Archive for the ‘Edmonton Folk Music Festival’ Tag
A bit more than a year ago, I became aware of a novel published the previous year. When I finally saw the book in a bookstore, three things immediately struck me:
1. There was a banjo on the cover, albeit of the dreaded six-string variety;
2. The novel was entitled Hang Down Your Head, a moniker that calls to mind to even the most pedestrian of roots listener “Tom Dooley”/”Tom Dula”; and
3. Upon examination, it was apparent that the story was set in Edmonton.
This final detail reminded me that I had previously read a review of the book somewhere, but all I could recall was that it involved a murder at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Anyone who has attended the fest in the last ten years has likely fantasized about killing someone (usually morons with scruffy beards and dance hands who talk all through Rodney Crowell’s set…) while in attendance.
I purchased the novel and read it. My intent here today is not to review the book- it is two years old- but I found it a little uneven the first time through, and this feeling was reaffirmed the other night upon re-reading. It is predictable in places, awkward in others, and yet the book has so much going for it, including lots of south side Edmonton references and as much roots music discussion.
The protagonist through whose voice the story unfolds is flippant, pithy and a bit snarky and given to tangents that only serve to endear her to similarly minded people. Naturally, I quite fell for Randy Craig, given her internal dialogues and vivid descriptions about “Stackalee,” Edmonton’s summer festivals, the LRT, Rutherford North, the Tory Turtle, Yianni’s Taverna, and the vision of Moses Asch. It is MacDonald’s imperfect style of ‘writing within Craig’s head’ that I most enjoyed: she could have ‘got there’ more quickly, but the journey would have been much less rich for the sake of brevity.
I write this today because I noticed that the latest local bestseller from MacDonald has recently been released. O, and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival is approaching, although tickets for all but seniors have been sold out since the day they went on sale.
While reading the book a year ago, I made notes on the many roots music references I especially appreciated thinking that when MacDonald published her next novel, it would make a timely little Fervor Coulee piece. Of course, those notes were lost in the move and are not scheduled to resurface until twenty minutes after I hit Post on this.
Other than the novel’s title and the murder at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, what does all this have to do with roots music you may still be asking yourself. The backdrop of the plot is that Randy Craig, the accidental protagonist, is working at the University of Alberta’s Smithsonian Folkways Collection Project. Briefly, her term position is to listen to the Smithsonian Folkways collection and write little snippets to accompany the recordings on the website devoted to the Moses Asch collection housed at the university. This allows Craig- when she isn’t stumbling further into a series of murders and assaults- to make many roots music observations. Sometimes these get in the way of the plot (hence, my comment about unevenness above), but for me they add a great deal of colour and make the entire book more engaging.
Here I am going to attempt to highlight some of my favourite lines/references in the book, and link to sound bits and video found on the web, where possible linking to a song mentioned in the book. I’m dividing them into ‘roots music/Smithsonian Folkways’ related, ‘General’, and ‘Edmonton/University of Alberta’ related.
Roots and Smithsonian Folkways favourites from Hang Down Your Head:
1. “I had the feeling that Maybelle (Carter) would have been someone I’d have liked a heck of a lot if I’d ever met her.”
2. My favourite, because it almost slips by the reader- “What sort of name is ‘Eck,’ anyhow?”
3. A couple extend conversations around the roots of the Tom Dooley/Tom Dula story, as well as characters named [Black] Jack Davey and Barbara Allen.
4. “I love Doc Watson’s voice; it was as mellow as honey running in the hot sun…”
5. References to and observations made about Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, murder ballads and Childe ballads, James Keelaghan, “Down By the Henry Moore,” and Tanglefoot, as well as dialogue contributions from the likes of Ferron and especially Tom Paxton, who provides significant background on the family in the middle of the murders.
General passages or allusions/references I liked:
1. A Jerry Orbach mention! (One of my great regrets is not running down Orbach at a Montreal airport when I recognized him from a distance.)
2. “I maintain that Tom Waits would be nowhere without [Dave] Van Ronk to carve the pathway for him. Of course, that could also be true for Rod Stewart and Kim Carnes, who I had long suspected were the same person (of course, once I heard Bonnie Tyler, I realized they were both her.)”
3. Thinking of her mother, who feared apartment life should her behaviour (such as late night baths) negatively impact on her neighbours, Randy muses, “She, of course, had no idea of the basic indifference of man any more. She had been raised in an age of manners and etiquette, which is something we have somehow managed to lose along the way to the twenty-first century…the world was just more and more rude and irritable each day.”
