Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 07/11/2013 10:11 PM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 07/12/2013 12:12 AM | Updates
BIRDS HILL PARK — Thursday night’s main stage concert at the Winnipeg Folk Festival was a celebration of master storytellers, and no one fits that description better than American singer/songwriter and all-around lady-killer Josh Ritter. Roundly regarded as one of America’s greatest living songwriters, the Idaho native earned a standing ovation for a set that will easily go down as one of the best of the festival.
With a handsome, boyish grin that never left his face, Ritter — along with his estimable backing outfit The Royal City Band — treated festival-goers to a groove-filled set under a sinking evening sun. Ritter’s got a shiny new album to promote, March’s The Beast in its Tracks, and the new songs sounded great, particularly the spunky New Lover.
It was obvious Ritter and his players genuinely enjoying playing music together, which was a true pleasure to watch. Their performances had a welcome, laid-back jam-band feel — particularly on tracks that offer lots of room to let loose, such as the rocker Rumors and the driving, foot-stomper Lillian, Egypt.
Ritter is also a force on his own. A gentle acoustic rendering of The Temptation of Adam, a ballad about lovers torn apart by war and one of his most masterful works, was absolutely arresting. Happily, Ritter’s intimate, hyper-literate lyrics (he’s a fiction writer) never got lost in the expanse of the field.
At press time, Juno winner Serena Ryder was taking the stage to rock out the bluesy cuts from her latest album, Harmony, before bookish bard Colin Meloy of Portland indie heroes The Decemberists played his anticipated set.
Earlier in the night, the spirit of the Indigo Girls’ set felt quintessentially folk fest, especially when they crooned the line "I’m going to clear my head/I’m going to drink that sun" from Get Out The Map. Watching the Grammy-winning duo of Amy Ray and Emily Sailers, you were acutely aware you were in the presence of pioneering folk legends with 30 years and 14 albums under their belts, their voices so rich and sure, their performances so effortless. That more than made up for their relative lack of banter between songs, although when they were on, they were on. "Canada, you’ve been good to the gays a lot longer than the U.S.," quipped Sailers before promising a Canadian tour.
And it’s always nice to hear a protest song on the folk fest main stage. The pointed lyrics of Shame on You, from 1997’s Shaming the Sun, still ring true 16 years later: "They say we be looking for illegal immigrants/can we check your car/I say you know it's funny I think we were on the same boat/back in 1694."
These righteous babes can rock, too. Ray’s raspy, Riot Grrl screams on Go sent chills down the spine despite the blistering heat. They closed, of course, with their essential hit Closer to Fine.
California singer/songwriter, fiddler and Decemberists touring member Sara Watkins charmed the suppertime crowd with her sunny, hook-filled, NPR-approved folk rock. She hit all the high notes from her 2012 sophomore solo album Sun Midnight Sun — including the rollicking cover of the Everly Brothers’ You’re The One I Love (the recorded version features harmonies courtesy of one Fiona Apple) and the summery You and Me.
The festival kicks into high gear on Friday with seven daytime stages hosting a variety of must-see solo concerts and workshops, including the all-Manitoba showcase at Big Bluestem at 12:45 p.m. and a blistering blues gig at 4:15 p.m. at Green Ash featuring Whitehorse and Hayes Carll. Main stage action starts at 6 p.m. with Nathan Rogers and ends with Folk Fest favourite The Cat Empire.
Updated on Friday, July 12, 2013 at 12:12 AM CDT: Adds slideshow.
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Human rights complaints piling up in Manitoba
Facebook posts lead to restorative justice
Attackers might not have been lone wolves: PM
Mounties launch investigation into $210-M police HQ project
Wildrose fortunes inextricably linked to Smith
Cubans cheer historic renewal of US relations
Gang members get lengthy sentences for killing teen rival
Teen's death manslaughter, court rules
Local theatres pulling The Interview after threats
Roommate sentenced to 15 years for grisly killing
US, Cuba patch torn relations in historic accord
Trucking firm in mourning after driver killed in crash
Bombers fire coach Etcheverry
Tickets to In Flames show on sale Friday
ELA granted charitable status
Treaties among documents to be on display at CMHR
17% approval blamed on rebels
Latest BlackBerry isn't a 'rehash,' says CEO
Holiday Checkstop Program out in full force
Pedestrian in hospital after being hit by bus
Pakistan buries victims of school massacre
D-Day vet receives Legion of Honour
Poll indicates turmoil in the NDP has upset business leaders
Dad happy Rehtaeh Parsons' name public again
NYC premiere of Rogen film cancelled as threats fly
Canada man finds woman for free trip around world
New initiative to make air travel easier
AP Exclusive: Sydney hostage planned daring escape
Man arrested after woman found dead in motel
Third time's the charm for bloated Hobbit
Wholesale industry rebounds in October
Return to Dog River so much fun you could spit
Generosity our hallmark
Mainly sunny today, but chilly
On-site tap rooms pondered at local craft breweries
Combining Hanukkah and Christmas doesn’t have to be like mixing oil and eggnog
Magnotta jury asks question on Day 2 of deliberations