We've lost another couple of musical luminaries in the last few days: Scots bassist / singer Jack Bruce (a pioneer of rock and blues with Cream, and an accomplished jazz musician) and Acker Bilk, Somerset-born Dixieland Jazz clarinettist, most famous for his "Stranger on the Shore" hit in the early 1960s. What could these musicians have in common, and what could they possibly have to do with Celtic music, I hear you ask? Well, in a year in which we've also lost Pete Seeger, it's got me thinking about my own musical roots, and how blues, folk, skiffle and dixieland jazz were all a part of the musical landscape where I grew up in England. All this music was reaching the Old Sod in the 1950s and early 1960s, inspiring bands like The Quarrymen, who morphed into The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. It doesn't take much research to tie in names like Lonnie Donnegan, Big Bill Broonzy, Chris Barber, and Muddy Waters with those of John Lennon, Martin Carthy, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Jack Bruce. Louis Armstrong once observed that "all music is folk music; I ain't never heard no horse sing a song." I Couldn't agree more!
Folk Music is such a rich tapestry woven from many strands, and none are better skilled at linking up the ancient Child ballads of Scotland and England to the Delta Blues and reflecting the influence of trad. jazz than English guitarist and singer Martin Simpson, who makes a welcome return to Vancouver on Sunday November 16th at the Rogue. It completes a remarkable weekend for traditional music - and contemporary folk, country and blues, which starts with a Country Honky Tonk Hoedown on Friday 14th featuring Portland's Caleb Klauder Country Band and Vancouver's own bluegrass / country stompers Viper Central at St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue). Then on Saturday 15th it's the local debut or Irish-American supergroup, The Gloaming, at the Chan Centre at UBC. Then it's Martin Simpson, with special guests The Marigolds, at St. James on the 16th.
Next up at The Rogue is local songwriting duo, Winsome Kind, on Friday November 7th at St. James. Lovely harmonies and insightful lyrics mark the debut recording of this couple - Leora Joy and Scott Perrie - who met on stage in Saskatchewan, performing in the Buddy Holly Story (another 50s / 60s music pioneer whose songs were often heard around our house in the old days!) They are definitely worth a listen! Australian songwriter Colin Bullock has a fine voice and an impressive way with words, and he will open the evening.
On Saturday 8th we are thrilled to have Quebec's De Temps Antan back at The Rogue! Such power and infectious rhythmic music! This trio features Andre Brunet on fiddle, Pierre-Luc Dupuis on accordion and harmonica, and Eric Beaudry on guitar, mandolin and bouzouki. Andre is also a member of the Celtic Fiddle Festival combo (along with Kevin Burke and Christian Lemaitre) and spent many years with La Bottine Souriante. Pierre-Luc also played - and sang - with La Bottine for a while, and Eric continues to perform with that incredible band. DTA is altogether more efficient, though! These three guys generate as much musical enthusiasm and joie de vivre as any 11-piece combo you care to name! Their music is resplendent with Irish and Scots influences, yet quintessentially Quebecois, with all those amazing twists and turns and crooked tunes! Come and check them out on the 8th and see what I mean!
Next we present Canadian songbird Oh Susanna (November 13th). Suzie Ungerleider grew up in Vancouver, but now lives in Ontario. She set out to record an album of covers, but producer Jim Bryson thought she could do better than that; he asked some of Canada's finest songwriters to pen a song each for Suzie. So "Namedropper" contains songs written by the likes of Ron Sexsmith, Joel Plaskett, The Good Lovelies, Jim Cuddy and Old Man Luedecke; songs that they themselves have never recorded. Sadly, Suzie's project had to be shelved for a few months while she was battling breast cancer. Happily she is fully recovered and ready to unleash this new CD on her Vancouver fans at The Rogue.
Caleb Klauder leads his Country Honky Tonk Band out at The Rogue, alongside Vancouver's effervescent country folk / bluegrass combo Viper Central the next night. Bring your dancing shoes!
November 15th is Gloaming day. Head up to UBC early in the evening for a Q&A with the band, conducted by Eilis Courtney in the Telus Studio Theatre across the lobby from the magnificent Chan Auditorium (6265 Crescent Road, just off Marine Drive at UBC.) The Gloaming features the wonderful Co. Clare fiddler Martin Hayes and his Chicago-born, Irish-bred guitarist Dennis Cahill alongside Afro Celts singer Iarla O'Lionaird, New York pianist Thomas Bartlett, and Dublin's hardanger fiddle explorer Caoimhin O'Raghallaigh. (By way of a preview, you can watch a film about this remarkable band at Pacific Cinematheque - 1131 Howe Street - on Thursday November 6th at 7pm - followed by Aisling Gael, a film about a group of women preserving the Irish sean-nos / old style singing, at 8:15pm.) The Gloaming released their eponymous debut CD earlier this year on Peter Gabriel's Realworld Records. The centre-piece is a 17 minute extravaganza with Iarla singing in Gaelic, and there are fiddles and sparse piano and then the music and the intensity builds and builds as Hayes & Cahill take off in one of their signature medleys of reels, with Martin's curly hair flying and his polished brogues tapping furiously as they try to keep up with the great man's bowing hand. Wonderful stuff. Essential listening, I'd say.
And there's more. Martin Simpson is at the Rogue the next night. A guitarist apart. A stunning talent, a man so well-versed in traditional balladry that he recorded two whole albums of instrumental versions of the songs in order to fully comprehend the meaning and gravity of such epics as Lord Gregory before he felt able to unleash his considerable vocal talents upon the songs in his more recent recordings. Such reverence and love for the music is a rare and beautiful thing to witness! He was raised in Lincolnshire, first learning blues and folk songs from his elder brother's record collection, then insinuating himself into the folk scene playing floor spots and opening sets until he emerged as a most accomplished player - and still the only guitarist with whom June Tabor will sing! He then spent several years in the States, in Ithaca NY, then the Bay Area, and finally in New Orleans, immersing himself in the sounds of the blues and the Appalachian ballads and the more atmospheric Celtic ballads. Now he's back in England, with his beautiful wife Kit Bailey - daughter of English singer Roy Bailey - and their daughter Molly, in Sheffield (so he's moved from one city famous for brass bands in the USA to one in the UK famous for its silver bands! Curiously, the first place I tried American beer, in the early 70s, before cold drinks in pubs came into fashion over there!) Martin Simpson will hit the stage at 8pm on Sunday 16th, but get there early for a spirited set by three marvellous Canadian women - The Marigolds - at 7pm. Acoustic blues singer / songwriter Suzie Vinnick teams up with Gwen Swick and Caitlin Hanford - half of Quartette, who played at The Rogue in August - to present their eclectic blend of harmonious songs.
There is plenty of Celtic music at the end of November and into December, with Winnipeg's Red Moon Road at St. James on November 28th, an Irish Christmas celebration on Saturday December 13th, and Winter Harp at Capilano University's Blue Shore Financial Centre on December 17th and 18th. 2015 is shaping up nicely with some great Celtic bands coming to town, including Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas on January 11th, James Keelaghan on February 7th, Le Vent du Nord on February 13th, legendary Donegal quintet Altan at the Centennial Theatre on March 19th, and young Irish sensations Goitse on March 22nd at The Rogue.
It's a great time to be a music fan in Vancouver at the moment! Check out the Rogue shows on www.roguefolk.bc.ca and tune in to my show, The Edge On Folk, every Saturday from 8am to noon on CiTR fm 101.9 and www.citr.ca for the very best in Celtic, Folk, Roots and more!