bonham both cut their teeth in legendary Calgary band Colour Me Psycho in the ‘80s, and bass player Virginia Dentata also has a long history in the city’s underground rock scene, so the chops are more than there. The fact that all three are still willing to don their costumes and tear up the stage is testament to how much fun they’re having. And their audiences are still having fun too. As ghoulish as their subject matter may be, a Forbidden D set feels strangely welcoming: this is Calgary’s band and everyone is invited to the party. Even if they do end up devouring your brains by the end of the show.
(ECB)
Foy Vance
Foy Vance
Home is a tricky concept in our age of the global village. Reckoning with the dreams and heartbreaks of a particular place usually requires residency, history, heritage, but as more and more of us are from a multitude of places and stories, that reckoning becomes more complex. Given that, it’s fair to call Foy Vance’s music an emotional reckoning. He sings with an earnest sensibility, a truthfulness and openness that cuts and invites. So beautifully does Vance capture the heartbreak and vulnerability of the unrealized American dream that it's possible to imagine him growing up among the steel mills of Philadelphia or the coal mines of West Virginia, so his Northern Irish roots may come as a surprise.
Vance was born in Bangor, Northern Ireland, the son of a travelling church minister who, soon after his son's birth, uprooted the family for a few years to share the faith with congregations in poor churches in America's south. His music has been used in a variety of soundtracks, including Grey’s Anatomy, and he’s worked with Ed Sheeran a few times, culminating in being signed to Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man label for his third studio album The Wild Swan in 2016. Vance’s musical gifts continue to gain him greater recognition. Perhaps his greatest gift lies in his songwriter’s ability to see the complexities of identity and belonging underneath the national borders, and into the thoughts and frustrations of blue-collar workers, regardless of origin.
(TLG)
Ghostkeeper
Ghostkeeper
Even if you've heard Ghostkeeper before, you haven't heard Ghostkeeper before. The Calgary quartet, with its consistent core of Shane Ghostkeeper and Sarah Houle plus current collaborators Eric Hamelin and Ryan Bourne, has almost completely reinvented itself in the four years since their last full-length outing. After three albums rooted in folk (albeit twisted and warped by Ghostkeeper's delirious fretwork), the band has re-emerged draped in psychedelic synths and ramshackle electronics. It's a testament to Houle and Ghostkeeper's distinctive voices that they're recognizable at all.
The band's sound has been defined by restlessness from the beginning. Houle and Ghostkeeper never held much truck with songwriting convention, preferring to pack their compositions with winding melodies and jarring transitions that kept listeners perpetually off-balance. It makes sense that their dedication to musical invention would translate to a flair for reinvention, too. The fruit of that reinvention, Sheer Blouse Buffalo Knocks, is nothing if not ambitious. A concept album set in the songwriting duo's home territory of the Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement, it blurs the borders between dystopian sci-fi, indigenous legend and contemporary political protest even as it shatters the barriers between synth-pop, psych-rock and avant-garde noise. It doesn't sound like anything you've heard before—and it couldn't have been made by anyone else.
(PH)
Goldtop
Goldtop
Consider the promise and contradiction of an unpaved road in the back of beyond on a summer day. What seems soft and dreamlike at a distance, swathed in feathery grasses and a soft and hazy summer sky, proves on closer inspection to be deceptively challenging, with the slide of sharp and unforgiving gravel beneath your tires. So too is the music of Goldtop, with the interplay of dreamy synths and fuzzed-out electric guitar intertwining with Kos’s floating, sweet vocals, and all of it riding a subtle but persistent rocky outcropping of anger and melancholy.
Alice Kos hails from Edmonton; Goldtop is a project with her longtime friend and guitar teacher Everett LaRoi, who played on and produced Kos’s 2012 debut album You Missed It All, a gorgeous, broken-hearted paean to love, loss and catastrophic change that bore witness to Kos’s coming-of-age experiences. A couple of years later, as the two found themselves touring with Marvin Etzioni (a member of Thee Holy Brothers, also playing the festival this year), the seeds of Goldtop were planted. Kos describes Goldtop’s first album, You Possess Me, as a mix of “shadowy dream-pop, crunchy distorted rock, and acoustic reverie.” As with travel on gravel roads—in fact, as with life—the combination of the sweet and bitter, the soft and flint-hard, proves an irresistible blend.
(SS)
The Iguanas
The Iguanas
The Iguanas are not to be confused with the ͚60s garage outfit featuring legendary Stooge Iggy Pop (although they well might have listened to them). This isa self-described Latin-infused Chicano rock band with a sound that is inextricably linked to the polyglot, multicultural heritage of New Orleans—a mix of funk, soul, jazz, Latin, R&B and zydeco—and a big, brassy soul. Of course, there͛s also a heaping helping of Tex-Mex, country, and conjunto, just in case you thought you had them pegged. Over their nearly 20 year tenure, The Iguanas have committed hard enough to both the Latin and roots-rock styles that calling them a fusion band would be dismissive. The band functions so well as a roots-rock band that their country-est songs wouldn't be out of place in a Son Volt set. In the other direction, however, their Spanish songs are as authentic of anything south of the border. These ripping reptiles are no strangers to classic genres like doo wop and surf, fed through a layer of Latin conjunto. What really ties The Iguanas musical identity together is their sense of place and vivacity, and perhaps the most consistent element of their sound is the tight, irresistibly hip-switching groove they bring to their live shows.
