Aug 17,18,19 tickets

Category Archives: Artists

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Sun Times Article 4: Music of Childhood

Every year Artistic Director James Keelaghan writes a series of 12 articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times previewing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival

By James Keelaghan

We didn’t have kid’s music when I was kid. Well, we did sorta, but nothing pleasant happened in it. Cradles fell, babies cried, that sort of thing. You didn’t really want to linger. If my parents wanted to entertain us as kid’s they’d play Harry Belafonte, or lighter adult music. Kid’s music was there to teach us a lesson-don’t put your cradle in a tree and that sort of thing.

 

I was a late comer to children. My first, Tomas was born in 2006, Pato,in 2010. Because of that I wasn’t well acquainted with Fred Penner’s music. Not having children kind of insulates you from the kid’s music scene. It’s like physics lectures, or advanced mathematics. You know it’s there and people are doing it, but it really doesn’t seem to have any effect on your life.

 

Yet, I know Fred fairly well.  I’d see him at music functions in Manitoba and across the country. We’ve spent pleasant hours together in the backstage areas of various festivals. He’s an engaging  story teller. He has that rare ability to make you feel like you are the most important thing in his life while he is talking to you.

 

You know him in a way I never did.

 

I respect him as a musician and entertainer. I managed to do that, and not see a single episode of his TV show. Why would I? I didn’t have kids. In those days I slept late. The show ran in Canada and the US for an amazing 13 years. I missed every one.

 

Most of you are more clued in than me. If you were a kid, a parent or a grandparent from 1985-1997, you knew Fred. I wasn’t surprised that he’s one of the best loved performers that has ever played the festival. We harbour huge reserves of goodwill for the performers of our youth. When we are adults they can evoke some of our strongest memories.

 

He was and is very involved in the community at large and his spirit of involvement and inclusiveness was recognized when he was made a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba. His musicianship has been recognized with eight Juno nominations and two Juno Awards, Parents Choice Awards and Prairie Music awards

 

He makes no secret of the fact that he was a bit lost after the TV series ended.  He had a very full schedule, though, as the demand for live shows never really slacked off.

 

Fred had a notion that kids who had seen his TV show wanted to reconnect with him.

Then a strange little thing happened. A promoter at a university wanted to hire him to do a show at the school’s pub. Strange as the thought was, the show sold out in quicker than you can say “the cat came back.” In fact it was oversold. The students kept him there for two and a half hours. College kids, with pints of beer, calling out for Baby Beluga, Take Good Care, Sandwiches and of course, The Cat Came Back.

 

Word got out on the college circuit. When he travels now to do a kids show, he often adds a college show. He’s done universities from PEI to BC. He may, in fact, be busier now than when he had the TV show.

 

Last year Fred to it one step further. He recorded a CD named Hear the Music.The album was produced by long time collaborator Ken Whiteley and recorded in Toronto, where Fred lives with his spouse, voice/acting coach and director Rae Ellen Bodie (whom he married in 2016 and who co-wrote two of the songs on the album). Fred created for the cd to satisfy three generations of his fans and includes guests such as Ron Sexsmith, Terra Lightfoot, Alex Cuba, Basia Bulat, Jackie Richardson, The Good Lovelies, Fred’s four children and a wealth of Canada’s best musicians.

 

I’ll never know what its like to be a kid listening to Fred Penner. I never had the chance. I’ll never have that kid-like experience of hearing The Cat Came Back Fred style, for the first time. I’m really happy that my boys will be had that experience at last time Fred came to Summerfolk.

As for me, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. I’ll be having mine at Fred’s pub

 

Fred will be playing workshops and a special spotlight children’s concert  at 2PM Saturday August 17 at the Amphitheatre stage during Summerfolk this year.

For more information on all things summerfolk please visit us at www.summerfolk.org

The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival happens at Kelso Beach Park in Owen Sound August 17, 18 and 19.

 

Adonis Cuba Car Promo Shot

Sun Times Article 3: From Cuba to Canada

Every year Artistic Director James Keelaghan writes a series of 12 articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times previewing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival

By James Keelaghan

To make my living I have to travel—a lot. While the travelling has some nice moments, it’s not relaxing and it is most assuredly not a vacation. About 10 years ago myself, my wife and my son actually took a vacation. We went to Cuba for a week. I enjoyed the sun, the sand and the general laid back nature of the island, but it was the music that really hooked me. The resort where we stayed, on the Ancon peninsula near Trinidad de Cuba, was far away from the hustle and bustle of Havana or the  non-stop tourism of Varadero. Still, every night there was music at the resort, there was music in town, there was literally music everywhere at all hours.

