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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sun Times Article 06/27/2014 Buffy Sainte-Marie

 Every year, as part of our continuing sponsorship with the Owen Sound Sun Times, the Artistic Director writes a series of 12 articles about the festival and the performers. 

When my older brother and sisters started spending their pocket money on albums, music began to change in Mum and Dad’s house. My parents lost control of the playlist. Strange, unheard of music began to seep out from under my siblings’ bedroom doors. West End musicals and the Clancy Brothers gave way to Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Led Zeppelin ( not all the Keelaghan’s were folkies).

I would have been 10 or 11 years old when I first heard Buffy Sainte-Marie. I’m pretty sure the song was Universal Soldier and I am certain it was my sister Cathy who did the introductions. Buffy has been with me, one way or another ,ever since.


Her songs were the part of the soundtrack of my geography. Her prairie songs were my favourites-Indian Cowboy, Piney Wood Hills,and her most haunting song Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.They were an essential part of the mix tapes I’d make to survive long drives across the plains.


Buffy was born in the Qu’Appelle, a breathtakingly beautiful river valley north of Regina. The valley is deep and wide, with cool water and poplar trees. Seven First nation reserves sit bedside the river from its headwaters to the Manitoba border.  She was orphaned as an infant and went to live with relatives in Massachusetts but the valley never left her. In her haunting song about the place, she pleads-“Take me back to where I belong”-where she belongs is among the coulees and cut-banks of the Qu’Appelle Valley.

She attended U of M Amherst, studying Oriental Philosophy and graduating in the top ten of her class. When she wasn’t studying she was writing songs and performing at the University coffee-house.

Buffy started out like most singer songwriters-travelling alone, a voice and a guitar. She was part of the Yorkville music scene in the early 60’s, playing the Purple Onion, rubbing shoulders with Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell.

Joni and Buffy, born two years and 250 km’s apart on the vast prairies would be come the two iconic Canadian female singer songwriters of their generation.

She moved from coffeehouses to festivals to concert halls.While she was having success as a performer, her songs were doing even better. That was the way she wanted it. She’s frank about the fact that writing is her reason for being.

Until It’s Time for You to Go has been covered by Elvis, Jim Croce,Roberta Flack and at least 50  others. Cod’ine was recorded by Courtney Love and Janis Joplin.

A whole new generation came to know her in the 5 years she was a regular on Sesame Street. She wasn’t just singing and playing guitar either. She taught Big Bird about breastfeeding on international TV, a big deal at the time.

She’s never been shy about breaking the mold. Those who wanted her to be Pocahontas with a guitar didn’t know what to do with songs about activism and native rights. Folkies didn’t know what to do with her 1969 album Illuminations, with its synthesized vocals and electric arrangements.

While she swims outside the mainstream, she still has Juno awards, Grammys, a Golden Globe. She even has an Oscar for the song Up Where We Belong, which she wrote as the theme song for An Officer and a Gentleman.  She feels… “As you grow you hang onto what was always great in your art and it just enhances whatever is coming up next”

Her shows are as energetic and dynamic. She’ll be coming to Summerfolk with the band that has been with her since 2008. It’s an all-star 3-piece ensemble from Manitoba. Leroy Constant-Cree from York Factory on bass and vocals, Lakota/Ojibwe guitar legend Jesse Green and Ojibwe Mike B

ruyere on drums and vocals (and if we’re lucky, footwork).

“They’ve got the energy I need, ”says Buffy, “ for driving songs like Starwalker and No No Keshagesh … what I sing about and where a lot of my songs originate is a world they know too: the realities of Native American passion, love, tragedy and music,”

Now into her 6th decade on the music scene she’s not showing any signs of slowing down. She’s in the studio recording a new cd for release in 2015.

Buffy Sainte-Marie is joining us at Summerfolk for the first time this year. She’ll play Saturday, Aug 16 on the Amphitheatre stage 10PM. She will also be doing a workshop named “I Fight for Life” on Sunday Aug 17.