4. A lovely comparison between homesteading in northern Alberta (Chris and Sally Jones country, for a roots reference) and life in the Appalachians.
5. MacDonald’s use of the word ‘chesterfield.’ ‘Nuff said.
Edmonton/University of Alberta references:
1. About the U of A campus- “It’s a shame that most students leave the campus for summer work or holidays back home just as the U of A is beginning to look like everyone’s dream of collegiate life.”
2. Remember when I mentioned ‘pithy’ earlier? From the same page as the above- again, writing about the U of A campus “Abandoned by all except grade school teachers hoping to escape the classroom by getting advanced degrees and becoming principals.” Ouch.
3. Mentions of John Wort Hannam and Mike Stack, and an especially nuanced discussion about Ben Sures. O, and Colin MacLean!
4. “The worst thing about hot weather in Edmonton is that you feel incredibly ungrateful if you complain about it. So much of the year is spent bundled so that you have no exposed flesh to freeze within ten seconds, that when some hot weather comes…you feel as if you can’t voice an opinion about it.”
5. “The southerners know how to celebrate their “Shortnin’ Bread” and “Jambalaya” , but as far as I could think, only Bill Bourne had immortalized “Saskatoon Pie.” I know that song isn’t “Saskatoon Pie,” but I couldn’t find it anywhere, and the line from the book was too good to pass up.
All in all, Hang Down Your Head is likely to provide any roots music fan with several hours of entertainment as the murder mystery unfolds as well as countless hours of Internet sleuthing to uncover performers and songs mentioned. The book provides lots of quips about the sociology and minutia of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, most of them kind but sometimes (and gleefully) edging on snarky.
Hang Down Your Head and other Janice MacDonald titles including the new Condemned to Repeat are available at (some) Edmonton bookstores, including Audreys. If you aren’t near Edmonton, the Amazon and Chapters/Indigo behemoths have it as well.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
The first several names appearing at the 2013 EFMF have been announced, and includes a fairly typical mix of the new, the ‘pushing the limits of folk’ folk, the familiar, and the ‘Who?’ Announced today are: the familiar- Neko Case, Martin Sexton, Ruthie Foster, and Laura Smith- who I was just thinking of the other day, as in…what is she doing lately?; the new- Cold Specks; the pushing the definition of folk- The Head and the Heart; and the Who?- Rayland Baxter. UPDATE: Over at Pollstar, they have Tim O’Brien and Karan Casey as well as James Cotton, Roomful of Blues, and Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience listed. As of March 21, Loreena McKinnitt and Bruce Cockburn (announced) and Dave Alvin (listed at Pollstar) are also on the bill.
The EFMF- one of the largest you can find- runs from Aug. 8 to 11. Tickets go on sale June 1.
This has me excited. If I were to attend, which I likely won’t for several reasons, I would make sure that I tried to catch: Kim Beggs and T Nile, Blue Highway, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Johnny Clegg Band, Rose Cousins, Rodney Crowell, Steve Forbert, Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Reunion, Emmylou Harris, Hills to Hollars featuring Laurie Lewis, Linda Tillery, and Barbara Higbie, Martyn Joseph, Jimmy LaFave, Jim Lauderdale, David Lindley, Dougie MacLean, The Parachute Club, and J. R. Shore. Lots of country-based roots there, y’all.
The Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2011 begins this coming Thursday, August 4 and flows through the weekend. If you are among the fortunate to have tickets to this sold out event, you have a wonderful four-days of music ahead of you. Hang in there…you’ll never know what you miss if you miss it.
I’ve attended many EFMFs in the past 15 years but find I no longer have the stamina to attend the entire weekend. I volunteered a couple times and I’ve purchased my share of tickets. As well, they have been very generous in previous years in allowing me to attend as a member of the media.
I always leave the EFMF exhausted but richer for the experience of hearing (and seeing) favoured performers as well as discovering acts I had not previously encountered.
I’m not attending this year; instead I hope to head to Carstairs for the Mountain View Music Fest. If I were attending EFMF this year, the following are ten elements I would try to catch:
10. k. d. lang & the Siss Boom Bang- mainstage, late Sunday- nothing needs to be said
9. The closing rendition of “Four Strong Winds” featuring everyone still around the site
8. Wanda Jackson- stage 7 concert, Friday evening at 6:00- a legend I missed last time around- the voice isn’t what it once was, but…she’s Wanda Jackson!
