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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sun Times Articles 2012 – part 2

James Keelaghan wrote a series of articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times last year as part of the lead up to Summerfolk.

Oscar and Popo

If you love the music of Oscar Lopez, if you love the power and the artistry that he brings to the guitar, if you own any of his Juno Award winning CD’s, if you have seen him with Rick Emmett and Pavlo as the super group PRO, if you liked Oscar and I playing together as Compadres – you’ve got Henry Caballo to thank for that.

Henry was a Portuguese immigrant owned an auto body shop in Winnipeg. In the winter of 1980 he was concerned about a young Chilean working in the shop doing paint prep. Oscar had been in the country for 3 months, was working hard on his English and in the shop. Henry liked having him around. Oscar would bring his guitar to work and play on his lunch breaks.

One day Henry called Oscar into the office. “You shouldn’t be working in a body shop!” he says, ” You should be playing your guitar. I’m going to do you a favour”. Henry fired him. That’s why we should be thanking Henry.

Oscar took it to heart and began playing with local bands in Winnipeg. The rest of his family had moved on to Calgary and Oscar followed.

Oscar Lopez

I was just starting to play the clubs in Calgary myself. I kept hearing about this amazing Chilean guy, an unbelievable guitarist, but somehow our paths never crossed. We finally met one weekend in Sudbury, of all places, did some jamming and we have been fast friends ever since.

Oscar is born to what he does – entertain. He has developed a style that can only be defined as original. The speed of his left hand is legendary and blinding, the attack on his right hand is blistering. While he comes out of a Latin sensibility and a Latin culture, his guitar playing transcends those definitions. He is truly in a class by himself.

On stage he is as intense as Great Lakes Squall, but if you want relaxed, you’ve got to see The Mighty Popo. His guitar work is effortless, almost as though its being played by some unseen hand.

He was born Jaques Murigande child of Rwandan parents in a Burundian Refugee camp. The music of the region informed him, but he has always been as fluent in different musical styles as he is in any of the 5 languages he speaks. He moves naturally between blues, R&B and jazz, but there is always that accent from the Land of the 1000 hills.

He came to Canada in 1987 and like Oscar, began to settle into the music scene in Montreal where he was a sought after player on the blues scene. People outside of Quebec first met him at the Juno award winning  “African Guitar Summit”.

2010_05_12_MIGHTY_POPO_00233

At the Edmonton Folk Festival lat year, I saw him bring the crowd to it’s feet at the blues stage. I ended that day sitting on a workshop stage with him, Deep Dark Woods and De Temps Antan. He led a massive jam for the last song of the workshop that above all else demonstrated his remarkable generosity as a performer.

That same spirit of generosity helped Popo achieve something  remarkable. In 2011, he went to Rwanda with a group of committed people to stage a folk festival in Kigali. Kigali Up was an amazing success. People donated air miles for flights, sound equipment, cash, anything to get the festival off the ground. And it soared. The 2nd Kigali up happens in early July this year.

Generosity is the soul of music. Performers who don’t give generously to their audiences don’t last long just as audiences who do not give back don’t attract artists. I can’t wait to bring these two together in a workshop at Summerfolk and see where it goes.

One thing is certain. No one is going to get fired.

Sun Times Articles 2012 – part 1

James Keelaghan wrote a series of  articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times last year as part of the lead up to Summerfolk.

Article 1, Rogers and Prescott

In my family, for generations, there has been no discernible musical talent. Nurses, policemen, union organizers, merchant sailors, farmers, yes, but there is no mention of musical talent anywhere. My brother Bob and I seem to be the trailblazers in that regard.

Some families, however, seem to ooze musical talent, and it doesn’t seem to skip a generation. Two performers from this year’s summerfolk illustrate the point. Nathan Rogers and Kelly Prescott.

Nathan, of course, is the son of Canadian Music Icon Stan Rogers. From the patented Rogers hairline to the diesel engine of a voice he’s proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

He learned guitar riffs from his brother Dave, his sister Beth coached him vocally and he drank it all in and the result is one of the most dynamic Canadian acoustic performers in a decade. Close your eyes while he’s on stage and you’ll hear the past, but if you open your eye’s you’ll see the future, because Nathan stands in no-one’s shadow. He incorporates Tuvan throat singing into his tunes. His songwriting owes more to the urban realities of modern Canada than to the sweeping landscapes of his father.

He has also inherited more than a touch of the theatre from his mother, Ariel Rogers. Nathan will be appearing at DRYBONES WEB ONLY copySummerfolk as part of the trio Dry Bones, with JD Edwards and Leonard Podolak ( and incidentally, Leonard is the son of Mitch Podolak, creator of the  Winnipeg and Vancouver Folk festivals, and a man who had a steadying hand on Summerfolk in its early years).

Travel up the road a few hours from where Nathan was raised and just outside Ottawa you’ll find the place that another musical family has put down roots. When your maternal grandfather is Joe Brown and your paternal grandfather is Irwin Prescott; when your grandparents and your parents have over 20 charted country music hits there must be a little pressure on you. Meet Kelly Prescott, daughter of Randall and Tracey ( Prescott-Brown), granddaughter of Joe Brown (the Family Brown) and of Irwin Prescott.

That’s quite a pedigree and she lives up to it. The National Post this year named her as one of the 5 acts most likely to break out and while that’s often the kiss of death to an artists career, Prescott has all the chops she needs to succeed. A smokey voice as engaging as any you’ve ever heard on the country music scene, an engaging stage presence and a knack for making it all seem effortless and natural.

Her sound tends to the classic, rather than the new country. In fact, she has had great deal of success and accolades playing and singing the part of Emmy Lou Harris in Michael Bate’s Grievous Angel:The Gram Parson’s Story. Her voice was much sought after and you can find her backing vocals on cd’s by Jeremy Fisher and Susan Aglukark. After releasing a cd with her brother Kaylen and an impressive solo debut cd, Kelly found her comfort zone with The Claytones. Along with bassist Adam Puddington and Anders Drerup on guitar, they are one of the sweetest trios I have heard in a long time. The Claytones copyThe harmonies are impeccable, the choice of material, original and covers, is well suited to their voices and talents.

Folk music is, at its heart, about generations and the handing down of traditions and styles. It’s not about going viral, but about producing music that will last for hundreds of years, that will be passed down to children and grandchildren.

The 37th edition of Summerfolk is proud to be part of that tradition.

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