The Arts

Getting Back to Some Musical Roots

Gerry Blackwell
Written by Gerry Blackwell

 

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This country is blessed with an abundance of folk and roots music talent — as witness the Home County Music & Art Festival.

In particular, for some reason, we have a clutch of the best all-women harmony groups on the planet: the Be Good Tanyas, Wailin’ Jennys and — arguably best of the bunch — the multiple Juno-winning Good Lovelies.

Local fans will have a couple of chances to hear the Lovelies this summer. They play Bayfield Town Hall in Bayfield July 29, and Stratford’s Revival House July 30.

Multiple Juno award winners The Good Lovelies will be in Bayfield July 29, and in Stratford on July 30

Multiple Juno award winners The Good Lovelies will be in Bayfield July 29, and in Stratford on July 30

The Lovelies — Caroline Brooks, Kerri Ough and Sue Passmore — are touring their 2015 album, Burn The Plan, which showcases the trio’s considerable song-writing talents and those glorious harmonies. It also adds some fresh new sounds and influences to their oeuvre.

A Lovelies show is always a warm, entertaining affair, and the venues here are suitably folksy and down home, both with reputedly excellent acoustics.

Revival House is the former Church Restaurant in downtown Stratford. Bayfield Town Hall is the white clapboard former church opposite Clan Gregor Square just off Highway 21 in Bayfield.

If Home County and the Lovelies wake your inner folkie, be sure to take in Qristina & Quinn Bachand at the London Music Club (Friday, August 19, 8:30 p.m., $20–$25.)

Qristina and Quinn Bachand appear at the London Music Club August 19 — not your average Celtic band!

Qristina and Quinn Bachand appear at the London Music Club August 19 — not your average Celtic band!

The west coast-based brother-and-sister duo have been lighting up the Celtic music world for a few years now (two Irish Music Awards, multiple Folk and Western Canadian Music nominations). Qristina fiddles, Quinn picks, both sing, write, arrange and produce. (Quinn also moonlights playing Bluegrass and Gypsy Jazz.)

For the LMC date, the Bachands are sure to draw heavily on their excellent 2015 album, Little Hinges, a mix of lively instrumentals and original songs.

Some of the music sounds as if it could have been recorded 100 years ago at an east coast kitchen party. Some is decidedly quirky and contemporary. Instrumentation on the album, for example, includes autoharp, Hammond B3, electric bouzouki and celeste. This is not your average Celtic band.

Music fans, rejoice! London Blues Fest is back, and it’s bigger and better than ever. Best of all, it’s free. The festival runs August 26, 27 and 28 at Victoria Park in downtown London, with 40 acts playing four stages, including two in licensed areas.

The legendary Downchild Blues Band heads the rich list of Canadian and international talent on offer. Popular Juno and Maple Blues Award winning guitar tyros Steve Strongman and Jack DeKeyzer are also on the bill. For a schedule and complete list of acts — including bands not yet announced at time of writing — surf to www.londonbluesfest.com.

Downchild Blues Band (above) and Steve Strongman will be among the performers at London Blues Fest

Downchild Blues Band (above) and Steve Strongman will be among the performers at London Blues Fest

The old blues fest, a paid event last held in a parking lot at King and Clarence in 2013, found an audience among hardcore blues fans, but the new festival’s producer, Ron Schroeyens, is aiming for something bigger and broader in appeal. “What we’re doing is completely different [from the old blues fest],” says Schroeyens, a musician and veteran music producer. “We’re modeling this after Sunfest and Home County. And, you know, it’s free. That’s a big difference.”

It is, indeed. And so is the leafy park setting, the multiple stages, the all-day music (5 to 11 Friday, noon to 11 Saturday and Sunday), and the presence of many more food and merchandise vendors than the old venue could ever support. Schroeyens, partnering with Tourism London, Budweiser and other sponsors, has put together a package he hopes will draw fans from across the region, and turn London Blues Fest into a long-running annual event. We hope so too.

Who knew the Canadian Country Music Awards show was such a big deal? The show goes September 11 at Budweiser Gardens, broadcast live across the nation on CBC TV, starting at 6:45 p.m.

The good news is that, as of late June, tickets to attend the show were still available. The bad news? The cheapest were selling online for almost $800 apiece. Tickets at the original prices sold out ages ago.

But the awards show is merely the culmination of Country Music Week, the CCMA’s (Canadian Country Music Association) annual celebration of all things hurtin’ and twangy. There are other events, and other ways to get involved. For a complete list: www.ccma.org/fan_events.html.

The CCMA Discovery Showcase, a concert featuring finalists in a contest to identify Canada’s next country music superstar, plays London Music Hall, September 8, 8 p.m. Tickets are a more reasonable $25. Go root for local boy Eric Ethridge of Sarnia.

You could also volunteer to help out with Country Music Week. Contact: Patrice Whiffen at volunteer@ccma.org.

If you just want a shot of down home, honest-to-goodness country music with a local flavour, check out Purple Hill Country Music Hall (Purple Hill Rd., off Highway 2 in Thorndale.) This place is the real deal.

Get in the mood for the CCMA shenanigans with Purple Hill’s Bluegrass Opry Reunion (August 19–21). Among other treats, it promises a reunion of the legendary Dixie Flyers. www.purplehillcountryhall.com

Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.

About the author

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.