I spent much of last weekend having a fine old time at the fourth annual Festival Folk sur le canal at the Terrasse St-Ambroise on the grounds of the McAuslan Brewery on the Lachine Canal in Montreal. Congratulations to my friends Matt Large and Rebecca Anderson of Hello Darlin’Productions and Carl Comeau of Hyperbole Music for putting together another fine event.
For the first time this year, the festival added off-site Thursday and Friday events including a sold-out opening gala with the legendary John Sebastian on Thursday, June 16 at the Georges Vanier Cultural Centre. John’s been a favourite performer of mine since the 1960s, so I was disappointed that I was in Ottawa that night and couldn’t make it (the last time I saw John was in the late-1990s). I did hear from several people who were there that it was a great night.
On Friday afternoon and evening the festival moved onto the canal at Îlot Charlevoix for a free concert and folk jam. Again, I wasn’t there, but everything I heard about the event was very positive.
As noted, I was around for much of the Saturday and Sunday action at the Terrasse St-Ambroise – including a Sunday afternoon shift as the festival MC. Among my personal highlights were sets by several artists I’d never seen before including the Wildwood Flowers, an exciting, mostly-female, francophone band steeped in the traditional country music of the Carter Family; Emm Gryner, a piano-based singer-songwriter with strong original material but who slew me with a stunning version of “Tell My Sister,” a song written by my late friend Kate McGarrigle; Cécile Doo-Kingué, a singer-songwriter and excellent guitarist strongly influenced by African folk music; and Canailles, a wild, punky francophone band that drew on zydeco, bluegrass and blues influences.
Among the artists I’ve heard before that I also quite enjoyed were Rose Cousins, who is quickly becoming one of Canada’s most accomplished singer-songwriters, Cajun band Grouyan Gombo, and road warrior Fred Eaglesmith and his band.
I was sorry that I couldn’t stick around to hear the festival closing sets by the delightful old-time, neo-vaudeville duo Sheesham and Lotus and the great singer- songwriter David Francey.
The perfect weather on Saturday and Sunday helped make Festival Folk sur le canal a great kick-off to summer folk festival season.