After being delayed by car trouble, Claire and I drove to Canmore Sunday morning August 1, set up camp at a campground in Bow Valley Provincial Park and drove to Canmore. We had missed the Saturday evening concert, but we were in time for the rest of the Festival, except for the first half hour of the daytime workshops on Sunday.
It was a cool day. It had rained early in the morning, but the rain held off for the rest of the day. In fact, when the wind gusted, dust clouds blew across the festival site and we got quite dusty and dirty. It was good to be back in Canmore, even on a cool, cloudy and windy day. I have good memories of other festivals there, and there is something about sitting at the workshop stages in the open field, looking at the mountains on each side of the valley, and the crowd, and listening to beloved performers…
I started my musical day at the mainstage (which is workshop stage by day) at a workshop with the Texas group Brave Combo and the Vancouver group the Paperboys which was excellent. Good musicians who were able to jam on each other’s songs, interesting sounds, and a good time.
I stayed for a blues workshop. I was interested in Dutch-born, Austrian based Hans Theesink’s take on the blues. I was less impressed by Amos Garrett. Garrett is a legendary guitarist, but not a particularly interesting singer.
I moved to a workshop stage to hear Canadian singer-songwriter’s Laura Smith, Susan Crowe (that’s Susan, not the famous cyclist-singer Sheryl) and Garnet Rogers. I have heard Smith before and her sickly sweet sentimental Maritime musical theater ballads have pretty much worn thin. Crowe is new, and I was a little interested but I decided I didn’t really need to hear another introspective female singing personal songs of angst and longing.
Garnet Rogers sang one his older songs, Summer Lightning, which I enjoyed and a couple of newer songs, including a song about a D-Day veteran who had gone to the D-Day anniversary functions at his own expense and was barred from laying a wreath during the “official” Canadian government ceremony. Garnet introduced the song with some anger but the song itself was more gentle.
I followed Rogers to the third workshop stage where he was partnered with Martin Simpson and with Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez. Rogers mainly sang new material, and I am not sure I like it yet. He sang Firefly and told his familiar story about writing that song for his wife after long conversation with Greg Brown as they were touring in California. He also mentioned some recent personal catastrophes, but he did not elaborate. He ended up in a vocal/guitar duet with Simpson on a Cyril Tawney song – a call and answer song “Hey the last boats are leaving” which was brilliant. Simpson on his own is interesting – a great guitarist, a great interpreter of the tradition. He has taken to covering Dylan, and reinterpreting Dylan’s mining of traditional folk songs.
I didn’t know what to make of Taylor and Rodriguez. He was a 60’s rock performer and writer and wrote “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning”. He is an experienced performer, but his songs didn’t say much to me. It was nice to hear his modern version of Angel of the Morning with the guitars and voices of Martin Simpson and Garnet Rogers in support – you won’t hear that on Much Music.
My last workshop choice was Acoustic Mayhem with Brave Combo and the Wayback which was lots of fun, but very hard to describe. Both groups – perhaps more the Waybacks – tend to a very eclectic fusion of musical styles, including American/Mexican, Celtic, swing, and jazz.
The evening mainstage started with a new Cape Breton group called Beolach. The performers all seem to be younger siblings or cousins of various Rankins and McMasters, and they are all very capable but they don’t seem to have their own sound. It’s very generic – some fiddles, a step dance number etc.
The second mainstage act was Rick Shea and Brantley Kearns who might be described as trad/alt country. I liked it.
Next, Manitoba vocal group Madrigia. I have not chosen to see them in Winnipeg and I was quite impressed. They are six young women with a percussion player singing vocal harmony. They have some songs from the Franco-Manitoban and Quebecois tradition and several songs from Europe, the Balkans and Asia. I was impressed by their skills and their confidence.
I didn’t really care for Amos Garrett. I liked some songs – a Leadbelly song with a chorus “I loved that woman 20 years but she don’t love me any more” certainly hit home. However his vocal style and his stage presence as a lead performer don’t really impress me.
Garnet Rogers was on next. He had a lot of respect from the crowd, and was applauded through what I thought was a weak set. He opened with Night Drive – which he has reworked into a faster and shorter number, and a number of newer songs. He seemed to get bad sound from one of his guitars on one or two songs, but the main problem was that he seemed tired, shy, diffident. I have seem him perform better – although perhaps he does not show his gifts well on the mainstage as as solo performer.
We left while it was still light because of the cold and because I was concerned about ongoing car problems, so we missed the mainstage appearances of Ruthie Foster and the Waybacks.