Review: Calgary Sun; Jesse Locke

Posted by on 3 August 2007

Festival fun: You just got to Lavette

Festival fun: You just got to Lavette

Sun Media


July 29, 2007  

Folk fest fans seemed a bit sleepy going into July 28, but were swept right back into it with the evening’s fun performances.

— Mike Drew, Sun Media

New York’s Olabelle were the first Main Stage act of the night, and had the audience smiling with their old-fashioned rootsy sound.

Amy Helm and Fiona McBain, the group’s two frontwomen, took on most of the singing duties, but bassist Byron Isaacs, drummer Tony Leone and honky tonk keyboardist Glenn Patscha (the band’s secret weapon) all took their turn on the mic as well.

They capped off their set with a Grateful Dead cover, and the crowd was grateful too.

Still, it was Bettye Lavette who stole the show on day three.

Discovered at age 16 in the late ’60s, she was nearly lost into the annals of music until her 2005 album I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise received rave reviews. These days, the 61-year-old soul-R&B singer is back in the spotlight, and in her own words “back out of the crypt.”

Lavette has a bad-ass attitude, some seriously eye-popping stage moves and most of all a massive voice, all of which were showcased in her folk fest set.

Decked out in an all-white outfit, she cracked jokes between songs about what a “lucky old broad” she is to get to tour the world, sang with emotion and thrusted to the beat, all while laughing out loud.

Spanning songs from the full spectrum of her discography, Lavette rocked out a few of the all female-penned numbers from Hell To Raise, along with some classic material like the title track from her 1972 album Souvenirs.

This polished performance came off like a clinic for any fans of old-school soul, and had almost everyone in the lawn-chair dominated audience on their feet.

Remember What I Am, that hit song from 1988?

I hadn’t either until I heard it here, performed by Edie Brickell and The New Bohemians.

Up until that song, which was Brickell’s sole successful single, the six-piece’s set was mostly a mix of adult-oriented pop-rock with guitar and sax solos.

But when they closed with What I Am, everyone around me seemed to have a simultaneous light-bulb moment, and then started singing along. Isn’t it nice when that happens?

Banjo madman Bela Fleck was another highlight, as he and the Flecktones tore through their songs with unparalleled skill.

July 28 was closed out by the Maritime mainstays Great Big Sea and their drinking song stylings. Not really my cup of tea, but the crowd left Prince’s Island Park happy for the third day in a row.