A massive crowd shares the love with Monkey Junk, Colin James, Big Dave McLean and Rick Vito who “blew it up real good” in a Sunday afternoon workshop at the Blues stage in 2018. (Photo contributed)

Unique musical fusions offer festivalgoers something new

Roots and Blues workshops find common ground for performing musicians

By Barb Brouwer


What happens when artists perform on their own at Roots and Blues is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of performance.

As he creates the festival lineup, artistic director Peter North has a pretty good idea where and when artists will appear, but putting together the “side stage” workshops is another matter.

In many cases participating artists have never met, let alone played with each other. The result is that everyone – artists and audience alike, often hear and learn something new.

North is hoping three Friday afternoon workshops will draw festivalgoers to the fairgrounds, well before the formal opening at 6 p.m.

Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy will lead the “Department of Veterans’ Affairs” on the Blues Stage from 3:15 to 4:25 p.m. He will be joined by Canadian folk and country icon Valdy, Canadian heartbreak poets Lynn Miles and Lynne Hanson and Jack De Keyser, one of Canada’s most awarded and in-demand live performers and session guitarists.

Also, on the Blues Stage from 4:45 to 5:50 p.m. is “Standards and Classics” featuring the Jack Semple Band, Big Willy G, Henry Small, Jenie Thai and House Band sax player Dave Babcock playing people’s favourite blues tunes.

Festivalgoers will have some hard choosing to do as “What’s Going’ On” will play out in the same time frame over at the Barn Stage.

Show up at 4:45 to hear songs of social justice and social action with Ruthie Foster, who will be joined by Vancouver soul dynamo Dawn Pemberton and The Hamiltones.

“I can’t wait to hear that and I think it will be a nice kickoff to the festival and draw a lot of people to the grounds early, says North.

Start your Saturday festival experience at 10:15 with “Morning Meditation” at the Shade Stage, a workshop North describes as “mellow, thoughtful, with a Celtic slant and West Coast vibe.” Hear Early Spirit, Tristan le Govic, Qristina Bachand and Valdy.

The Shade Stage will be the venue for an hourlong, Saturday afternoon fiddle workshop hosted by Jim Cuddy’s fiddle player, Anne Lindsay, who also excels as a solo artist. Beginning at 1:50, Lindsay will share the stage with Early Spirit violinist Gabriel Dubreuil, Unfaithful Servants fiddler Miriam Sonstenes and Tom Morrow of the Irish band Dervish.

“We haven’t had one for a few years,” says an enthusiastic North of the fiddle workshop. “There are so many styles – Celtic, swing, blues.”

The Blues Stage will be the place for two Saturday workshops: A Blues Piano Workshop session begins at 10:45 a.m. and features, the Bob Hall Trio and Jenie Thai, a major emerging blues talent who plays barrelhouse piano steeped in the blues.

Hear “The Country Side of Blues” at 11:50 a.m. with the Steve Pineo Band, Tracy Lynn, Greg Blake and Anne Savage.

Head over to the Barn Stage at at 1:50 for “Migration Routes” with the Birds of Chicago, The Hamiltones and Danny Michel.

Stay for the 3 p.m. start of “Mandolin Wind,” a fine taste of mandolin, bouzouki, bodhrán and more, featuring the Andrew Collins Trio, Jesse Cobb and Alex Rempel of The Unfaithful Servants, Brian McDonagh, Michel Holmes and Cathy Jordan of Dervish.

“The mandolin is my favourite instrument and I am really excited about this workshop; I think there will be real sparks here,” North says.

Festivalgoers can feed their need for funky grooves performed by young artists in another Saturday afternoon workshop at the Barn Stage. “NASA We Have a Pulse” showcases the talents of The OM Sound, Tony Aganaba, Ostwelve and more.

Pulses will quicken when the Barn Stage features “Evening Kicks With Tal and Garifuna.”

Both bands live on the the same latitude – one in Belize, Central America and the other 10,000 miles across the Atlantic in Niger, Africa.

“It will be interesting to see how they click,” muses North. “They are all descendants of slaves and will be sharing their roots.”

Gospel will take centre stage in two Sunday workshops.

Canadian singer, songwriter, musician and performer Tracy Lynn and her Savage Hearts band will deliver Country Bluegrass Gospel off site at 11 a.m. at the Salmon Arm Theatre on Hudson Avenue. And, The Hamiltones and Dawn Pemberton will provide what North describes as “really exciting black gospel” on the Barn Stage at noon.

Read more: Ruthie Foster brings her musical mastery to Roots and Blues

Read more: Roots & Blues adds four more acts to 2019 festival

Read more: Jim Cuddy to return to Roots and Blues stage

Read more: Third World brings reggae fusion infusion to Roots and Blues

The Barn Stage is the site of several more Sunday workshops.

At 10:30 a.m., an all-star lineup – Dervish, Anne Lindsay, Qristian and Quinn Bachand – take part in. a Celtic Workshop. And at 12:10 p.m.Irish Mythen hosts “Could Be Songwriters,” a workshop that features JT Nero, Allison Russell, Steve Dawson, John Wort Hannam and Sue Foley.

At 1:30 it’s “Dawg Days of Summer” featuring the Andrew Collins Trio, Quinn Bachand, Jesse Stone of The Unfaithful Servants and Early Spirit’s Ben Kelly.

North is also excited about “Ice Queen and King Bees,” which plays out at 4:10 Sunday on the Blues Stage.

Ice Queen Sue Foley, lead guitarist, songwriter and vocalist who holds the record for the most Maple Blues Awards in Canada, is joined by Bob Hall on piano, Lil’ Jimmy Reed, last of the original Louisiana bluesmen, as well as House Band members Brent Parkin and Dave Babcock.

The 27th annual Roots and Blues Festival plays out Aug. 15 to 18 at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds. Visit www.rootsandblues.ca for important ticket information.


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