(LP)
Jason Collett
Jason Collett
If Jason Collett’s songs are loved by people from suburb to shining suburb, it’s no wonder. Collett grew up in the planned community of Bramalea, bored, bogged down in mini-malls and the mundane, until a bohemian bent dislodged the fly from the flypaper. Song writing became his escape from ennui and a rocket-ship to another existence. It propelled him to various hip neighbourhoods in downtown TO in the 1990s, where Collett honed his skills as a carpenter while whetting his melodies and phrases in the same spirit.
During this time, Collett began playing both solo and in loose collectives, starting his long run in Broken Social Scene. These musical villages gave him so many opportunities to try various styles and genres that he became an uncanny, diverse jukebox, experimenting with rhythm and harmony through poppy choruses, rocky riffs, and forays into funk and folk. While Collett can somehow sing a lyric with his tongue planted firmly in cheek, he also takes a firm political stand, from playing fundraisers to skewering politicians with lyrics. He sews lines about corporate greed into breezy, melodic ditties, and makes listeners question the lifestyle they are buying with their cash and votes. Collett unwraps a Canadian dream that is not escaping to the suburbs, but escaping from them; not desiring wealth, but calling it out.
(MLW)
Jeffery Straker
Jeffery Straker
His clever, thoughtful songs often draw upon characters he encountered growing up in his 250-person Saskatchewan town, illuminating the lives of people like Mrs. Bell, from its sole South Asian family. A clever lyricist, his energetic piano-based folk pop is a reminder of the power of a singer/songwriter accompanying himself on the keyboard. Straker has a special storytelling ability and musical playfulness that creates a classic cabaret feel and almost theatrical sense of timing, adding humour and poignancy to his songs and dynamic performances.
Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton + Meredith Axelrod
Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton + Meredith Axelrod
It’s a wonder, and a shame, that Meredith Axelrod and Blind Boy Paxton haven’t made a record together yet. The young multi-instrumentalists — both still in their 20s — have each earned a reputation for breathing new life into early 20th century American music. Ragtime, jazz, jug band, blues, country, show tunes — anything old-timey, these two have it under their belts.
Jerron Paxton grew up in L.A.’s storied Watts neighbourhood, in the midst of a big extended family of transplanted Southerners. From birth he was surrounded by music of all kinds and, by age 14, he’d picked up a banjo and latched on to the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Fifteen years on, he’s mastered multiple instruments — guitar, banjo, piano and violin among them — and amassed a repertoire thousands of songs deep.
Meredith Axelrod hails from Chicago but wandered out to San Francisco to be near her sisters. One sister’s husband is a collector of 78s, and that collection is responsible for Axelrod’s obsession with what she calls “vintage Americana.” She sings in a style that’s built to be heard without amplification in a crowded room, and plays guitar, cello and ukulele.
When these two sing and play together, their styles blend with the ease and assurance of old masters talking a common language. And if they do record together, the only way they can properly release it will be on 78s.
(FF/LS)
John K. Samson & The Winter Wheat
John K. Samson & The Winter Wheat
He is one of Canada's finest songwriters, but sometimes John K. Samson's collected works can come across less like a songbook than an almanac. With cherished Winnipeggers The Weakerthans and on his own, Samson has devoted himself to documenting rural roads and Antarctic expeditions, bonspiels and Bigfoot encounters, and periodic pleas from a cat named Virtute. A cartographer of prairie Canadiana, each of Samson's albums is its own atlas, using plainspoken poetry and an eye for overlooked details to chart the connections between the places we live and the feelings they inspire.
Samson began his career a young punk Propagandhist, spreading progressive politics through power chords and ample distortion and, while his music is softer now, quiet doesn't equal complacent. Samson's songs are often ones of polite defiance — or sometimes, as on “Vampire Alberta Blues” from his newest album, Winter Wheat, not so polite after all. Pointed as he can be (and before taking too much offence, remember this is a songwriter whose most-quoted tribute to the city he loves is “I hate Winnipeg”), Samson's most defiant stance might be his unyielding optimism, scuffed and scratched as it is. For all his chronicles of struggling students and recovering addicts and “all the small defeats a day demands,” a line that he cribbed from author Miriam Toews for Winter Wheat's title track best captures his perspective: “We know the world is good enough because it has to be.”
(PH)
John Paul White
John Paul White
Before he was one half of The Civil Wars, John Paul White was a singer-songwriter, though not the tempered-in-the-fire singer-songwriter he is today. After earning a quick burst of fame and a trophy case full of awards, the aptly named Civil Wars infamously imploded in 2013 and a different version of White emerged — one that’s seen what the bright lights can do if an artist isn’t able to protect himself from the glare. The demise of his band left White alone at the microphone, with no onstage partner except that trusty guitar.
