Calgary folk fest's Saturday offerings ran the genre's musical gamut

Posted by Gerry Krochak on 25 July 2015

The crowd surges toward the main stage at the Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince's Island in Calgary, Ab., on Thursday July 23, 2015. Mike Drew/Calgary Sun/Postmedia Network

Day three of the Calgary Folk Music Festival … and, despite some threatening weather that never quite materialized, all was well.

The term “folk” has become as all-encompassing as, say, rock and roll, but on Saturday, Calgary’s best summer music festival got back to some core basics with folk legend Buffy Sainte-Marie.

After more than five decades, her fire keeps burning.

Maintaining some sense of tradition is important and there could be no better choice for the Saturday evening 10:25 closing slot.

Ridiculously talented Grammy Award-winning bassist, lyricist and composer Esperanza Spalding was a treat for other reasons. The Portland native stretches not only what folk music can be, but challenges her audiences with an endless array of musical possibilities.

Spalding’s soulful, stunning take on improvisational jazz takes musical creativity to an exciting place of free-form art that’s always musical, always tuneful. The 30-year-old musical genius, for lack of a better description, kept the Calgary Folk Music Festival faithful on their toes. Come to think of it, the willingness of those fans was greatly rewarded with sonic busts such as Good Lava, Ebony And Ivy and Unconditional Love.

Not for everyone … but truly outstanding and, yet another, 2015 CFMF highlight.

If that wasn’t enough, the legendary Richard Thompson had jaws on the grass with his mid-evening 65-minute set, which felt like it was over in a flash.

The British Dylan, if you will, and former member of Fairport Convention is also a nod to folk tradition, but he does it a little louder than most.

The Ghost Of You Walks, Valerie, Josephine, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, a goose bump-inducing interpretation of Persuasion … hell, Thompson can sing the phone book and still be captivating beyond words.

Armed with only a beret, a microphone and a guitar, the wickedly brilliant fret man and singer hypnotized the audience with not only his songs, but stories and sense of humour.

Very few artists can follow Thompson, and it’s a tribute that Spalding somehow did.

Los Angeles duo Milk Carton Kids had their own group of fans swaying near the front of the main stage, but it was Adam Cohen that brought out the curiosity seekers as the first mainstage performer of the evening.

It seems like the son of Leonard made up his mind early to not feel the pressure of his bloodlines — given the unattainable circumstances … why bother?

The younger Cohen is his own man, his own writer and his own performer.

Although his father’s mentorship can be felt, Adam weaves his way around a lyric in manner of which very few are capable.

His stellar four-piece ensemble, his engaging personality and songs such as Out Of Bed, What Other Guy, and Matchbox easily won the crowd over. It seems like a cliché, but … well … dad would be proud.

The side stages were popping, as has been the case all weekend, with a variety of workshops and some stellar performances from Petunia & The Vipers, Jenn Grant, the outstanding Scarlett Jane, The Strumbellas and Colin Stetson.

Believe it or not, things are only going to get better on Sunday. See you here!

FYI: It was back to Taiko Taco Pan-Asian Taqueria … but this time it wasn’t for the heavenly Korean-spiced fries.

Oh no, on Saturday the Spiced Fish and Chili Chicken Tacos controlled every ounce of hunger.

Be certain to watch for this food truck in Calgary all summer long.