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This article was published 6/7/2017 (996 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In the Free Press’s interview with the Winnipeg Folk Festival’s artistic director Chris Frayer, he was quick to name Americana/folk-rock singer Brandi Carlile as the artist he thinks will be the biggest surprise hit at this year’s festival.
"I guarantee it," he says. "Because she’s just so in her wheelhouse to begin with and her live show is amazing… her voice is just insanely good, and I think she’s a festival headliner not a lot of people know because it’s her first time here, but she’s playing Edmonton folk for the fourth year in a row. They’ve had her back every time because people cannot get enough of her."
Carlile is on the Main Stage Thursday, July 6, at 8:05 p.m., taking the second last headlining slot before the Shins close out opening night. The daytime stages begin Friday.
Choosing which acts to take in when there are so many options available can be an overwhelming feeling, so, if you’re looking for some suggestions, we asked four Free Press reporters — Erin Lebar, Jill Wilson, Rob Williams and Jen Zoratti — to write about the acts they’ll definitely be checking out this weekend:
Borscht Tales and Tunes, Folk School, 2:45-4 p.m.
There will be something a-brewing over at the folk school Friday and it won’t just be some excellent music. Ukrainian folk-punk quartet DakhaBrakha will be on site to play some tunes and make some borscht using the family recipe of one of the band members. The band is much sought-after on the world music stage and are known for their electric, exciting and exotic performances, though in Manitoba, given the large population of Ukrainians, they will be treading on slightly more familiar territory, especially when playing more traditional Ukrainian folk songs. A translator will be on hand for the non-Ukrainian speakers in the crowd.
Towers of Song, Green Ash, 2:45-4 p.m.
The title of this one doesn’t lie — towering influences of the songwriting world — two from Canada (Bruce Cockburn and Daniel Lanois) and one from the U.K. (Graham Parker) — join forces for what’s bound to be a cavalcade of hits (and hopefully some inspired collaboration). Cockburn hardly needs an introduction — the Ottawa performer has given us such hits as Lovers in a Dangerous Time and If I Had a Rocket Launcher. Grammy winner Lanois, hailing from Hull, Que., has produced such mega-records as U2’s The Joshua Tree, but has acclaimed, deeply atmospheric solo albums to his name. Parker is the beloved blue-collar British rocker credited with inspiring the likes of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson; he’s accompanied by guitarist/cult figure Brinsley Schwartz, who popularized the pub-rock movement in the U.K. as part of his eponymous band, fronted by Nick Lowe.
Colours, Color & Couleur, Green Ash, 1-2:15 p.m.
A songwriter’s showcase featuring four artists with their own unique styles.
City and Colour’s Dallas Green and John K. Samson both started out in the world of punk before showing off their acoustic sides and lyrical brilliance; Seattle’s Damien Jurado takes a more traditional approach to his melodic folk; while Montreal’s Charlotte Cardin, a relative newcomer on the scene, adds elements of electronic and soul to her mix.
Aiofe O’Donovan, Spruce Hollow, 3-4 p.m.
You won’t want to miss out on a chance to see an intimate daytime concert by golden-throated Irish-American singer-songwriter Aiofe O’Donovan. Veteran folk festers will recognize O’Donovan as the lead vocalist for Boston progressive-bluegrass outfit Crooked Still; this time out, she’s touring in support of her bewitching 2016 solo sophomore album, In the Magic Hour — a collection of airy, introspective Americana tunes inspired by the death of her grandfather. But don’t expect a downer of a set —O’Donovan’s playful harmonies will keep things buoyant.
Canada Far & Wide: Grands Esprits, Bur Oak, 2:15-3:45 p.m.
This year, five western Canadian folk festivals have teamed up to create a travelling workshop, anchored by a group of three core artists — DJ Shub, Cris Derksen and Mélisande [électrotrad] — that celebrates key songs in Canadian history. In Winnipeg, Choir! Choir! Choir will host the event, and Cécile Doo-Kingué, Charlotte Cardin, Old Man Luedecke and Diyet round out the cast of musicians who will be performing the setlist, which includes tracks from icons such as Buffy Sainte Marie, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, as well as some fun classics such as Rise Up by Parachute Club.