Advance tickets are on sale until June 30th. Visit  for information, schedules, office hours and tickets. To order tickets by phone call 1-888-655-9090.











Sun Time Article Jez Lowe 06/13/2014

 Every year, as part of our continuing sponsorship with the Owen Sound Sun Times, the Artistic Director writes a series of 12 articles about the festival and the performers. 

Jez Lowe told me to stop reading.

Reading is my second favourite form of recreation. When I am on the road, a book is what clears my mind. Jez thinks the opposite. His theory is-if I am taking words on, I‘m not putting words out. In order to write more, I was going to have to lay off the reading for a while.

Jez Lowe Full sizeWhen Jez offers songwriting advice, it’s best to listen. He’s not only the most prolific songwriter I know, I think he is the finest folk songwriter of this generation. Richard Thompson has heaped praise upon him. The BBC has called him “a singular talent”. People who are my musical heroes record his songs-Liam Clancy, The Dubliners, Mary Black, Fairport Convention.

He played traditional tunes and a fair amount of Beatles and Stones when he was younger, He brings all those sensibilities to the songs he writes. Songs like “The Bergen” or “ Durham Goal” are as traditional sounding as they come. “Spitting Cousins” or “Greek Lightening” are more cinematic, more modern. They exist side by side in his live sets and neither suffer.

Jez was born in county Durham in the heart of coal country in the northeast of England. He didn’t follow his class mates into the coal mines choosing to make music instead.The first ten years of his musical career he played mostly traditional songs. He quickly became one of the mainstays of the folk scene, sought after for clubs and festivals.

He had always written but it took a  cultural earthquake to turn him into full time writer.  In 1984 the Thatcher government announced the closing of 74 coal mines, mostly in the Northeast . The divisive miner’s strike of 1984/85 and the breaking of the miner’s unions  signalled the end of a way of life in the Durham. Jez was there to document it in song. He has not stopped writing since.

The songs about the collapse of economy in the Northeast are not academic. He’s writing and singing about his family, about the guys he went to school with. He cares about it deeply. That’s what makes the songs universal. They are not just about the events in Easington or Peterlee. They are about the real human emotions in play when a whole way of life changes.

It’s not all serious stuff, either. He writes more and better comic songs than anyone I know. Most of them work because he is a man who takes great delight in language. He wrote a great tune about the Vikings. In the song, they are eager to get back down to earth from Valhalla because the world as it is now is perfect for them.

 They say we’re sick of sleeping in the arms of Thor

When down here its fun and games and war, war, war

Blood lust and savagery are guaranteed

And we maim to please-so say the Vikings


He’s got an amazing 17 CD’s to his credit. He has been the back bone of the recently revived BBC Radio Ballads. The original radio ballads series in the 1950’s was the brain child of legendary writer Ewan MacColl, with whom Jez shares a number of similarities. He’s written over 50 songs for that project alone.

I met him at the Old Songs Festival outside Albany, New York in 1994. I’d been hearing his name for years. People would tell me I had to keep an ear open for him. For some reason I thought he would be much older than he was. He wasn’t.

I’d see him when I was in England, or when he was on tour over here. We spent a memorable 6 weeks crisscrossing each other’s paths in Australia. We also toured together some. You learn a lot about people when you are in the car with them for 17 or 18 days.

Here are some of the thing’s I’ve learned.

-He is writing all the time. He’ll be driving but you can see that he is actually turning lines and  rhymes over in his head. He’s often writing three or 4 songs at a time. None of them are bad, or even mediocre.

-He’s right handed but he plays the guitar left handed. It is one of the enduring little mysteries about Jez. All he ever says about it is…that’s how I learned.

-Audience members have, on more than one occasion, told him that he is taller than he sounds on recordings. He says he thought the same thing when he first heard himself. But don’t take his word for it. You can judge for yourself.

