Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ottawa Folk Festival

It’s the middle of August and we’re finally getting some sunny and warm-to-hot July weather. According to a meteorologist I heard on the CBC today, they’re expecting this new trend of nice summer weather to last into September. That’s good because next weekend, Friday August 21 to Sunday August 23, is the Ottawa Folk Festival and it would be nice if it’s rain-free and warm.

The folk festival has long been my favourite Ottawa festival. Years before I actually started working in Ottawa in 2007, I was making an annual trip to the nation’s capital for the Ottawa Folk Festival.

The main headliner this year is Bruce Cockburn – a hometown hero in Ottawa. I’ve known Bruce for a long time and first saw him perform at the Back Door, a little coffee house in Montreal circa 1970. He’s been a guest on Folk Roots/Folk Branches and I did a big cover feature on him for Sing Out! Magazine back in 2002. My review of Bruce's latest album, Slice O Life: Live Solo, is in the current issue of Sing Out! He’s a great songwriter, a highly creative guitarist and a charismatic performer. Bruce will be headlining the Saturday evening concert and doing a workshop on Sunday afternoon.

The other headliner is Steven Page, now out on his own after splitting from the Barenaked ladies. Steven will close out the Friday night concert.

There are a bunch of other artists at the festival I’m looking forward to seeing. Some of them – including Ray Bonneville, Penny Lang, Michael Jerome Browne and James Keelaghan – are veterans of multiple visits to Folk Roots/Folk Branches. Others that are high on my list include Amelia Curran, who is one of the most impressive new artists I’ve heard in years; the incredible ukulele-cello duo of James Hill & Anne Davison (I’ve just reviewed their new CD for the Fall issue of Sing Out!); the old-time and Cajun duo of Dirk Powell & Christine Balfa; The Good Lovelies, a delightful trio of fine singer-songwriters and harmony singers; Radoslav Lorkovic, an excellent pianist, accordionist and musical catalyst; Sheesham & Lotus, a duo who do wonderfully entertaining things with old-time music; Bryan Bowers, probably the world’s greatest autoharp players; and Ball & Chain, who do great things with real-deal country music.

Something that I've come to really anticipate over the past couple of years at the Ottawa Folk Festival is the Cross-Cultural Artist Collaboration, in which artists from varied traditions get together and let the music take them to new and unique places.

The festival is also doing some interesting thematic programming centred on gardening and the environment and has a lot of participatory opportunities.

You can explore it all on the Ottawa Folk Festival website. Hope to see you next week at Britannia Park.

--Mike Regenstreif

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