Peter Alsop, poet/songwriter from southern California, sings about the confusion we face in modern day society and within love relationships. His writing is woven with humour, tenderness and honesty. Peter is one of the very few male songwriters who is making an active effort to write realistic songs about male-female relationships in a non-sexist manner. His three albums contain several of these small masterpieces. He has done extensive touring around the States, singing at festivals, concert halls and prisons; he’s sung at concerts with Pete Seeger, Odetta Arlo Guthrie and many others. His friend Utah Phillips has called him “an important and entertaining singer who deserves to be heard,” and we think you will agree.
David Amram has been called the Renaissance man of American music. He has also been called weird, crazy and unbelievable. He is all these things and more. Being the Renaissance man of American music does not mean he plays Gregorian chants. What it does mean is that he moves with ease and comfort through.a wide variety of music, ranging from classics through to jazz and folk music. David does this in a way that is neither dry nor superficial. At home with all kinds of music and musicians, he is a multi-instrumentalist able to draw from links that connect music around the world. David Amram is a folk festival dream come true. He can demonstrate the similarities and differences between wind instruments from nine or ten different countries, and then quickly conduct an improvisational song-writing workshop. Half an hour later he can put together a 14 piece band to perform one of his original compositions in the evening. That’s not promo-we’ve seen him do it, right here in Vancouver, at the first Vancouver Folk Music Festival. That’s why we are truly overjoyed to have David back with us again.
Any Old Time Stringband
It might seem innovative and daring to form an all women and in some ways it is a bit unusual, but the Any Old Time Stringband comes out of the tradition of the Coon Creek Girls, Ola Belle Reed and many other women who have been performing old-timey music since the Carter Family. Kate Brislin, Genny Haley, Bethany Raine and Sue Draheim pick up a storm, playing everything from jazz hits of the thirties to traditional dance pieces of the Appalachians to Bing Crosby favourites. Instrumental versatility, fine vocals and an eclectic approach to a wide body of traditional and contemporary music combines in a fusion to produce good old fashioned toe-tappin’, satisfied, smiling music. This you’re going to enjoy.
Holly Arntzen is a B.C. musician living 100 miles north of Vancouver on Cortes Island. Her music consists of folk songs, traditional and contemporary, about logging and fishing in B.C., the blues, improvisational songs, children’s songs and her own original material. Many of her songs deal with the emotions and experiences of women, and she counts among her major influences the music of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Billie Holiday. When she sings she accompanies herself on her very unique dulcimer. And then there’s her French horn from which flows traditional Irish tunes, blues and jazz; she recently played French horn on Dan Rubin’s album Solirudes. She also plays flutes, pipes and whistles on Irish jigs and reels. Jamming at “musical mayhem workshops” where people chant and clap, Holly likes to get the folks to sing along. Here we have a versatile performer, certain to be an inspiration at this year’s Festival.
Duck Baker developed as an ace finger-picker in the backwoods of Washington, D.C. Isolated from the hot licks played by the rounders at fingerpick central in San Francisco, headquarters of the famous Kicking Mule stable, all he had to listen to was the Carter Family, Josephine Spence, Jellyroll Morton and John Coltrane. Poor boy. From these modest roots Duck developed an innovative approach to his music, playing on a nylon stringed guitar. Although he focused on ragtime he can play powerful blues, kick in an old folk song or do a traditional standard. He’ is more than a guitar player. He sings a wide variety of ragtime and early jazz songs and has a zany comedic approach.
Writer, broadcaster, television performer, artist, film-maker, actor and compulsive talker. Plays three chords almost perfectly on a 12-string guitar, cooks for worthy causes and, friends, when drunk seriously considers running for mayor. President of the Canadian Purebred Gerbil Rancher’s Association and Professor Emeritus of the Teach Your Cat to Bark Foundation.
Willie P. Bennett
Willie P. Bennett writes some songs. This is true but it’s a little like saying that Andre Breton writes some poems. Willie is a bit of a cult figure both north and south of the border. A lot of people have heard, performed and recorded his songs without ever having had the pleasure of seeing the person who wrote them. We’ve decided to remedy that, for our audience at any rate. Hailing from London, Ontario, Willie P. writes songs in the country tradition and belies the notion that all the great country songs have already been written, and that there’s nothing new to be added to country music. He is also a mean harmonica player and we’re glad we made the effort to track him down and bring him to Vancouver. We think you will be too.
Byron Berline, Dan Crary and John Hickman
Berline, Crary and Hickman at a folk festival is like booking the Holy Trinity for a church service-they are the best. Dan’s flatpicking, Byron’s fiddle playing and John’s banjo playing have appeared on more albums than most of us have in our collections. They focus on bluegrass, but between the three of them they have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the components that make up traditional American music. Listen to Dan pick an Irish fiddle tune or Byron demonstrate ten or fifteen distinctive North American fiddle styles while John accompanies, each of them totally within whatever tradition the music happens to spring from. They live in the Los Angeles area, are actively involved in studio work and perform as a trio as well as with a wide variety of other musicians all over North America. If you like bluegrass you’ll be delighted; if you like music you’ll be amazed.
If you study at Northwestern University, Paul Berliner will be no stranger to you, and all you Northwestern students can pass this one by. If you have either of the Nonesuch Explorer Series albums of Zimbabwe mbira music, you’ll recognize Paul as the fellow who made the field recordings and wrote the introductory notes. If you’re a fan of the jazz of The Paul Winter Consort, you’ll know who Paul is as will those of you who purchased the University of California Press edition of Paul’s full-length book The Soul of Mbira. And if you don’t full into any of these categories (poor wretch) we should probably say that Paul Berliner plays the mbira or thumb piano, as it is more popularly known. He also plays the Kudu horn which is just that-the horn of the Kudu, a type of African antelope. He’s also no stranger to the flugelhorn- we don’t know what a flugel is, but the horn sure sounds nice. Paul learned a lot about traditional African music by studying it with the masters in Zimbabwe and has integrated its music into his own songs and compositions, producing a unique blend of African and Western style, half jazz, half folk, all Berliner.
