Calgary Folk Fest | July 26 – 29, 2018
The full line-up will be announced April 21 and tickets go on sale the same day.
The Festival annually features 70+ artists from over 16 countries on 9 stages in 100+ distinct concert and collaborative programming performances at the urban, forested retreat of Prince's Island Park. Like a mini town for four days, the site boasts a family area with interactive activities and entertainment, an international craft market, global culinary delights, a record tent and tree-shaded beer garden.
Each week before the April 21 launch, we leak one artist per week. Here are the leaks thus far!
2018 Artists — Leak of the Week
April 17 — The War & Treaty
Previously performing as a duo called Trotter and Blount, Tanya Blount Trotter and spouse Michael Trotter Jr. chose the perfect new name for their band: they’ve lived War and Treaty. Tanya started her career in the public eye in the movie Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit in 1993, which included her knee-weakening duet "His Eye is on the Sparrow" with newcomer Lauryn Hill. As a result of musical politics, Trotter's promising R&B career — including nominations at the Soul Train Awards and being signed onto Sean "P Diddy" Combs' label — failed to materialize, and Blount turned her attention instead to musical theatre.
Before meeting Blount, Trotter Jr. served in Iraq, actually learning piano on an abandoned upright in Saddam Hussein’s palace. His inaugural performance was of the first song he ever wrote, sung at his fallen captain’s memorial, a captain whose personal mission was to keep Trotter Jr. alive. He kept performing at memorials over his three years of service, eventually winning the Military Idol contest.
Despite (or maybe because of) the disparate paths that brought them together, the couple’s close bond is conspicuous as they perform together, and they maintain an unspoken pact to spread joy via music that lifts audiences above the trials of this often-dark decade. The War and Treaty round up a fluid array of instruments including mandolin, dobro, piano, and saucy organ as their songs annihilate boundaries between folk, blues, roots and gospel. In spite of this, if The War and Treaty were time travellers they could drop into the middle of any bill during Motown’s golden era, fit right in and dazzle. Their big-voiced, big-hearted songs ring out with a touch of old time travelling gospel show jubilance, jubilance at the serious business of saving our days and souls with musical bliss.
April 10 — The Barr Brothers
Brad and Andrew Barr are experimentalists — following the dissolution of their improvisational indie rock outfit The Slip, they made their way from Rhode Island to the city where musicians with a penchant for bagels and awkward haircuts often find solace. We are talking, of course, about Montreal, which is also the only city where you have a disproportionate chance of hearing your neighbour playing the harp through the walls and then convincing that person to join your band, which is exactly how the brothers Barr became The Barr Brothers.
The Barr Brothers flirt with Americana and blues, but their interests are delicately academic. The Brothers follow the iconography of delta blues through to its African ancestry, all while investing their songs with an indie coat of paint, punctuated by harp and strings. The band pulls elements of Malian rhythms into their pretty and winding folk songs, leaving room for quiet moments on either side of their more guitar-oriented offerings. The grandness and virtuosity of their arrangements have only expanded over time as their gracious improvisations have solidified into concrete ideas and their experimentations have become fleshed-out musical movements.
April 3 — Alvvays
VVe don’t fully knovv vvhere the vvell-vvarrtented success of Alvvays has come from, but they are certainly vvorthy of it. Alvvays knovv hovv to play to both sides of the fence. The Toronto via Halifax via Prince Edvvard Island indie pop quartet has garnered vvarm and fuzzy feelings from all sides of the country and even made a strong break across the vvhole vvide vvorld vvith only tvvo records under their vintage leather belts.
Their songs are tonally diverse, often leaning on elements of synth-pop and surf, coaxing colour out of huge guitar, synth, and vocal melodies. At the front is the vvarm and lucid voice of Molly Rankin (and before you ask, yes, she’s a high-ranking Maritime Rankin), treated softly vvith a vvhispy mulch of reverb. The effect is that of a rainy day in Halifax, not vvet enough to keep you avvay, but misty enough that you’re soaked by the time you get vvhere you’re going.
Alvvays plays vvith vvhat’s trendy in the indie sphere vvithout veering into the realm of the inauthentic. In the hands of Alvvays, brittle guitar tones from seafoam coloured fender guitars that set-dress their songs with vvalls of haze and vvarbly flanger are singular and distinctive, never contrived.
March 26 — Cassie and Maggie
Take two siblings from a musical household in a region with a long history respecting the music of its Irish and Scottish ancestors, add research and exploration of Scottish settlers’ songs, bluegrass and Appalachian music plus a virtuosic instrumental touch, and you’ll begin to envision the music of Cassie and Maggie MacDonald. The harmonic blend of their sisterly voices and their fiddle and guitar interplay make the genetic link sonically clear.
Maritime roots and traditions are given new life through their album The Willow Collection where they connect with an immense catalogue of traditional song, many from rough field recordings found in folk collections. They add their own touch, often with fiddle tunes as the bridge, to highlight strong melodies. The sisters explore human emotion with songs that range from heartbreakingly beautiful and soft to loud and boisterous with foot percussion, fit for a party of consequence. Some brush the edge of traditional music; others drag it kicking and screaming into the modern world.
