Tag Archives: New Moon Folk Club

EFMF 2017 Pre-Fest Picks

Edmonton Folk Music Festival is just around the corner and here are our picks of what we can’t wait to hear this festival.

Most Anticipated Artists

Sable: The Unthanks

I find it hard to resist the melodic and harmonic intertwining of treble voices. Their upcoming performances at EFMF is significant because its their only North American stop on their summer festival circuit with their other dates based in England, Scotland, and Finland. While their recent series of folk music symphonic collaborations demonstrate a progressive move to share their art, I am excited to see them in their raw vocal form.

Twila: The Jerry Cans

I’m about 95% sure I ran across The Jerry Cans at a folk fest a few years ago, and seem to remember enjoying what I heard immensely. However, surrounded now with old festival programs I can’t seem to put my finger on where & when exactly that crossing of paths might have taken place. Regardless of my own questionable memory, The Jerry Cans are my pick for most anticipated artist of EFMF 2017 … have you heard their cover of The Hip’s “Ahead by a Century”?

Most Anticipated Workshop

Sable: Talking About My Generation; Saturday, August 12, 11:00 AM – 12:20 PM; STAGE 6

Artists: Altameda, Andy Shauf, Birds of Chicago, Colleen Brown and Major Love

I will be in the mood for some mellow vocals and heavy strums of the acoustic guitar at this Saturday morning session. I find the workshop title alluring since it’s always interesting to consider perspective through a distinct musical voice.




Twila: Ceili; Saturday August 12, 11:00 AM–12:30 PM; STAGE 5

Artists: Duncan Chisholm, Four Men and a Dog, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, The Paul McKenna Band

On Saturday morning I’m anticipating requiring the high energy infusion that is an EFMF Ceili. Hopefully these talented artists blending, Irish, Scottish & Acadian trad music, will make up for me running on lots of coffee and very little sleep.

 

Old Favourites

Sable: Birds of Chicago

The sweet tunes of Allison Russell and JT Nero last played to a sell-out crowd at New Moon Folk Club. That performance left YEG audiences with a desire for a return visit. I am so excited to listen to their tunes on the hill!

Twila: Solo (De Temps Antan and Le Vent Du Nord)

Combining two amazing Quebec trad bands = essentially one of the greatest ideas yet. It’ll be a powerful kick off to EFMF 2017.

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Review: Leeroy Stagger with opener Rebecca Lappa at New Moon Folk Club

The geniuses behind the Winnipeg Folk Fest curate a series called Hear All Year and to some extent that is what the Edmonton folk clubs do for us. They bring a bit of that timeless August magic into the dreary grey, slush-filled prairie winter evenings. At New Moon the glimpse’s of summer aren’t just the music, or even the line-up for the door that wound through the lobby a few times at the final show of the 2016–17 season, it is the sense of community that permeates the whole scene. It seemed that more than ever people were stopping by each others tables to visit, catching up with a neighbour in line, or even striking up conversations with unknowns at their table. In many ways the last show of New Moon’s second season felt like the Sunday of Folk Fest — I, for one, was almost ready to sing “Four Strong Winds” and climb up a ski-hill at the end of the night.

After the perogy line finally abated Rebecca Lappa took to the stage. The Edmonton native charmed the audience with quirky stories about her childhood documentary obsession (the aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart) and even linked the reality TV show Millionaire Matchmaker to her original song “Crockpot Girl”. Lappa was joined by Nick Samoil on keyboards, creating a full sound that carried through St. Basil’s even with the simple configuration of just a guitar, keyboard and Lappa’s voice.

 

Following Lappa’s opening act, Leeroy Stagger’s four piece band came out with their own take on The Shmenge Brother’sCabbage Rolls and Coffee” as an introduction that brought Stagger to centre stage. “Cabbage Rolls and Coffee” was both appropriate (given the available cuisine) and hilariously executed even if the reference was missed by some. He told us that his wife phoned him just before he took the stage to tell him that their young son has heard dad on the TV and had been singing along with the la-la-las of “I Want It All”, eliciting a chorus of “awwwhs” from the audience. But Stagger wasn’t just about laughter and light topics. “Little Brother” was written after Stagger’s own younger brother was in a serious accident, which brought Stagger to his bedside during a week long coma. The evening also featured a number of other tunes off Stagger’s new album, Love Versus hitting stores on April 7th, including “Crooked Old Road” which Joel Plaskett appears as a guest musician on. Ending the main sets was the older “Radiant Land” which is about standing up for what you believe, asking:

What would you do?
What would you do if it all came down to them or you?
Would you stand tall and fight?