 

Latin music has a reputation for being sultry and sensual, but Cuban music takes it to the nth degree. I loved it before I went to Cuba, but I was a fanatic by the time I came back.

When the chance came to book Adonis Puentes for this year’s Summerfolk I jumped at it.

 

I mentioned in last week’s article that traditional music is important to me. It’s not just the traditional music of my ancestors, though. Traditional music, in all its forms, is the backbone of what I try to book for Summerfolk. I like music that is aware of its history, even if it plays with it some.

 

We had Adonis’ brother, Alex Cuba, here a few years back. Alex has taken the music of his youth and added contemporary flourishes creating his own Latin pop sound. Adonis Puentes is a traditionalist. They grew up south of Havana in a house that was musically dominated by their father, Valentin, and spiritually by their mother, Maria. By the age of six they were playing guitar, eventually joining their father’s 24 piece travelling guitar ensemble. On days off they found time to jam with some of the greats, among them Ibrahim Ferrar of Buena Vista Social Club fame.

 

Love brought both Alex and Adonis to Canada, and though they recorded their first cd as the Puentes Brothers, they soon branched out on their own. The quality of their early musical education has seen both of them garnering Juno and Grammy nominations for their work, even while they have charted different musical paths.

 

Adonis is firmly in the tradition of the soñero—the lyrical, sometimes improvising, singer in a Salsa band. The songs are pure poetry, but the distinctive Cuban rhythms propel the lyric. It’s almost impossible not to dance once the band starts playing. It’s as if the beat channels the song into your entire body. Even if you can’t speak a word of Spanish, you can hear the joy, the love of life and the passion in his voice.

 

Puentes returns to Cuba often, to touch base and to replenish the creative spark. He feels like he is an ambassador for Cuban music, but can’t really be a proper representative if he is not in touch with the current scene on the Island. There is no doubt that he is a bearer of the tradition—even giants of the genre acknowledge this. He has sung with the likes of Celia Cruz and Ruben Blades. He became lead singer to Los Angeles-based Jose Rizo’s band Mongorama and was thrilled when they earned a Grammy nomination as best tropical Latin album.

 

Another Salsa great, the legendary Oscar Hernandez, director of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra,  arranged three songs and played piano on his Adonis’ cd Sabor a Café. Oscar Hernandez’s piano solos are such a foundational element in Cuban music that they are taught in Cubas music schools.

 

Dicen, Adonis Puentes third solo recording project ,was released in March this year in Victoria, where he makes his home. This time produced by Oscar Hernandez, the recording is destined to become a classic of the genre. It’s  a sophisticated mix of elegant balladry and rumbas as sweet as they are sensual. Hernandez’s keyboard and horn charts are the perfect foundation Puentes’ velvety crooning, punctuating his romantic pleas without challenging them. As performed by his acoustic Voice of Cuba Orchestra (guitar, tres, bass, percussion, piano and trumpet), the music makes for lively performances.

 

Puentes routinely advises audiences to bring their dancing shoes to his shows, and his appearances at Summerfolk will be no exception. We are even arranging for an instructor to teach an afternoon Salas class so you’ll be completely ready to dance the night away.

 

The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival happens August 17, 18 and 19 at Kelso Beach Park. Information can be found at www.summerfolk.org. We hope to see you there. Don’t forget your dancing shoes!

 

Photo © Colin Gillen/framelight.ie

Sun Times Article 2: Irish roots

Every year Artistic Director James Keelaghan writes a series of 12 articles for the Owen Sound Sun Times previewing the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival

By James Keelaghan

Surprise! I’m not in Owen Sound, or even in Canada. As you read this I am just leaving Achill Island on the west coast of Ireland. The last time I was on AchiIl was when I was here as a backpacker in 1979. That excursion ended well, though I ended up sleeping on a beach in an October gale, but that’s a story for another time.

 

My Da was from County Monaghan which entitles me to Irish  citizenship. I go to Ireland regularly, to play, to visit relatives and friends, and to do what I am doing now—leading music- based group tours. But that first trip, as a 19 year old, was an eye opener.

 

The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners dominated the musical landscape when I was growing up. My exposure to Irish music was mostly ballads and songs and I learned hundreds of them. I could sing Roddy McCorley with the best of them in my corner of traditional music.

