The artists are booked and now it’s just a matter of waiting for the hottest show in town, The Roots and Blues Festival.
Along with a stellar list of new additions, four of this year’s artists won awards at the recent Western Canadian Music Awards: Blues Artist of the Year – B.C.’s David Gogo; BreakOut Artist of the Year – Manitoba band The Bros. Landreth; Electronic/Dance Artist of the Year – Vancouver’s Delhi 2 Dublin and World Artist of the Year – Locarno, another B.C. product.
This final burst of 14 festival acts broadens what is already a wide array of talent and styles from points north, south, east and west.
One of the finest bluegrass bands anywhere, John Reischman and The Jaybirds, will be dispensing their high lonesome sound that is found on five outstanding releases.
Two additional West Coast-based acts, Tiller’s Folly and Circus In Flames will mine musical ground that is decidedly different, yet embraced by roots music fans with broad musical palettes.
Tiller’s Folly has had a musical mandate of presenting spirited folk tunes that finds its inspiration in the 18th century history of the Pacific Northwest. Just last year Tiller’s Folly was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for Roots Group Recording of the Year.
Circus In Flames lead Doug Andrew began his career in the Vancouver independent music scene in the early 1980s. Over the years he has shared the stage with such notables as the Ramones to Raffi to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. He has continued to write songs and is today recognized as an accomplished singer-songwriter respected by critics, peers and music fans alike.
Coming to Roots and Blues 2016 with a completely different musical sensibility is the award-winning classical ensemble Quartetto Gelato.
The group’s repertoire consists of a mix of masterworks and operatic arias with tangos, Gypsy, and folk songs from around the world. As one reviewer stated, “Quartetto Gelato proves that they are indeed the Cirque du Soleil of classical music – always fresh, full of surprises, constantly re-inventing.”
And what other classical quartet can boast an oboe player who is also a master claw hammer banjo player?
Also from Central Canada comes one of the country’s new blues heroes, who is making his first venture out west the week of Roots and Blues. Sugar Brown has immersed himself in the sounds of everything from the Velvet Underground and Tom Waits to R.L. Burnside and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Absolutely mesmerizing is the only way to describe this guitarist and singer. Brown was nominated in 2016 for New Artist of the Year honours at the Maple Blues Awards, as was Samantha Martin who will be fronting the festival’s gospel show with The Sojourners and Jerry Lawson of the Persuasions.
In keeping with the festival’s mandate of supporting regional talent, four homegrown acts will also cut across roots music sub-genres. Fernie’s Shred Kelly bring their brand of roots-rock to the Boogie Bar-N on Aug. 19 and 20. Also coming from the Kootenays is the Celtic-trio HarpPixie, and adding considerably to the Celtic mix, from Kamloops comes the duo of Crossbow, harpist Neil Burnett and cellist Christian Zaenker.
Rounding out the regional component is local Shuswap faves, Seal Skull Hammer.
From Alberta comes Stewart MacDougall, a fine tunesmith whose material has been recorded by k.d. lang, Ian Tyson, and Randy Travis. Also making a first appearance at Roots and Blues is Calgary’s T Buckley Trio.
Last but not least, are two acts that will leave big impressions.
British singer-songwriter Adrian Nation comes with a deep skill set, one that has allowed him to comfortably played both the prestigious Cambridge Folk Festival and Cambridge Rock Festival.
As one British scribe reported, “like one of his inspirations, Bruce Cockburn, Adrian includes a solo guitar instrumental Five Finger Rapids to show how good a player he is – something you might forget while admiring his songwriting.”
Harrow Fair is Miranda Mulholland of Great Lake Swimmers and Andrew Penner of Sunparlour Players. Already receiving rave reviews, look for this duo to take the Canadian folk-roots scene by storm.
Add these talented newcomers to a stellar pool that includes Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle, Whitehorse, Matt Andersen, Great Lake Swimmers, Eric Bibb, Amy Helm, Paul Barrere and Fred Tacket of Little Feat fame, The New Orleans Suspects and Digging Roots and you’ve got a festival well-worth waiting for.
Ticket sales are shaping up too, and are ahead of last year’s at this point in time. Earlybird prices that pare $40 off a three-day festival pass are in effect until May 31. Get yours at www.rootsandblues.ca, 250-833-4096.