If the cold, dark nights and grey days are getting you down, fast forward eight months to the red-hot Roots and Blues Festival.
Picture yourself parked in a comfortable deck chair listening to world-class music, while sipping a lemonade or coffee.
Work is well underway in creating a slate of awesome artists for the 2016 festival, which plays out Aug. 19 to 21.
Joining the likes of Great Lake Swimmers and Whitehorse – two popular Canadian bands that have both sold out Toronto’s Massey Hall – are New Orleans Suspects and Amy Helm.
“Every major music city has an all-star project band, or bands, and one of the finest in one of the great music Mecca’s of the world is the New Orleans Suspects who came together six years ago in the Big Easy,” says artistic director Peter North.
What was considered at the outset a part-time/good-time project, quickly became a full-time endeavour as Neville Brothers’ drummer “Mean” Willie Green, Radiators bassist Reggie Scanlon, Dirty Dozen Brass Band lead guitarist Jake Eckert, pianist/organist CR Gruver and sax ace and longtime leader of James Brown Band, Jeff Watkins, clicked on so many levels that audiences and promoters were demanding more gigs and requesting recordings of which the Suspects now have three.
“It’s an odd combination of backgrounds,” says Watkins. “But we’ve honed it into our own voice.”
“We reflect every place we’ve been,” adds Scanlon, whose résumé includes work with Crescent City staples like Professor Longhair, James Booker and Earl King.
“Jeff had 12 years with James. You can’t leave that behind,” he adds.
As its name might imply, the band sometimes nods to hometown heroes, including Dr. John and the Meters. Equally important are soul giants like Wilson Pickett, James Brown and Sam & Dave, as well as roots-based rockers Little Feat and The Band.
Look for the New Orleans Suspects to be on the festival site for two days, Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21.
“When it comes to making a commitment to Canadian content for the 2016 edition of Roots and Blues, this festival couldn’t choose a finer contemporary roots act to join us for a couple of days than Whitehorse,” says North.
Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet have, over the past five years, established themselves as one of the most creative pairings of the new millennium in roots and roots-rock driven music in North America.
Having established themselves as separate forces on the music scene in the nineties, Doucet as one of the finest and most adventuresome guitarists around, and McClelland as a superior tunesmith and singer, this duo, now husband and wife, released their debut self-titled effort in 2011 to critical raves.
“Since then the two, who are also powerhouse performers on stage, have been building a discography that includes an e.p. of material sung in French, another e.p. of choice, classic Canadian covers, and two delicious slates of originals that received raves on both sides of the border, Leave No Bridge Unburned and The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss, North adds.
That the two can also mine wonderfully penned songs from solo outings like McClelland’s outstanding 2009 Victoria Day release, and in Doucet’s case, his 2008 winner Blood’s Too Rich which was on the receiving end of rave reviews.
Whitehorse comes to Roots and Blues with an agenda that will find McClelland and Doucet working both together and apart on side stages, and, of course, as a featured act on the main stage.
Listen to Whitehorse at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPuDPMa9eLo.
Moving back to the U.S. music scene, Amy Helm is an American singer-songwriter and daughter of The Band drummer Levon Helm and singer Libby Titus.
2015 has been a grand year for Helm, what with her chart-topping debut solo album Didn’t It Rain and a string of rave reviews for her soulful and spirited live shows.
“So it is no wonder that many of us are convinced that the gifted artist will continue impressing audiences in 2016, and one of those audiences will be right here in the Shuswap at Roots and Blues on the weekend of Aug. 19,” says North. “Didn’t It Rain may be her solo debut, but this artist made a string of great recordings as a member of the group Ollabelle, while also making significant contributions to her late father Levon Helm’s live shows and Grammy-winning recordings, right up until his passing in 2012.”
Her legendary father, one of the driving forces of The Band, is the drumming heartbeat on three tracks on Didn’t It Rain and Helm often reflects in interviews on how her father was “as great a teacher as you could ask for.”
“She will be arriving at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds with her crackerjack band, The Handsome Strangers, and expect this crew to not only deliver a memorable main-stage show but add their expertise, spectacular instrumental and vocal fireworks to one of the many workshops that will be programmed for Roots and Blues 2016,” North adds.
Find out first hand why Amy Helm’s Didn’t It Rain hit number one on the Roots Music Report Charts and went Top Five on the Americana Music Charts at www.amyhelm.com.
Roots and Blues Festival tickets make awesome Christmas and birthday gifts and are available at earlybird prices until March 31.
Save even more money by taking out a $15 membership to the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society. Membership will also get you voting privileges at the society’s AGM which takes place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20 in the community room at Askew’s Uptown at
Festival passes are a great option for last-minute Christmas shoppers and are available at all Askew’s Foods Stores during the festive season. During this time, Askew’s is offering a special family pass.
For information and other ticket options, visit www.rootsandblues.ca.