 

One night, on that first backpacking trip, I found myself in the little town of Spiddal in County Galway. There was a celebration in town until the wee hours of the morning. A whole group of local musicians had gone north to a music competition, a feis, and had come back with all the prizes. Music reigned supreme in the four pubs that adorned the four corners of the crossroads

 

The music tended to the instrumental rather than the vocal—jigs, reels and marches. I hadn’t heard this much instrumental Irish music at one time ever. Occasionally, the players would yield the floor to the singers, but instrumental ruled the day.

 

I think I got to bed at three or four in the morning, shortly after the Garda had shut down the last pub. But that night stayed with me until this day and I came back with so much Irish instrumental music that I had to abandon some clothes to make room for vinyl and cassettes. I’ve been hooked on the instrumental side of Irish tradition music since.

 

The great thing about Irish trad is that it’s alive—living and breathing and every year more young people come to the music. There are well-established schools and organizations that promote learning the music and, of course, hundreds of pub sessions as practice grounds.

 

We have one of the finest young Irish bands appearing at Summerfolk this year. They met at Limerick’s Irish World Academy and, with critical acclaim piling up, Goitse have become one of the leaders of the new generation of traditional Irish ensembles.

 

Goitse—pronounced gwi-cha—has released four critically acclaimed recordings and maintains a year round touring schedule that includes performances throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the United States.

 

The strength of Irish traditional music is that it evolves. The canon isn’t static with new tunes added all the time. Goitse moves the tradition forward with their own original compositions. Their distinctive sound comes from the meeting of those compositions and traditional tunes from the countryside of Ireland and abroad.

 

Laying the foundations for the music are World and All-Ireland bodhrán champion, Colm Phelan. The bodhrán, a large open frame drum, is the beating heart of Irish trad. A band without a solid player is simply not going to go anywhere.

 

Colm is not the only All Ireland champion in the band— Tadhg Ó Meachair plays a wicked accordion and is the All Ireland traditional piano champion.  Conal O’Kane rounds out the rhythm section of the band on the guitar. He’s a wizard who is making his mark as one of the finest guitarists of his generation.

 

Alan Reid plays the tenor banjo, bouzouki and mandolin. He is also an accomplished oud—a stringed instrument from the Mediterranean. Its inclusion in the band is a fresh texture that no other Irish Trad band is using.  

 

Out of this strong instrumental sound emerges the sweet, charismatic voice of Áine McGeeney. Her voice rings like a bell—clear and strong as it draws audiences into a song. Áine does double duty in the band playing the fiddle as well. as she sings. With a style that is feisty and energetic she completes the band sound in fine style.

 

Their band name is an informal Gaelic greeting that means “come here”. We couldn’t think of a better way to invite you to Summerfolk than to promise you Goitse.

 

The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival takes place at Kelso Beach Park on August 17, 18 and 19. For information on tickets, performers, or if you’d like to listen to some music by Goitse, visit summerfolk.org.

 

Small town…

When I am not wearing my Artistic Director’s hat, I’m wearing my touring, singer-songwriter’s hat. I’ve been wearing that headgear for over 30 years now. That job takes me to a lot of different places. Last Friday, I was in London, England. Today, I’m typing away in Owen Sound— that’s the nature of the beast.

 

The performers we bring to Owen Sound come from all points of the compass. Some of those places are small out of the way spots—some from places we see as exotic and some that seem pretty familiar. What unites them is the magic of music and performance.

 

Traverse City, Michigan seems a lot like Owen Sound. Nestled against Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, it has a population of about 16,000. Its industrial glory days are in the past and it now counts tourism as its major moneymaker.

 

It has a thriving arts scene, and we have that to thank for The Accidentals. Katie Larson and Savannah Buist met in 2011 at their public high school.  Katie was a freshman cellist “playing up” in the Philharmonic Orchestra and Savannah was Concertmaster principle violinist. They volunteered for a class assignment that threw them together for their first rehearsal and The Accidentals were born.

 

They both grew up in musical households that didn’t believe there were types of music, there was just music. You’ll find echoes of jazz, blues, folk and pop in their tunes. They are musical polyglots. In addition to the tight harmonies, edgy violin and cello that define their sound, they also play guitar, bT DEMINass, glockenspiel, mandolin, banjo, piano, organ, accordion, and kazoo.

