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Bruce Cockburn (Saturday)
Bruce Cockburn is undeniably a Canadian musical icon and one of the world’s great songsmiths, and he is still at the top of his game. He has released 31 albums over the past four decades, won 11 Juno Awards and been nominated for 20 more. He is an officer of the Order of Canada, and has received many other awards for both his music and his activism. In 1998 he received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. His body of work is both extensive and extremely diverse, and includes such anthemic songs as ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time”, “Wondering Where the Lions Are”, and “Waiting for a Miracle”.
“My job is to try and trap the spirit of things in the scratches of pen on paper, in the pulling of notes out of metal,” Cockburn said when he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2001. As a songwriter, Cockburn is revered by fans and musicians alike. His songs have been covered by such diverse artists as Elbow, Jimmy Buffett, Judy Collins, the Skydiggers, Anne Murray, Third World, Chet Atkins, K.D. lang, Barenaked Ladies, Maria Muldaur and the Grateful Dead‟s Jerry Garcia. As a guitarist, he is considered among the world‟s best. The New York Times called Cockburn a “virtuoso on guitar,” while Acoustic Guitar Magazine placed him in the esteemed company of Andrés Segovia, Bill Frisell and Django Reinhardt. Small Source of Comfort is his latest adventurous collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery. The album, primarily acoustic yet rhythmically savvy, is rich in Cockburn’s characteristic blend of folk, blues, jazz and rock.
Tokyo Police Club (Friday)
Since its formation in 2005, Tokyo Police Club has played the world’s largest music festivals and has released several successful and highly-acclaimed albums. This is a group that Rolling Stone has described as, “poised to become the biggest Canadian export since Molson.” They have recently released their highly anticipated album Forcefield, including the single ‘Hot Tonight’, which has been tearing up the charts and airwaves across Canada, and beyond.
Forcefield was produced by Doug Boehm and Tokyo Police Club vocalist/bassist David Monks. Monks says, about the new album: “Since writing started for Forcefield in mid-2011 there have been so many trends and every kind of ‘wave.’ We saw them all come and disappear or change into something broader. It left us wanting to make something that would last. We ended up rediscovering energy and guitars and simple, direct songs. There was certainly a lot of pressure to take the music somewhere new and there were lots of opinions about how to do that, but in the end we blocked all that out and followed our instincts. I think that’s what Forcefield is—it doesn’t matter what else is going on out there, the music just has to be honest and have a real feeling to it.”
One critic’s description of the Halifax band, Wintersleep included these words, “One of the most unique sounds to ever come out of the Maritimes … The band blows the pants off crowds time and time again … This band will take the country by storm” (Chart Magazine). And they were right. The band has become a revered, household name in Canadian music. They have released 5 highly-acclaimed albums, one of which scored them a Juno in 2008 for New Group of the Year. They have performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, and have had the opportunity to open for such greats as Paul McCartney. Known for their innovative and meticulous approach to rock and pop music, the band continues to evolve and redefine their sound with their 2012 release Hello Hum. “Is it a high‐water mark? A divergent progression? Maybe it’s just ten years worn well. Loel Campbell, Paul Murphy & Tim D’Eon have spent a decade collecting. Hello Hum starts a new chapter. (Photo: Dustin Rabin)
Melbourne Ska Orchestra (Saturday)
In 2003, a world-record attempt to have the largest number of horn players on stage at the same time playing the ‘Ska-Skank’ resulted in a slew of musicians taking the stage at St. Kilda’s Gershwin Room, and from this sold-out performance the Melbourne Ska Orchestra was born. Assembled from some of Australia’s preeminent names in ska and reggae and fronted by inimitable frontman Nicky Bomba (Bomba, Bustamento, John Butler Trio), the soaring popularity of the band is seeing the MSO fast becoming a fixture of Australia’s musical landscape. After more than a decade of sold-out shows and electrifying festival appearances the MSO has come together to produce a different kind of record. Their ARIA-nominated self-titled debut album showcases the versatility of a genre that has influenced some of the most venerated names in music, from Bob Marley to Gwen Stefani, and has demonstrated a uniquely Australian vision of the exuberance and free-wheeling colour of contemporary ska.