“Deep down, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool country freak,” says Dawson Creek’s Roy Forbes, better known to western Canada as Bim. He has worked the full range from country pubs, where you preface tunes with Hank William’s name, to opening for Supertramp in Toronto. His musical evolution has seen him travel from the Classical Joint to the Commodore across town with his own group. He writes much of his own material, though his repertoire is extensive and his mastery of a bluesy guitar is excellent. Bim has recorded three albums in Los Angeles and in Vancouver. This is his first appearance at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.
Last year Tony Bird came to the second annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival as an unknown. This year he’s returning as one of the most anticipated performers at the Festival, having since visited Vancouver to play for a sell-out crowd at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. Tony’s unique style and wide repertoire of original material captivated last year’s audience and we kind of thought we’d like to see it happen again. Whether it be “Black Brother,” written about a Black soldier in the South African army, or “Now She’s Nothing but Time” or a truly uncanny Elvis Presley imitation, Tony Bird is a compelling performer and we’re delighted to have him back.
“I wouldn’t trade what I know for first chair in the London Philharmonic.” An odd statement, perhaps, but not so odd if you consider that it comes from Nancy Blake, a classically trained cello player, working with one of the finest players of traditional music anywhere. Norman Blake quit school at sixteen to play mandolin, and ever since then, that is since 1954, he has made music the focus of his life: playing “The Tennessee Barn-dance” on WNOX Radio, as fiddle and mandolin player in the Fort Knobbe Mountaineers while in the army, working with Johnny Cash on TV, doing the guitar work on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, and now as his own group leader of the Rising Fawn String Ensemble with his wife, Nancy, and fiddler, James Bryan. Norman Blake is an extraordinary guitar player, perhaps the finest working in American traditional music, and a virtuoso fiddle and mandolin player as well. Nancy has integrated the cello into folk music in a unique way, while James Bryan’s inspired fiddle has allowed the trio to blaze new frontiers in American music. You are in for a treat.
“Music must have a sense of humour,” says Roy Bookbinder. That kind of attitude is advantageous for someone who once sat with Reverend Gary Davis for an eight-hour guitar lesson relearning “Candy Man.” It cost him $5.00. The two became close friends. Roy now spends his time travelling about 60,000 miles every year up and down North America and the British Isles, breathing life back into the great blues songs of people like Blind Blake, Mississippi John Hurt, and his two mentors, Reverend Gary Davis and Pink Anderson, old-time legend of the original medicine show from South Carolina. Roy knocked ’em dead in the blues workshop at the first Vancouver Folk Music Festival, and we damn near had to leave town when word got out that he wasn’t going to be back the next year. So… from Tampa, Florida, Mr. Roy Bookbinder.
Philip Boulding and Pam Williams
Magical strings is what they call themselves and magical strings is what they is. Phil is a performer, builder and teacher of the Celtic harp and hammered dulcimer. Pam Williams has sung songs and played guitar, hammered dulcimer, violin and piano for many years, and she’s spent a great deal of time working with children. Together Phil and Pam weave a delicate yet profound tapestry of music drawn from Celtic and North American roots. They play both traditional tunes and original compositions which transcend the origins of their music, producing a unique synthesis. Individually, they are fine performers but perhaps their finest work is represented in their duets, featuring both harp and hammered dulcimer and twin hammered dulcimer playing. They’re also proficient mountain dulcimer players. We will be presenting all aspects of their music at this year’s Festival.
Years ago, Bryan moved off the streets of Washington, D.C., hopped into his old yellow truck, drove across America, picked up a batch of autoharps, found a big house on top of a Seattle hill, jacked up the foundation, tore out the walls, climbed up on the roof, and all that time he was singing and playing those auto-harps, singing and playing those harps. “Music is a comfort,” he says. Bryan spent his youth working and singing the old call-and-answer type songs in the farm fields of Virginia. “I just learned to sing with the rest of them.” After time at college and basketball, he picked up a guitar. Then he discovered the autoharp. Bryan was captivated by it. He made modifications in the tunings and let the autoharp loose on centre stage with his personal five-fingered picking style. Fiddle tunes, gospel, Beethoven or his own compositions: in Bryan’s hands the harp’s range is unlimited. Have a look and a listen for yourself.
J.C. Burris learned country blues harp at the feet of his uncle, Sonny Terry. But J.C. goes his uncle more than one better, supplementing his performance with a family of percussion effects using African rhythm bones, hambones and a variety of tap-dancing puppets, Mr. Jack, Jaquelina, Jack Jr. and Jackie Mae. In addition to traditional country blues, J.C. writes many of his own songs on topics ranging from the pain of unrequited love to the insanities perpetrated in the name of Proposition 13. A long-time resident of the Bay Area, J.C. Burns is an exciting, energetic performer-a unique link to the roots of Black American music continuing to create art that speaks to contemporary Americans in a style all his own.
Jim is no stranger to Vancouver blues audiences. In fact he’s probably the best known blues performer in the city and has done much to popularize traditional blues here. On his own, with pianist Al Foreman, and with a variety of other local musicians, Jim has spent years performing to an ever increasing audience in Vancouver. He is an extremely knowledgeable fellow who has studied the styles and techniques of many of the great traditional blues performers. He’s a dynamic vocalist and one hell of a guitar player. We think that the out-of-town blues players coming to this Festival are going to learn a thing or two from Jim Byrnes and we’re going to have a good time watching it happen.