Jez Lowe will be with make his Owen Sound debut at Summerfolk 39. The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival happens August 15, 16 and 17 at Kelso Beach Park. Information can be found at Tickets can be ordered online or by phoning     1-888-655-9090



Sun Times Article 06/06/2014 Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards/Alysha Brilla

 Every year, as part of our continuing sponsorship with the Owen Sound Sun Times, the Artistic Director writes a series of 12 articles about the festival and the performers. You can find the online version of the article here

I met Laura Cortese on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. No, really.

I had been spoiled by a couple of years where my touring schedule sent me south in the dead of winter. The year I met Laura, I was invited to perform on an Irish Music Cruise in the Caribbean.I could hardly say no.

Laura and Hanneke Cassel were the fiddle contingent on the cruise.They are both leading lights in the trad/alt scene that blossoms around the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Over dinner one night I asked if they would join me on my set. There were a couple of songs I played that had fiddle tunes attached. I sang the tunes for them once, over the dinner table.

On the day in question I did my sound check…no sign of Laura and Hanneke. About 20 minutes before I went on they arrived. I was a little peeved. I got on my old guy high horse about not going onstage unrehearsed.

Laura looked at me and said, “Your choice, man”.

Which was to say, “ We can play it, dude”.

And they could.

And she does.

Laura is originally from San Francisco. Like so many other players she was drawn to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Berklee and storied music clubs like Passim ensure that there is a vibrant indie scene in and around Boston. Laura quickly became one of the “go to” violinists.

She’s schooled enough to play with the most traditional bands, adventurous  enough to play with the Alt crowd. She  has played with Pete Seeger, Michael Franti and Band of Horses. She’s played Madison Square Gardens and Carnegie Hall, house concerts and bars.

When she’s out on her own she plays originals. She belts out her vocals against the string arrangements created with friends Valerie Thompson (cello) and Mariel Vandersteel ( fiddle and Hardingfele).


LauraCorteseandtheDanceCardsThey exist in a guitar free zone. It’s a sound that harks back to the Appalachian and Louisiana traditions. Her songwriting brings it into the present day. 

I’m really excited that Laura and the Dance Cards will be joining us at Summerfolk this year.

The cruise where I met Laura was the last time I made a dead of winter getaway.

I was thinking about that cruise this January as I drove through yet another snow storm on my way home from Owen Sound. Out in the back yard office the heater was trying valiantly to warm 96 square feet. I was wearing a heavy sweater and a toque as I listened to frosty CDs. I’d intersperse the festival submissions with Belafonte, or Desmond Dekker. Anything that would make me think of warm, far away places.

When I put on a disc by Alysha Brilla things started to look brighter. Brilla is an underrated rhythm guitar player with a slightly quirky voice. She who has a great ear for tasty arrangements.The songwriting is by turns cheeky, heartfelt and sexy. Sometimes it is all three at once.

Alysha’s music is the sound of summer. It’s pop, a bit jazzy and bit bluesy. That’s what makes it fun. She’s pours all her influences into it. There’s 70’s singer songwriters from her mom, the jazz and Tanzanian stuff from her dad. “I’ve got the whole world in my hands” is sung in Swahili against a  a band track featuring soprano sax

Her music is melting pot and it’s a deep one. I don’t think i could have made it through the rest of the winter without it.

Alysha is an irrepressibly optimistic person. She’s also not afraid to take chances.

A couple of years ago Brilla had grabbed the brass ring. She had a deal with a smart label and a couple of name producers. She was recording, writing and living in LA.

AlyshaBrillaThen, she gave it all up. In LA, they wanted her in a neatly labelled box. She wanted to be everything she could be.

She came home to Kitchener Waterloo. She assembled the players she wanted, rehearsed the material and recorded the CD she wanted to make. Eighteen months later, her self produced independently release “In My Head” was nominated for a Juno as Best Adult Contemporary Recording of the year.

She has just finished her first extended tour of western Canada. If you read her facebook entries  you meet a wide eyed, breathlessly excited woman in her mid twenties discovering her country and its scene.