Formed in 2008 in Toronto, The Strumbellas are songwriter Simon Ward on vocals and guitar, David Ritter on vocals and keys, Jon Hembrey on lead guitar, Isabel Ritchie on violin, Darryl James on bass guitar, and Jeremy Drury on drums. The band’s self-titled 2009 EP garnered positive reviews and won them an ongoing Monday night residency at Toronto’s Cameron House. 2010 was a busy year for the band played landmark venues like Yonge-Dundas Square, the Horseshoe Tavern and the Peterborough Folk Festival. Their full-length debut album, “My Father and the Hunter”, was released independently in 2012 and was nominated for a 2013 Juno Award. The band later signed with Six Shooter Records, releasing their second album, “We Still Move on Dance Floors”, in 2013 and won a 2014 Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year – Group category. (Photo: Heather Pollock)
2013 Juno Winner, Crystal Shawanda was born on the Wikwemikong Native Reservation on Manitoulin Island. She grew up immersed in all styles of music, especially country. The youngest of three siblings, music has always been a part of who Crystal is. At 12, she accompanied her truck-driver father on a long haul and visited Nashville for the first time. At 13, she recorded her first album in Nashville, all of which were songs that she wrote. Over the next several years she recorded three more independent albums, traveled back and forth to Nashville, honed her craft, and finally got a full-time gig at the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Nashville’s world famous Broadway. There, she met her husband and lead guitarist, Dewayne Strobel, where they shared the stage for six years.
She signed to RCA/ Sony in 2007 and has since released a string of hit albums and singles that has put her at the front of Canadian Country music since. Her 2012 album, “Just Like You”, won the Juno for Aboriginal Album of the year and now she is preparing for the long tour to promote her newest album, where Crystal explores the rich history of Delta blues.
Lemon Bucket Orkestra
Balkan Klezmer Gypsy Party Punk Super Band, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra was started in Toronto by a Breton and Uke over Balkan music and Vietnamese food. Tired of music “scenes” they hit the streets, busking by day and crashing parties by night, creating and living folk music in the city. With their folk-everything attitude and tendency to pop up everywhere, it wasn’t long before they hooked up with other lemons who wanted in the bucket.
Known for their guerrilla street performances as much as their wild stage shows, the LBO enjoyed worldwide media attention last year after playing klezmer music on a delayed Air Canada flight en route to a three-week tour of Romania; the video garnered over 250,000 YouTube hits and was covered by CNN, New York Times, Fox News, Huffington Post, Jimmy Kimmel, CBC, CTV, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail and more.
George Leach is an artist in relentless pursuit of truth. His dedication to songcraft is evident throughout his career, but nowhere more so than on his latest album, “Surrender”. A follow-up to George’s debut from 2000, “Just Where I’m At”. “Surrender” offer ample proof that the time was well spent. The album covers a vast terrain, with touches of classic rock, balladry, and R&B, all in the service of a restless musical explorer coming into his own. It ranks among the finest you will encounter, this year or any other.
The energy level of a George Leach show can be described as ‘high’, to put it mildly. In concert George disappears into the moment, chasing the promise of fleeting transcendence that music offers and taking us all with him. Don’t miss it.
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer
In reality, The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer stir up a lot more than just violent nautical imagery. Armed with a sack of harmonicas, a mess of foot percussion and a road-worn Telecaster, Shawn ‘The Harpoonist’ Hall and Matthew ‘The Axe Murderer’ Rogers kick out raw and primal blues; continuing in the tradition of a ‘decades-deep blues style’, while electrifying the genre a with a lightning bolt of new life. It’s Robert Johnson to Jack White, but it’s smothered in greasy, gritty soul, and punched with funk. Early on, Hall and Rogers made the choice to limit their sound to whatever they could play between them, using only their mouths, hands and feet, and eventually the sound became larger than the band itself. Shawn Hall provides soul-tinged vocals and blues harmonica, while Matthew Rogers rips on the guitar and foot percussion simultaneously. It is how the blues are meant to be played.
Sheesham and Lotus and Son
Our favourite ragtime, old time trio returns for another weekend of fantastic music from stages and their favourite spot on the grassy knoll. Sheesham and Lotus’ commitment to the preservation of music and tradition of the past is indelible. At the core of the show is a repertoire based on their love of the American fiddle tune, joyously played with banjo and startling array of traditional and non-trad instruments. Tunes played on jaw-harps, gourd banjos and homemade instruments like the contra-bass harmoni-phoneum add depth and absurdity to their amazing sound, as they sing into their patented sepia-phonic Monophone.
Born in the heart of the Ottawa Valley, The Claytones masterfully spin their melodic, vocal driven, Canadiana brand of country-soaked roots music with old school sensibilities. A true collaborative project, Kelly Prescott, Anders Drerup, Adam Puddington and newcomer Pat McLaughlin write and arrange their songs together, effectively making The Claytones sound the sum of its parts. Combining their ranging influences, they have created a unique blend of original and interpreted songs performed with tight, three-part harmonies and a warm stage presence.