In the fields of this radiant land

Stagger segued seamlessly from his own words to Bob Dylan’s reminding us that “the times, they are a-changing.”

To say that all the musicians on stage with Stagger were talented, would be an understatement. Their performance was polished but that doesn’t mean it was stagnant. Keyboardist Michael Ayotte often held the in between song bits together using chords like glue, while drummer Nick Stecz was quick to jump in with a drummer roll for the door-prize draws at intermission & provided a vibrant rhythmic underpinning to the whole evening. Tyson Maiko’s (the bassist) fifteen years of playing with Stagger showed in his banter with the lead singer and Ryland Moranz was phenomenal switching between instruments — mandolin, banjo, various guitars, and likely some other instruments I missed — like it was a game of musical chairs (and he was winning). Together this quintet brought down the house for the New Moon Season, and all we can do is look forward to what is in store for next season.

Early bird season passes for New Moon’s next season go on sale June 1st, and the discounted rate continues until the 30th.

Blues Double Bill Review: Joël Fafard and Michael Jerome Browne at the New Moon Folk Club

 

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Joël Fafard

Joël Fafard kicked off the New Moon Folk Club’s double bill of Blues offerings with gritty vocals and punny intersong banter. Fafard’s Jitterbug Swing had an agile bluesy swing, Woodshed Blues vocals had a tone of lamentation, while the instrumental track Sweet Mosquito Buzz showcased his slide dexterity. He shared aural glimpses into his family when introducing tunes like If I had a Boat where he noted his son’s wish to be a hockey player which was later replaced with aspirations to be a pirate. He reasoned that any good pirate would need a ship for pillaging, but a good pirate captain would require excellent swordsmanship skills, thus, that is where fencing lessons settled as the current pursuit.

 

 

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Michael Jerome Browne

Michael Jerome Browne’s set had an ethnomusicological feel to it as he would provide a historical backstory before each one of his songs. He brought an array of instruments such as a guitar from the 1940s, mandolin, 12-string guitar, and a gourd banjo with which to showcase his encyclopedic musical knowledge. His set list contained tunes spanning back to content he recorded back in the early 1990s but they still sounded relevant in our modern times. He played the tracks such as Got your Summer Shoes On and Living in the Whitehouse with class calmly switching out different harmonicas, stringed instruments, and updating tuning between each of the songs to offer an accurate performance of his work. Browne ended his set with a the title track from his 2016 album Can’t Keep a Good Man Down and he dedicated a heartfelt encore of Sam Cooke’s That’s Where It’s At to all the lovers in the audience.

 

Leeroy Stagger is next up at New Moon Folk Club on March 24, 2017 at 7:30 PM.

Interview Preview with The Slocan Ramblers

The Slocan Ramblers — Frank Evans on banjo, Adrian Gross on mandolin, Darryl Poulsen on guitar and Alastair Whitehead on bass — are consistently described as one of Canada’s up-and-coming bluegrass acts to watch. We wondered how they got their start, their musical taste, and how they go about writing their tunes. Whitehead of the Toronto based group answered some of these questions for us prior to their visit to Edmonton.

The Slocan Ramblers had a whirlwind start, practically booking an opening gig before you even had played together. What prompted the formation of the band in the first place?

Yea, it’s funny to think back on it now. Adrian and I (Alastair) were living together while at music school, Darryl, Adrian, and I had started jamming at our apartment, and had bonded over our mutual enthusiasm for bluegrass and folk music, something not all that common for a few jazz school guys. I had met Frank at work and heard he was a great banjo player. We upgraded our jams to the garage to make room for him. The four of us hit it off both musically and socially pretty much from the get go. We were offered a gig before we had even really decided to be a band let alone chose a name. It went really well, and we were offered a monthly gig, then a weekly gig. Eventually we made our first album, started touring, and now it seems to be a full time occupation. We’ve definitely been really lucky with how it has all worked out.dsc_0121


How did you guys become a bluegrass band given the diverse musical backgrounds of each of the members as individuals?

