Calgary Folk Music Festival: We were spoiled this year

Posted by Gerry Krochak on 27 July 2015

Lucinda Williams performs at the Calgary Folk Festival in Calgary, Alta. on Sunday July 26, 2015. Stuart Dryden/Calgary Sun/Postmedia Network

Although a little rain must, and did, fall into the lives of the resilient Calgary Folk Music Festival faithful, this was it ... the night of nights.

Either The Mavericks or Lucinda Williams could fill any headline slot at any festival anywhere in the world.

To have them both on the same night to close the Calgary Folk Music Festival ... well, sometimes you just get lucky.

Yep, we've been spoiled this year.

Expected outstanding performances from Father John Misty, Lake Street Dive, Buffy Sainte Marie, Richard Thompson, Shakey Graves, Hawksley Workman and the John Butler Trio would have already made the 2015 edition of the Calgary Folk Music Festival the best in recent memory.

Jaw-dropping bursts from Frazey Ford (Indian Ocean has not left the turntable in three days), Adam Cohen, Robyn Hitchcock, Black Joe Lewis, Budos Band, Jenn Grant, Bombino, Leftover Cuties, Rueben & The Dark, Scarlett Jane and Ukraine's finest , DakhaBrakha, were waaaay beyond the icing on the cake.

But looking at the Sunday mainstage schedule as early as the festival opening on Thursday, well, you just knew it was going to be a special night.

The Mavericks can play anywhere and bring the house down like few others -- the diverse and exciting Miami cocktail country act is the total package.

Incomparable lead singer Raul Malo led his troops through an exhilarating festival-closing performance which touched each era of the band's storied career.

All Night Long and Summertime (When I'm With You) quickly provided an energy injection to dancers and tarpies that were four days into the summer's best Calgary festival.

Guitarist Eddie Perez, expert sticksman, Paul Deakin, and the rest of the eight-piece touring band (including horn section) would only get hotter through Back In Your Arms Again and a killer cover of Neil Young's Harvest Moon.

The dance alert was in high effect as the group continued to shred the boisterous throng with All Over Again and the inevitable showstopper of All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down.

Wow! Come back anytime, fellas!

Coming from a different, but no less thrilling place was Lucinda Williams -- bar none, one of the finest American singer-songwriters of the past 25 years.

She's always been someone so compelling, so powerful with her words that you just can't help but pay attention.

All the way to the back of fabulous Prince's island Park, the crowd swayed and listened intently to set opener Something This Way Comes from last year's excellent Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone (outstanding on triple vinyl, by the way) into Drunken Angel (from '98s landmark Car Wheels On A Gravel Road album) and, another new one, West Memphis Three.

Williams and the band truly caught fire, however, through the reggae-infused stomper, Are You Down, and the driving, jamming rock of Protection, Changed The Locks, Joy, Honey Bee and a rousing cover of Neil Young's Rockin' In The Free World -- as good as you're thinking.

Earlier, the authentic bluegrass stylings of the Steep Canyon Rangers and the glorious North Carolina singer-songwriter, Rhiannon Giddens, kicked off the final day of the Calgary Folk Music festival with grace and aplomb.

The Rangers were an item long before backing funny man and halfway decent banjo player, Steve Martin, and the group knocked out tunes such as Auden's Train, Tell The Ones I Love and Stand & Deliver to the delight of the tarpies and dancers who braved a quick rain shower, which subsided just as the band broke into its first number.

It's a generalization to say that a little bluegrass goes a long way, but in the case of the Steep Canyon Rangers, it was an absolute joy to experience this calibre of musicianship and harmonies. Absolutely outstanding!

Giddens, on the other hand, relied on her unbelievable voice and other people's songs to impress.

During a tour of American roots music history, Giddens shocked the crowd with repeated otherworldly vocal deliveries.

In front of almost a country-world beat band sound, her interpretation of Patsy Cline's She's Got You had the crowd on its knees. It was, hands down, the greatest vocal performance of the entire festival -- stunning beyond words.

The clarity and force of Giddens during Dolly Parton's Don't Let it Trouble Your Mind and Odetta's Waterboy were almost as good.

Day Four was the topper to a near-perfect weekend which music fans in these parts will not soon forget.

Until next year