7. Mary Gauthier- stage 3 concert, Saturday at 4:00- always engaging and I understand that Tania Elizabeth adds an interesting element to the performance. Then, Guy Clark- stage 3 concert, Saturday at 5:00 and Sarah Jarosz- stage 3 concert, Saturday at 6:00- after a day of racing from stage to stage, stay put after Mary Gauthier for a couple more hours
6. Guy Clark, The Flatlanders, Nanci Griffith, and Lyle Lovett- stage 3 “Influences” session- expect to hear songs from Townes, Walter Hyatt, and Tom Russell. Who’ll be the first to do a Guy Clark song?
5. Blackie & the Rodeo Kings- main stage, Sunday at 2:00 ADDITIONAL NOTE: Serena Ryder will be performing with BARK as well as at sessions on her own.
4. The Deep Dark Woods- stage 1 concert, Saturday at 1:00- Could they be the ‘next big thing?’ With a U.S. deal (Sugar Hill) and a hot new album out tomorrow in Canada, Saskatchewan’s finest export this side of Fantuz Flakes needs to be heard. They also appear at several sessions notably Stage 5’s Going Up the Country (Friday 7:30) with Wanda Jackson, Garnet Rogers, and Ane Brun and Stage 1’s Turn, Turn, Turn (Sunday 11:00) with Bill Bourne and Braden Gates.
3. Etran Finatawa- stage 1 concert, Sunday at 4:00- Why this West African band isn’t on the main stage is a mystery to me. Get to stage 1 early which (unfortunately) may mean skipping out on Nanci Griffith’s performance early.
2. Nanci Griffith- stage 3 concert at 3:00- Do you really need a reason?
1. Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band- main stage, Saturday at 7:00- the deepest cut for me. There is no end to the performances I’ll regret missing at EFMF 2011 but they all pale beside this one. Dang!
Yes, I overly emphasize singer-songwriters of the Texas variety. Deal.
The full Edmonton Folk Music Festival schedule is posted here: http://www.edmontonfolkfest.org/performers-2/schedule
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
I just received in the mail today the new album- released tomorrow, April 12- from the Del McCoury Band & the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and while I haven’t yet listened to it, I am more than hopeful that I am going to be impressed. I base that on the single cut Del McCoury sang on the Preservation Hall tribute album of last year; “After You’ve Gone” was darn fine, so I’m excited- different, of course, from what I’m used to from Del and the band, but still very good.
But what sent me over the top was the announcement contained within the various papers sent with the album that Del and ‘Em would be apprearing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at this summer’s Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Such an appearance hasn’t been posted at the EFMF.ab.ca website, but…Pollstar has it down as well.
This comes just a few days after I spoke aloud to my wife those words I should never say: “I don’t need to go to any of the festivals this summer.”
What was I thinking?
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
[April 7: This post seems to get referenced a lot, and I don’t have the time or inclination to update it regularly- see http://www.efmf.ab.ca/007.whatsnew/007-00.main.html for the lastest on the 2011 edition of the EFMF. Katherine Dawn has recently been announced.]
I don’t normally do this, but I was pretty excited to receive word yesterday that Guy Clark would be appearing at the Edmonton Folk Music Fesitval this coming August. If you read my ramble about his appearance at the Hardly Strictly festival in the fall of 2009, you’ll recall that the craftsman continues to deliver stuff that works (https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/hardly-strictly-bluegrass-festival-oct-3-4-2009/)
Also just announced for the E.F.M.F. is Nanci Griffith, Angelique Kidjo, and Janiva Magness. Previously announced were: Brandi Carlile, Chris Smither, Matt Andersen, Delhi 2 Dublin, The Once, Mary Gauthier, Garnet Rogers, and Kila. Shaping up to be a good fest, IMO. More details here: http://www.efmf.ab.ca/
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
When Ben Harper was moved from the bonus, ‘fundraising’ Wednesday night slot, one suspected something might be up. Van Morrison will make his long-anticipated Edmonton Folk Music Festival debut this August. People are excited…not as excited as they would have been ten years ago, but still. It will be interesting to see how Morrison draws. Believed to have been someone the city was waiting for, when he did appear a few years back her drew (only) 12,000 to the Coliseum. Yes, I still call it the Coliseum. Sue me. I’ll be interested to see how many are prepared to fill the hill for Morrison. http://tinyurl.com/28sc79m