We all got to bluegrass in our own separate ways, and perhaps for different reasons, but I think we can agree that our love of the music was solidified by the very vibrant bluegrass scene in Toronto. We get asked a lot how a bunch of young guys in Toronto got interested in bluegrass, the truth a lot of people don’t know is that there is a world class bluegrass scene in Toronto, with top notch bands almost every night of the week. Bluegrass is definitely a music best appreciated in a live setting. Having such a wealth of live bluegrass in Toronto was always a great source of inspiration.

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A lot of your interviews mention the Foggy Hogtown Boys — how has this group has influenced your group?

As I mentioned before, Toronto is a great city for bluegrass with weekly gigs on almost every night of the week. One of the longest running and best known of those shows was the High Lonesome Wednesdays at the Silver Dollar Room. It ran for almost 20 years and was a major institution in Toronto, not just for bluegrass fans but all kinds of folks from all walks of life. For the majority of the High Lonesome Wednesdays existence, the Foggy Hogtown Boys, a well known Canadian Bluegrass band were the entertainment, performing under the name Crazy Strings. We all used to go to that show regularly. The Foggy Hogtown Boys are a great band, and set the bar high. They were a great source of inspiration for us, and in many ways helped shape the sound of our band. We have gotten to know all of them over the years and they have really supported us. Chris Coole one of the groups co-founders was kind enough to produce our last album. A couple of the Slocan Ramblers also perform somewhat regularly with another Foggy Hogtown Boy John Showman. I think the Foggy Hogtown Boys really helped establish the Bluegrass scene in Toronto and inspired a whole bunch of younger aspiring musicians to get into the genre.


Some of your songs are written by you and some are traditional tunes — what does the process of writing a tune look like for The Slocan Ramblers?dsc_0105

We started playing bluegrass because we loved the genre. There’s a pretty rich repertoire of songs in the bluegrass canon, and the best way to learn the music is to learn as many of those songs, and listen to as many recordings as possible. We really took that to heart when the band first got going. I feel like we will always enjoy digging up old songs and finding ways to adapt them to our sound. However, as the group evolved from our bar band roots we definitely wanted to challenge ourselves and find a sound we could call our own. Writing original music seemed like the natural progression. We have all really embraced composition and song writing, and I feel it has definitely become a strength for the band. In terms of our writing process, I feel like it is still continually evolving. We still draw a lot from the traditional roots of the music, but we are also a lot more confident to stretch the boundaries and challenge our listeners. The process is pretty fluid and often different from tune to tune. We try not to self analyze too much.

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Reviews of your gigs constantly praise the vibrancy and excitement of your performance — how do you keep the enthusiasm levels of your shows high night after night on a tour?

Bluegrass is a really infectious and energetic music to begin with so that definitely works in our favour. It is also a music that is best enjoyed in a performance setting. Often people that had no idea they would enjoy bluegrass see the show and are total converts. There’s a lot of factors that play into it, the improvisational aspect of the music, the energy of playing live, the energy you get back from the crowd, when it all clicks it’s something really special. For me I think the biggest factor is that as a band we all still get along really well. I think the longevity of a band, and its success is largely based on whether or not the members still enjoy each others company after 5 years of touring, spending time together in the van, sleeping in hotels etc. Ultimately we all still get along really well, we still laugh at each others dumb jokes, and most importantly we are still inspired by each other musically. We all feel pretty lucky to be able to go on stage together every night and play our music for such great audiences, the energy seems to provide itself.

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There are couple opportunities in Edmonton to hear and/or be a part of this infectious and energetic music for yourself:

  • February 22th The Slocan Ramblers will be the backing band for Bluegrass Karaoke hosted by the Northern Bluegrass Circle Music Society (NBCMS) at Pleasantview Hall (10860 – 57 Ave Edmonton). Admission is $2 and homemade pie is $3.
  • February 24th The Slocan Ramblers play Edmonton’s New Moon Folk Club.  For ticket information please see New Moon’s website.