Annie Lou is built around the original songwriting of Anne Louise Genest, who spent 20 years living in the Yukon woods. Now relocated to Vancouver Island, Genest carries the spirit of an old storyteller inside her, and this voice, mixed with the stringband sounds of fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin and upright bass, traces a journey through days gone by to the here and now. Genest’s first outing as Annie Lou earned 2010 Juno and WCMA nominations, and her sophomore release, “Grandma’s Rules for Drinking”, delivers the same great energy, with an added elegant touch and subtle maturity, and garnered two 2012 Canadian Folk Music Award nominations for English Songwriter of the Year and Solo Artist of the Year. Beautifully crafted songs range from rousing and boisterous to gentle and poignant, and map a homescape of hard-drinking grandmas, rural dancehalls, blue collar fashions, and the deep snows and silences of a Canadian winter.
Between 1993 and 1999 En bref graced a number of festival stages including le Festival franco-ontarien d’Ottawa (5 times), la Nuit sur l’étang de Sudbury (5 times), le Festival du Voyageur à Saint-Boniface, les Jeux franco-ontariens, les Jeux franco-albertains, la Nuit sur la plaine à Peace River en Alberta, le Club Soda à Montréal, Canada Day at Queen’s Park and Canada Day in Gatineau/Hull.
Over the years, the group has played over 600 shows, touring Québec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Alberta. They’ve performed in schools programming, songwriting workshops, as well as at a number of other community & cultural events. The group has had the privilege to play with such renowned artists as Roch Voisine, Diane Dufresne, Daniel Seff, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Offenbach, Breen Lebœuf, Les Colocs, CANO, Brasse Camarade, Robert Paquette, Paul Demers, Marcel Aymar, Rude Luck and Chuck Labelle, and more. They have recently reunited to launch a brand new album entitled ‘Silence Radio’.
Red Moon Road
“Canada’s most energetic and endearing folk trio. Masterful story telling. Haunting three part harmonies.” “A lush and lively take on modern roots straight out of Winnipeg.” Born in a storm on a wild Canadian lake, Red Moon Road came into its own on the trails between coast and coast. All credit goes to the chemistry, and to the magic that happens when the band’s two Daniels – jazz-trained Daniel Jordan and bilingual prog-rock vet Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner – strum it up to support twilight-voiced singer Sheena Rattai. From living rooms to folk fest stages, the three have charmed fans from coast to coast with their lush and lively take on modern roots, peppered always by bright stage banter, exquisite harmonies and masterfully told stories. As you can hear on their brand-new EP “Tales from the Whiteshell” or their acclaimed eponymous debut album, it’s all sort of rich and warm and deeply familiar, like a campfire crackling wherever the microphones stand.
The Almighty Rhombus
Unforgettable pop hooks married to thoughtful, thorough arrangements are the hallmarks of The Almighty Rhombus’ music. This Sudbury 5-piece has been hustling around the province in their 2000 Ford Windstar (‘the Rhombus mom bus’), focused intently on partying ever-harder. Their songs are as pristine as Lake Wahnapitae and as compact as the front room of the Laughing Buddha.
Having released their second record and continued to tour as much as possible, Sudbury’s Almighty Rhombus have set a high water mark for Sudbury bands. It’s smart pop music. Their recent videos have been tearing up YouTube and the band has produced some of the biggest shows in Sudbury’s underground. This is their second appearance at the festival.
The Jessica Stuart Few
Inspiring the term “folk-jazz power trio,” growing up in a household with a koto master for a mother, Stuart lived in Japan as a child, and came upon the traditional 13-stringed floor harp, taking lessons with her mother’s sensei. Jessica’s deep musical history and love of guitar heavy rock and soul music are put on equal footing with the Canadian singer-songwriter tradition. Her innovative take on the Japanese koto, and her exceptional guitar work are both inspired. Performing and recording alongside Dan Fortin on double bass (Serena Ryder, Bernice) and Tony Nesbitt-Larking on drums (The Most Serene Republic, Tanika Charles), Stuart and her long-time band mates are all vital players in Toronto’s indie music community. The Jessica Stuart Few deliver a sparkling and intriguing sound like no other.