Alysha is coming to Summerfolk with her “Brillion Dollar Band”, a six piece ensemble with drums, keys, horn section,bass. The sound is tight and is sure to knock your socks off.

Information about Laura, Alysha and all the other performers, artisans and vendors at this year’s festival can be found at


The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival happens August 15, 16, 17 at Kelso Beach. Tickets available online or at 1-888-655-9090

Sun Times Article 05/30/2014 Yves Lambert

Every year, as part of our continuing sponsorship with the Owen Sound Sun Times, The Artistic Director writes a series of 12 articles about the festival and the performers. You can find their online version of the article here
I’d like to think that my wife came to Canada because of me, but really, she immigrated because of Yves Lambert.

Yves Lambert photo by Guillaume Morin

I met my wife at the National Folk Festival in Canberra, Australia. While it was love at first sight for me, she needed some persuading. We courted by letter for about 6 months. I went to visit while I was on tour down under. Then, the summer after we met, she came to Canada for her vacation.

My game plan was to woo her with the Rockies and the West coast. I also took her to her first Canadian folk festival in Mission, BC. One of the acts that weekend was La Bottine Souriante. She had never heard traditional Quebec music before. She dug it. Really dug it. A large part of La Bottines appeal came directly from the energy that spilled like a waterfall from their frontman Yves Lambert.

He’s a fantastic raconteur, a barrelhouse singer and one of the best accordion players on the planet. Yves is the consummate showman, the living embodiment of charisma. He presides over gigs like a jovial Buddha with a squeeze box.

I’ve seen Yves perform to audiences on three continents. In many of those places people were hearing Quebecois music for the first time. No matter where it was-Denmark, the US, England – the reaction was always the same. Even the most staid would be on their feet screaming for more.

It doesn’t matter that he is singing in different language, or that the intros are a franglais mash-up. His joy and love of his art shines through. It’s  infectious.

In 2003, after 27 years  and 14 recordings with La Bottine Souriante, Lambert decided it was time to move on. He didn’t rest on his laurels. He drew some of Quebec’s best young players to him and created the Bébert Orchestra, he released another 4 CD’s, contributed to compilations, toured constantly, wrote new tunes.   He created a stripped down, trio version of Bébert for a 40 date tour. The power of that stripped down ensemble was undeniable.

In the Yves Lambert Trio, he is joined by multi-instrumentalists Olivier Rondeau and Tommy Gauthier.   Gauthier plays violin, mandolin and bouzouki. His early training as a drummer informs his foot percussion. He’s played with Matapat and Antoine Dufour. Rondeau plays the acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, and vocals.

Gauthier and Rondeau are young, but they are not inexperienced.Their sound is simple and layered. While true to their roots they are definitely taking the music different places. The rhythms are more intricate. The mouth music is there, but it’s sung with non-traditional harmonies.

Music has generational changes. Every 20 years, give or take, a new crop of musicians bring their instrumental experience to bear on the tradition. They write snaky new tunes. They borrow fiddle styles from Scotland or Norway. They move the tradition forward tune by tune. The Yves Lambert Trio is bridging the gap between past and future in the Quebec tradition.

For the second time in his life Lambert is in the vanguard of a Quebec musical evolution.   He is a genuine and humble man. He doesn’t have to be. He has a fist full of gold selling albums, Juno Awards, Felix awards, Canadian Folk Music Awards. He is one of the most influential of the musicians that lead the Quebec roots revival in the late 70’s. In song he is lyrical, poetic, not shy of the political or the romantic. Yves is a national treasure.

On the Monday morning after that festival in Mission, the phone in our hotel room rang at about 8:30. It was the front desk informing me that the van had been broken into. I dressed and went downstairs to inspect the damage. I never leave guitars or bags in the truck so I was more worried about the inconvenience of a broken window, or however they got in. I looked in the van. The thieves had rifled through everything. All our things had been scattered around. I was relieved and a little wounded that the box with 150 copies of my latest cd was still there… but La Bottine’s CD was gone.


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