White licked his wounds and returned last year with Beulah, a new solo album that sees him older and wiser, an artist unafraid to go a little dark with his songwriting. White’s songs are often quiet and moody — it’s hard not to be when you’re writing tunes with names like “Make You Cry” and “Hope I Die” — but they’re also expertly composed, controlled, and peppered with sparks of hope and light. If White’s professional tribulations with the Civil Wars taught him anything, the lesson is that there’s a power in going it alone, stripping off any affectations, and letting the songs (and the artist) breathe, and although he’s performing with a backing band this year, that lesson shines through the music. John Paul White is finally breathing — and the sound that comes with each exhale proves that he’s exactly where he should be.
(ECB)
Langhorne Slim
Langhorne Slim
The music of Langhorne Slim captures the elements necessary for the quintessential summer road trip soundtrack: all sunny days, open road, endless possibilities — and the potential heartbreak at the end. Langhorne Slim (vocals, guitar harmonica, piano, banjo and possibly a bit of stage dancing) was born Sean Scolnick in Langhorne, PA. The artist first caught the attention of audiences in 2004 with his song "Electric Love Letter," which was featured in the movie Waitress. The stripped-down potency of Slim's style has won over numerous critics, fellow musicians and music aficionados alike. His gritty, reedy voice is at turns triumphant and vulnerable, with an unpretentious sound that throws back to late '70s/early '80s Americana. Slim's lyrics walk the thread line of upbeat and cynical, evoking hard-won optimism, or at least hopeful pragmatism. His first album, The Way We Move, was critically lauded and described by Rolling Stone as "damn near perfect.” Slim’s most recent album, The Spirit Moves, is likewise drawing acclaim for its artistry and depth.
(TLG)
Leif Vollebekk
Leif Vollebekk
In an age where image and brand often eclipse talent and passion, Leif Vollebekk is a throwback. As a pianist Vollebekk’s compositions are fluid and lyrical, melodic pathways that appear to be driven more by emotion than strict structure. As a songwriter, Vollebek is capable of laying his heart and experience uncomfortably, straightforwardly bare. Part of that passion comes from the fact that he has synesthesia, a neurological condition that means that he experiences music not only as sound but vision. No wonder the music he plays contains a sense of encompassing you as you listen to it. And as a performer, he is one of the rare few who seems to lose all sense of himself within the music as it unfolds, unself-consciously writhing and grimacing as the music takes hold of him. In recent years, he found he could no longer play songs he had written years ago; when the emotions driving the songs no longer drove him, he could no longer enter them and instead had to compose new songs that engage him as he is today. Listening to Leif Vollebekk perform – along with his backing band, complete with horns – is a full-body experience.
(SS)
Lindi Ortega
Lindi Ortega
t’s no wonder singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega once ditched her Toronto hometown and hit the road for Nashville. With a sound spooned by Dolly and Emmylou, her vocal chords alone could have stolen a vintage truck and hit the interstate. Ortega writes songs that swerve from highway to roadhouse, fueled on heartbreak and hopefulness as she whips out guitar chops and abundant melody.
Her five years in Nashville were less about chasing the industry dream than living the music’s history, including playing on the country music awards as part of Carrie Underwood’s backing band and performing her own set at the Opry. At no time did Ortega attempt to fit into the city’s glossy mold. In Nashville as in Toronto, Ortega remained a constant on critics’ up and comer lists, but, always the bridesmaid — broke, and tired of living gig to gig — she eased off until the muse coaxed out one more set songs before following her heart to Calgary.
These recent songs are distanced from Nashville’s slickness and illusions, growing simpler, stripped down, spare. Ortega’s ability to capture in lyrics the bright flashes between the larger darkness is reminiscent of a starry sky. Fed by the gritty city, this angel may have flown from Nashville, but she took its vintage soul and a defiant optimism with her.
(MLW)
Lucy Dacus
Lucy Dacus
"Too old to play, and too young to mess around" Lucy Dacus sings, before electric guitars drive the song onward. Her lyrical chops convey a maturity beyond her years — her songs are witty and emotionally luminous, and her hooks get stuck in your head for weeks. Package that with a captivatingly husky alto and band arrangements that range from lo-fi to lush, from power chords to hazy strumming, and it's no wonder music industry executives clambered over each other last year to declare that, far from being an awkward in-between age, Lucy Dacus has arrived.
Around the time she reached the U.S. legal drinking age last year, more than 20 record labels were bidding to re-release Dacus' debut album No Borders, which she had issued on a hometown Virginia label. Matador Records, the venerable indie brand, won the Dacus sweepstakes. Their gamble seems wise: that this musician and songwriter, as whip-smart and poised as she is, will only continue to grow.
(JM)
Mbongwana Star
Mbongwana Star
To hear Mbongwana Star is to touch a little piece of the city of Kinshasa, a city whose sense of cultural ferment and cosmopolitanism has been compared to New York in the ‘80s. It was once one of Africa's great musical epicentres, and its influential rumba and soukous scenes created a galaxy of dance-music demigods. Unfortunately, hard times of war and unrest brought that golden age to an end. Citizens of the immense shanty-village metropolis had to fall back on “Système D”: slang for using your wits and courage to hack out a living at the coalface of poverty.
