The first mainstage performer in the evening was Jerry Douglas, a legendary slide guitar performer who has assembled a very nice country band around him. I don’t think that virtuousity is necessarily the key to an entertaining performance. At first, it was easy listening, but it became repetitious and I found this show a little tiring.
The second performance was by the Oakland based Linda Tillery Cultural Heritage Choir. Tillery’s group features astonishing vocal performances and harmony singing on material that speaks about woman’s experiences and black women’s experiences. They left the political commentary aside and worked to give a good show and let their songs speak for themselves. They were joined by Hans Theesink, a Dutch-born blues guitarist (who has recorded an album with them) and by Insingizi. It made for a entertaining, but relatively relaxed show.
The third mainstage act was by the legendary Earl Scruggs. I had seen his act a month earlier at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and I enjoyed seeing it again. They played a Grand Old Opry version of bluegrass. A good part of the audience recognized and appreciated “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” written by Scruggs for the 60′s TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies”. The audience did not recognize “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and other bluegrass standards the same way, but the songs were well received.
The celebrity show of the evening was Natalie Merchant who opened with songs from her recent roots album “The House Carpenter’s Daughter” and moved into other material from her solo career and her career with 10,000 Maniacs. She worked hard, her band was good and she gave the audience a good show, drawing multiple encores.
I hadn’t heard her before – I admit to being out of pop culture for about the last 20 years. I was impressed with the production values, with her intensity and with the quality and beauty of her lyrics.
The last act of the night was the Irish band Four Men and a Dog. I passed on them due to being cold and tired. I heard they gave a good show, giving the required shots of Celtic energy for the dancers and the Ceilidh fans.
I wish I had seen them. I was talking to my friend and host in Edmonton, and fellow Blogcritic Randy Reichardt today. Randy is a volunteer at the Edmontion Festival in performer hospitality. We realized that the headliners, and especially the overseas acts tend to be more mature acts and that we aren’t necessarily supporting the younger acts. I have seen reviews suggesting that Four Men, like Dervish, are the new strength of Irish traditional music.