Old Songs, New Songs, Big Bluestem, 3-4:15 p.m.
Putting Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker on the same bill is a bit of a no-brainer — the influential California bands share a lead singer, David Lowery — so Damien Jurado is the dark horse on this ticket. The Seattle, Wash.-based songwriter has been releasing albums since the mid-’90s, with CDs on the Sub Pop and Secretly Canadian labels. His output spans sparse acoustic fare in a traditional folksinger/balladeer vein to the rockier material of the brilliant album I Break Chairs and his semi-psychedelic recent work, with is rich with biblical allegory. This is his first Winnipeg appearance.
Make it Darker, Green Ash, 4:15-5:30 p.m.
The three acts in this workshop share a similar Gothic Americana vibe, so the set could be filled with everything from upbeat twang-rock to murder ballads. Alabama’s John Paul White is one half of Grammy-winning duo Civil Wars, but he cut his chops as a songwriter and solo artist in Nashville long before that. Roots-rockers the Felice Brothers started in the Catskill Mountains of New York and share a musical DNA with Bob Dylan and the Band. Indiana’s Murder by Death write cinematic character-driven songs and concept albums with a post-punk sensibility fans of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds should appreciate.
Sisters of Mercy, Snowberry 2:15-3:45 p.m.
Three guitar-slinging women with beguiling voices are joining forces for what I think will be one of the most-talked about workshops of the weekend. Portland’s Esmé Patterson made major waves with her 2014 album Woman to Woman, which gave voice to seven women featured in love songs, from Dolly Parton’s Jolene to Elvis Costello’s Alison. New York’s Margaret Glaspy established herself as a take-notice talent with her 2016 debut album Emotions and Math. And Brooklyn’s Big Thief, fronted by Adrianne Lenker, has been racking up critical acclaim for its back-to-back albums, Masterpiece (2016) and Capacity (2017).
Big Thief, Green Ash, 1:15-2:15 p.m.
Big Thief, a folk/indie-rock four piece out of Brooklyn, is definitely one of my most anticipated acts of the fest. The vocals and lyrics from Adrianne Lenker are haunting, beautiful and emotional, and the music, while generally mellow, is intricately composed. Big Thief is the perfect soundtrack to a summer afternoon spent lying in the grass, which is what folk fest is all about.
Isles and Islands, Shady Grove, 11 a.m. -12:15 p.m.
Some folks like to ring in Sunday morning with a dose of gospel or blues, but jigs and reels are an equally fine way to kick off the final day of the festival. Instrumental Scottish quartet Rura first won over fans at the fest in 2015 with their fiddling frenzy. Fellow Scot Paul McKenna, who hails from Glasgow, plays traditional tunes and his own compositions on guitar and bouzouki. Juno winners Ten Strings and a Goatskin, meanwhile, are a bilingual trad trio (guitar, violin and percussion) from Prince Edward Island who bring a fiery energy to francophone, Arcadian, Irish and Maritime music. Put the three of them together and a sweaty dance party should ensue.
Dance me to the End of Love, Green Ash, 4:15-5:45 p.m.
A strange and wonderful mashup of three diverse artists — indie-rockers Camper Van Beethoven, Montreal acoustic trad trio Bon Débarras and Congolese electro-world group Mbongwana Star. The three acts pack the stage for a never-to-be-repeated performance, and if they improvise and jam together, the results could be some of the most creative music made in the park this weekend.
Groovy Manitoba Morning, Green Ash, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
OK, I know — 11:30 a.m. is early, folk fest speaking. But this workshop will be worth rolling out of your sleeping bag for. Grab a coffee and catch what will doubtless be a killer set by some of the best and brightest from Winnipeg’s music scene. Just look at the local talent you’ll be able to see in once place: Begonia (a.k.a. Alexa Dirks) — who will also sing Amazing Grace at Sunday night’s finale — Carly Dow, Richard Inman, Joey Landreth and Small Glories (JD Edwards and Cara Luft). And, as with all workshops, there’s no telling the collaborations that will result.