Bob was brought up in the Ontario Shield country. In the late sixties, he played Toronto’s coffee houses, then crossed the country to spend time in the bistros on Fourth Avenue in Vancouver. He’s a fine guitar player who has played backup for Emmylou Harris and Anne Murray; the former has also recorded his songs, as have Tom Rush and Bonnie Koloc. Bob has a band now and tells us he plays in smokey bars. Anyone who has been moved by one of the many versions of Bob’s street hit, “Morning Train,” should be sure to catch in the flesh the unabashed romantic from Roberts Creek.
Jose (Pepe) Castillo y Estampa Criolla
There probably aren’t very many people in Vancouver who’ve heard traditional Puertorican music. That’s about to change. Pepe Castillo, from Ponce in Puerto Rico, is a composer, arranger and interpreter of this music. He started working as a pianist with Mon Rivrea, Rafael Cortijo and many other exponents of Puertorican music, many of whom are now in the vanguard of the “salsa” craze. Pepe chose to work as an instructor at the Lexington Avenue Express Workshop in New York where his cultural labours were documented in the film “Percussion, Impression, and Reality,” produced by the Centre for Puertorican Studies. In 1977 he was named musical director of the Puerto-rican Centre for the Arts in New York where he is presently teaching. He performs with two groups: Bomplene in Puerto Rico, and Estampa Criolla in New York. Pepe, who plays the accordion, harmonica and many percussion instruments will be bringing the New York group to Vancouver, composed of five musicians on bass, tres and quatro (Puertorican stringed instruments) and a wide variety of Latin percussion instruments. It will be a first and we’re sure not a last.
Ramblin’ Jack Elliot
Well, Pete Seeger says Jack is “one of the finest pickers, singers and all-round stage performers I’ve ever seen,” and who’s going to argue with Pete Seeger-not us. He’s also one of the most important links in the history of American folk music, bridging the gap between the last of the hobos, cowboys and other repositories of traditional American folk songs who were dying out in the forties and the “new revival generation of the sixties. He spent 1950-54 riding around with Woody Guthrie in an old ’37 Plymouth coupe and the next six years in Europe. When he returned in 1960 Newsweek devoted a full page to him, calling him the folksinger’s folksinger. He taught Bob Dylan the harmonica and Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart claim him as one of their earliest inspirations. We figured he’d probably fit in here. Jack plays it all. The best way to describe him would be as a walking Library of Congress of folk music.
Zev Feldman and Andy Stratman
Last year audiences at the second Vancouver Folk Music Festival were delighted by the Klezmorim, the group that played traditional Jewish music. We thought we’d explore that music a little bit more this year by moving in a slightly different direction. Hence Zev Feldman and Andy Statman. Zev plays the cimbal, or east European dulcimer, and for three years accompanied Mr. Antranik Aroustamian, one of the founders of the Orchestra of Folk instruments in Yerevan, Armenia, performing in such prestigious places as Lincoln Center in New York City. As a soloist, and with Andy Statman, he has performed recently at Town Hall, the Alternative Center for International Arts and the Dublin Folk Festival. Andy Starman, clarinetist and also one of the leading younger mandolinists in this country, has toured the nation with Vassar Clements and Dave Bromberg. Last year he worked wtih Stephane Grappelli on the soundtrack for the film “King of the Gypsies.” He is an acknowledged master of the bluegrass style, and has written a book on bluegrass mandolin. Both Zev and Andy have studied with a number of master-musicians of various East-European and Near Eastern communities, including the illustrious Dave Tarras. As a result we are able to witness two fine musicians carrying on the Jewish instrumental tradition. Le chaim!
Sometimes you hear a songwriter who seems to have been influenced by nobody, who is plainly and simply unique. Vancouver’s Ferron is one of these. She doesn’t sing country; she doesn’t sing blues; bluegrass it ain’t; calypso also not. Reggae maybe? No. Well, how can you write a biography for someone who doesn’t have a pigeon hole? ‘…Well, you do it like this: Ferron is a stirring, enigmatic and vital writer and performer who has attempted and succeeded in describing her life and life around her from a perspective that no one has tried before. And it works. It works brilliantly, in songs like “Ain’t Life a Brook,” “Misty Mountain,” “Sadie” and more. It is very difficult music to describe and happily we don’t really need to do that here. All we need to say is she’s back, we’re glad, don’t miss her.
Figgy Duff: the Newfoundlander’s name for their special raisin pudding. We mainlanders are coming to know that name well, not for the taste sensation, but for the sound of a superb musical combination which has been compared to English bands the likes of Steeleye Span and Fairport Connection. Geoff Butler, Noel Dinn, Pamela Morgan and David Panting make up Figgy Duff, formed in 1974. They have traveled much of Newfoundland’s 6,000 miles of coastline to isolated fishing villages, gathering reels, jigs and lively polkas, haunting ballads, laments and just ditties which reveal the deep-rooted tradition and rich folklore of Newfoundlanders. With mandolin, guitar, drums, piano, accordions, whistles and flutes, Figgy Duff shares the authentic culture of their homeland. They are bound to rouse you to dancing.
