The Calgary Folk Music Festival – Saturday
Prince’s Island Park
by Doug Heselgrave
After the cold and rainy weather yesterday, I didn’t know how much music I’d be able to take in today, but as I’m a guest of the festival, I thought it best to head down to the site early. So, with a pack full of almost all the clothes I brought with me, I began to walk the mile or so from the hotel to Prince’s Park. At first, light rain threatened to ruin my resolve, but the closer I got to the site, the sunnier it got. By the time I was at the entrance, swarms of people in short pants and t shirts appeared from every direction and this welcome sight along with the sounds of busker banjos in the air, immediately put me in a much better mood.
Prince’s Park is gorgeous in the sunshine. Situated along the banks of Calgary’s Bow River, it is the perfect place for a summer festival. (I know that I wrote that about the Comox and Vancouver Folk Festivals, too, but Canadian music festivals are famous for their amazing locales) The tarps and rain shelters that blocked the views yesterday were nowhere in sight, vendors opened shop and lineups formed around the gelato stands ( a sure sign of improved weather)
Here are some snapshots from the day so far –
Last night, Matt Anderson bravely played the mainstage during the worst of the weather. Today, in the relative heat and calm, I had a much better chance to appreciate his very fine music. A commanding performer with great songs and a powerful voice, what stood out most for me today was his amazing guitar work. Unlike many performers in the folk music genre where the songs are more important than the musicianship, he’s not simply a three chord basher or a simply adequate guitarist. His playing was subtle,fluid and complex and added lots of dimension to the other musicians he played with on the workshop stages. Hear him if you can.
Catherine MacLellan is one of my favourite young Canadian performers and the set I heard this morning was absolutely wonderful. Hearing her play them on her own (and supported by Matt Anderson and members of Newfoundland’s The Once) made me appreciate how much better her new songs sound live than when I first heard them on her new album, Silhouette. (I’m going to have to go back and listen more closely) If Joni Mitchell had written songs like ‘True Love’ (off of Silhouette) they would be huge hits. Catherine MacLelland remains one of Canada’s most closely guarded musical secrets, but if there is any justice in the world, that will change quickly.
In the old guard department, I heard Buffy Saint Marie sing one song while I was walking between stages. More than forty years into her career, she remains a class act who can make time stop as soon as she starts singing. Amazing to hear her again. The same goes for Jimmy Dale Gilmore who sang ‘Saginaw Michigan’ at a country workshop this morning. Some songs – when sung with soul – just simply never get old. Looking forward to his set with The Flatlanders tonight.
But, as good as all these performers were, the real highlight and reason to get on a plane to Calgary had to be the chance to hear Ernest Ranglin, the father of ska music and one of the world’s premier jazz guitarists jam with members of New Country Rehab and Mighty Popo at the Skatterlings workshop. Well into his seventies, Ranglin looked a little unsteady on his feet as he walked on stage, but once he got going, notes were flying in all directions as he played like a man half his age. Absolutely incredible. I look forward to interviewing him later today.
Still to come – The Head and the Heart, kd lang and Siss Boom Bang
This posting also appears at www.restlessandreal.blogspot.com