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Tuesday May 6, 2014

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It seems only a couple of weeks since I last sat here to write these column notes, but here we are once again in the merry month of May. Thankfully the rain has stopped and I've recovered from a nasty bout of gastric flu, so here we go with a few random thoughts about the local music scene and its Celtic connections!

Last week the Vancouver Folk Music Festival announced its line up for Jericho Beach Park on July 18-20. Celtic music is not well represented this year, but fans of Ireland's wonderful band The Saw Doctors will be chuffed to see a rare appearance by two band members: Leo Moran and Anthony Thistlethwaite. I recall a show The Rogue put on with the full band at the old Club Soda on Homer Street in 1997. Great fun! I am most excited to see Scots songwriter Karine Polwart in Vancouver for the first time at this event. She was once the lead singer with the quintet Malinky, and had a short spell with Battlefield Band. Since then has released a string of excellent albums - some traditional, most not, but all with her crisp, Scots accent highlighting some of the most poignant and pointed social commentary to come out of Scotland since the heyday of Dick Gaughan (Handful of Earth era.) I've seen her a couple of times in concert; she is a compelling performer and very witty as well as incisively caustic when needed (witness her condemnation of Donald Trump's acquisition of the windiest island in Scotland to convert it into a golf course!) Nova Scotia's Rose Cousins is another of my favourite singers, and there will be Quebecois / Celtic music from Les Tireux d'Roches to keep your toes tapping! Casey Driessen is a remarkable fiddle player, and along with ukulele man James Hill, and Victoria's wonderful Big Machine (Ollie Swain, Quinn Bachand, Richard Moody etc.) and Italian guitarist Beppe Gambetta will provide much in the Celtic-related vein. Also from Italy there's a rare appearance by Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana. He's a brilliant button accordion player and his band is superb! I have heard many tales about the halcyon days of the local music scene in the 70s. I wasn't here, but I've seen Pied Pumkin often enough to know that there was a healthy acoustic folk scene that got people dancing and partying whenever they played. The Pumkin won't be at the festival, but I keep hearing of another band that filled those dance halls in the 70s: Flying Mountain. They will be reuniting for a special appearance this year. Colour me intrigued! (Rogue Folk members can obtain discount tickets to the festival! Click 
here for details!)

Island Musicfest (July 11-13) in Courtenay introduces two new duos and a trio, very much in the Celtic music vein: Scots guitarist Tony McManus now lives in Toronto, and he's recently teamed up with Nova Scotia singer songwriter Laura Smith. The two of them make sublime music together! On the eve of their appearance at Musicfest they will perform a Rogue show at St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue) - that's Thursday July 10th, by the way. Tony will accompany Laura in her set, and also perform a solo set, showcasing his incredible talent. His latest CD, Mysterious Boundaries, consists of classical compositions. This is especially impressive in that he is a self-taught musician who didn't study classical guitar, nor did he read music, yet he puts his indelible stamp on such diverse and wondrous pieces as a Bach Prelude, a Gnossienne by Erik Satie and a Spanish Dance by Granados. And he plays them all on a steel string guitar - a first in the genre. A young English duo, Katriona Gilmore (fiddle, vocals) & Jamie Roberts (guitar, vocals), released a fine third CD - The Innocent Left - last year and make their Canadian debut at Musicfest. I admit I hadn't heard of them until fRoots magazine featured one of their songs on a CD sent out with the e-zine. Further investigation revealed them to be richly endowed with exemplary harmonies and toe-tapping melodies - not to mention well-crafted topical and traditional-sounding original songs. The North Atlantic Trio might have a rather uninspiring name, but their music is anything but! This unusual trio boasts Celtic harp, dobro and hand percussion, and blends Appalachian songs with trad. Celtic material in a totally new and riveting way. They hail from Glasgow and I'm really looking forward to seeing them in concert for the first time.

Both Gilmore & Roberts and the North Atlantic Trio will also be performing this summer at the Harrison Festival of the Arts in Harrison Hot Springs. Artistic Director Andy Hillhouse makes his debut in the hot seat this year (July 12-20) and he has also included New Zealand / Scotland's wonderful trio Pacific Curls, Scots-born Canadian songwriter David Francey, and the brilliant young piping duo Ross Ainslie & Jarlath Henderson (from Scotland and Ireland, respectively). I saw these guys with their band at Edmonton last year: incredible arrangements of tunes on uilleann pipes and border pipes.

No word yet from Edmonton, but I think Andy Irvine & Donal Lunny will be there for starters. The Rogue will present Shorefest once again from our stage at Sunset Beach on July 26, July 30 and August 2. We're still working on the line-up, so keep checking my blog for the latest news!

