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Edmonton 2004 – Saturday Sessions

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It was cold and cloudy all day, but it did not rain. The temperature probably didn’t get above 15 degrees (C, or 60 degrees F) and it got cooler in the evening.

I went first to a workshop which combined Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph with English folk legends the Strawbs and a Canadian First Nation drum troupe from Hobbema, Alberta, called Perfect Storm. To accomodate all the performers, the session was divided with Perfect Storm starting. Their performance might have been obscure or inaccessible but one of the troupe leaders provided a friendly and engaging commentary that explained the show. I listened to Martyn Joseph sing one song, and I left the site to meet a friend for lunch. I have heard Joseph at other Canadian Festivals. He is very strong singer, and a good writer.

I returned as the sessions shut down for an afternoon main stage concert by Canadian roots-rockers, Blue Rodeo. This veteran band has played the Edmonton festival several times, and they were crowd favourites.

My next sessions were concerts by Irish singer and multi-instrumentalist Ron Kavana, and Scots singer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist Brian McNeill. McNeill came out and played with Kavana, and McNeill was joined by guitarist and singer Dick Gaughan. All three performers are veteran performers, with large repertoires and confident and relaxed stage presences. They have played together before and joined in each other’s songs effortlessly. Kavana plays guitar and Irish bouzouki, McNeill plays guitar, fiddle and mando-cello. McNeill’s discography is rather thin for such an accomplished and experienced writer and performer, and not very accessible in Canada. The emphasis in this workshop was on historical ballads, and they each have written several, and know a number of traditional songs or songs by other writers.

I moved to another session stage and caught most of a session by Canadian alt-country singer-songwriter Lynn Miles. I hadn’t heard her before. Critics compare her to Lucinda Williams and Shawn Colvin and the comparisons are fair. She does the modern hurtin’ woman thing pretty well.

My last session was with the Vancouver Celtic/roots/rock group the Paperboys in session with Blue Rodeo’s drummer Glen Milchem, and Zimbabweyan vocal trio Insingizi.

I have seen the Paperboys at other festivals, most recently in Canmore and I continue to be impressed with the overall quality of their material, and their ability to entertain in a live concert. I have set the Amazon ASIN for one of their CD’s with this post, and I note that Amazon does not have their recent material.

Milchem wanted to show his talents as a singer-songwriter with some introspective material.

Insingizi sing in a style that is probably distinctive but generally similiar to Ladysmith Black Mambazo who are best known for their collaboration with Paul Simon on Homeless and Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes on the “Graceland” album. They sang some of their own songs and offered extemporaneous improvisations on the Paperboys tunes. They were a talented and entertaining part of the session.

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