*The last time we saw The Slocan Ramblers was at the Edmonton Folk Fest in 2015, we searched our archives and found the in-text photos that accompany this interview.

Review: Be Your Own Light

… There’s no doubt about it
there’s no doubt about it
there’s no doubt about it
you’ve got to be your own light …

The 2017 edition of Edmonton’s Winter Roots Roundup concluded with an encore featuring Linda McRae‘s “Be Your Own Light” at the Northern Lights Folk Club. Joining McRae on the stage for the encore and throughout the night offering their own voices, stories and songs were Dana Wylie (also the host of the evening) and Shawna Caspi. Caspi also played a short set the previous night at the New Moon Folk Club, before Catherine MacLellan (accompanied by Tim Leacock) took the stage for two sets of her own.

The conviction of McRae’s final song epitomized the whole weekend of women and song, and reminded me of how women, in particular, had to shine their own light. As Wylie pointed out women are often erased from historical stories. For an example Wylie used our lack of collective remembrance about Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (an active member of the I.W.W. and a founding member of the ACLU) after Caspi had sung Joe Hill’s “The Rebel Girl” which was written inspired by Flynn. Flynn fought for women’s rights, in an incredibly vocal way. How could such a significant figure disappear from our consciousness?

The Folkways catalogue includes more than protest songs, and so did the evening at the Northern Lights Folk Club, which began with Wylie’s own “Hallelujah Leonard Cohen Hallelujah”. While not from the Folkways catalogue McRae’s song “Singing River” could easily have been. Through the song McRae told the story of Te-lah-ney a Yuchi woman who spent 5 years walking from Oklahoma back to her birthplace in Alabama (to hear the songs of the Tennessee River) following the Indian Removal Act in 1830. Wylie dipped into the Canadiana portion of the Folkways collection leading us in an a capella version of “A Poor Lone Girl in Saskatchewan” originally sung by Anne Halderman; and by the song’s conclusion had us, much to our delight, shouting out the ending rhymes of Yellowknife and Bering Strait.

Aligning more with the protest and labour songs in the Folkways catalogue, Caspi’s “Not So Silent” brought forth the voices of crowds at both the Northern Lights and New Moon Folk Clubs. While MacLellan mixed her own songs like “The Long Way Home” and “The Raven’s Sun” with covers of her father’s work such as “Snowbird”, to tell us tales of homesickness, heartsickness and love. The genuineness of MacLellan’s songs shone through and like in McRae’s song MacLellan was definitely being her own light.

These four musicians shared songs that have shaped and reflected their understanding of the world. As McRae’s “Be Your Own Light” says:
… go out and make some noise when you find you’ve got no choice
put down your toys the world needs your voice
and it sure could use your light …

These women certainly have heeded McRae’s call and shared their voices and their light.

The Northern Lights Folk Club’s next show is a double bill with Karen Savoca & Pete Heitzman and the Shari Ulrich Trio on February 18th, while the New Moon Folk Club is back on February 24th with the Slocan Ramblers. Please see the folk club’s individual websites for more ticket details.

Interview Preview with Catherine MacLellan

Photo cred: Jule Malet-Veale
Photo cred: Jule Malet-Veale

Catherine MacLellan takes some time to chat with Folk on the Road prior to her upcoming concert at the New Moon Folk Club.

Coming from PEI, an island that has a small town feel, how does the warmth of this community emerge in your music?

Prince Edward Island is an amazing place to grow up, no matter what your interests are, but as a writer or an artist, it is so engaging and encouraging you can’t help but create. There is music everywhere, in every home, every bar and nook and cranny.
As a musician here, there isn’t the sense of competition there might be in larger urban centres, we are a very close knit community.
But what also makes this a perfect place to create is the quiet, the solitude. I live in the country and am inspired by the life around me, whether it is the animals in my yard, the wild ocean churning or the leaves or snow falling to the ground. There is a lot of time for me to contemplate and to turn the world around me into song.

