One of the few musicians for which the adjective “legendary” is appropriate. Canada’s Bruce Cockburn has spent four decades capturing the joy, pain, and faith of human experience in song. Whether singing about retreating to the country or tackling imperialist lies, he has always expressed a tough yet hopeful stance: to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.
The professional/personal pairing of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland has given us some of the finest alt/folk/Americana out there, a beautiful blend of voices, talent and playing. Their lyrics will sear themselves onto your brain, their harmonies will haunt you long after the last note.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
One of the finest roots orientated bands in North America, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (Colin Linden, Tom Wilson, Stephen Fearing) return to Canmore Folk Fest with a new album and a couple of decades of finely-honed harmonies and rhythms that have truly earned them the mantle of Canadian icons.
Soon to be a household name and you can say you saw him here first. Deep roots in Nothern Ireland, his place of birth, and drawing equally from the musical traditions of the southern USA, Vance is a staggering talent. Soft and crooning, raw and painful, his lyrics will sear themselves into your brain. He’s only the second artist signed to Gingerbread Man Records, a division of Atlantic Records started by Ed Sheeran, with whom Vance has toured and shared recording/songwriting credits. Executive producer on his latest album The Wild Swan was Sir Elton John, with whom Vance has also toured. ‘Nuff said.
Birds of Chicago
The spine-tingling wayward and lonesome harmonies of Allison Russell and JT Nero. The profoundly magical message of their lyrics and the raw, intense passion they bring to their demands, nay, commands, you lean in, laser in and hold your breath. Prepare to be transported
Ay yai yai!! Hope you’re bringing your dancing shoes! This LA-based Afro-Mexican-Caribbean melting pot of rhythms, poetry, passion and politics is the perfect balm for our troubled times. Guaranteed, it’s the first time any performer has brought a donkey jawbone to the Canmore Folk Fest as one of their instruments! But oh my, my. From the Lincoln Centre to the Montreal Jazz Fest, these guys are truly setting the world on fire. In a good way.
No telling what the mountain weather will be like this summer, but guaranteed Oscar Lopez will be bringing the heat. The Chilean/Canadian guitar virtuoso, unparalleled throughout the world for his passionate Latin acoustic music, leaves it all on the stage with every performance. In the middle of a downpour, a snow squall, a thunderstorm… Lopez will have you enthralled and silent. A true master!
Fusing Inuit throat singing with traditional blues, Tiffany Ayalik and Grey Gritt bring a mesmerizing blend of spoken word, exquisite harmonies and powerful messages about the realities of Canada’s indigenous peoples and the beauty of a culture and nation about which both are passionate
Ten Strings and a Goat Skin
A wicked fiddle, a well-worked guitar, and a hand-held drum, plus three East Coast lads well steeped in the Irish/Scottish/Acadian roots of their forefathers and… well, you just get up and dance, eh? The trio weave old-school traditions with wickedly current grooves and clever quirks, flirting with indie’s best moments. To call them infectious doesn’t do them justice.
The Steel Wheels
From the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, The Steel Wheels bring a contemporized blend of traditional bluegrass wedded with percussion and keyboards, exquisite harmonies and a strong whiff of ancient field hollers and southern gospel. A strong social conscience weaves through their lyrics, showcasing a passion for human rights and individual freedoms. Music with a message, so sweetly delivered.
Three Women and the Truth
Three towering powers of the folk music scene over the last 40 years – Eliza Gikyson, Gretchen Peters and Mary Gauthier, one one stage, sharing their collective and individual talents as singers, songwriters, and musicians. How could this get any better?
A singer/songwriter from Manitoba’s Peguis First Nation, Prince has stepped commandingly into the tradition of early John Prine and Willie Nelson, with a silky baritone and a master storyteller’s ability to hold your attention until the last quiet note. A beautiful soul with a beautiful talent.
A rising country-soul singer/songwriter from Bristol, UK, recently voted ‘UK Artist of the Year’ at the AMA UK Awards, brings a spectacular voice and exquisite harmonies to a play list heavily influenced by ‘60s country, Stax-era soul and gospel ranging from The Staple Singers to Otis Redding. Spoiler alert: she’s collaborated with the McCrary Sisters (Mike Farris’ backup singers), The Fairfield Four, Willie Watson, Jan Howard, James Brown, Elizabeth Cooke and the legendary Stax Band.