Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani.
Folk Fest Picks from Folk Fest Players
Sound Seekers polled some of this year’s acts for their best bets for the Hog’s Back hoedown that is the Ottawa Folk Festival. The musicians, who are all recent Sound Seekers interview subjects, told us what to see and why. They picked legendary acts and fellow musicians as highlights, but mentioned that there was so much to choose from that narrowing it down to three or four selections was a bit of a task. What didn’t make the cut on any of these musicians’ lists was a song circle session with minstrel-astronaut Chris Hadfield, his brother Dave Hadfield, and songwriter Danny Michel, which takes place Saturday at 5 p.m. on the Slackwater Stage. (While in town, Michel will return to his old stomping grounds for a Sunday night set at The Manx Pub). Herewith, the highlights and I-hearts from four folk fest performers.
Michael Feuerstack (Saturday, 4 p.m., Slackwater Stage; Workshop)
1. Patti Smith & Her Band (Wednesday, 7 p.m., CUPE-SCFP Stage) ~ “She’s a legend for a reason.”
2. Sam Amidon (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., Tartan Homes Stage) ~ “I played a house show with Sam Amidon on an island called Ameland in the very north of the Netherlands and he blew my mind. His music has it all: from laughs to tears.”
3. Claude Munson & The Storm Outside (Sunday, 2 p.m., Hill Stage) ~ “I really like Claude Munson and the Storm Outside for the charismatic, unique songs, and classy arrangements.”
4. “I’ve always really loved Lynn Miles, and I’ll just assume everyone’s going to see the Wailers. No brainer. That’s still leaving out some serious favourites.”
Shannon Rose & The Thorns (Thursday, 7 p.m., Hill Stage)
1. Dave Norris and Local Ivan (Sunday, 1 p.m., Tartan Homes Stage) ~ “Dave’s a charmer. I’ve been listening to him for years and his songwriting and voice are both killer. We share a great rhythm section too!”
2. Claude Munson & The Storm Outside (Sunday, 2 p.m., Hill Stage) ~ “I’ve seen Claude play many times and he’s amazing. Sweet voice, beautiful songs. Completely captivating live.”
3. All the other local acts. ~ “I can’t really choose. I love all the musicians from Ottawa that are playing and I’m going to take in as many as I can! Little Stella, The Claytones, The Dusty Drifters, Three Little Birds, John Allaire et al…”
Dave Norris of Dave Norris & Local Ivan (Sunday, 1 p.m., Tartan Homes Stage)
1. Vampire Weekend (Thursday, 9:30 p.m., CUPE-SCFP Stage) ~ “I’d heard them here and there for the last few years, but never really gave them ‘the old college try.’ But the last album is really interesting on almost all levels: songwriting, lyrics, and production. Their YouTube videos promoting the album are also quite stunning. Gotta seem ‘em live to round out the experience.”
2. Mac DeMarco (Saturday, 4 p.m., RavenLaw Stage) ~ “Luke Donovan, who plays lead guitar in my band, is a fan of Mac DeMarco’s washed-out hazy guitar work, and songwriting. Mac cancelled some tour dates and he was taken off the Sunday schedule (we’re playing Sunday). We thought he wasn’t performing at Folk Fest this year for a while, but turns out he’s keeping the commitment and playing Saturday instead. Mac’s live shows are notorious for being a little off the hinges — in a good way.”
3. Gordon Lightfoot (Sunday, 8 p.m., RavenLaw Stage) “I told my dad that Gordon Lightfoot was playing the same day as us and he reminded me that I used to listen to his albums on repeat for hours when I was five or six. So many good songs — and a whack of really great ones.”
Dave Norris is also part of a songwriter’s circle with Hayden and Michael Feuerstack on Saturday at 4 p.m. on the site. Norris and his band are recording new songs for a forthcoming EP.
Leif Vollebekk (Saturday, 2 p.m., Tartan Homes Stage)
1. Sam Amidon (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., Tartan Homes Stage) ~ “I was lucky enough to go on tour with him way back when and it was such a pleasure to hear perfectly played perfect folk songs night after night. Really moving, deep stuff. A true folk artist.”
2. Emmylou Harris (Friday, 8:15 p.m., Tartan Homes Stage) ~ “She’s on more of my favourite records than you can imagine. That voice is still ringing true years on and I can’t wait to hear it again.”
3. Gordon Lightfoot (Sunday, 8 p.m., RavenLaw Stage) ~ “Every time I think I’ve heard everything on a Lightfoot record, there’s always more to it. Either the bass line is doing something unexpected, or the time signature is hiding some secrets, or I got the lyrics all wrong. There’s just so much going on in his music; it’s a gift to see this legend again.”
4. Tift Merritt (Saturday, 5 p.m., Tartan Homes Stage) ~ “I don’t know that much about her; I am just starting to get into her. She is a really honest and true songwriter with a gorgeous voice and I am really looking forward to seeing her live for the first time.”
On the subject of favourite tunes: Leif Vollebekk recently released a free covers EP, including tracks by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Sigur Ros.