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Diverse lineup lends itself to discovery

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Chris Frayer has some advice for people attending this year's Winnipeg Folk Festival.

"Have a plan of attack to see certain music at the festival, and throw it out," he says.

The artistic director of the festival is really only half joking. Anyone who has ever been to the event usually has a few "must see" artists, but can easily get diverted by a new discovery or by running into some friends and losing track of time.

As usual, the festival is a musical feast with more than 70 bands and singer-songwriters playing the festival's Birds Hill Park site over the next four days. It's an eclectic lineup with traditional and contemporary folk, blues, roots, reggae, soul, world music, funk, indie-rock, electronic, gospel and Afrobeat artists from across the globe playing over the course of the event, which runs until July 8.

"The lineup reflects all the kinds of music people expect to see at the festival and I'm trying to try to turn them onto bands more established in other markets than they are in Canada. The Head and the Heart just headlined the Sasquatch Music Festival (in Washington). Then there's artists like Devotchka, Iron and Wine and Blitzen Trapper that play a lot of our sister festivals in the U.S. and Canada," Frayer says.

"I think we still deliver the established artists, as we call them, but still time and time again people that come to see someone like Feist or the Tedeschi Trucks Band or Billy Bragg will leave loving something else they saw."

The lineup includes artists from Africa, Australian, Europe and all across North America. When breaking things down by genres, world music aficionados will groove to music from around the globe, including Orchestre Poly Rythmo, K'Naan, Devotchka, Emmanuel Jal, Ozomatli, Sidi Touré and Besh O Drom.

Blues and soul fans will rock out to the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Ruthie Foster, Matt Andersen and Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires. Roots, Americana and bluegrass fans will find plenty to enjoy with the likes of Abigail Washburn, Belle Starr, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Junior Brown, Elliott Brood and Natalia Zukerman.

Acclaimed, established and obscure singer-songwriters fill the lineup with artists such as Orton, Bragg, Martyn Joseph, Todd Snider, Eliza Gilkyson, Royal Wood, Kim Churchill and Justin Rutledge on the schedule.

Local artists will be represented by Dry Bones (a new project featuring Leonard Podolak of the Duhks, JD Edwards and Nathan Rogers), Aaron Burnett, Black Sea Station, Chic Gamine, Fish & Bird, Jake Chenier Band and the festival debut of sibling act Sarah & Christian Dugas.

Of course, that's just a small sample of what the festival has on tap this year. The complete mainstage lineup is listed in today's Tab alongside some of Frayer's weekend picks. The complete daytime schedule can be found at winnipegfolkfestival.ca, in the handy program or on the free iPhone/Android app, which has maps, schedules, bios and a planner (BlackBerry users are out of luck). WiFi will be available on the mainstage field and parts of the campground.

The festival started yesterday with acclaimed Canadian songstress Feist headlining the mainstage and wraps up Sunday with Walking Wood's Road, featuring Gilkyson, Mary Gauthier, Jimmy LaFave, Ellis Paul and David Bromberg. The set is an officially sanctioned tribute to folk pioneer Woody Guthrie, who would have turned 100 this year.

"I think we would be really remiss to not acknowledge Woody Guthrie's centennial birthday. He's largely considered to be the most important music in the folk-music genre," Frayer said.

And as the folk-music genre, and the festival, evolves, Frayer's goal is to keep finding the right balance between honouring the legacy of folk music and showcasing the new acts that have added their own contemporary spin on things.

"I don't just want us to be one of the best folk festivals in North America. I want us to be one of the best music festivals, so someday it is Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Coachella and Winnipeg Folk Festival. That's my goal," he says.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2012 E7

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