Robin Flower and Nancy Vogl
Robin Flower is a versatile, creative and respected musician living, performing and teaching in the Bay Area. She has deep roots in traditional bluegrass, folk and women’s music and has performed extensively throughout the United States. Her recent debut solo album, More than Friends, features Robin’s hot flat picking, spirited double fiddle solos, new arrangements of traditional tunes and original compositions. In 1973, Nancy Vogl helped form the Berkeley Women’s Music Collective, one of the first women-identified bands whose priority was the writing and performing of music which focused on the integrity of women. Nancy is an accomplished instrumentalist and songwriter. Laurie Lewis is one of the best known woman bluegrass musicians west of the Rockies. She has won a variety of fiddle championships and has recorded with several groups, including The Good 0l’ Persons. She was featured in John Cohen’s film, “Musical Holdouts,” and is currently performing with the Grant St. String Band. Together Robin flower, Nancy Vogl and Laurie Lewis comprise an unusual phenomenon: a hot bluegrass feminist band.
The Flying Karamazov Brothers
The Flying Karamazov Brothers: Juggling and Cheap Tricks (their words) aren’t really brothers, but they do let things fly. Like vaudevillian humour and anything you request “larger than an ounce, smaller than a breadbox.” Like.. sickles.. and when they add apples to the sickles, discourse on the different properties of the different apples they are juggling, proceed to exchange apples between group members and then eat the apples they were exchanging (sickles still going, of course) or… The Terror Trick: nine horrifying objects which are added, one by one, throughout the evening and then juggled together for the finale when an egg hits a frying pan just as a torch comes up underneath to cook it… you could say it’s nor your ordinary circus act. But the four San Franciscans-Timothy Daniel Furst (Fyodor), Paul David Magid (Dmitri), Howard Jay Patterson (Ivan), and Randy Nelson (Alyosha) have enough skill to succeed in any circus. The International Jugglers Association proclaimed them the second best jugglers in the world. Spectators at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival will undoubtedly proclaim them the first. Watch for flying objects!
Connie Regan and Barbara Freeman, roving storytellers, practice a unique art. They bring to life tales collected from books and nooks and can captivate audiences of any composition. These enthusiastic talebearers are encouraging the revival of a faded art. They not only pass on traditional tales from their home in Tennessee, but spin intricate yarns of contemporary life. Connie and Barbara started out swapping stories on a hillside in Whitesburg, Kentucky. They had enough to watch the sun go down and watch the sun come up again. And now they make storytelling their livelihood. Let them enthrall you with a story and maybe you can pass it on.
Terry Garthwaite, Bobbie Louise Hawkins and Rosalie Sorrels
Three women from three very different artistic backgrounds have banded together here for a unique kind of performance. Terry Garthwaite is probably best known as co-founder of Joy of Cooking. However, before and since Joy of Cooking, Terry has worked and recorded as a dynamic, tough and out-front performer. She is widely acclaimed as one of the best and most versatile vocalists of our generation- straight-ahead jazz, blues, gospel and rock are delivered in masterly and original style. Bobbie Louise Hawkins was raised in west Texas and has lived in a variety of places around the world, including Vancouver in 1963. In addition to work as an illustrator, she has published several books of poems and short prose pieces and is currently working on two novels. Terry’s musicality and Bobbie Louise’s colloquial wisdom meet in Rosalie Sorrels. She is, in the words of Malvina Reynolds, “a first rate poet/songwriter, a great performer and a genius storyteller, and her life is rich with experience that informs everything she does.” A folk heroine of our time, Rosalie has several albums to her credit and a lovely little book of songs, poems and illustrations dealing with women’s experience. Her latest album represents a return to the songs and tales of her native Idaho. Terry, Bobbie and Rosalie together create a rich, continuously inventive and entirely idiosyncratic act.
There won’t be many guitarists at this year’s Festival who possess a Ph.D. in philosophy in addition to stunning musical talent. But such is Bob Hadley. Bob is a Vancouver resident, a modest man and a genius of a musician. Likened to the styles of John Fahey and Leo Kottke, Bob’s playing is clear and simple as well as intricate and precise, requiring a set of nimble steady hands, combining fingerpicking and bottleneck techniques. Bob was raised in northern Virginia and has been playing since 1962. Virtually self-taught and influenced by Fahey, Kottke, John Hurt and Pete Seeger, Bob has a special love for Appalachian music and Mississippi Delta blues. He has two albums: The Raven and Tunes from the Well and has a third on the way. Hadley was at the Festival in 1978 and we are glad to have him back again this year.
Larry Hanks is a California folk singer who recycled himself to the northwest in 1974. His songs include a wide variety of traditional – American styles: old-time country and cowboy songs, old ballads and blues and favourite folksongs as well as topical and contemporary songs from such writers as Malvina Reynolds, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Utah Phillips. He has performed all over the continent, has taught extensively at festivals, workshops and music courses and was the guest jew’s harpist for the Fresno Philharmonic. In his own words he sings songs to stir the heart, tickle the funnybone, kindle the political conscience and revive the ancestral spirits.” He’ll be doing all those things for us at this year’s Festival.
Honolulu Heart Breakers
Aloha Sudbury! which is where Honolulu Heart Breakers Eileen and Marion Tobin and Dyan Firth actually come from. They started singing their three-part harmonies at the Northern Lights Festival and then moved down to Toronto. Since meeting the Original Sloth Band the repertoire of the Heart Breakers has expanded from French and English traditional ballads to include thirties and forties swing, reggae and gospel music. Their energy, talent and enthusiasm have added to an audience s enjoyment of the Original Sloth Band’s music even more than before, and in return the Honolulu Heart Breakers have been provided with some outstanding original material. But their names say it all, be they from Honolulu or Sudbury, they’re bound to break your heart.