 

Between 2011 and 2013, they wrote and recorded two albums. They played as guest artists on several other albums. They scored three films, and landed song placements in several commercials, documentaries and independent films. They did all that while playing over five hundred live shows and maintaining a 3.9 GPA.
In 2014, they added drummer and percussionist, Michael Dause, no slouch himself. It was this trio that I saw in a hotel room at the Folk Alliance International Conference in early 2016. It takes a lot to break out of the crowd at huge music conference. I missed their main showcase, but their talent shone like a great lakes lighthouse in that small space. They are personable, accessible, charmingly nerdy, intelligent and one of the most fun bands that I have heard in a long time.

 

Mungia is a town near the Bay of Biscay in the Basque region of Spain. The town can trace its history to the early 11th century. Like Traverse City, its population is about 16,000. When Agus Barandiaran was looking for a name for his newly-formed group, he named it after a farmer who used to busk in the town square of Mungia. Korrontzi played trikitixa — the two-row Basque diatonic button accordion.

 

As a band, Korrontzi celebrates the music of the Basque Country that straddles the Pyrenees in both northeastern Spain and western France. The trikitixa is the heart korrontzi photo - 2and soul of Basque music even though the accordion entered Basque relatively late. It was brought by immigrants from Lombardy in the nineteenth century. While it has its own distinct accent the music has been influenced by just about every European tradition. The Basque country sits astride the ancient pilgrimage trails to Santiago and the pilgrims have left some fingerprints. It can sound slightly Italian, slightly Celtic but it is always played with intensity and virtuosity by Korrontzi. The band leader, Barandiaran, is a master of the trikitixa and he has surrounded himself with players who lift the music into different planes while maintaining the root and branch of the tradition.

 

Dance is a big part of any culture’s folk tradition. Korrontzi is travelling with dancers and they will be teaching a workshop at our Down by the River stage ( formerly the Over the Hill stage) on Saturday, August 19. Maybe Basque dance will be the fingerprint Korrontzi leaves on our town.

 

Traverse City, Mungia — where ever they are from, they are part of Owen Sound at the 42nd annual Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival. You can find bios and videos of these and other acts, as well as festival information at summerfolk.org.or by following us on social media or just giving us a good old-fashioned phone call at 519-371-2995

 

This year’s dates are August 17, 18, 19 and 20 at Kelso Beach Park.

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The return of Irish

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Irish Mythen, Harmony Centre, Owen Sound, November 26th

Irish Mythen, the breakout favourite of this year’s Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival returns for an evening of powerful song, rollicking humour and and the best set of pipes in contemporary acoustic music.

She is not to be missed!

Tickets available for the Roxy box office

https://tickets.roxytheatre.ca/TheatreManager/1/tmEvent/tmEvent1190.html

Buy tickets for both this show and the Small Glories on October 7th and you will be entered in a draw to win two weekend passes to Summerfolk 42

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Small Glories at the Roxy

The Small Glories return to Owen Sound

They are a duo in the best tradition of Richard and Linda Thompson, Emmylou and Gram Parsons. The Glories took the festival by storm and you can enjoy them again at the Roxy theatre this October.

“The Small Glories are the ultimate: two amazing solo performers who somehow manage to melt into one entity, creating incredible harmonies that still raise the hairs on the back of my neck as I write.”
— Jennifer Ives, AD, Live from the Rock Music Festival

Tickets are available here

 

2 Summerfolk Favourites – 2 Concerts – A chance to win 2 passes to Summerfolk 42

Small Glories Oct 7th Roxy Theatre – Irish Mythen Nov 26th Harmony Centre

Get your tickets at the Roxy box office.

*Order advanced tickets for BOTH concerts and your name will be entered in a draw for a pair of passes to Summerfolk 42

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Refreshing Classics And New Traditions

By James Keelaghan
It should be no surprise to you that with a name like Keelaghan, I know a bit about Celtic flavoured music. It might surprise you that it’s not the fiddle in Irish trad that really gets me going — it’s the tenor banjo.

There is a whole twisted and fascinating history of how the banjo got into Irish music, but however it got there, I think the music is the better for it.

For a number of years, the tenor banjo all but disappeared from traditional celtic music. In the ballad heavy 50s and 60s, the five-string banjo was king. But with the trad revival of the 70s, it came roaring back. Kieran Hanrahan of Stockton’s Wing and Mick Moloney brought it to the fore. I was backpacking in Ireland in 1979 at the height of the revival and the sound of the tenor banjo was the soundtrack of my travels.

