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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sun Times Articles 2012 – part 8

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

July 25

I played my first paying gig at seventeen in a folk club in Claresholm, about an hour south of Calgary. After that I played as regularly as I could. Luckily, Calgary was rich in places to play in those days.

I had a regular gig at a place called the Kensington Delicafe. I played three hours a night Thursday, Friday and Saturday-it largely paid my way though University. There was a guy who used to come in for his deli-burger, a bass player named Bill Eaglesham, he was tall and wiry, with piercing blue eyes. I knew him from the local scene. During my sets he would watch me but not once did he ever applaud. My mission became getting some kind of reaction out of him.

I never did. I ended up hiring him as my bass player on my first national tour instead. For the next three years Bill and my other player, Gary Bird, whipped me into shape. Today we would call it mentoring. Back then we just lived by the adage that the best way to get good was to play with people who were better than you.
I did not emerge fully formed as a musician, no musician ever does. Learning to be a performer is a long process-the only way you learn is by playing.

The four finalists from this year’s Youth Discoveries program are already on that road. Youth Discoveries is an initiative of the Georgian Bay Folk Society and is sponsored by Bruce Power and the Dock 92.3 FM. The four acts were chosen from thirty-six who showcased for the opportunity to appear at the  37th annual Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival.

Amy Carson Hunter is the performer most likely to make you impulsively hold hands with whoever is next to you. She’s from Toronto, but like many of this year’s Discoveries hopefuls, she maIMG_0068de the trek north in the hope of winning a spot at the festival and the judges were duly impressed. Her voice sounds too mature to come from someone so young. It hovers somewhere in the dusky zone. She also writes and performs with a maturity and poise that any performer would be envious of.

Mad Casper didn’t travel as far as Amy. Simon Kaarid, Tristan Kaarid, Dan White  Erik Wagenaar come from right here in Owen Sound. When I first heard them it took my mind back to a workshop I played with Gil Scott Heron at the Calgary Folk Festival.
Gil’s songs, particularly The Revolution YDMadCasperWill Not Be Televised, paved the way for rap music. It’s been argued that Gil was the first rap artist. What was he doing at a folk festival?
All you had to do was listen to get it. The lyrics were politically charged and relevant. The music was played acoustically on piano, upright bass and percussion. If Gil wasn’t folk music, what was?
Mad Casper has the same sensibility-a story to tell against a solid back beat. It’s a mix of hip hop, dub poetry with an acoustic instrumental edge. The lyrics sung in a cadenced and measured staccato are political, sincere and relevant.
Chris Strazz comes from Woodbridge. He sings with a high reedy tenor and has a great sense of amtosphere. He is slightly bluesy with an undeniably great rhythm guitar style. Chris is blessed with a quick smile and a comfortable attitude that is disarming. If  Carson Hunter is the dark and sultry, Chris is the guy who’s going to send you down the street whistling. Of all our Discovery finalists I would peg him as the guy most likely to end up doing one of those coveted musical appearances on Sesame Street.

I was extremely happy that traditional music was represented at the Youth Discoveries showcases. I love fiddling and step dancing, but it is a crowded field and to rise to the top you have to be really good. Andrew and Diana Dawydchak are 12 and 14 years old, respectively. They were the youngest performers at Youth Discoveries, but may be the most seasoned performers of the bunch. You don’t get to be as good as they are unless you’ve been doing it a long time. They have taken top honours at the Canadian Open in Shelburne and the Ontario Open in Bobcageon. That is no mean feat.
They are energetic and explosive, YDAndrew and Diana copybut what was the most disarming thing about them was the fact that their bio ends by saying that they are proud to be Maple Leaf’s fans. Is there anything more enchanting than the optimism of youth?