No folk festival would be complete without a hot bluegrass band, and Hot Rize is! Composed of four Colorado musicians who got together in January, 1978, the group has played at bluegrass festivals, concerts and clubs all over the United States. The group is comprised of: Tim O’Brien, an outstanding vocalist, mandolin and guitar picket, and winner of many fiddle contents in the States; Pete Wernick (“Dr. Banjo”) well known from his days with Country Cooking and named “one of the most creative contemporary banjo players” by Bluegrass Unlimited; Charles Sawtelle, for years one of the best known and respected sidemen in the Denver area, his tone and dexterity on the guitar and distinctive singing combine in a unique bluegrass style; Nick Forster, a fine square dance caller, plays bass, fiddle, guitar, sings low and high harmony, and acts as the group’s comedian and t-shirt seller. The name Hot Rize is taken from the secret ingredient of Martha White Flour, for years a leading sponsor of bluegrass music at the Grand Ole Opry: “Good Gracious, it’s good!” They sure are.
We first heard about Connie Kaldor in the form of hearsay, rumour and via some great songs sung by a variety of performers. It seems that there was this woman writing all this great stuff, out in the prairies somewhere, where no West Coast chauvinist ever ventures. Well, we finally got the chance to hear her when she came to Vancouver to perform and we asked her to come and play at the Festival. Connie generally performs her own compositions, although she is also a fan and fine singer of some of the schmalrziest country material you’ve ever heard. We’re going to give her a chance to do both in Vancouver (at this Festival). She writes songs about the prairies, about Alberta, and about all the bizarre ways in which people relate to themselves and to others; particularly, the way women and men get along, or not, as the case may be. Just listen to “Terks. With a Capital J” and then follow that with “Old Boyfriends,” and chase that with “Grandmother’s Song.” If you haven’t heard Connie before you’re in for both a surprise and a treat. If you have, just think what’s in store for you.
Kitsilano Kat Kickers
Contrary to certain innuendos, slander and character assassination currently circulating in the city, no member of the Kitsilano Kat Kickers has ever been seen, or confessed to, kicking a furry little critter. Now, as to what they do do-they play hot jazz. That’s that Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt stuff, or Billie Holiday. You know. Hot guitar licks played by Michael Dunn; jazzy fiddle played by Michael Heiden; impeccable bass accompaniment courtesy of Miss Kitty King; and torchy vocals featuring Alison Hogan. They also work well when performing Alison’s great original songs, many dealing with the seamier side of waking up in the morning and trying to find your head, or real nice stuff like “Pinto Pony,” which has become a standard in these parts. So let’s get it straight: they don’t really kick cats. They just play great music. Bring a cat and see!
Lynn McGown and Michael Pratt
Lynn McGown was born to a French-Canadian mother and English-Canadian father in Montreal. She began singing at an early age, and her repertoire includes traditional Quebecois and women’s songs. “A lot of the Quebecois songs I sing are ones my grandfather used to sing,” she says, “and songs my great-uncle Tiloup Langlois is still singing in Perce, Quebec.” Although singing has always been a part of her life, it wasn’t until after the birth of her first child that she began performing. “The work of caring for a small child at home can be so isolating and emotional that I found the need to express myself outwardly to other people.” Michael Pratt was born in Birmingham, England to Irish immigrant parents and was brought up with traditional music in the family. Mike’s repertoire runs from some of the Irish songs of his patents to traditional and contemporary English songs. He sings unaccompanied or with duet concertina. Last fall, Michael and Lynn, though from different heritages, found they enjoyed singing with each other, weaving together the songs of people, men and women who, through their work and spirits, create the folk cultures of all countries.
Mick Moloney and Eugene O’Donnell
Mick is one hell of a banjo player. His astounding musical repertoire includes a seemingly endless knowledge of Irish traditional songs. Neighbours in Limerick and County Clare, Ireland, started Mick singing and playing banjo, mandolin and guitar. He toured with the Johnstons for five years, then in 1973 moved to the United Stares. Now a respected and leading authority on Irish traditional music, Mick is constantly documenting, organizing tours and festivals, writing articles, producing recordings and making records himself. Eugene O’Donnell, originally from County Donegal and Derry, Ireland, is a fiddle player different from all other fiddle players. Eugene puts all his fast stuff into his legendary all Ireland champion stepdancing. But the fiddling is slow, precise, soulful-exactly what an Irish air demands and exactly Eugene’s specialty. Together they are an exciting duo and a walking compendium of Irish music.
When we decided that we were going to have a strong representation of women’s music at the third annual Festival, one of the first names that came to mind was Holly Near. In fact, given the popularity of her music, both inside and outside the women’s movement, it struck us as rather odd that she had never played Vancouver before. Her evolution, from singing to the cows on the family farm to a leading role in “Hair” on Broadway, through experience in film and TV to the Free the Army Tour organized by Jane Fonda, has made her a dynamic and skilled performer. A growing commitment to women’s music now defines the direction of her energies. Within this framework, Holly deals with a wide variety of issues in her songs, ranging from the disappearance of Chilean political prisoners in “Hay una Mujer,” to the struggle to make the streets safe for women in “Fight Back,” to the need for the women’s movement to involve itself in the struggle against nuclear power in “Ain’t Nowhere You Can Run.” We consider it a privilege to present her in Vancouver for the first time. Andrienne Torf is accompanying Holly on the piano. She is a strong pianist, with classical training and extensive practical experience.
Geoff Noble comes from Yorkshire, England, where he began playing in folk clubs and cabarets at the age of 15. He moved to Vancouver in 1978 and, among other accomplishments, is the resident entertainer at the Maritime Museum. Fascinated by the history of his adopted home, Geoff began writing songs of people, places and events in the history of B.C. In April he released an album entitled Heroes and Monuments of British Columbia. In addition to his historical material and his more contemporary songs, Geoff is a fine interpreter of traditional British music and is also an experienced Morris dancer in the Bucknell (Cotswold) tradition. He is currently using his original material on a project for the federal government.
