Twelve seasons into his popular Folk Night at the Registry series, producer Jack Cole is a little more comfortable bringing in new acts. He’s established a reputation for choosing strong lineups, and audiences trust his judgment.
Still, he admits to more than a few butterflies when acts unknown to the local scene take to the stage at the Registry Theatre. That being the case, there’ll be some fluttering on September 23 when the season opens with Matthew Byrne and again on the October 28, the second show of the series featuring Lizzy Hoyt. Both will be new to local audiences.
Some familiar names, including Joe Crookston, Joe Jencks, Si Kahn, Dave Gunning, J.P Cormier and Shari Ulrich round out the season’s offerings.
Byrne gets things rolling, bringing his authentic traditional sound from Newfoundland. Since his debut in 2010, Byrne has won accolades for his work. His second album, Hearts & Heroes, was honoured as Traditional Recording of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Folk Music Awards. His Folk Night show is part of the release tour for his third recording, Horizon Lines, which debuted in August while he was on staff at Goderich’s Celtic College.
“Matthew is a real voice for traditional music. He’s got so much history,” said Cole. “His mother is a song collector in Newfoundland, and so was his grandmother. He’s taken it up from his mother, and he’s giving [the songs] back to the people,” he said of the family’s efforts to gather field recordings of local, traditional performers.
As such, Byrne’s performances contain many stories about the songs he sings – “Our audience loves that.”
Shifting from east to west, Lizzy Hoyt performs the second concert of the series, making her way to the Kitchener venue October 28.
A multi-instrumentalist – fiddle, guitar, accordion and harp – Hoyt toured for 10 years as a side musician before pursuing her own projects, which in turn brought her acclaim. She’s twice been nominated for Canadian Folk Music awards (solo artist and traditional singer), and has received other awards and nominations, including an Award of Excellence in Filmmaking or Screenwriting at the Canada International Film Festival for her Vimy Ridge short film, based on her song.
“This lady has just such tremendous talent on fiddle and guitar, and she’s got a beautiful voice,” said Cole of his desire to book her for the series.
True to folk traditions, she nonetheless brings her own modern take to the genre, he notes. Folk singers typically write about issues and about history, and she’s of that mould.
“I was feeling like I needed to get some up-and-comers,” Cole said. “I get my biggest kick from introducing people they don’t know. I think people will love her.”
For the third concert of the series – to be preceded by a special, as-yet-announced show on November 28 – Cole shifts to more familiar ground with Joe Crookston, who was one of those unknown quantities when he made his Canadian debut at a Folk Night show in 2012.
Based in New York State, Crookston had already established U.S. audiences, but was new to local folkies, who quickly embraced his music such that this will be his third visit for the Folk Night series.
A songwriter, guitarist, painter, fiddler, banjoist, slide player and eco-village member, Crookston was named 2016 Folk Alliance International Artist-in-Residence and recognized with Album of the Year. He returns January 20.
“His songs are universal, his rhythm infectious and in concert, he is funny one moment and transcendent the next. Joe travels to us from Ithaca New York, and is one of the finest musicians that I’ve ever had the joy to present,” notes Cole.
“He’s just such a talented guy. Joe tends to think outside the box when it comes to music and art.”
The fourth concert on March 10 pairs Chicago-based Joe Jencks – no stranger here, having made two stops at Folk Night with Brother Sun – and Si Kahn, the songwriter behind many tunes you’ll know, but don’t know are his, says Cole. His songs have been translated into at least half a dozen languages, and covered by the likes of Kathy Mattea, Peggy Seeger, Planxty, Dick Gaughan and The Fureys.
That show leads into the Registry Roots Weekend in April, with Dave Gunning and J.P. Cormier performing April 14, and Laura Smith doing a workshop earlier in the day.
“That’s Nova Scotian royalty,” said Cole of the performers on tap.
“We should have all the Nova Scotians in the city out that weekend,” he laughed.
Rounding out the series on May 5 is Shari Ulrich, whose career has spanned 23 albums with various bands and as a solo artist. For the Registry show, she’ll be joined by her daughter Julia Graff, also a multi-instrumentalist, and fellow High Bar Gang member Kirby Barber on bass, vocals, and guitar.
“I’ve been a big fan of Shari Ulrich since the ’70s when she was part of Pied Pumkin. I bought their first two albums on vinyl right from the stage at her shows,” said Cole. “She’s got a large following here.”
All shows take place at the Registry Theatre, 122 Frederick St., Kitchener. Tickets for the shows range from $18 to $25 in advance, with series passes available. More information is available at www. folknight.ca.