It went out of fashion for a while, but there’s been another renaissance, though the resurgence has been mainly in Canada. Composers like the late Jean-Paul Loyer and players like Darren McMullen, who was with us last year as part of Còig, have been bringing it back.

Which brings me to The East Pointers, who are joining us for the first time at Summerfolk this year. The East Pointers are a wicked band. Wicked! Tim Chaisson is surely one of the finest fiddlers on the planet, and a great songwriter in his solo career. Jake Charron is a rock-solid rhythm guitar player-like a machine, he drives the tunes forward. And then, there is the tenor banjo player, Koady Chaisson. His playing is staccato, but it isn’t square. It pushes and it pulls, but it never drags. When all three instruments suddenly land on the melody line, it’s electric, played with a precision that is at odds with the laid-back look of the group. You wonder how much they must have played in order to be so pristine. They don’t play it sitting down, either, which is also a change. It adds to the raw energy of their sets.

The East Pointers

The East Pointers

Here’s the best thing—all the tunes are new. There are no old chestnuts, but every single tune sounds like it’s already a part of the tradition. It helps that the Chaissons (Tim and Koady are cousins) are one of the dynastic musical families on PEI. There have been at least seven generations of musical Chaissons on the island. While the taste in the family has always run to the Scottish, The East Pointers have brought in the Irish and the French to create a sound that not only raises the roof, but rattles the floor. Add Tim working on a stomp box and the pickup system that allows Jake to play bass as well as guitar—it is innovation-advancing tradition at its very best.

I get excited about music that has a bloodline that goes along with the melody line. Music that knows where it came from is inherently more interesting than a flavour of the week, or music from an artist that is dipping a toe into a genre.

Lindi Ortega is serious about the bloodline of country music. Last year she wrote an article partly in response to some things that Blake Shelton said. Specifically his contention that, “Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music” and his reasoning that sales are the only measure of good country music. What bugged Ortega was that Shelton’s solution to making country more popular is that commercial country music is now a …“bro country” domain. It is a world full of frat boys, partying and drinking, and making sure their women wear tight jeans and are referred to as “girl”.

She summed it up beautifully. “Gone are the days of originality, not only in style but in songwriting. In that classic era you could tell the difference between Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. Artists were easily discernible and legends arose because of their unique qualities that made them not only country music legends, but revered and respected all over the world.”

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Ortega is nothing if not discernible. She doesn’t fit the mold. You get the feeling that she probably stands out at industry mixers. That’s bound to happen in a world that often mistakes fashion for achievement. In a town that is notoriously hard on artists that are “different”, critics have nothing but praise for her. Universally, the praise refers to her as refreshing. They then point out that the refreshing thing about Lindi is that she has a classic sound and classic sensibility.

Her songwriting style is confessional, but not self-indulgent. In this, she is solidly in the bloodline of country music. She writes and sings stories that are missing from mainstream commercial country. She’s not singing about pick-ups and beer. It’s about heartache and being from the wrong side of the tracks. It’s about good women and bad choices.

Her singing voice is true, but has rough edges. It’s a voice with character, easily identifiable. If you HAD to make a comparison to a voice from the classic generation, I’d choose Kitty Wells singing It wasn’t God that made Honkey Tonk Angels.

She’s been known to play some classic covers during her sets, but like The East Pointers, she’s really all about moving the tradition forward. To make people realize that their grandpa’s music was pretty good, and that’s the standard you have to write to.

The refreshingly classic Lindi Ortega and new tradition of The East Pointers will be gracing the stages of the 41st annual Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival on August 19, 20, and 21st at Kelso Beach Park. There’s more info at summerfolk.org.

The View From Stage Right

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By David Newland

The other day, my teenage daughter confronted me: “Dad, why are you still wearing that t-shirt? It’s ten years old!” I looked down, stunned. “What?! This is my Summerfolk 30th anniversary shirt!” Okay, guilty as charged. But I can explain…

In 2004, I’d been playing as a singer-songwriter in Ontario for a couple of years. Festival gigs were hard to come by. I had played at a Last Chance Saloon for a slot at Summerfolk, and despite many a plastic beer cup raised to my effort, I didn’t get the gig.

 I did, however, get a chance to walk through the site at Kelso Park, where so many of my musical heroes had played. Walking among the standing stones with the winter wind whipping off Georgian Bay, I dedicated myself to someday playing Summerfolk.

 Elsewhere on the scene, fellow performers and volunteers talked of great moments spent at Summerfolk; of Willie P. Bennett and Stan Rogers; of passionate fans lined up to place their tarps; of late night jams, summer storms and endless encores; of a volunteer corps second to none.