Still, the absurdities of 21st century Congolese life cry out for commentary, and Kinshasa's artists and musicians have never stopped the search for stylish and inventive ways to supply it. Yakala ‘Coco’ Ngambali and Nsituvuidi ‘Theo’ Nzonza have lived through “Système D” to become a crucial part of the rising-from-the-ashes of “Système K,” anchored in the garbage-to-art creativity of Kinshasa's rue Kato. After splitting from their first project, a rumba band, they set out to reinvent the expectations of a “typical” African sound. The eventual result was drenched in style and raw urban energy. It was trans-global barrier-busting sound machine called Mbongwana Star, whose stripped-down combination of beats, samples, guitar and vocals arrest a listener's attention from the first bar. Theirs is the sound of a burgeoning creative revolution that may not be televised, but will certainly be heard.
(IS)
The McCrary Sisters
The McCrary Sisters
Given that the musical world is peppered with singing families, there needs to be that special bit of stardust in what they do to make them stand out. The McCrary Sisters may as well have bathed in the stuff, with some of the biggest, gutsiest voices in gospel music today. It’s no surprise that the sisters pull off close harmonies with such virtuosic style; their father was the late Rev. Samuel McCrary, who was a member of the celebrated Nashville group The Fairfield Four. The Reverend passed on not only his musical talent to his daughters, but a drive to write, arrange and perform with passion, precision and integrity.
Ann, Regina, Deborah and Alfreda are consummate professionals, having honed skills with Bob Dylan, Buddy Miller and Isaac Hayes, yet they maintain the earthy realness of siblings who still rehearse vocal arrangements around the dinner table. Their brand of gospel is funky, bluesy and rousing, giving a nod to both the psalms and hymns of their youth, and a nudge into a more contemporary sound, one which has their young grandchildren singing along to the CD of their 2015 release, Let’s Go. The weight of southern gospel tradition only seems to make them stronger.
(FF/LS)
Mélisande [électrotrad]
Mélisande [électrotrad]
Traditions are often thought of as things frozen in time and space, but with a living tradition—like French-Canadian folk music—that’s rarely the case. Singer and guitarist Mélisande comes from a contemporary pop, rock, and French chanson background. Her husband and musical partner, Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand (aka Moulin), is steeped in traditional music as Genticorum's flutist and electric bassist. Their collaboration in the innovative Mélisande [électrotrad] is a prime example of old airs and songs being reshaped in a multitude of ways. Their intriguing sounds are deeply entrenched in the ancient cultural roots of their hometown of Beloeil in Quebec's beautiful Richelieu River Valley. Inspiration drew them to forge an infectious and wholly original électrotrad celebration of sound: compelling reinterpretations of musical relics. Traditional acoustic instruments, foot percussion and rich, hypnotic harmonies weave a perfect French braid with electric instruments and sequenced noises. Award-winning, dance-inspiring, and all-around captivating: Mélisande [électrotrad] are waking up the ancestors to bring them to the rave.
(CV)
Melvin Gibbs Magnum
Melvin Gibbs Magnum
Gibbs can regale with tales of traveling on European trains with Ronald Shannon Jackson, recording Sonny Sharrock’s entire Seize The Rainbow album in 3 hours, playing percussion for 8 straight hours in Brazil’s Carnival with Olodum, playing bass in the Rollins Band, or working with physicist Stephon Alexander and official NASA artist Justin Brice Guariglia to create music that evokes the sound of climate change.
But Gibbs isn't a braggart. His energies are focused on monster playing. He combines the sheer joy of creating jazz, rock, blues and improvised music with a strong foundation of activism, as the Black Rock Coalition’s co-founder and the Content Creators Coalition’s president.
A Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and Berklee College of Music graduate, Gibbs first became noticed in Defunkt, an early 1980s downtown New York scene mainstay. In 1998, inspired by Harriet Tubman, Gibbs, J.T. Lewis and Brandon Ross formed a power-jazz trio in her name, dedicating themselves to the liberation of musical expression.
Gibbs and his numerous co-conspirators over the decades have made it their mission to shake foundations and rattle cages. He's one fifth of the Punk-Funk All-Stars and has recorded with hop hop artists Dead Prez, Brazilian artists Caetano Veloso and Marisa Monte, Latin jazz artist Eddie Palmieri and Nigerian artist Femi Kuti, among others.
Melvin Gibbs Magnum is the latest in a series of projects that he’s built around that classic aphorism of the high philosopher of the funk, George Clinton: “free your mind… and your ass will follow.” His co-conspirators and enablers in Magnum are rapper/singer/vocalist Kokayi Issa, drummer/emcee Kassa Overall, keyboardist Paul Wilson and festival alumnus, turntablist DJ Logic.
