Central Music Festival ’10 Red Deer, AB August 13, 2010   1 comment

When we awoke to pouring rain some 18 hours ago, worry for the fourth edition of the Central Music Festival increased. When it ceased raining around noon, one became hopeful. When the skies again opened as we got into the truck just after five, my wife and I could only laugh. What a way to spend an evening!

As it turned out, excepting a few brief showers throughout the evening, the powers that control the weather chose to take it easy on this little fest. While cool, it turned out to be a very pleasant evening and the walk-up ticket sales appeared healthy. While I am notoriously poor at estimating audiences, I’m guessing there were 500 or so brave souls in attendance for the first of two days of the CMF.

Deliberately diverse, the organizers of the CMF avoid calling their event a folk festival and embrace music of all types with an emphasis on Central Alberta performers. Of the nine entertainers taking the stage this evening, only two traveled from outside Alberta- Nova Scotia’s The Trews and Colorado-based Great American Taxi.

As with all live music, the most significant and poignant moments occur when the connection the singer holds to his words is apparent. The Trews demonstrated this while performing a song that obviously carries meaning for them, “Highway of Heroes.” Similarly Calgarian John Rutherford’s strongest moments came while singing “Bud’s Guitar Store,” an achingly beautiful song. Red Deer’s Kim Johansson garnered most attention while delivering “Red Deer’s Gone.”

Steve Coffey delivered a solid 30-minute set accompanied by two of his Lokels, Russ Baker and Dave Bauer. The Calgary artist (he painted the gorgeous work that is featured on the festival poster; fingers crossed that I win the painting in the raffle tomorrow!) and songwriter abandoned his plan to feature some new songs and instead explored his back pages. Flipping to 2002, the trio delivered a welcome rendition of “Afraid to Fly.” It was great to hear other favourites including “My Life Unwinds,” “My Hometown,” and “Cottonwood Road.” Coffey and crew were given the impossible task of following up an extended set offered up by Great American Taxi.

That five-piece band performed a tight set of extended jams and percolating Americana. I can’t imagine the city hosting a finer set of roots music during the final five months of this year. It was incredible to experience world-class talent within the natural amphitheatre that normally serves as a horse pasture. While it appeared few in attendance had previously heard the band, by the end of the set converts had been made; the band didn’t let the lack of exuberance from the audience get in the way of their performance.  I can only hope that someone was taping the set and will upload it to the Internet Archive.

Kicking things off with “Lumpy Beanpole and Dirt” and “Back to the Home Place,” the quintet swung through much of Reckless Habits including “One of These Days” and a devastating “New Millennium Blues.” The basscentric “Swamp Song” was sang by Brian Adams, and “Runaway Train” made an appearance. Commemorating the passing of Little Feat’s Richie Hayward the day before, mid-set a loose but somehow still precise cover of “Sailin’ Shoes” was delivered. Marking what was announced as their first appearance in Canada, the band performed a solid take of The Band’s “Twilight” with, I believe, Jim Lewin singing. “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance” brought some tropical warmth as darkness fell. “Unpromised Land”/”Whiskey Before Breakfast”, “Fuzzy Little Hippie Girl,” “Ramblin’ Highwayman,” and “Good Night to Boogie” closed out the magnificent set.

What was most impressive, having listened to several live sets from the Internet Archive, the set tonight still provided surprise and no small amount of awe. My wife commented on the obvious multi-dimensional talents of the group, and I have to agree. What a show! And VInce Herman is giving Dave Alvin a run for coolest guy in roots music.

Local heroes St. James’ Gate were the first act we caught upon arrival and they got the gathering audience hopping. Pillaging the songbooks of Great Big Sea (“Ordinary Day”), The Arrogant Worms/Captain Tractor (“Last Saskatchewan Pirate”), and AC/DC (the explosive set closer “It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock and Roll),” the Celtic rock band dropped in a couple original numbers as well including the popular “Raise Your Glass.”Glenn MacLeod especially has a terrific and appealing voice and it was a shame that he was buried a bit in the mix. Billy O’Neil’s work on the pipes was also appreciated.

The evening closed with The Trews performing an acoustic-if-you-disregard- the-electric-bass set that had the kids up and hoping in front of the stage. Having only heard my first song from the band earlier in the afternoon, their music didn’t really hold my attention. It appeared that the kids enjoyed it and I did as well, for the most part. Really, I have nothing to say- it was fine but we left when the lead guitar player- who was pretty dang good- went into an extended solo while the rest of the group left for refreshments. Sigh- it was almost like Trooper!

Tomorrow- today now- is another day. I’m looking forward to The Black Pioneer Heritage Singers out of Edmonton, Jenny Allen, Jim Byrnes, and Ponty Bone, but I’m certain they’ll be pleasant surprises as well. With the forecast favourable, it would be great if the Central Alberta community came out in record numbers for the final day of the Festival. For information on the festival, visit www.centralmusicfest.com; tickets will be available at the gate.

And the butter chicken from the Indian cart is very, very good!


One response to “Central Music Festival ’10 Red Deer, AB August 13, 2010

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  1. Pingback: Central Music Festival ’10 Red Deer, AB August 14, 2010 « Fervor Coulee- roots music opinion

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