Youth Discoveries happens because of the hard work of many people. In the next year we are going to expand the program. We’ll be offering workshops on everything from performance to vocal technique and a new venue for the Final Showcase.
There is a wealth of young talent in our communities and we want to help that talent reach its audience. You can help the GBFS by letting us know abut the outstanding young performers in your community.
Join us Friday, August 17 at the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival for the Youth Discoveries concert starting at 7pm on the Young and Hungry/Over the Hill stage
For more information visit us at

Sun Times Articles 2012 – part 7

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

July 12

My six year old, Tomas, has decided on some favourites from this year’s Summerfolk line up.

When I finished booking the artists for this summer’s festival, I loaded their music on my iPod. It’s great to have it to listen to when I am doing the programming. I set the player on shuffle and listen to it in the office or more often, in the van.
Tomas’ current van favourite is a song titled John Riley by the Paul McKenna Band. He specifically requests it to “pump him up” for T-Ball.
The song isn’t typical fare for a six year old, but I was much like Tomas when I was his age. I loved when my dad played tunes Paul Mckenna Band copylike Roddy McCorley or The Irish Rover-songs that told a good story about the adult world.
Paul’s song is about a group of Irish immigrants that are hired as mercenaries by the American army. They are sent to Texas, but get disillusioned with their commanders and switch allegiance, crossing the Rio Grande to join Santa Anna.
As Tomas goes about his six year old day, he’ll sing the chorus which he knows by heart:

Adventure calls, some men run
This is their sad story
Some get drunk on demon rum
Some get drunk on glory

It’s a catchy song with a tale to tell. Paul McKenna delivers it with an edge and a broad Scot’s accent like Dick Gaughan’s. He has a sweet high tenor voice like Paul Brady’s-it’s a voice that cuts through everything
McKenna writes great original songs like John Riley. He also a great interpreter of traditional song. His version of The Mermaid is as sweet as any I have heard.
The band part of the Paul McKenna Band is an energetic bothy style ensemble-rollicking melodies on fiddle, bouzouki, tenor guitar, flutes, whistles and percussion.
They come from Glasgow, a hard working town with a  proud working class history. Paul and the band tend to sing about the underdog, the working people. They do it by showing, rather than telling-picking a story like John Reilly  to highlight something universal in the human character. It’s not a stuffy history lesson, because when the band kicks its heels up they’ll have you dancing in the aisles-or air dancing in the booster seat, like Tomas.

We now hit the part of the van ride where Tomas would like some private time in the second row. For this he must get his two and half year old brother Patrick to sleep.

He chooses the most achingly beautiful song in the whole playlist. It’s by Chic Gamine. The song is J’attends (que tu sois la). The lyric, very roughly translated from the French:

The cold, snow falling on the balcony.
The heat, the flowers bordering the house
You discover them,
Spring, fall and summer.
Winter heralds the end of the year.
Your first words, first steps, …
… but now I wait, you’re here.

I wish you could put your ear up to the newspaper and hear it. Four voices and percussion. That’s it, that’s all it needs.

Winnipeg vocalists Alexa Dirks, Ariane Jean, Andrina Turenne and Annick Bremault recruited Montreal drummer and percussionist Sacha Daoud, and between them they created Chic Gamine. They have rewritten the definition of girl group with original lyrics in both English and French. They write smart, confident songs, as sweet as that lullaby your mother sang to you, as heart stopping as your first kiss.ChicGamineGREYPhoto

Since they got together in 2008, they have refined their songwriting and performance. The attention to detail and arrangements have landed them some plum gigs. They opened for Smokey Robinson. After sharing a stage with the legendary Mavis Staples she told them that they reminded her of her family, The Staples Singers.

You can hear Gospel in what they do. You can hear R&B and some French Chanson. Their voices are true to all of it.
I came to know the group mainly through Andrina. I met her at rehearsals for a Christmas event the Winnipeg Folk Festival put on every year. She was 16 at the time and a natural singer. She was one of my “go to” background vocalists on a couple of recordings. What I love about her, I love about Chic Gamine. They take the complex and make it seem simple. They take the difficult and make it seem easy. They sing because they were born to it.