(KC/CV)
Michael Kiwanuka
Michael Kiwanuka
A quiet revolutionary, Michael Kiwanuka embodies the old saying that the personal is political. Kiwanuka comes by his political awareness honestly; he was born in London to Ugandan parents who escaped the Idi Amin regime in the ‘80s. In the current climate of deep political upheaval, living in an unnervingly populist and reactionary Europe, and riding the historically charged genres of folk and soul, he brings messages through melody, prioritizing higher personal truths and steadfast positivity over directed criticism and prescriptive politics.
An accomplished soul-folk guitarist, Kiwanuka developed his skills in the same musical scene as Mumford and Sons, and he spent some time as the guitarist in Adele’s backing band, but it’s his singing and songwriting where the musical punch really lies. He has borne comparisons to just about any influential male ‘70s soul artist you’d care to name, and when he released his debut album Home Again, it was met with almost universal critical acclaim for its intimate and confessional lyrical sincerity, as well as his warm baritone vocals. With his latest release Love & Hate, and its most recent single “Black Man in a White World,” Kiwanuka has upped the ante on political commentary, but still manages to shape the message within an intensely personal and vulnerable context that makes it emotionally accessible to all comers. With quiet intensity, Kiwanuka reminds us that Love & Hate are both personal and political choices, and the choice between them is an easy one.
(LP/SS)
Mohsin Zaman
Mohsin Zaman
Mohsin Zaman is the personification of a hug. This Dubai-raised, Edmonton-dwelling singer songwriter radiates an unparalleled warmth and energy; large and friendly, he has a stage persona you can expect your grandmother to fall in love with. With his big smile and ten gallons of hair, you would expect a singer like Zaman to have a few Michael Franti-esque pop anthems in his pocket, but his music wears a darker cloak. His misty folk songs recount a generous and empathetic perspective, intercut with moments of vociferous self-critique.
Zaman’s experience of Western music comes from his relatively short time as a Canadian, meaning that he consumes and produces it with fresh eyes. Zaman melds disparate elements into his own craft, unpretentiously embracing new and classic with an enthusiasm that borders on naiveté, constantly adding covers to his repertoire. His guitar playing is washed with a deep reverb, and his brash and beautiful vocals cut through with emotional assertiveness. Zaman is less interested in genre than in pure feeling, bringing in additional instrumentation only to reinforce the emotional weight of his lyricism. His love for performance pushes him further and further, driven by an insatiable desire to connect.
(LP)
nêhiyawak
nêhiyawak
Sweeping, like the wind blowing across the northern prairies; grand, like a solemn ceremony — the emotional indie-rock of nêhiyawak is perfectly situated in the place of its origin. It’s modern while retaining roots in music far older than rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s 100 percent home-grown.
Drummer Marek Tyler and guitarist-songwriter Kris Harper are cousins from the Onion Lake Cree Nation on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border north of Lloydminster. Along with bassist Matthew Cardinal, they are veterans of the Edmonton and national indie rock scene; the three have played in Diamond Mind, Meatdraw, Pale Moon Lights, and Kathryn Calder’s band, among others. Now, with nêhiyawak, these young indigenous musicians have created a special alchemy.
nêhiyawak , pronounced neh-HEE-o-wuk, is the Crees’ eponym. Naming your band after your nation is a big, bold move, but nêhiyawak is up to the challenge. By taking a traditional approach to their process — requesting permission to play in other cities or going to a sweat lodge to inform their creative decisions — they’re infusing their modern, urban aesthetic with the deep cultural memories and traditions of their forebearers. As a result, resonating synth tones and edgy guitar riffs sound completely at home with the pulsing, organic sounds of cedar wood noisemakers and hand drums. Tyler sums up their bridgemaking perfectly when he says “This is nêhiyawak — where culture meets chord, melody and rhythm.”
(FF/LS)
Parsonsfield
Parsonsfield
Parsonsfield mixes down-south, bluegrass-infused rhythms with a bit of old-time Celtic-folk earnestness, and then adds a couple of shots of boisterous punk rock attitude to the whole concoction.
The band consists of Chris Freeman (lead vocals, banjo), Max Shakun (guitar), Harrison "Whale" Goodale (bass), Antonio Alcorn (mandolin) and Erik Hischmann (drums). Freeman and Alcorn met at University of Connecticut in 2010 as students who jammed together, playing traditional music with the university's folk club. They eventually recruited Goodale and Shakun and released their first album, Poor Old Shine, which was also the band's original name. Hischmann was brought into the group and, following the release of their second album in 2014, the band changed their name to Parsonsfield in honour of a small, rural town in Maine where they recorded their debut album.
Above all, Parsonsfield know how to raise a joyful, raucous noise unto the heavens. These guys serve up some damn fine musicianship, deft lyrics that are sentimental or sweet, sad or funny (and sometimes all at once), delicious five-part harmonies, and a next-level frenetic energy onstage that will make Parsonsfield five of the most entertaining performers you'll see.