Amélie et les Singes Bleus
Amelie et Les Singes Bleus (ALSB) makes the kind of music that has made a bride and groom leave their own wedding reception to come next door and dance! With their festive energy and unique arrangements, Amelie et Les Singes Bleus have established themselves as a true crowd-pleaser in the Toronto Music scene.
The band began their musical collaboration in 2007 when award-winning singer-songwriter Amélie Lefebvre, accepted the invitation to front the band. Ten years ago, Les Singes Bleus set out to keep alive French classics with their contemporary, manouche/cabaret interpretations and their project dovetailed nicely with the style of music that Amélie was already creating.
Matt Foy & Little Sir Echo
Surf/Spaghetti Western/Custom Car Culture/Sexy Party. Driven by 50s and 60s instrumental music, Matt Foy & Little Sir Echo will take you on a cinematic journey through dust bowls, dive bars and speedways. If Ennio Morricone, Link Wray, Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth and Daniele Luppi formed a band it might sound a little like Matt Foy & Little Sir Echo.
Singer-songwriter Mélisande put down her pen for a while to invest herself in a new ‘Électrotrad’ project. Drawing from the rich heritage of traditional French-Canadian songs, she discovered jewels that she presents with a feminist twist and resolutely modern sound. Comprised of Mélisande (Mémoire Vive, Colette), Robin Boulianne (Yves Lambert, MAZ), Mark Busic (producer/ engineer) and Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand (Genticorum, Perdu l’Nord), the group offers a fresh artistic proposition to folk-world-trad music. Their first album “Les métamorphoses” was released in 2014.
Bloodgrass music. Murder Murder performs murder ballads exclusively. Bluegrass gets into a bar fight with outlaw country, and no-one walks out alive. Though perhaps slightly out of character, Murder Murder also performed the NLFB jingle in this year’s festival ad.
Kevin Closs is a singer/songwriter from Manitoulin Island. Since 1988 he has worked as a recording and performing artist, releasing 11 independent albums and playing concerts, festivals and clubs across the country. Kevin has also honed his skills as a producer, recording most of his CDs in his own home studio. His contributions to the folk music community won him the prestigious Jackie Washington Award in 2002. In 2013 Kevin sang with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra as a part of their Pops series while his music was featured on the television show Hard Rock Medical. His latest album is entitled All for a Song.
Cindy Cook is a television star and is familiar to Canadian families from her ongoing appearances on two national television series; the award winning ‘Time to Read’ and Canada’s most popular children’s series ‘Polka Dot Door’. Born in Sudbury, Cindy became the host of Polka Dot Door in 1981 where she remained for the rest of the decade, the show’s longest serving host. She then created the award-winning series, ‘Time to Read’. Cindy continues to tour, educate and entertain.
She has performed across North America and Asia to enthusiastic response. Cindy also has three popular recordings to her credit: ‘Sing and Spell with Cindy Cook’, ‘Polkaroo & Friends’ and the internationally acclaimed series for Addison-Wesley, ‘Amazing English’. It is our pleasure to have Cindy return to NLFB for 2014.
Indie folk with a cinematic touch. Matt Tomlinson’s songs ‘swoop like hawks over small towns at the heart of us all.’ (Jhave Johnston) Known for his balance of showmanship and empathy, Tomlinson has an ability to connect with audiences through his humour, vivid imagery, and poetic spirit. Tomlinson has carved a diverse musical path as both a singer/songwriter, film composer (Roadsworth, Diversidad). His work for films has been broadcast on CBC, Radio-Canada, RDI, Tele-Quebec, CTV, Bravo, TV Ontario, Smithsonian TV, Sundance, as well as at film screenings across the country. In 2012 Tomlinson released his first full length album, Place to Stand and is currently working on a French album with Yves Desrosiers (Lhasa, Richard Desjardins, Jean Leloup).
DFM Bassoon Quartet
Das Fagott Mannschaft (German for ‘the bassoon team’) is a quartet of classically trained yet slightly unhinged bassoonists whose creativity cannot be contained by your typical symphony orchestra. Their covers of great tunes from today and yesteryear have been entertaining audiences in pubs, cabarets and on street corners since 2011, and prove that the bassoon can rock out as well as any hairspray guitarist or disheveled yet unnaturally mellow drummer. Often joined by effervescent female impersonator, Eve Angelica, they put on a show not soon forgotten.
Dr. Tom’s Traveling Medicine Show
Tommy Fyfe has been a leader in the city’s music scene for nearly 30 years. While the Whiskey River Blues Band still flies regularly, Tom uses the Medicine Show to celebrate old time blues and ragtime with daughter Stephanie Fyfe. Joined on upright bass by Paul Loewenberg, the trio tackles Tommy’s songs and anything 100 years old.