 I got invited to play one of the off-season GBFS songwriter series shows, in a lovely theatre above the old courthouse. I stayed in a B&B with a basement vault, a relic of the Prohibition era whiskey trade. At the Tom Thomson gallery, I discovered the painter’s mandolin, a poignant artifact I have made a point of visiting time and again. If I couldn’t play the festival (yet) I could love and admire the place. And I did.

 When Liz Harvey-Foulds took over as AD in 2005, she hired some musical friends of mine, and one of them, Jory Nash, asked if I could help out as a volunteer stage host at the Homemade Jam stage. I jumped at the chance. You know the old saying: if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with… hosting. People I’d been listening to for years were playing: Tanglefoot, Rita Chiarelli, Garnet Rogers. I got to sit in on an Ian Tamblyn workshop! I was hooked.

 The following year I was back, hosting Down By the Bay. The dream was coming true by tiny increments. Prairie Oyster, Lynn Miles, Crooked Still… I was still a fan, but now I was finding myself backstage with these folks. On Sunday morning I caught the gospel workshop from my canoe, Suzie Vinnick’s voice echoing off the grain elevators.

 In 2009, with Richard Knechtel at the helm, I was back with my band, The McFlies. Rocking Down By the Bay, right before Hoots and Hellmouth on the Saturday night, was one of my favourite musical moments ever. The next day, Sharon, of Sharon, Lois & Bram showed up at a kids’ workshop I was hosting and joined me onstage for Skinnimarink. Does it get any better?

 It did. In 2011, Richard called again: how about hosting mainstage? Yes sir, I said. Summerfolk was one of seven festivals I did that year with my fiancée by my side, weeks before our wedding. Now I had someone to share all my favourite things with: the steam powered corn cooker, the deep fried turkey legs. The beach and the tipi and the smiling faces now becoming familiar: Pete Miller driving the shuttle van, Ariel Rogers managing the tweeners. Steve and Steve in the CIUT tent. The instrument petting zoo!

 In 2012, Summerfolk had a new Artistic Director, and I had a new album. James Keelaghan offered me a night hosting mainstage again, the usual workshop slots and a spot in a brand new venue: the Wine Bar. Now my wife was pregnant and the in-laws were along in support. Summerfolk had become a multi-generational affair in more ways than one: Nathan Rogers (with Dry Bones) took to the stage named after his father, just one among a slew of acts like Chic Gamine, Al Simmons, H’SAO, and my old buddy Dave Gunning. Wow.

 Two years later came another call from Keelo, this time with a bold request: would I host all three nights on main stage? On that long-ago winter’s day, all I’d hoped for was the chance to play the festival one day. And now I would be introducing the likes of Laura Cortese, Oh Suzannah, and the incredible Buffy Ste. Marie? Yes, I said. YES!

 And now here we are in 2015. Once again, I find myself heading to Owen Sound to host mainstage at Summerfolk. Now, it’s not just heroes, but colleagues and friends I have the honour of introducing: Up-and-comers, the Young Novelists. Ukulele wizard James Hill and the wildly talented Shari Ulrich. Samantha Martin, whose band will simply blow people away. The profound and insightful Evalyn Parry and the passionate and inspiring Digging Roots. The outlandish Steve Poltz and the haunting Sarah MacDougall. Joel Plaskett! Trout Fishing in America! Whitehorse!

 So yeah, I’m still wearing my volunteer t-shirt from 2005. It’s not yet holey, but it’s kinda… holy. Still, I may pick up a new one this year. Summerfolk 40? Sounds like a dream come true to me.

Trout Fishing in America

Trout Fishing in America

By James Keelaghan
Nineteen eighty-eight was the first year I played Summerfolk with my own band. The festival, as usual, supplied rooms to out of town performers. Our rooms were on the ground floor of the hotel. My mandolin player, Kathy Cook, shared a hotel room with a young up and coming songwriter named Shaun Colvin. I shared a room with my curmudgeonly bass player, Bill Eaglesham.

On the Friday night, at the hotel, the party spilled out of the function room and into the hallway. People would emerge from rooms with mandolins, guitars or banjos and disappear into one of the many jam sessions going on. At the far end of the hall, a door opened and a man stepped into the hall. You couldn’t miss him. He was 6’8 with broad shoulders. He seemed to fill the hallway. Behind him, a more diminutive man was negotiating the passage with an upright bass. That was my first glimpse of Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet, better known as Trout Fishing in America.

