Concert Review: Calgary Folk Music Festival does fantastic job juggling eclectic range of acts

Posted by The Calgary Sun on 27 July 2014

Music always sounds better outdoors, and better than that on what has turned out to be near-perfect weather during the 2014 edition of The Calgary Folk Music Festival.

The great vibes, big sun, and relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere continued Saturday, following some outstanding main stage performances on Friday night.

The tall order of living up to eclectic entertainment that included Rufus Wainwright, Amos Lee, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Great Lake Swimmers and a park-shaking performance from punk-funk legends Fishbone was filled by an evening of more subdued, but no less thrilling, performances from acts such as The Lone Bellow, Arto Lindsay, Jason Isbell, Patty Griffin, Bruce Cockburn and Sean Kuti & Egypt 80.

One of the great things about the Calgary Folk Music Festival is the discovery of your new favourite artists and the knowledge that you can expect the unexpected. An icon such as Bruce Cockburn fits the traditional “folk” mould, and he never disappoints — that much we know.

One of the most consistent Canadian artists of all time still had plenty to say as the attentive throng at PIP took in the evening and a singer-songwriter for the ages.

Veteran roots, folk and Americana singer-songwriter Patty Griffin also fits the traditional role, while maintaining a style all her own. Solo acoustic, seated at a piano or accompanied by guitarist and co-collaborator Craig Ross, the attentive crowd near the front of the stage seemed to hang on her every word.

The 50 year-old Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter doesn’t always get mentioned in the same breath as Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams, but if Saturday’s performance is anything to go by … she certainly should.

Former Drive By Trucker Jason Isbell followed Griffin to add some new-school outlaw country attitude to the evening’s entertainment menu.

His was the performance you may have not been expecting, but were thanking your lucky stars you were there.

Isbell’s solo stuff has been amazing, and many call him one of the best performing singer-songwriters of the past 10 years.

Flanked by an outstanding four-piece band, much of the material from 2013’s Southeastern album, particularly the excellent Codeine, recall The Hard Way and Train A Comin’-era Steve Earle.

Great stuff, which sent many of the main stage concert crowd scurrying to the merch tent for Jason Isbell vinyl and CDs following his terrific one-hour set.

Experimental New York noise merchant Arto Lindsay and high-lonesome Brooklyn roots act The Lone Bellow kicked off Saturday’s main stage entertainment under those perfectly clear skies and warm temperatures.

The six side-stages were popping all day with a variety of performance workshops and shows from acts such as Typhoon, Waco Brothers, Chad VanGaalen, Nick Sherman and Josh White Jr. among many others.

Sunday got even better, if you can believe it, with main-stage performances from Noura Mint Seymali, HYDRA (featuring Feist, AroarA and Snowblink), legendary Minneapolis roots rockers, The Jayhawks (this could be the performance of the festival), and Matt Anderson and the Mellotones.

See you all here!