Calgary Folk Music Festival to dish out a potpourri of eclectic music
Canadian Press Tuesday, July 22, 2003 - Carol Harrington

Posted by on 10 May 2004

Gone are the days when summer folk festivals were filled only with flower-power songwriters strumming a guitar and crooning a ballad.

CALGARY (CP) - Gone are the days when summer folk festivals were filled only with flower-power songwriters strumming a guitar and crooning a ballad. The Calgary Folk Music Festival, which kicks off Thursday, has a lineup of dozens of eclectic artists, including Horace X, a British techno band that squeezes out hip-hop with synthesizers. "It's fairly stretched from original folk tradition," says Kerry Clarke, who books bands for the downtown festival. "But folk music, rather than playing folk songs of various countries, has become mutated and quite modern." The two main acts at the four-day festival are Elvis Costello, who since his peak during the punk revolution has emerged with even more caustic lyrics, and Daniel Lanois, producer of world-renowned rock bands such as U2 and Bob Dylan. Another highlight is Kathleen Edwards, an Ottawa native who Rolling Stone magazine picked as one of 10 new artists to watch in 2003. With a band that weaves steel guitars, banjo, strings and horns, Edwards describes her music as "roots-rock," a blend of country, folk, pop and rock. Edwards, who has been touring in clubs and concert halls for the last eight months, says she's looking forward to playing at Calgary's folk festival. "It's a chance for me to see people, friends who I don't normally see because I'm on the road all the time," she said. Edwards, 25, who played classical violin for most of her childhood then picked up a guitar after high school, has played and sang at several folk festivals throughout Ontario - her more recent festival gig was earlier this month in Winnipeg. Last year, Edwards played violin for the Jim Cuddy Band at the Calgary festival. This year, Cuddy will be playing in Calgary with Canada's longtime pop band Blue Rodeo. Another veteran of folk festivals is Ann Vriend of Edmonton, who was a volunteer at her hometown festival for seven years, then two years ago she hit the stage with her eclectic mix of funky jazz and blues. "I just love folk festivals," says Vriend, 27. "Everyone there is a music lover, buying tickets weeks in advance. Everyone is in a good mood. It's like a big party." Volunteers, as Vriend points out, are the backbone of folk festivals. This year, the Calgary festival will be depending on 900 volunteers to run everything from setting up and tearing down, food services, garbage collection and recycling and collecting tickets and stamping hands. The festival has added a side stage for musicians to hold jam sessions with one another - which many consider the highlight of folk festivals. Over the weekend, the stages operate in tandem, apart from the main stage, showcasing a variety of musicians who play a particular theme, including punk folk roots, bluegrass jams or world music techno. Among the 57 bands from eight provinces and 13 different countries scheduled to play in Calgary, of course will be some traditional folk music. The Cottars, two pairs of talented teen siblings from Cape Breton Island are to sing and step-dance to traditional Gaelic and Maritime Celtic tunes. Alpha Yaya Diallo, a story-telling pop group from Guinea, will be playing their hypnotic contemporary African sound and Al Stewart, a veteran folk-rock troubadour known best for his songs Time Passages and Year of the Cat will be on hand. Alberta's own Ian Tyson, a 30-year pioneer of country western, is to wrap up the festival Sunday evening.