Your Father, Gene MacLellan, was a songwriter while you were growing up before he passed away when you were 14. Are there any memories of his songwriting process or lifestyle that stood out to you as a child?

I will never forget the image of my father sitting in the living room with book and pen and guitar, always at work, always editing and creating. He would never take the easy way out with his music, he worked every line until it rolled off the tongue perfectly.
Sometimes, I would wake in the middle of the night and go downstairs to find my dad in the kitchen, at the table, working on music. I think those quiet moments were his most productive times. When the whole world is asleep, there is a sort of quiet magic or inspiration.

You manage multiple roles, such as being a singer songwriter as well as a mother, do you find multiple roles informs your perspective while performing in either domain?
My writing certainly changed after becoming a mother. There is a certain shift in perspective that happens when you give birth, a very abrupt awakening to the realization that the world and all the people in it are multifaceted, many layered, and all someone’s child.
Perhaps it’s just a growing up, maturing thing as well – you realize that not everything is about you. It has allowed me to look into other people’s stories and wonder about what’s going on in their heads, which became a whole new source of inspiration.

You have mentioned in previous interviews that songs may be subconsciously percolating in your mind while you are creating quiet moments for yourself, such as through gardening. How do you create a meditative atmosphere for yourself in order to channel the creative flow of your thoughts?

I’m not sure it’s something that can be planned, but it is a common phenomenon. If you think too hard about something, you’ll never find the answer. But if you take a break and do something mundane or meditative the answer or the idea may come to you out of the blue. I meditate every day, which helps keep my mind clear and present. Other than that, I try to give myself over to my hobbies like gardening or this time of year it may be knitting or sewing. I’m a maker, it turns out. I like to plant a seed and see how it grows.

Is there anything else you would like to mention that I’ve missed?

I feel very grateful that I get to play music for a living… I think everyone needs some sort of creative outlet and I feel fortunate that mine is also my job.

Catherine MacLellan performs at New Moon Folk Club on Friday, February 3, 2017.

Review: Tim Isberg and Ben Rogers at New Moon Folk Club

 

 

Drawn by the warmth of St. Basil’s Edmonton folkies shuffled their feet across icy surfaces in search of the secure grip of gravel into the venue. As incongruous as it might seem the grittiness of Edmonton’s January streets was matched by the stories and sounds of New Moon Folk Club’s two headliners, Tim Isberg and Ben Rogers, who played full sets to the cozy audience of 300. It wasn’t simply an evening of pleasant entertainment, as both Isberg and Rogers brought provocative subjects to the foreground and challenged the audience to consider their roles in the world.

Isberg’s service in the Canadian military has taken him to conflict torn areas such as Rwanda and Afghanistan. Readily admitting that he left a piece of his soul overseas as he bore witness to the devastation in those areas he also notes that he has gained a lot of perspective. Yet the turmoil that one might expect to manifest from witnessing such extremes of human behaviour does not surface on Isberg’s face, instead, he displays his emotions in his music. An energy of contemplation is present in Isberg’s music even when his lyrics grapple with challenging subject matter. He suggests that his listeners self-evaluate the types of physical and emotional walls they create in order to separate people and consider their disassembly in The Walls, “Does freedom bring peace or the other way around?”

 

If you close your eyes and listen to Ben Rogers, you hear a gritty bass voice of that might make you think of an ancient character, sipping whiskey that is borderline poisonous, perched on a stool at the end of a weathered bar in a dusty old western town. Rogers shares stories of all types through his songs, especially those that might otherwise be unspoken and forgotten. His gift, even stronger than his voice, is helping us to remember—whether it is songs of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Highway of Tears or the tragedy of interracial love in his encore, Cowboys and Indians—and challenging us, as individuals, to do better. When you open your eyes, you may be perplexed by how a voice like Roger’s has chosen such a young vessel. However, it doesn’t matter what physical form his voice is contained in.  His voice speaks for the marginalized.

This post is co-written by Twila and Sable.

Next up at New Moon Folk Club is Catherine MacLellan on Friday, February 3, 2017.