By Barb Brouwer
The stage is set for another spectacular Roots and Blues Festival.
The Main, Blues, Shade and Barn stages will be rocking with a lineup that includes Michael Franti, Colin James, The Family Stone, The Boom Booms, the Lil Smokies and so much more.
Some of the most amazing musical moments happen when the artists perform together in workshops created by artistic director Peter North. In many cases, the performers have never met, let alone played together.
But they all have one thing in common – a passion for making and sharing music.
Hittin’ it Out of the Park, from 3:20 to 4:50 p.m. Friday at the Shade Stage, are Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Bill Kirchen, Cindy Church and Nathan Tinkham, Pharis and Jason Romero and Russel de Carle and Steve Briggs.
All those artists have really fine songbooks and material that has stood the test of time, says North.
Next, wander over to the Barn Stage Friday from 6:30 to 7:30 when North says the chemistry should be great.
“Three heavyweight guitar slingers,” Bill Kirchen, Brent Parkin and Rick Vito, will present Aces High. Listen to them find common ground and push each other to new heights via blues, swing, rockabilly and heavy twang.
Rev up the day back at the Barn Saturday from 10:20 to 11:20 a.m., with Morning Smile, featuring Big Dave McLean, Seal Skull Hammer, Under the Rocks, Chris Ronald Trio and Geoff Berner.
North describes this workshop as “the roots music version of Yuk Yuk’s hosted by the Rodney Dangerfield of the blues.”
For a folksier start to the day, catch Who Knows Where the Time Goes with Geoffrey Kelly, Martin Simpson, Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage and Tom and Kalissa Landa.
“The influence of the folk tradition from the other side of the pond is front and centre,” says North of the Saturday morning workshop at the Shade stage from 10:15 to 11:15, which is expected to be a highlight of the weekend. “Geoffrey is one of the founders of Spirit of the West, is now with Paper Boys and has toured with the Irish Rovers. He just understands the traditions so well and he is really well-rounded.”
Wander over to the CBC Blues Stage at 11:55 a.m. on Saturday to learn “where the blues, meets jazz, meets swing,” says North of the great instrumentalists who will perform in the Never Felt More like Swinging the Blues workshop.
Head back to the Blues Stage at 4:15 for Classic Soul and R&B with The Boom Booms, The Family Stone, David Babcock, Colleen Brown and Rev. Sekou.
“It will be an abundance of phenomenal vocalists and I think everybody is really excited to play a little bit with members of The Family Stone and people who have been so influenced by The Family Stone,” says North, noting that Rev Sekou’s guitar player and the lead singer for The Boom Booms have said how excited they are to share the stage Saturday afternoon and work with their heroes.
“Smokies on the Water could be lots of fun,” North says of the workshop that features The Lil Smokies, Steve Dawson, Liam MacDonald of the Steve Dawson Band, Vanessa Marcoux, Marilène Provencher-Leduc and Gabriel Paquin-Buki of Oktupus at the Barn Stage Saturday, from 6:25 to 7:25 p.m.
“It’s just instrumental wizardry and people coming from different musical reference points,” says North. “I think they can come up with some interesting sounds.”
It’s Bombs Away when host MonkeyJunk, Colin James, Big Dave McLean and Rick Vito “blow it up real good” at the Blues Stage Sunday from 4:10 to 5:40 p.m.
“Monkey Junk and Colin James are really familiar with each other and Rick Vito and Colin jammed in Hawaii last year with the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band,” he says. “Everybody knows what each other is about so I think they could provide some of the most musical moments of the weekend.”
Other workshops will bring spontaneous musical combustion, Eastern European zest, grooves and rhythms and maybe the ghosts of Marty Robbins and Sam Peckinpah. Pick up a Roots and Blues Festival program to find out when and where to indulge in this veritable musical feast.