March 19 — Blackalicious
When Blackalicious first emerged on the independent West Coast hip hop scene in the 1990s, mainstream rap was dominated by artists espousing gangsta jingoism and misogyny around predictable beats. The battle-hardened MC Gift of Gab and musical chemist DJ Chief Excel chose to focus their energy on unveiling the raw creativity bubbling in the underground scene. Chief Excel works from a broad musical palette of heavily rhythmic samples incorporating soul, funk, jazz, rock, Latin, African and orchestral music underpinning hook-drenched melodies alongside Gift of Gab’s astonishing lyrical dexterity. Blackalicious and their conscious contemporaries blew open perceptions of what hip hop and rap music could sound like and be about.
Gift of Gab (Timothy Parker), grew up in Los Angeles and met DJ/producer Chief Excel (Xavier Mosely) in high school after moving to Sacramento, partnering as Blackalicious a few years later in 1992. Their first landmark track was Alphabet Aerobics, a lightning fast run through ingenious rhymes from A to Z. The duo helped found Solesides Records, which became Quannum Projects, an independent incubator for DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born, Lateef, Lifesavas and others.
After three critically beloved full-length albums with a long roster of famous guest appearances, Blackalicious took a 10-year hiatus before returning with Imani Vol. 1 in 2015, the first of a projected trilogy. The new music on the concept album shows a compositional and lyrical maturity, with tight rhymes and a groove-rich call to the dance floor. The duo will bring longtime collaborators and label mates Jumbo from Lifesavas and Lateef to share the mic for a set to remember on the island.
March 12 — A Tribe Called Red
This is the story of A Tribe Called Red; to electronica and hip-hop their music is wed.
Formed in 2008 the world they’ve travelled, telling poetic stories of traditions unravelled
By colonization and its subsequent devastation.
But there’s no finger-pointing, there’s no blame;
there’s just a gathering together under one loving name.
While the players change in this tight DJ collective
Their message of love and hope remains the same and forms their directive.
Despite hypnotic beats, their words don’t sleep,
calling out injustice with a strong sense of purpose and
Awakening nations to past indignations with sweet drums
and ululations of traditional First Nations.
No wonder their third album We are the Halluci Nation
was the number one album at all CBC locations!
They were named Top Ten in the Washington Post, were on two Polaris longlists
so they’re better than most.
They scored a Juno, Breakthrough Group of the Year,
and they will Idle No More so have no fear
That their drums and chants will give you chills and make you dance in celebration
While their words will fill your heart with love and inspire determination.
Yes, this is the story of A Tribe Called Red, their music
moves your heart and your feet and your head.
March 6 — Damien Jurado
Damien Jurado’s name may be familiar to ‘90s indie rock fans — back when grunge and indie power pop were still dominating the Pacific Northwest music scene, he emerged as a counter-point to that cacophony of noise, releasing a string of beautifully understated singer-songwriter albums on Seattle’s famed Sub Pop Records.
Grunge is long dead, but Jurado is still around and doing things his own way. While his music has always been remarkably mature, the years have deepened the impact of his gentle guitar work and lightly psychedelic arrangements, sincerity of his earnest voice and the literary quality of his lyrics. About those lyrics: while it’s more than possible to get swept away by the atmospheric vibe of Jurado’s relaxed groove and knowing voice, the mystical content of his most recent albums, including the Maraqopa trilogy, deserve concentrated attention.
Seemingly never one to worry about trends or anything beyond sharing the contents of his heart and head with audiences and listeners, Jurado continues to defy expectations and happily fly under the mainstream radar. He’s not in it to make it big — which is exactly why he has remained interesting and worth listening to for over two decades.
Today, Jurado announces his 2018 album The Horizon Just Laughed, to be released May 4 on Secretly Canadian. An early preview can be heard in the scenic video for warmly elegant first single, “Over Rainbows and Rainier.”
Like previous albums, The Horizon Just Laughed started with a dream, but that’s where things detour. His first self-produced album, it’s personal and rooted, like a beautiful collage -- its narrative pieced together through letters and postcards, with each part contributing to its greater whole, providing snapshots of a journey to find a sense of place and connection to a changing world. -ECB
Block Heater - February 15 - 17, 2018
The 3rd annual Block Heater, winter’s answer to the Calgary Folk Music Festival, February 15 - 17, hosted 25 local, national and international roots, blues, country, world music and indie artists. Block Heater warmed Inglewood and the East Village at Festival Hall, the Ironwood and Studio Bell with concerts and songwriter-in-the-round/collaborative sessions.
Calgary Folk Fest - July 26 - 29, 2018
It’s a genre-defying, continent-linking festival where fiercely independent, creative troubadours and master instrumentalists from Mauritania, Korea, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Ethiopia, the United States and Canada celebrate diverse traditions, deep roots and cool grooves.