The first few days of April have been something of a whirlwind for yours truly! In addition to the office move, we had three excellent concerts: March 30th (Steve Dawson,) April 2nd (Caladh Nua,) and April 3rd (Craig Cardiff,) and a dance on April 5th. I attended the Pacific Contact booking conference in Metrotown on April 4th, and hosted The Edge On Folk on Saturday morning at CiTR. In all the mayhem I missed rare appearances by Irish singer Len Graham (at The Tipper,) and Irish harper / singer Maire Ni Chathasaigh - with her partner Chris Newman on guitar - at the Mount Seymour United Church on Sunday. I was especially disappointed to miss that one! It had been over 22 years since Maire & Chris were last in town! And almost as long since Len's last show here with Skylark.
The Caladh Nua concert was a remarkable show. A real throwback to the glory days when bands from Ireland and Scotland would make regular visits to the Rogue to amaze us with their virtuosity. One of the many highlights was hearing Lisa Butler teaching the audience a complicated chorus in Gaelic, and then hearing everyone singing along. What a great sound - and definitely a "first'! The band was at the end of a 9 week tour, and this was their last show before flying home to record their next CD; their third. It should be out before the end of the year, so I hope they will return next Spring or Summer.
We have two great concerts this week, including the return of founding Rogue Stephen Fearing on Sunday with Andy White, and later today we head over to CBC Studio 700 for what promises to be one of the top shows of 2014 with Nashville's The SteelDrivers making their Rogue - and Vancouver - debut.
1. The SteelDrivers, Thursday April 10th, 8pm, CBC Studio 700 (700 Hamilton Street)
A few years ago I first heard fiddler and singer Tammy Rogers performing with Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch and company in a band called The Dead Reckoners, a powerful alt-country combo from Nashville. She impressed me with her strident fiddle playing and rich voice. (Kane & Welch later teamed up with Fats Kaplan and recorded three CDs - and produced one with David Francey, but I digress.) A little while later I came across a new band whose blend of bluegrass, alt country and soul made a huge impression on me. The SteelDrivers made their recording debut in 2008 with songs like Heaven Sent, Midnight Train To Memphis and If It Hadn't Been For Love especially memorable. I first saw them perform live at the Edmonton Folk Festival in 2009, and the following year they released their 2nd CD, Reckless, and performed the soundtrack on a remarkable film called Get Low (starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Bill Murray) that I recommend strongly. The band comprises the brilliant banjo player Richard Bailey, Tammy Rogers on fiddle and vocals, Mike Fleming on bass, and Brent Truitt on mandolin. Original singer Chris Stapleton left the band to pursue a solo career, and was replaced by Muscle Shoals singer / guitarist Gary Nichols - another singer with a smoky, soulful voice, and one of Muscle Shoals' most in-demand session guitarists, to boot. Each of these hot players could front their own band and it is rare to find such a powerful ensemble on the road. They released their 3rd CD, Hammer Down, last year, maintaining their high octane, top notch musical sound. We are really excited about this show! If you love soulful Americana with a touch of bluegrass and scorching hot bluesy songs don't miss this band. Tickets are going fast and we expect a full house, so get there early. And don't forget, it's not at St. James Hall; it's at CBC Studio 700. For more information visit www.thesteeldrivers.com
2. Fearing & White, Sunday April 13th, 8pm, St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue)
Canadian singer-songwriter Stephen Fearing met Belfast troubadour Andy White backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1998. Forming an instant friendship, the two musicians began a series of yearly co-writing sessions at Fearing’s home in Guelph, Ontario. At each get together, they would play a few shows and spend the rest of their time together trading lyrics, melodies, harmonies, and arrangement ideas, slowly crafting a body of songs that was uniquely different from either of their solo work. After a decade of these informal sessions, they bit the bullet and recorded their acclaimed 2011 debut, Fearing & White. For their follow-up, Tea and Confidences (which came out on LowdenProud Records last month), Andy and Stephen decided to take a different approach to the creative process. With Fearing having recently relocated to Nova Scotia, and Andy living in Melbourne, Australia, it was going to require planning. The new album started with an intense songwriting session one Halifax New Year. They reconvened later that summer and wrote the bulk of the new album in one incredible four-day sprint of inspiration between two west-coast festival weekends in Vancouver and Salt Spring Island. Six months later, they booked back into The Cottage studio in Guelph, with veteran drummer/percussionist Gary Craig (Bruce Cockburn), and special guests Jeff Bird (Cowboy Junkies) on harmonica and Ray Farrugia (Junkhouse) on drums.
With over twenty albums between them, Fearing & White have little to prove to anybody. That doesn’t stop the new album from being an incredibly strong statement about where each man is in their lives, and the power of collaboration. The music is rich in big tones and the pure excitement of creation. Over the course of the album, they reach uncommon heights as a duo. The songs affirm with humour, hard-won optimism and a rocking worldview, all the while keeping a mature grasp on love and life without illusions. They will be joined by Calgary percussionist Kent MacRae. For more information visit www.fearingandwhite.com
3. Music Notes
There's a new single by The Paperboys called City of Chains. It's a timely song about the changing face of our fair city, where developers pull old buildings down and replace them with soulless condo towers which are way too expensive for the 99% to live in. It also mourns the loss of music venues and theatres as the wrecking ball continues to wreak havoc on this city's precious cultural spaces. (As I write this, the fight to Save The Hollywood Theatre continues, amidst fears that City Council looks to prefer the option to sell it to a local church rather than to keep it as a cultural hub for the whole community. Initially the church was willing to share the grand old Art Deco icon on Broadway with local presenters and to open it up as a multi-purpose venue incorporating film, music, theatre, and community events, with one or two days per week for church activities. Now they appear to want it all to themselves, and we are sorely afraid that City Hall will rubber stamp the deal. They might as well have let the owner turn it into a fitness centre. If you feel as angry about this as I do, then visit www.savethehollywoodtheatre.com and write to City Hall and take an active role in helping save this theatre for ALL the people of Vancouver, not just a privileged few.) The Paperboys single is definitely a revolution you can dance to, with some great interplay between Geoffrey Kelly's flute and Kalissa Hernandez-Landa's fiddle. Check it out on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrgK2RBGxyU
Next month we celebrate 27 years of Rogue Folk with some special concerts, including a rare solo appearance by maxi-instrumentalist David Lindley (Sunday May 11th). The other day I mentioned that he might be performing with The Chieftains at the Jazz Festival this summer. It turns out that this is not the case. The Chieftains were originally booked to perform with Lindley's long-time cohort Ry Cooder, but their show on June 28th has been cancelled, unfortunately.
See you at The Rogue!