(TLG)
River Whyless
River Whyless
River Whyless are American avant-gardists and accomplished writers with the rare ability to listen as much as they musically speak. Every one of their songs is a conversation, with members often exchanging instruments to better recount their stories. Each movement the band makes is patient and poised, poetic and purposeful, a moving musical mosaic, creating a cohesiveness that borders on tribal. Haunting harmonies hover in and out of their handsome hymns; intricate and deliberate lyrics build and destabilize pictures of place and notions of self.
Pushing boundaries further, increasingly, River Whyless’ tracks are centred around non-traditional rhythms played out on common objects. It’s not out of the ordinary to see the band produce pounds and clicks by striking sticks on a banjo, or fingers on a typewriter. Over the years their music has become more intricate as they’ve played with experimental pop structures and increased their volume via the addition of electric guitar, which still holding onto their acoustic roots. River Whyless’ evolution has been something to watch, and fans are watching closely to see just where that conversation will go next.
(LP)
Reverend Robert Jones
Reverend Robert Jones
It seems inevitable that Robert Jones was either going to grow up to be a preacher or a blues singer, or both. Born in 1956, Jones and his family joined the great migration from the Southern U.S. to job-rich Detroit, the Motor City, where he grew up listening to his grandma’s blues LPs and 78s and to the songs he heard from the neighbours. By 17, Jones had amassed a massive blues record collection and taught himself guitar and harmonica.
Parallel to the music, Jones was deeply committed to his church, so much so that he became an ordained minister. Apparently there was a time when he felt being a minister and a musician conflicted, but he decided this kind of music could be a tool of his ministry. He embraced the cultural, historical and educational aspects of blues, standing on the shoulders of gospel blues greats such as Rev. Gary Davis, Blind Willie Johnson, and Joshua White. For over two decades he taught the blues to school kids, hosted a public radio show, toured the world and preached the gospel at the Sweet Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church. In fact, for seven years he put away his travelling shoes and became a full-time preacher. The reverend is back on the road and when he comes to town, you can expect to hear some soulful music with deep roots in the soulful history of African American music. Can I get an “Amen”?
(ER)
Sargeant & Comrade
Sargeant & Comrade
You never know quite what's around the next corner or the next chord change when you take a sonic trip with Sargeant & Comrade. Yolanda Sargeant's rich, smoky vocals – playful or melancholy, joyful or pensive – come in over top of a fresh and unexpected mixture of elements in each song. Sometimes it's ‘40s swing piano riffs tinkling over a languid hip hop beat. Sometimes it's haunting flamenco guitar mixed with reggae styles blended with soulful trip hop. Always, it's distinctive and fascinating. Always, you can bet on it to draw you in.
This Calgary duo have been creating their unique music melange for more than six years, and it shows in the polish of their delivery and the confidence of their risk-taking. Sargeant's vocal style infuses inspirations like Billie Holiday, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu into a style entirely her own. It comes together with the sonic architecture of rapper-producer Evgeniy Bykovets – formerly known as Whatevski, now the “Comrade”— to form a sound that is exciting and challenging, featuring unexpected and captivating juxtapositions of elements and genres. Comrade has described it as: “The purest definition of ‘Canadian’ music there is – a bunch of cultures coming together creating something brand new.”
(IS)
Sean Rowe
Sean Rowe
At first glance, gathering wild mushrooms has little to do with alternative folk music, but for Sean Rowe, both are passions near and dear to his heart. Encountering The Tracker by noted shyster Tom Brown at the age of eighteen spawned a lifelong zeal for the natural world and all it could offer the willing adventurer, and that was the same year he launched his musical career, singing soul and blues covers amongst his own originals at an age when he shouldn’t even have been in the bars.
Alternating between these two defining forces, Rowe took his dark, treacly baritone voice, old-time influenced guitar, and his explorer’s soul to Britain, opening for Noah and the Whale’s 2010 tour after the release of his debut album. He then spent a year at an outdoor survival school, and an entire month living off the land. Subsequent albums have garnered Rowe an ever-increasing profile — something this natural introvert isn’t entirely comfortable with — and near-universal accolades for his uncompromising homages to the truths of musical transformation and the higher powers of the natural world.
(FF/LS)
Son Little
Son Little
A shapeshifter, a cross-genre musicologist who makes nu-soul, not neo-soul. From sparse plaintive vocals to loud foot-stomping blues, listening to Son Little is like taking a journey through the past, present and future of R&B at once. Aaron Livingston emerged on the music scene over a decade ago, providing guest vocals for Philadelphia area hip hop acts, notably the Roots (“Guns Are Drawn” from The Tipping Point), before joining Icebird and then releasing music under his stage name, Son Little. An actual son of a preacher man, Son Little is a multi-instrumentalist who takes his vintage soul roots, blends hip hop sensibilities and pushes his sound into new territory with the help of electronic beats, digital manipulation of sounds and intricate vocal layering. But underneath the fascinating swirls of music are the core of guitar, bass and drums—rooted to the blues and soul, but not prisoner to them. Sure to be electrifying live.
