BBQ, Blizzards and Ballads: A Folk Alliance Recap
Bracketed by the funniest flight of my life and then an afternoon drifting through the Kansas City airport (population 26) waiting to get back to Toronto, the performances I saw at FAI 2015 were among the best I’ve seen this year.
My tendency toward hyperbole and the fact that it’s only February aside, no really, I’m serious. My bored mind is looking everywhere for musical stimulation and coming up blank. Repeatedly. Thanks to the performers who shook me out of this rut over the weekend; here’s a quick recap of what got me going, and should get you worked up too.
Where in the world did this girl come from? Alberta, I say proudly. Young women – young people these days are blowing me away with their ability to find an infinite amount of time to practice. They’re running circles around instrumentalists twice and three times their age. Lappa is beyond adept on banjo and piano, writing thought-provoking songs with inspiration as diverse as Hamlet and the nomadic existence of gypsies. Don’t let her pass you by.
‘Nother Albertan. I’m not biased, but I did feel I should spend a bit of time in home territory. For future reference, the Alberta room, hosted by the Bow Valley Music Club, is a treasure trove of awesome performers and community spirit – and it complements other rooms like Breakout West. Hoyt mixes clogging and fiddling into original tunes that draw on Irish ballad traditions and contemporary songwriting influences. Not to be deterred by airline limitations, Hoyt packed a cutting board to serve all of her clogging needs.
I was intrigued when I first heard from Roper’s people in the fall; he at first appears like a Vancouver Island hippie Hendrix with a sense of humour. Further examination revealed a guitarist who is trying to modernize the blues with some vigour (that’s putting it mildly) and the contemporary perspective of the young heartbroken dude. Don’t be put off by his throwback vibe: he’s younger and sweeter than the image in his videos suggests, and will draw you into his mesmerizing performance right away. He’s touring right now and will be at Wine-Ohs in Calgary Feb. 27.
I swear I’m not playing regional favourites, and actually, I’m merely reminding you all that I like Calgary’s JR Shore. Haven’t talked about him for awhile on this site, and the guy needs way more attention than he’s getting. The three songs I saw him perform were among the best I heard all weekend – he’s funny, sharp, and able to pull off a duelling ragtime piano number about a Texas foosball challenge like nobody else. Has anyone else tried?
Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar
Uh, whoa. I only caught the last two songs of this set, but holy god. As Canadian room organizer Richard Flohil put it, “Staples Singers meets the swamp.” Samantha Martin is a force on her own, with a voice that governs any room, band, or genre she tackles, but pair her with backup singers Sherie Marshall and Stacie Tabb and you’ve got a powerhouse, even with only the guitar and drums they had behind them. The group plays Flohil’s Playhouse series at the Painted Lady in Toronto next Thursday, March 5.
The man behind my funny flight deserves an entry of his own, on its way in the near future. For now, just go have a listen.