Well it’s the final day of the Ottawa Folk Festival and I show up to the Ravenlaw Stage at the same time as Kat Edmonson. “It’s wonderful to be at your festival,” she declared early on in the set “my music straddles all genres, but there is a certain demeanour with a folk crowd, it’s more song centric.” Kat has as a sweet acoustic sound that falls somewhere in the Jazz/ Folk genres. Along with Steve Elliot accompanying on guitar, she treat us to a set which includes the songs “Lucky,” “What Else Can I Do,” and new song that was written during a promotional tour of London. “We’ll be back soon enough, I promise, I hope to see you there,” she said at the end, and you know there is a good chance she will.World Party was up next, which is described as a alternative rock group that was put together by Karl Wallinger after leaving The Waterboys. With Wallinger on guitar and keys, Dave Duffy on fiddle and Tristan Powell on electric guitar we were treated to the closest definition of folk I’ve ever see or heard live. The harmonies between Wallinger and Duffy were fantastic, but really it was all about the words. ‘This one is an old one, well really they are all old ones’ Wallinger dead paned before breaking into “Put The Message In the Box” a song about making your voice heard. We went though the trials of capitalism on “Vanity Fair” and “Is It To Late”, and there was a nod to music past in “When The Rainbow Comes” with references in it to The Marvellets, Little Richard and Gene Vincent.
World Party got my feet tapping and my brain thinking, and I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly what I am looking for in a festival of folk.
Before Lynn Miles took the Ravenlaw stage, the Executive Director of Folk Fest, Mark Monohan, came out to present Miles with the Helen Verger award, an annual award given out to an artist that represents folk culture to both Ottawa and the world.
When Miles accepted the award she advised us that Helen Verger was actually the person who put together the $2,000 for her first demo tape. She also read us a 2 page list of all the local artist that she has shared a stage or a studio with, and after catching her breath from reading the two page list she declared “That’s Ottawa for you, lets play some music.”
Accompanied on guitar by Keith Glass, a founding member of the legendary country group Prairie Oyster, Miles played a mix of old songs and new (she just released an album called Downpour). Miles entertained us with her beautiful voice and dry sense of humour. Prior to bringing Rebecca Campbell onto the stage with her to perform a cover of Neil Young‘s “Helpless” she introduced her like this “ We’ve been singing together for 65 years, she lives in Toronto so she’s pretty fancy, but every once in a while she comes home” and after singing the first line to Helpless and getting a cheer of approval from the crowd she quickly deadpanned “Thanks I wrote it” before carrying on with the song.
At the end of the set I gave Lynn Miles my own award, it was my hard earned cash for a copy of her new CD.
I have to admit the north wind was blowing pretty hard in Hogs back Park around this time so I had to duck out to my car for a toque, and to the coffee hut for a hot chocolate. I was able to catch he last few songs of Carolina Chocolate Drops, and I immediately cursed my chilly bones. Carolina Chocolate Drops are a four piece group that includes Dom Flemons on vocals/ 4 string banjo/ guitar/percussion, Rhiannon Giddens on vocals/fiddle/ kazoo, Hubby Jenkins on 5 string banjo/guitar/ mandolin/ precision and Leyla McCalla on cello. They play roots music with touches of folk,blues and dixieland, and are very good at it. When announcing the last songs, they received a few boos from the audience wanting more, but they were soon set straight from Flemons ‘It is a great honour to proceed the great Gordon Lightfoot’ he then suggested we look up on youtube Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot (It’s pretty good, check it out here). They then started up their last song which was a cover of Johnny and June Carter Cash’s “Jackson”
It was now the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the time to stand in the shadows of legends. Well one Legend in particular Gordon Lightfoot. It’s no surprise he came on stage to a big ovation and kicked right into “Cotton Jenny” follow by “Carefree Highway.” He then took a moment to address the crowd “I’m Gordon Lightfoot, and the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”, referring to the false reports of his passing a few years ago. With a tender voice and a superb backing band Lightfoot played over 15 songs including “The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald”, “Sundown” and “If You Could Read My Mind” with the crowd singing along with the last two. While playing “The Canadian Railroad Trilogy” he left an extra long pause after the last “to be silent” before finishing the line “to be real”, and ended his 45 minute set with “Baby Step Back” before giving us a bow and heading back stage.
And closing the 2013 edition of the Ottawa folk fest was the reggae styling of the legendary Wailers. Led by long time bass player ,Aston “Family Man” Barrett, we were put in the reggae vibe with a bopping instrumental. Vocalists Koolant Brown and Cegee Victory then came on stage and the band broke into ” Positive Vibrations”. And positive vibrations were all around as the crowd dance to classic songs like “Liven Up Yourself”, “Thee Little Birds” and “Stir it Up”.
“I want to see you all smile” Brown stated at one point, and there were many smiles to go around as another successful Folk Festival came to an end..
Photos by: Ryan Seyeau and Laine Gustafson – rubiconphotography.com