After attending the Vancouver Island Music Festival this past weekend it is pretty much impossible to not return to Salmon Arm pumped about roots music in general and the audiences that follow everything from traditional folk from the U.K. to Delta blues to West African music. Once again Doug Cox, founder and artistic director of VIMF, hit a series of home runs when it came to the booking and presentation of the artists and acts.
For many it was very tough deciding which workshop to be at although I escaped that dilemma as Doug had placed me at numerous stages throughout the festival to do some emcee and interview work.
Highlights came fast and furious Friday afternoon and evening as main stage presented a superior mix of styles and artists from across North America. The Tex Mex sounds of Los Texmaniacs rivaled those of Doug Sahm’s Texas Tornados and the stunning lead vocals and harmonies of the three young ladies who comprise eastern Canada’s Trent Severn were being talked about all weekend long. Lyle Lovett led his Large Band onto the stage just as the sun was descending and the man and his crew were at 30,000 feet about ten seconds after take off. Does it get any better than Lovett who seamlessly strings together everything from big band Texas blues to bluegrass while engaging the audience on every level during his sensational performances. Even the tweeners, blues player Mary Flower and Tim Williams hit home runs in their respective 15 to 20 minute slots.
Forty-eight hours later on Sunday evening a 73 year-old Graham Nash held an adoring crowd in the palm of his hand as he sang like a 40 year-old and set up each tune with the perfect story of its origin. Wasted On The Way, Cathedral, Marrakesh Express, Bus Stop from his days with The Hollies, Immigration Man, I Used To Be A King, and two new tunes set to be released next year were part of the deep musical menu. It all led up to Our House and Teach Your Children that had the delighted audience singing at the top of their collective lungs. Then Leftover Salmon came out in the cleanup spot and rocked the house upside down with selections from their entire 25 year history with tunes from The Band and the John Hartford songbooks thrown in for good measure. Bill Payne of Little Feat fame is now a full time member of Leftover Salmon and he looks and sounds like he’s having the time of his life.
The audience response was exactly what I was hoping for as the artistic director of the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues festival as jam band music is an important component of this year’s festival. It apparently is NOT a genre that only resonates with American audiences. The crowd was with Drew Emmitt, Vince Herman and company for the entire set, cheering, dancing and hooting during extended solos and guest appearances from members of the Texmaniacs and Hot Rize. Yes we Canucks like jamband music to.
Salmon Arm has musical kindred spirits of Leftover Salmon appearing at Roots and Blues 2015 including Brothers Keeper, Mark Karan, Jason Crosby, and the Cyril Neville led Royal Southern Brotherhood, which I first caught at Vancouver Island Music Festival a year ago. One hopes those same responses to instrumental fireworks and extended jams ignite the Salmon Arm audiences in a month’s time.
A year ago after attending the Vancouver Island Music Festival I made sure we not only snagged Royal Southern Brotherhood but recent Juno winner Quique Escamilla, Russell deCarle of Prairie Oyster fame and guitar master Tony McManus. I guarantee all of those exceptional artists will deliver exceptional performances this year at Salmon Arm Roots and Blues.
I believe we have the same kind of gifted talent pool booked for Roots and Blues 2015 as that at the Vancouver Island Music Festival and the same kind of spirited, focused performers and we’re only a month away.