So, we're in for another exciting summer of music in and around BC, but what about the next few weeks? Well, for starters, Jericho Folk Club at the Sailing Centre (1300 Discovery Street) has just announced its line-up. Little Mountain Band, Tue May 13; Swing Reel, Tue May 20; Pearl, Tue May 27; Quartette a Tete, Tue Jun 3; Late Thaw, Tue Jun 10. There's a Celtic jam 7:30 – 8 and 9 – 9:15. Open stage 8 – 9. Feature concert at 9:15. Doors at 7:15. $10.

Meanwhile, The Rogue presents a series of Community Contra Dances at Trout Lake Community Centre, 3360 Victoria, 7:15 to 8:30. Just $4 for some fun to a fine band: Fri May 9, Rights ‘n Lefts with Paul Silveria will have you hopping; Fri May 16, Rattlebone with June Harman will shake your (you know what!); Fri May 23, Gaoler’s Muse with Kari-Ann Thor; Fri May 30, Right Hand Star with Bob Rentz; Fri Jun 6, Crooked Road with Bob Rentz. This is a new program, made possible by a community grant from the City of Vancouver and organized by the marvellous wind goddess of the Sybaritic Stringband, Claire McCague. You can catch her band on Saturday June 7th at The Rogue's final monthly Contra Dance of the season at St James Hall. (Next dance will be September 6th.) Don't forget Roguelele Night with Ralph Shaw at St. James Hall on Tuesday May 20th; it's a great strum-along / sing-along night and extremely popular!

Concert-wise, The Rogue hosts a fabulous double-bill to celebrate its 27th anniversary on Friday May 9thTower Of Song stars Victoria's Ollie Swain (bass, vocals) and Glenna Garramone (guitar, vocals) in a special tribute concert to the songs of Leonard Cohen. They will add special guests including Reid Jamieson, Hilary Grist, and cellist Corbin Keep to present many of Cohen's songs - plus a few originals in a similar style. They have just released a CD of these songs, and the vocals and harmonies and arrangements are spellbinding. Like the great works of Bob Dylan, sometimes it requires a different approach - and a sublime voice or two - to help us realise just how great these songwriters are! Sharing the bill that night will be Ollie's stringband, The Big Machine. On Sunday May 11th American string master David Lindley plays a sold out show at St. James Hall. This is going to be a fantastic night of acoustic roots music! Sorry if you didn't get your tickets in time ....

On Friday May 16th at The Rogue, Manitoba songwriters Brandy Zdan (ex Twilight Hotel) and Scott Nolan will each perform a solo set - and accompany each other from time to time. The following Friday (23rd) Vancouver's World Champion Finger-style Guitarist Don Alder performs a solo show at The Rogue. Fresh from a ground-breaking (space-breaking?) show in Hawaii with William Shatner and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, Don will bring an array of guitars - including his remarkable harp guitar - to our stage. In June we have two sold out nights with Americana songwriters The Milk Carton Kids, whose meteoric rise to fame was sparked by such events as the launch of the movie Inside Llewyn Davies and the companion film Another Time Another Place. We announced the first show in November and it sold out within two months. We added a second show and it too is now sold out. This duo sounds like a 21st century Simon & Garfunkel; their harmonies are superb and they are extremely entertaining. I hope you didn't miss out on tickets ... We have added a few interesting summer shows: Tim Eriksen & The Trio de Pumpkintown bring their traditional songs of New England and Appalachia to The Rogue on June 24th. If you recall a band called Cordelia's Dad about 20 years ago, this is 2/3 of that band plus a new fiddler, and Tim's voice is one of the very best in trad singing anywhere. Tony McManus and Laura Smith play The Rogue on July 10th, and Colleen Rennison launches her debut solo CD backed by Steve Dawson and The Black Hen Band on July 31st. We are thrilled to present the Cape Breton Celtic quintet Coig on Thursday August 14th, and are also working on bringing back Pacific Curls in July and Sylvia Tyson & Quartette on August 15th. Visit for the latest news, concert details, and tickets.

Oh yes, almost forgot. Greek Day is June 22nd and there will be a free street festival that day on West Broadway between McDonald and Waterloo. Rogue Folk will have a booth, and we hope to present a concert of Greek music on Friday June 20th at St. James Hall. Again, check the website for details.

You can hear lots of great Celtic music - and much more - on my weekly show The Edge On Folk on CiTR fm 101.9 in Vancouver. The show is streamed live on and podcasts of all shows are available on that website. Radio Rogue broadcasts 24/7 from our new office on Granville Island (1504 Duranleau Street) you can tune in on the Rogue website.

See you next month!

P.S. don't miss Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn - two of the world's most renowned banjo players - at The Chan Centre on Saturday May 10th!