Brian Dunn returns to the festival to play a new record with a special angle. Brian and a few of the city’s finest (and one from Toronto), have recorded an album entirely of songs that have been composed by Ryan Levecque. Ryan has been a great composer and prolific sideman over the years for Sudbury and beyond. Although revered as a writer within circles of other writers, Ryan is as yet unknown to the larger world for his talents. This is what Brian Dunn and company will give you a chance to rectify this summer. One of our finest writers, represented by some of our finest musicians.
Branching off from Nickel city’s rock band “Weatherly,” and pop-group “My Cousin Karma,” which have shared the stage with big name acts like Marianna’s Trench, Dr. Hook, Yukon Blonde, The Salads, just to name a few, is Sea Perry. Three honest and genuine guys – Chris Milligan, Chad Bouchard and Shawn Fisher – play heartfelt folk-rock anthems that people cannot help but relate to. With their debut album out, Sea Perry has been hitting the highways of Ontario, garnering a name in the national music scene at the same time as cultivating a dedicated fanbase in Sudbury.
After spending a few seasons recording in Nashville and touring the Canadian bar scene, Barry Miles enters the new year with a new outlook on music, opting for a set of Northern-Ontario inspired folk and bluegrass songs. Joined by Jon Danyliw and Sam Cassio, the trio create a sound that mixes traditional songwriting and raw musicianship into foot-stompers and stories old as the north itself.
The Housewives of Kagawong
Matt and Jamie met. Matt likes old music. Jamie likes old music. Matt plays guitar. Jamie plays guitar. Matt plays banjo. Jamie doesn’t. But Jamie writes songs that sound like old music. Matt likes songs that sound like old music. Jamie and Matt play the songs that sound like old music…sometimes with Pierre and Andre.
Patrick Wright et les Gauchistes (2014 Meltdown Winner)
Patrick Wright has been making music from an early age. He’s been playing guitar and piano since roughly 9 years old, and has been writing songs since the age of 12. In 2012, he found himself among the nominees for the Ontario POP competition, and managed to bring home the Radio Canada award and the Petite-Vallée award for songwriting.
After the experience at Ontario POP, Wright was joined by ‘les gauchistes': Michel Laforge, Marc Fortier et Marc Prud’Homme. This new group, Patrick Wright et les Gauchistes, had one of its first performances on the stages of ‘La Nuit émergente’, an event presented by La Slague and Les Concerts La Nuit sur l’étang. The group makes the most of any opportunity to demonstrate their craft, and is tirelessly working on new material. Stay tuned!
Jazz Paradis (2014 Meltdown Winner)
Soulful and sweet, haunting yet soothing, cathartic yet serene. Jazz Paradis is the winner of this year’s Meltdown competition, in the solo category. Paradis is currently writing and recording, just launching what is sure to be an interesting and dynamic musical career. She creates a mix of folk, pop, indie and soul that is an absolute pleasure to experience.
Professor Crookshank’s Traveling Medicine Show
A low rumble could be heard as horses pulled a large strange caravan. The townsfolk look on, through closed shutters as the Medicine Show rolls into town. A stranger has come, and with him comes the promise of mystery and miracles. Witness the last true purveyor of wonderment. After many years of travel through exotic lands of the world, Prof. Crookshank has finally made his way back to civilization to bring you the finest medicinal cures from the darkest reach’s of the beyond! And what wonders lay hidden within his caravan!
Dale is a storyteller, actor and children’s entertainer. His dramatic and whimsical storytelling delights kids of all ages. Dale’s performances include interactive elements, such as his locally famous ‘story socks’ method. Have a seat and listen in, you might find your imagination is a powerful thing, no matter how old you are! Dale is a past recipient of NLFB’s Jackie Washington award, for his major involvement in the local theatre community, and more.
The Northern Lights Arts Village
The Arts Village featuring many established local visual artists is programmed again this year with the assistance of Myths & Mirrors Community Arts. We’ll have lots of painters, visual artists, cool décor and some general clowning around going on as we spread visual art through the park for the weekend.
Northern Lights Writes
Since November, NLFB has been hosting monthly spoken word nights at the Speakeasy on Durham St. It started as a bit of an experiment, but it soon became apparent that it would be very cool to work some of it into the festival program. Some of the poets/writers who have been attending these nights will participate in a workshop where they are placed with a festival musician and encouraged to produce a collaborative work.