I got to see them in action that night and they were the life of the party. Over the course of the weekend, I caught them as many times as I could. I came to realize they are that most essential of festival elements-the spark plug. They are musical instigators. They are also so proficient, and so sensitive, that they can play with anyone. Ezra and Keith manage to put other performers at ease and get them playing with one another.

Their personalities are as different as their heights. Ezra is more playful and extroverted while Keith is more serious and reserved. The difference is what makes them so strong. They bring out the best in one another.

Keith began playing music professionally when he was still in his teens. He was part of the Texas All-State Orchestra for years and later earned a degree in music from the University of Houston. At 22, he landed a position with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Keith put himself through college with the inevitable basketball scholarship and by playing pop music in local clubs.

Idlet and Grimwood met  in 1976 when they became members of the eclectic folk/rock band, St. Elmo’s Fire. When St. Elmo’s dissolved in 1979, Trout Fishing in America was born (named for Keith’s love of Richard Brautigan’s writing and Ezra’s love of fishing).

I have rarely met two musicians more accomplished than Keith and Ezra. There are many reasons that they have been doing this for almost 40 years-solid rhythms, blazing riffs and great writers who also know how to cover other people’s material. Add to that four grammy nominations and an upright bass full of other awards and you get the idea. It’s only fitting that they join us for our 40th on the eve of their 40th. They are also one of the most requested acts from Summerfolk fans.

It’s rare to have a band that has seen you through a couple of decades of your life. The other day I pulled up a list of performers from that year. Of the 13 duos or bands at the 1988 festival, there are two still in existence. Trout Fishing in America is one of them.

One of the great things about Trout Fishing, from an artistic director’s perspective, is you get two bands in one. There is no denying their appeal to the adults, but Keith and Ezra discovered early on that they also were kid magnets. There are very few artists that can pull that off. Usually one or the other suffers. That’s why they will not only headline our mainstage, but will also be the highlight of our Family programme.

Summerfolk has always been a family affair. In fact, some families are represented by three generations at Summerfolk. We’ve expanded the family programme and made it easier on the family pocket book this year by making admission free for children 12 and under accompanied by a ticketed adult.

This year our children’s area will feature, the massive craft tent, Todd’s musical petting zoo, a Sunday afternoon children’s parade, and a return of Elephant Thoughts with reptile displays, Science gizmos and gadgets, a bubble station and more.

Our children’s parade was one of the highlights for the festival in 2014 and it’ll be even better this year. Stilt walkers, costumes, a 30 foot articulated dragon decorated by the kids and a parade route that takes them through the park and to the opening of the evening concert.

This year, we will also be having a children’s open stage session in the gazebo tent. It’s a chance for the youngsters to strut their stuff.

Trout Fishing will be doing workshops all weekend at the 40th Annual Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival and will headline the amphitheatre stage on Saturday Aug. 22. Their featured kid’s show will be that same Saturday afternoon. Summerfolk happens at Kelso Beach Park Aug 20-23. All the information you need, and links to tickets can be found at summerfolk.org or by phoning 519-371-2995.

Alysha Brilla Warmed a Windy April Night

Alysha at MicAlysha Brilla brought a taste of the Summerfolk spirit to the Roxy stage on a blustery April night. The Georgian Bay Folk Society partnered with the Roxy Theatre to bring Alysha and her band back to Owen Sound 7 months after they rocked the stages of Summerfolk 39. With a full band behind her and an enthusiastic audience in front, Alysha raised the temperature in the theatre with heartfelt love songs, powerful political messages, and irresistible grooves.

When Alysha plays she invites the audience to participate, literally. Before the concert a four year old fan had the chance to meet Alysha and – to her surprise – recited an entire verse from one of her songs. Halfway through the first set, Alysha invited her youngest fan up on to the stage to perform that part of the song with her. Hearts melted. By the end of the second set all barriers were down, audience members were dancing in the aisles, and Alysha pulled over a dozen people up on to the stage for one final dance party. Even band members took turns setting aside their instruments to move their bodies alongside the elevated audience. One of the great truths of music is that busting a move can bring people together.

Alysha and the band gave three collective bows before leaving the stage but the crowd didn’t let them get away easily. On their feet in the seats, the audience’s standing ovation morphed into a steady chant of “Brilla, Brilla, Brilla” while the band huddled in the wings deciding on the encore.