In the van the other day, Tomas started asking questions. Who was Santa Anna? Where is the Rio Grande? He also started to translate French lyrics for me; “ oiseau: that means bird, Dad”.
Music at it’s best doesn’t just make the drive shorter, it makes our world wider.

The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival begins in 4 weeks time on August 17 and continues through the 19th.

You can find more information and tickets at
For more about The Paul McKenna Band visit
For more information about Chic Gamine visit

Sun Times Articles 2012 – part 6

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

July 5th – Andersen and Vishtèn

All the great parties are kitchen parties. The reason has to do with time and motion. The kitchen is where the food is. If you are in the kitchen you are not far from the beer. If you are playing tunes, you don’t want to be far from the snacks or the beer. That’s why I believe that kitchens are the essential transmitters of culture.

Vishtèn, Emmanuelle and Pastelle Leblanc and Pascal Miousse, is a band that’s a product of kitchen culture.
The twin sisters are from the Evangeline on PEI, Pascal is from the Magdalene Islands. They are part of an Acadian community that has managed to thrive despite the odds.

The Acadians found refuge on PVishtenPhotorince Edward Island after the 1755 deportations. There were over 4000 of them on the island in 1760 but by 1768 there were only a couple of hundred left. They fished out of small villages like Tracadie and Rustico. It was a hard life, but their culture survived. In their kitchens and living rooms one generation handed the music to the next.

Pascal, Emmanuelle and Pastelle play the kind of music that can only be created by people who have had music in their lives since birth. They grew up in households where fiddle music was commonplace. Their musical parents opened their home night after night to local and traveling players. Musical jams into the wee hours were a regular occurrence. They learned their craft from their parents and from local legends like Bertrand Deraspe and Louise Arsenault.

Step dancing led to piano training. Piano led to accordion, then to fiddles, guitars, whistles, jaw harps and a host of other instruments.  The step dancing circled back and became foot percussion.

They’ve taken all that heritage and training and distilled it into an exciting, haunting and evocative nectar. It has the pulse and the soul of L’Acadie. It lays the foundation for the next chapter in Acadian musical culture.


Last summer, I was lying in the grass at the Calgary Folk Festival listening to a blues workshop that my brother’s band was playing in. This is strange for two reasons.
First, it’s very rare that I am at music festival just hanging out.
Second, I’m very picky when it comes to the blues.
Reclining, as I was, I could hear the music, but couldn’t see the players. They were all good, but the fourth guy in the rotation was great. Really, really, great. I thought, “That guys got to be from Mississippi”


In fact, Matt Andersen is from Perth Andover, New Brunswick.

Matt is a a big hearted man. He has fingers like sausages that shouldn’t be able to play the way they do. He has a voice like a hurricane-a perfect storm of emotion and power.

Like Vishtèn’s, Matt’s childhood was full of music. His grandparents and parents played. No gathering was complete without fiddles and guitars.

He learned tuba and trumpet  but guitar playing and singing became his passion. While Matt studied studio engineering, he earned money playing in top 40 bands.

He might have been content playing in cover bands in New Brunswick but somewhere along the way the blues discovered him. Since then, the blues has been taking him on quite a trip.

In the past 18 moths he’s released his latest CD, toured on three continents and won a Juno award. At the Maple Blues Awards he won a stunning trifecta taking home hardware for all three of the categories he was nominated in-Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Acoustic Act of the Year.

He’s played with bands, but I like him best when he is solo. There is nothing to distract from his voice-from the purity of his high notes and the rumble of his lows. There is nothing to distract from his gutsy guitar playing.

Matt says he fell in love with the blues because of it’s honesty. He returns the favour by playing it honestly. That’s the most compelling thing about Matt’s music.
he sings it and plays it like he means it.

In every great kitchen party, when the fiddles and accordions take a break, there’s always a singer who can belt out a tune. Matt is that guy.

Summerfolk is glad to welcome Matt Andersen and Vishtèn to our kitchen party at Kelso Beach.

Summerfolk happens August 17, 18, 19

For information on Vishtèn visit
For Matt Andersen
For information or Summerfolk tickets visit

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