Odetta is a powerful folk musician whose voice and guitar have rung through 25 years. Born in Alabama, later moving to Los Angeles, Odetta began voice lessons when she was 13. She first was exposed to folk music travelling with a road show in her college years, learning to play the guitar as well as singing. She began to perform professionally in 1950 and established a following. Odetta has sung and played in many places around the world as well as at a variety of festivals; she helped to make our first Festival in 1978 really special. Singing work songs, Black spirituals, blues, folk, ballads and children’s songs, Odetta touches the core of human emotion with her resonating voice and rhythmic guitar.
The Original Sloth Band
Chris Whiteley, Ken Whiteley and Tom Evans first got together to play blues and jugband music over 13 years ago. They have persisted in that idiom adding various forms of early jazz, gospel music and standards to their repertoire, which ranges from acapella to rhythm and blues. For the past couple of years they have worked with the rhythm section of Mike Gardner on string bass and vocals and Bill Bryans on drums. Between them they also play guitar, harmonica, trumpet, clarinet, soprano sax, piano, ukelele, mandolin, accordion, fiddle, jug, washboard, banjo and kazoo. They have recorded three albums, the most recent one featuring legendary Chicago pianist Blind John Davis on several cuts.
The Doobie Brothers once recorded one of his songs. That’s a hell of a way to start an introduction. He also topped Ry Cooder as the best international folk/traditional musician in the Irish Hot Press Poll. Jim is from the Bay Area of California, and has spent a lot of time in the Seattle area, where he now lives and sings traditional folk songs. He also writes some great topical songs, and is probably the first person to write a song about the Shah of Iran that wasn’t in Persian. We like him a whole lot and think you will too.
Born in backwoods Toronto among the hill people of Lake Ontario, Anne first learned to play the Wurlitzer organ at her mother’s knee (she was a large mum, Anne adds). Later came experiences with the chin harp and seven-string banjo. Best known for her role as co-host of CBC Radio’s “Three’s Company,” few are aware that she is the composer of such little known and unpublished works as “Growing Old in Kitsilano” and “Lord, Lord, I’ve got those CBC Radio Blues.” Early influences on her duo folk and broadcasting careers include such notables as Lorne Greene, Juliette, Robert Goulet and Grey Owl.
New York’s End Game Magazine describes Jim Post as “a metaphorical expression of sexual abandon” and we think that comes close. Jim’s outrageous energy, mad comic-opera humour and provoking charm and wit make his presence irresistible. He commands your attention, he holds court. Raised near Houston, Texas, Post did his early singing in church. A gospel contest won Jim the chance to sing on radio. In the sixties, his group, Friend and Lover, had a radio hit, “Reach Out in the Darkness.” Of late, an Emmy and Grammy nominee, Jim now sings of power and people, of government control and wilderness. His message is, “Life: live it, don’t waste.” Guaranteed to roll your socks off, Jim will make you laugh, maybe even make you cry. You won’t forget him.
Red Clay Ramblers
Old-timey music-that’s what they call it. Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers played it. So did Charlie Poole, and Uncle Dave (that’s Dave Macon of course), and the Carter Family and lots of other people who were real popular in the 1920s. You may not have heard of them, but they were great. You may not have heard of the Red Clay Ramblers either, and they’re great. Tommy Thompson on the banjo, Bill Hicks on the fiddle, Jim Watson on mandolin and guitar, Jack Herrick on bass, penny whistle and trombone, and Mike Craver on the piano play a lot of old-timey music and sing a lot of old-timey songs. They also do some great renditions of early jazz and jazz-blues tunes. Not only that, they reach way back and play some of the Celtic material, jigs and reels, that came over with the people who settled in Virginia and North Carolina and which forms the basis of a whole lot of American music. The Red Clay Ramblers also do contemporary material of their own composition and songs by other contemporary writers. They are one hell of a string band – something you don’t get to hear too much of around here. Take advantage of the opportunity.
Le Rêve du Diable
Le Rêve du Diable (or Devil’s Dream) plays traditional French-Canadian music. They also play traditional Quebecois music. These are different, and if you don’t believe us, ask a Quebecois. In fact, ask Gervais Lessard or Claude Methe who founded the group in 1975. Five years later Le Rêve du Diable, Claude and Gervais along with Pierre Vezina, is one of the most popular of the younger generation of interpreters of traditional French music in Canada. They have played all around Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick as well as Europe. Although their music is rooted in the rich traditions of 400 years of French settlement in North America, Le Rêve du Diable is one of the groups who has gone past simply interpreting traditional music and has begun to build its own sound on that foundation. They are masters of a rich repertoire of dance tunes as well as being fine cloggers, a truly unique French tradition. This kind of music is a rare commodity here on the western extremity of the country and we are very happy that Le Rêve du Diable can be here to share their music with us. Don’t miss em. Le Rêve du Diable is Gervais Lessard on violin, accordion and harmonica, clogging and spoons; Claude Methe on fiddle, mandolin and banjo; Pierre Vezina on guitar. All three are featured on vocals.
Stan Rogers writes songs the way people used to make good furniture a hundred years ago: good design, skill developed over many years of practice, a lot of care, precision and hard work. That’s why furniture used to last a couple of hundred years. And that’s why Stan’s songs, popular today, are also going to last for a long time. Although many of his best songs are written about Nova Scotia, where Stan’s roots are, Stan transcends the description of a regional songwriter. He can write a brilliant song about the Yukon, or a song like “Forty-five Years From Now” which has a universality that is as compelling in Vancouver as it is in Dublin. A fine writer of historical ballads, Stan’s “Barrett’s Privateers” has become a classic. More and more of his songs are being performed by singers from Australia to the British isles to California. Stan is accompanied by Garnet L. Rogers on fiddle and guitar, and David A. Eadie on bass. As a trio they are as powerful and polished a musical unit as any we’ve heard. Welcome back.