When the house lights came up for the final time and the last ringing notes were fading in the theatre, fans gathered around the merchandise table to meet Alysha, collect autographs from the band, and buy Juno-nominated albums  to take home. Summerfolk may be four months away but watching the audience make their way to the street at the end of the night  you wouldn’t have known it. They left with the smiles and certain bouncy step that best characterize Kelso Beach on the third weekend in August.
Alysha and horn section
Alysha and crowd dancing onstage
Special thanks to John Fearnall and  Good Noise Photography for the images.

Sun Times Articles 07/11/2014 Oh Susanna

 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.The Sun Times online edition here

In the summer of 2012 Suzie Ungerleider and I were at the Mariposa Folk Festival. Suzie is better known to music fans as Oh Susanna. We were both performing, but we also had our families there. On the Sunday afternoon we hung out at the splash pad with our kids. “Splash pad” and “Oh Susanna” were not words that I thought would ever be used in the same paragraph.

PollockHeather-OhSusanna-3890-1 (8x12)

I met her first in 1997. She was on the Scrappy Bitches Tour with Veda Hille and Kinnie Starr, playing at MacEwan Hall in Calgary. It was a magic night. I had never heard her before, though I had started hearing of her through the grapevine.

Suzie’s voice is like a distant bell heard through a bank of fog. The songs are coal mine dark. They are narratives full of mayhem and broken dreams. Folk songs in short.

She’s always been attracted to storytelling and having characters drive the songs. The songs have a classic sound, like Appalachian ballads.

The moodiness of the songs are at odds with the woman. Ungerleider is engaging, charming and quick to laugh.

Suzie and I run into one another at semi-regular intervals, as musicians do. She’s one of those people who you can pick up with, no matter how long ago you left off.

So, I was looking forward to seeing Suzie at last year’s Summerfolk. However, a couple of months before the festival her agent called to say Suzie had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was going to be undergoing treatment and was not going to be able to play the festival.

Suzie described for me the period between when they suspected it was cancer and when they confirmed it. She stepped on stage every night and sang all the haunting songs she does so beautifully. Suddenly they had a very personal edge. Now she was the character at the centre of a very dark ballad.

She told me that once she was diagnosed, things became less ominous. The people overseeing her treatment were encouraging, reminding her that breast cancer is a treatable disease. She message she gave to herself was positive; deal with this and you will live a long life. She put the dark feelings aside. Her friends and family rallied to her.

She’s doing great now. The occasional bout of tiredness, but she’s enjoying life and busy finishing the projects that were delayed by the cancer.

One of those projects is her upcoming CD, Namedropper.

Suzie is recognized as a great song writer. With Namedropper, she wanted to acknowledge the inspiration she gets from her peers. The people who, she says, inspire us, break our hearts and kick us in the ass.

Her and confidante, Jim Bryson ( Sarah Harmer, Kathleen Edwards, The Weakerthans) began asking other writers for songs, preferably new or unrecorded, that would suit Oh Susanna.

In a way, Namedropper is a tribute album. Suzie wanted to honour the Canadian songwriting community and it seems they wanted to honour her as well. The list of writers who eagerly contributed songs is stunning.

Songs came from Ron Sexsmith who wrote Wait Until The Sun Comes Up for her. Old Man Leudecke, Amelia Curran, Royal Wood and The Good Lovelies all contributed as well.

She says recording their tunes lead her to understand more deeply the difference between being a singer-songwriter and being a singer. Even if you have characters in your songs, essentially the song you’ve written is a piece of you. Singing a song written by someone else let’s you experience the other’s persona. Singing becomes a physical act, unencumbered by ownership of the words.

Namedropper was nearly finished when Suzie was diagnosed with cancer. She felt guilt that her ensuing treatment would put the brakes on a project that fans and contributors were looking forward to. She needn’t have worried. Namedropper has become one of the most anticipated releases of 2014.

Early in the project Jim Cuddy wrote Dying Light for her-the chorus was almost prophetic,

Come back to me darlin’

Let me know you’re all right

Cause I can’t let go of this dying light

I’m happy to say that Oh Susanna is more than all right. I’m excited that she will be joining us at Summerfolk this year and not just because I get to hear her sing. I’ve also got plans for a visit to the splash pad.

Oh Susanna will be appearing with Jim Bryson at Summerfolk August 15, 16, 17 at Kelso Beach Park. Ticket information, schedules, performer bios and links are all available at summerfolk.org. You can also phone us at 519-371-2995.

 

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 www.summerfolk.org

 

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

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