(SM)
The Sumner Brothers
The Sumner Brothers
Their music has been described as a bewildering variety of genres—alt-country, folk, rock, grunge, garage. Although alt-country is probably the best home territory descriptor, siblings Bob and Brian make music that is impossible to predict, aggressively pushing musical boundaries in all directions, leading it to be called “a beautiful twisted symphony.” They have fronted the Sumner Brothers since 2006 to widespread critical acclaim, one journalist lauding it as “the finest alt-country north of the 49th parallel.” Whether tearing the roof off with buzz saw guitars, or lulling you into an uncomfortable quiet with unsettling and haunting imagery, these are mournful songs sung with voices roughened by whiskey and smoke. They sing about getting drunk and “missing you like hell," a giant baby killing his mother at birth and growing up to be hated by his dad, or regretfully leaving your wife and kids behind to head out west because a “man’s gotta do what a man’s got to do.” The Sumner Brothers’ spellbinding music would be equally at home on the back porch on a Sunday afternoon or in a sketchy dive bar on the wrong side of the tracks.
(SM)
Tanya Tagaq
Tanya Tagaq
Inuk throat singing isn’t an easy sell to the masses living south of the 60th parallel, but Tanya Tagaq has brought it to a wide audience. Anyone who has seen Tagaq perform can immediately understand how she’s managed to take her craft mainstream (sort of): her performances are so intense, beguiling, and utterly arresting, it’s impossible not to resist the call of her on-stage movement, her unnerving gaze, and the combination of sweet and fiercely guttural sounds emitting from her ever-swaying body.
While Tagaq’s technique certainly is rooted in Inuit tradition, her approach is thoroughly modern and more than a little bit punk rock — the music is unsparingly confrontational in both tone and content. Retribution – the follow-up release to her 2014 Polaris-winning album Animism – is more musically aggressive, political, challenging and spine tingling. It’s not dinner party ambience music; rather an honest, a complex, exhilarating, howling protest and portrait of a violent world in crisis. An outspoken activist, Tagaq weaves themes of sexual and environmental assault (the intense cover of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” on Retribution, was very deliberately chosen), women’s and Indigenous peoples’ rights, and the destructive powers of capitalism into her work.
Set to the soundtrack of Jesse Zubot’s stunning violin and Jean Martin’s dynamic drumming, with an arsenal of digital and analogue effects, Tagaq delivers everything she’s got with an unparalleled strength and ferociousness that is changing the way audiences dream of the power of the North.
(ECB)
Terra Lightfoot
Terra Lightfoot
A gutsy roots-rocker with a big molasses-drenched spill of a voice, Terra Lightfoot doesn’t ask for your musical attention; she bloody well rides over and takes it. It was not always thus, although music has been her constant companion since childhood. She sat beside her grandmother as she played organ in church; her mother gifted her with her first electric guitar at the age of 12; and she was tutored by her aunt who played in a ‘70s rock band. Lightfoot made a tentative foray into solo performance in 2011 with a debut album. It didn’t make much of a splash, largely because she was still playing it quiet and polite. Not yet comfortable with fully loosing her octave-spanning, note-bending powerhouse of a voice, showing off her bluesy guitar chops, it took some time as a member of the alt-country Dinner Belles to settle into her musical power. With her sophomore album, Every Time My Mind Runs Wild, she slips the leash of "quiet and polite" entirely. Wielding her red Gibson SG with consummate swagger, and a voice that is more than a match for it, the power of Lightfoot’s voice and poetry is transporting.
(SS)
Thee Holy Brothers
Thee Holy Brothers
Their first meeting reads like something out of a movie: cool kid skipping school to hang out at the hip record shop catches the attention of the cool clerk behind the desk, and off they go into a future of music, shared admiration and friendship. But instead of the High Fidelity-esque fiction, picture Willie Aron and Marvin Etzioni in the real-life leading roles. Their intertwined future is no fiction either; soon after those early meetings, Etzioni produced Aron’s first demos, and both found some fame in the ‘80s alternative roots scene, Etzioni with legendary cowpunk band Lone Justice and Aron with LA indie group The Balancing Act. They’ve collaborated on and off over the years, but it was a jokey comment from their rabbi about them being holy brothers that was the catalyst for them to form a real band. Drawing inspiration from Jesus and Elvis in equal measure, soaked in humour, spirituality and musical complexity, Thee Holy Brothers’ path leads them through funk, rock, and roots to a higher plane. Guitar, mandolin, horns, autoharp, pedal steel, shaker percussion and piano, all form a base to showcase Etzioni and Aron’s harmony vocals, as close-knit only brothers can be.
(FF/LS)
Turkwaz
Turkwaz
Four women came together one night at a benefit concert for an arts centre for Toronto newcomers. Their exquisite voices, pan-Mediterranean songcraft and exotic instruments blended so well that a booking agent persuaded them to come up with a group name and play more gigs. Then came a debut album for Turkwaz (turquoise in English) and a 2017 Juno nomination.
