Celtic, Québecois, and Iconic: Upcoming Highlights on the Music Scene

Written by Gerry Blackwell

Oh, to be in Ontario now that spring is here! Unless of course we skip spring this year and go straight to summer, always a possibility. Either way, it’s a good time for music fans. Bob Dylan is coming, Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt. And a bunch of much younger folk.

John McDermott

If you’ve got Celtic blood in your veins, the next couple of months will be particularly good. It starts Friday, May 12 at the Grand Theatre with John McDermott — Mr. “Danny Boy” himself — and his Raised on Songs and Stories show (7:30 p.m., $47.50).The self-trained balladeer and former member of the Irish Tenors is in fact Scottish by birth, but no matter. The man has over 25 albums to his credit. He’s big. If you miss him at the Grand, he’s at the Capitol Theatre in Chatham the next night (7:30 p.m., $47.50).

From big and experienced to young and fresh. Up the street at the London Music Hall, a trio of local freshman folkies play the LMH’s Rosewood Room that same Saturday night: Karen Emeny and Ian Raeburn from London, and Justine Chantale of Stratford (8:00pm, $10). If you want to know what the next generation of singer-songwriters sounds like, come listen. (FYI, you can hear previews of all three at music-sharing site

Maja & David

With Home County only a couple of months away, folk music, Celtic and otherwise, is very big this season. The Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club continues its series of concerts at Chaucer’s Pub on Sunday, May 14 with dueling fiddlers Maja & David (7:30pm, $20/$25). David is David Boulanger of La Bottine Souriante, the Quebecois folk band. Maja is Maja Kjær Jacobsen from the Danish fiddle trio Fru Skagerrak. Holy catgut, Batman!

Digging Roots

Revival House in Stratford has another of its dinner-and-show concerts on Friday, May 19, this time featuring the Juno-winning Digging Roots ($25 concert only, $35 with prix fixe dinner). It’s a return engagement for the indigenous blues ‘n’ roots outfit. Last time they “blew the roof off,” receiving a standing ovation in the middle of their set. Digging Roots is Barrie-based husband and wife Raven Kanatakta and ShoShona Kish.

The London Music Club, coincidentally, has another Raven the same night. Folk-rockers The Wilderness of Manitoba, with singer Raven Shields, are playing the club (7:30pm/8:30pm, $10/$12). Front-liners Shields and Will Whitwham are in duet mode for this show. The full band meanwhile has a new album due any day.

Bon Débarras Photo: Vitor Munhoz

There’s more Quebecois folk music — which, let’s face it, isn’t so different from Celtic folk music — at Aeolian Hall on Friday, May 26. Sunfest is bringing in Bon Débarras (7:00pm/8:00pm, $25/$30.) The group plays original compositions but in a traditional style — lots of fiddle, guitar, step dancing, body percussion. The title of the new album may be an apt description of the evening in store — En panne de silence (a shortage of silence.) Special guest this night: Juno-nominated pop-folkster Andrew McPherson.

On Sunday May 28, there’s a choice of Celtic fare. Bud Gardens has Irish balladeer Daniel O’Donnell, the wildly popular star of a string of PBS specials, and the only artist to have a new album on the UK charts every year since 1988 (7:30pm, $61.50-$127.) A few blocks away, The Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club at Chaucer’s Pub is bringing in Caim, a vocal-instrumental duo, “direct from Scotland”: Heather Innes, vocals and bodhrán (the big drum-tambourine thing) and Pauline Vallance, harp, flute and vocals (May 28, 7:30pm, $20/$25.)

Bonnie Raitt

On Saturday, June 3 we get a short break from non-stop Celtic. Blues troubadour ­Bonnie Raitt comes to Centennial Hall (8:00pm, $79.50–$95.50+.) Raitt is best known for the 1991 hit, “Something to Talk About.” She’s currently touring her 2016 album — her 17th — Dig in Deep. Canadian favourite Royal Wood opens. If you miss them in London, Kitchener’s Centre In The Square has the same show Wednesday, June 7 ($72.50–$118.)

Meanwhile, back in Celtic town, Bayfield Town Hall has Sean McCann — okay, not strictly or exclusively Celtic, but close enough — on Sunday, June 4 (7pm.) The ex-Great Big Sea frontman, always an engaging performer, has been touring solo for awhile. On Friday, June 16 at Aeolian Hall, Home County is bringing in  (7:00pm/8:00pm, $25/$30.) Don’t know Mythen? The Irish-born Canadian performer, now based in PEI, plays her own compositions: contemporary folk meets traditional Celtic. She’s played with greats (Rod Stewart, Gordon Lightfoot, Lucinda Williams), graced festival bills the world over, and wows audiences everywhere.

Then we get seriously un-Celtic with a pair of music legends to herald the coming of summer. Budweiser Gardens has ageless bluesman Buddy Guy on Wednesday, June 21 (7:30pm, $64.50–$109.50.) What can you say about Buddy Guy? He is a giant. Guy, 80, didn’t invent the blues, but he surely helped define it. Two weeks later, on Thursday, July 6, the Bud follows up with Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan (8pm, $59.50–$89.50.) Dylan, 75, helped define an era. Legends don’t last forever folks: catch ’em while you can.

TD Sunfest celebrates 23 years of transfiguring Downtown London’s Victoria Park into a culturally diverse jewel for 220,000+ devoted visitors. More than 35 stellar world music & jazz ensembles from around the planet will perform on five stages, while 225 exhibitors whet festivalgoers’ appetites for scrumptious global cuisine and one-of-a-kind crafts & visual art. Acts include iconic bands like Kiev’s DakhaBrakha and Brazil’s Bixiga 70 and returning favourites like Ontario’s Samba Squad and BC’s Five Alarm Funk. July 6-9, Victoria Park, free admission.

About the author

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.