For four years now Betsy Rose and Cathy Winter have been singing and playing women’s music all across the United States and Canada. They’ve even toured northern B.C., all part of fulfilling a commitment to bringing women’s culture to the widest possible audience, in rural as well as urban areas. Cathy and Betsy perform acappella as well as with guitar, piano and bass, and their music ranges from jazz to traditional folk styles. From “Bridgit and the Pill,” to songs of working women, waitresses, truck drivers and union maids, to historical and present day ballads of their own composition, their songs cover a wide spectrum of textures, topics and styles. They also have a few surprises. Cathy is a pretty hot slide guitar player, it seems. Catch her in the slide guitar workshop. That’s one surprise. A brand new album, released just in time for the Festival, is another.
“Many are the faces of capitalism and all of them are unacceptable.” That is the introduction to the third collection of Leon Rosselson’s songs, and it seems apropos as an introduction to his biography in this program book. Leon Rosselson goes a long way towards proving that you can write “protest songs” without having them sound like composite tracts. In language both compelling and tender he focuses with frightening clarity on the social chaos and decay of our times. Leon Rosselson is a consummate song writer, whether it be the timid complaint that “They’re Going to Build a Motorway,” the sarcasm of “Don’t Get Married, Girls,” the rage of “On Her Silver Jubilee,” or the sheer power of Leon’s adaptation of the writings of Gerrard Winstanley in “The Digger’s Song”: “The Gentry must come down/ And the poor shall wear the crown/ Stand up now, Diggers all.” Leon Rosselson is well known in Britain fur his work as arranger, playwright, and performer on the stage and in the media. Various baffled reviewers have referred to him as a superior Tom Lehrer, an anarchist Noel Coward (?) or simply one of Britain’s finest songwriters. He has never played in Canada before and we think that the vast majority of you will be delighted that we have brought him over for the Festival.
James David Rucker
James David Rucker, Jr. was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1946. About 15 years ago he met Reverend Pearly Brown, the famous blind street singer from Georgia. Brown introduced Sparky to bottleneck guitar and, with input from people like Babe Stovall, Johnny Shines and John Jackson, Sparky’s technique began to develop. He plays blues (and counts Robert Johnson among his chief influences) as well as reels, gospel and good-time music, and continues to write his own material. He is one of the few of the younger generation of Blacks to continue working actively within a traditional blues framework. Having been a school teacher for a couple of years, Sparky developed an ongoing interest in folklore, tracing the history and culture of Black people, and passes it along to us through story and song.
We received a letter in the Festival office around February from someone wanting to know the dates of this year’s Festival and if “that woman with the incredible voice from up north somewhere” was going to be back, and if so, “when do tickets go on sale?” That was Susan Shewan he was talking about. Susan Shewan does have an amazing voice. She also writes some beautiful songs, almost tone poems. Lots of them are about the Yukon, her adopted home of the last seven years. She comes by it honestly. She grew up in Toronto, surrounded by classical concerts in Massey Hall, Mariposa Festivals, Royal Conservatory of Music classes and Yorkville folk and jazz. She spent a lot of time travelling and settled in the Yukon near Whitehorse. She brings to her music all these influences which she has transformed into a synthesis that is as unique as it is beautiful. She is returning to the Vancouver Festival with a fine guitar player named Paul Lucas, and we welcome her back.
Quite simply, Johnny Shines is the finest acoustic Delta blues performer around. Johnny’s got the history that myths are made of. He also has the history that underlines the tragedy of many Black American musicians, living in a country that somehow refuses to recognize what an invaluable asset they are. Born in Frazier, Tennessee in 1915, Johnny began playing professionally in 1935. He was influenced by two of the greatest blues singers who ever lived, Howling Wolf and Robert Johnson. He spent a lot of time with both of them, including three years traveling with the legendary Johnson. Although he has been playing the blues professionally off and on for 45 years he has spent most of his time earning his living as a construction worker; surely a waste of great talent. We are particularly proud to welcome Johnny Shines to this Festival and consider it an honour to have him with us.
Archie Fisher, one of the great performers of traditional music from the British Isles, has written of Silly Wizard: “my idea of a good folk band is one that can balance their vocal and instrumental talents without letting one side dominate the other. To exercise good taste and still use all of their talents to advantage, when they possess the combined expertise of Silly Wizard, is the marking of collective brilliance. Their playing can flow effortlessly from the delicately woven filigree of song accompaniment to the strong, driving pulse of dance music. The atmosphere that they generate during the narrative ballad with the blend of voice and instrument is an important part of their undoubted appeal. Add to all of this their sympathy with the music’s origin and tradition and you have the exception rather than the rule among folk bands in Britain.” A welcome to Vancouver for Caledonia’s hearty sons: Johnny Cunningham (fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki, vocals), Phil Cunningham (accordion, harmonium, synthesizer), Andy Stewart (tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals), Gordon Jones (guitar, bouzouki, bodhran, vocals), Martin Hadden (electric bass, harmonium, vocals).