They'd all received world music Juno nods before: Maryem Tollar for her Arabic vocals, Jayne Brown and Sophia Grigoriadis with their Greek ensemble, and Brenna MacCrimmon for a Turkish group she led. Like a living, breathing, made-in-Canada Putamayo collection, this world music super group’s cultural immersion includes mysterious Sufi devotional love songs and rousing Thracian dance music. Each performer brings a special flavour and experience, from working in key Toronto ensembles to providing vocals CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie’s theme, working with Inuit throat singers, symphonies and leading choirs. Maryem Hassan Tollar draws on her Arabic language heritage, Jayne Brown and Sophia Grigoriadis bring their Greek music experience to the mix and Brenna MacCrimmon adds her Turkish fascination.
They’re not afraid to arrange the tunes in new and unexpected ways to give the traditions they love and respect a fresh spin. As a quartet, they pluck, drum and sing in all these genres — plus some Bulgarian and French folk, to boot — to cook up sweet harmonies and savoury rhythms.
(JM/KC)
Whitney Rose
Whitney Rose
"Country" is an idea, iconography of place and time that isn’t so much about finding truth in history and geography as it is about coming together around sentiment. The words of Hank Williams can help anyone see the light, and the voice of Patsy Cline produces sweet dreams to this day. The universality of the country aesthetic is exemplified by PEI-born Whitney Rose, who has blended into the Austin landscape so successfully you’d never know she once shared a homestead with the greenest of gables. Backed by syrupy pedal steel, tremendous tremolo guitar, and a careful rhythm section, her well-tempered songs strike through to the heart.
Rose’s new EP, South Texas Suite, finds her breaking out alone, self-produced and expanding her country vocabulary with elements of down-south dancehall and majestic mariachi. Her songwriting has grown more independent, carving out a stronger sense of self, and defining her experience and relationships clearly and directly. This grounds and contextualizes her themes, revealing a tendency for observational storytelling and a willingness to play with the iconography of modernity, wittily filtered through country nostalgia. Whitney Rose’s ten-gallon heart proves country music’s enduring universality.
(LP)
William Prince
William Prince
His rich baritone voice has an authenticity and unpretentiousness that is downright disarming. His 2016 Juno award winning Earthly Days album boasts moving, warm instrumentation in which Prince’s stories and characters hold space. The Oji-Cree Prince’s musical journey started under the guidance and support of his father, acclaimed gospel singer Ed Prince. He added his own painstaking craftsmanship to his gospel/country/folk sound, shored up by his big, deep-pitched velvet voice for a true mirror of the man that makes it: honest, real, sensitive and memorable.
Yola Carter
Yola Carter
Yola Carter’s gift for soulful Americana was first seen on North American shores at Nashville's Americana Festival last September, from which you might deduce that she’s a musical rookie. You’d be dead wrong. The 33-year-old British singer grew up playing fiddle in a small seaside town in the southwest corner of the U.K., and her childhood was filled with personal and cultural isolation that was relieved mainly by her love of Americana and country music. Autobiographical Appalachian tales and offerings like the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack and the Byrd’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo were Carter’s gateways into old-time music and longhaired country-rock. Using her given name, Yolanda Quartey, Carter spent a dozen years building her chops as a songwriter, arranger and gospel-soul diva in U.K. electronic and pop acts Bugz In The Attic and Massive Attack before fronting country-rock ensemble Phantom Limb. But her sights were set on making hippie-fied, down-home music of her own, and in 2016 Carter wrote her rocky childhood experiences into her debut EP Orphan Offering. It’s full of magnetic, fiddle-powered songs with evocative melodies that run the gamut from full-blooded gospel hollering to hauntingly lovely traditional country, deepened and enriched with spine-tingling harmonies and tasty playing from her backing band. Carter’s powerful songwriting plumbs the layers of the heart with an emotional resonance that stays with you long after the music stops.
(KC/IS)
Holy F*ck
Holy F*ck
Toronto based electro-industrial noise rock outfit Holy F*ck is one of a rare few bands with a name that perfectly captures the experience of seeing them perform. As in:
“Holy f*ck! That’s a lot of synthesizers on stage!”
“Holy f*ck! Electronica with a live rhythm section!”
“Holy f*ck! They play guitar too!”
“Holy f*ck! I can feel it in my kidneys!”
Dance music often sits on syncopated rhythms, encouraging motion through the negative space between downbeats. Holy F*ck makes you dance with rock’n’roll intensity, vibrating your body into rhythm through pure volume and tone. Nothing about Holy F*ck feels remotely produced or computer generated. Every synth tone is organic and analog, some of the sounds are even made with toy phasers or other non-instruments. The foundations of their songs are built up live: looped melodies, distorted guitar, modulated vocals, exploding in massive crescendos, punctuated by momentous musicianship and a circadian rhythm section, leading to moments of furious improvisation. Every instrument, keyboard, and microphone, is fed through layers of effect and affect. No laptops. No backing tracks. Holy F*ck are going to build a wall of sound, and they are going to make Calgary Folk Fest pay for it.
(LP)
Venue Information:
Prince's Island Park
698 Eau Claire Ave SW
Calgary, AB, T2P 5N4
http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/Locations/Downtown-parks/Princes-Island-Park.aspx