Jody Stecher, Krishna Bhatt and Hank Bradley
Guitar sitar and fiddle together? East meets West when Jody Stecher, Krishna Bhatt and Hank Bradley perform their unique music of Appalachian and Indian origin. Stecher’s often unorthodox yet driving guitar and mandolin techniques developed during his days with the New York City Ramblers and the Greenbriar Boys. Listening to music from the Bahamas, Mexico, Ireland, north and south India, led Jody to investigate the oud, the tabla and the subahar (a bass sitar). When he and classical sitarist, Krishna Bhatt, teamed up, their guitar-sitar duo brought new and impressive sounds to Appalachian mountain tunes, eastern European dances, ragtime, Cajun and the songs of India. Playing non-Indian music is nor an entirely new experience for Krishna Bhatt. Born in Jaipur, India, the son of a classical sitarist, Krishna Bhatt has played sitar with Japanese jazz players and middle-eastern musicians. Hank Bradley began in ragtime and New Orleans jazz, and went on to explore mountain music and bluegrass. He’s played fiddle with Doc Watson, and fiddle, banjo and guitar with local California bands. While on tour in 1970 in the Balkans, he became influenced by the music of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. When these three musicians get together, East meeting West, the music is at once unique, innovative and traditional. It is imbued with the Indian concept of Rasa: essence, feeling, soul… juice.
There aren’t very many folk groups in this country that can write a song about Prime Minister Diefenbaker that Dief liked, while at the same time record a song about a school girl who demanded that the mayor of her town expose himself at a beauty pageant. And do a real nice version of “Dans La Prison de Londres.” Stringband can. All in the same show, and more. Bob Bossin, Marie-Lynn Hammond, Dennis Nichol, and Zeke Mazurek are a multi-instrumental unit performing a wide variety of folk music, from traditional pieces to contemporary and original songs. They’ve made a special effort, and a successful one, to write and collect songs about Canada. This is no mean feat. Stringband can do more things, in more combinations, than we can name here. We’re real happy that they’re back.
Sweet Honey in the Rock
“The name is derived from an old spiritual that refers to a land so sweet honey flows from the rocks. Honey, symbolizing warmth and sweetness and rock symbolizing strength and consistency, which is what we try to convey in our song, explains Bernice Reagon, leader of the group of four Black women, and a music historian at the Smithsonian Institute’s Division of Performing Arts. And with her sister members, Evelyn Harris, Ysaye Barnwell, and Tulani Jordon, they succeed to make a dynamic musical statement of the Black American experience. They are a group that focuses on traditional vocal styles. Emphasis here on vocal-singing acapella using the voice as rhythm and instrumentation, they cover a large piece of the total spectrum of Black song, from children’s game songs and prison songs of the rural South, through gospel and blues, to love songs and socio-political statements of today. One of the themes in their music is the role played by the Black woman and they sing her situations, crying, moaning, preaching and rejoicing to make soul-stirring music. Sweet Honey in the Rock are re-kindling the fires of the real meanings of soul music. Experience this group–it will be good for your soul.
The Tannahill Weavers are named for Robert Tannahill, a Scottish poet/songwriter of the early nineteenth century who was once called “a spark in the tail of the comet that was Robert Burns.” His modern day namesakes are sparks in the tail of no one’s comet but their own, having blazed a path through the folk world in Britain and Europe in the last few years. Now they’re starting to light fires in North America. The Tannahills play Scots traditional music and play it superbly, with a drive and flair that defies description. Roy Gullane, from Glasgow and the only original member of the group, on guitar and banjo; Phil Smillie on whistles, bodhran, flute and bones; Hudson Swan from Paisley, on bouzouki, glockenspiel and organ; Alan MacLeod, an amazing piper who began making records and winning piping contests at the age of 13; and Willie Beaton, on fiddle and vocals, have brought audiences to their feet in wild acclaim at festivals and in concerts all over the world. Now they’re going to do the same in Vancouver–the Tannahill Weavers are going to tear the house down. Be ready.
Author, educator and folksinger Phil Thomas is a British Columbia native. He turned to folk music as a teaching aid to vitalize the social and economic history of the province. In the course of his extensive research, he has collected much of the heritage of B.C. in the oral tradition, and as a result some 500 tapes are on file in the Aural History Division of the Provincial Archives in Victoria. Phil sings from the fruits of his research, usually accompanying himself on the five string banjo or guitar. As a founding and honorary life member of the Vancouver Folk Song Society, he is concerned with the spread of awareness and enjoyment of folk music. In 1979 Phil published the book, Songs of the Pacific Northwest and this summer will see the release of an album of songs printed in the book.
You don’t find too many folksingers getting reviewed in Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. Or getting thank-you notes from Jimmy Carter, for White House performances. Stephen Wade does. He has also been selling out his show, Banjo Dancing, for about a year now in his home town-Chicago. So what does he do? He plays the banjo and tells stories. That’s it. But that’s a little like saying Mohammed Ali boxes a little, or Edith Piaf sings. Whatever you do, don’t miss him. It’s a surprise.
Robin Williamson was the founder and leading force behind the Incredible String-band, which recorded 18 albums between 1965 and 1974, and was a trail blazer in the music world. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, he grew up steeped in border Scots lore, ballads and traditional Celtic music. His interest rapidly expanded to include jazz, classical, oriental, African and European folk music. In a sense, he has come full circle and now focuses on Celtic music, but a Celtic music that his knowledge and experience have expanded and pushed beyond the definition most would give to it. He plays a variety of instruments, including Celtic harp, Scots border pipes, citern and mandolin, and has lately begun reciting his own poems as well as traditional material. Truly a unique and compelling performer, we are glad to welcome Robin back to Vancouver.
Kate Wolf, performer and founder of the Santa Rosa Folk Festival, appeared at the first two Vancouver Folk Music Festivals in her capacity as folk musician. We are very happy that she could be with us this year to help out as emcee.