A new generation of folk performers are bringing a new generation of folk audiences into the fold. While still embracing the traditional sounds, The Old Chestnuts Song Circle has been injecting some up-and-comers into the mix of its popular Folk Night at the Registry Series.
That’s certainly the case this year as the series embarks on its 13th season, which opens October 20 with Craig Cardiff and Scott Cook.
Originally from Waterloo, Cardiff now lives near Ottawa. He has released 16 albums, both live and studio-based since 1997.
“He was local, but played to a different audience. He’s an engaging live act – this is a chance for him to reach a whole bunch of new people,” says series organizer Jack Cole.
A roots balladeer, Alberta’s Scott Cook offers tunes that weave folk, roots, blues, soul and country over spacious finger-style guitar and clawhammer banjo arrangements,.
“I really booked him on the strength of one song, Pass it Along, that I heard on the CBC. I looked him up, asked him to send me some music – I loved it and had to book him,” said Cole, adding Cook is a writer, artist and musician. “He’s one of those all-round artistic persons.
“He’s a great songwriter. I think my audience will love Scott Cook.”
The following month, on November 17, the season continues with Tamarack in a 40th anniversary reunion show. Where Cardiff and Cook may not be widely known, Tamarack is certainly a name familiar to an older generation of folkies.
Theirs is a traditional folk sound that continued through a number of lineup changes over the years. For this show, original member James Gordon, a Guelph-based folk stalwart, has recruited some former members, including include Molly Kurvink, Alex Sinclair and Jeff Bird, though just who else might show up may be a day-off surprise. Previous members include the likes of Randy Sutherland, Gwen Swick, Shelley Coopersmith, Melanie Doane and Duncan Cameron.
Switching gears back to the young ‘uns again, the series’ next show features the O’Pears on January 12.
A Toronto-based contemporary folk trio made up of Lydia Persaud, Jill Harris and Meg Contini, the group features three songwriters who capture the timeless character of folk music, with soaring harmonies.
“I always love listening to great harmonies,” said Cole of the O’Pears. “They’ve got some instrumentation, but it’s really about their voices.”
Next up, on March 23, the series welcomes Mark Rust, with Dawud Wharnsby opening.
From Woodstock, NY, Rust was once a common face in these parts back in the 1970s and ’80s when he played extensively at festivals and folk venues before shifting gears into touring musicals. He’s certainly got his folkie bona fides, having performed in concert with Pete Seeger, and Peter, Paul & Mary.
“The older audiences will know him from that time,” said Cole. “I’m really glad to have him come back.”
Opening the show will be Dawud Wharnsby, who calls Kitchener home but rarely plays shows here. Instead, he tours internationally, playing for tens of thousands in concert and live broadcasts, Cole explained.
Wharnsby has 15 albums and five poetry anthologies to his credit, as well as being a multi-instrumentalist, children’s author, puppeteer, TV host, music producer and urban farmer.
Putting the two together, Cole said he thinks his Folk Night audience will have a night they’ll really enjoy.
“I think they’re going to be very happy.”
The series’ fifth concert features The Ennis Sister on April 6. Having played an opening show in 2013 – as a duo, though now there will be three sisters – the Ennis siblings’ show is already creating a buzz.
“They’re probably the most requesting group that I’ve had,” said Cole, noting the tickets practically flew out the door when the show was announced.
“They put on such a great show. They’re personable and funny and great singers,” he said of the sisters – Maureen, Teresa and Karen – who have 13 albums to their credit, the latest, Keeping Time, produced by Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea fame.
The sisters also have a Juno Award, SOCAN Award, multiple East Coast Music Awards, and Music Newfoundland and Labrador Awards under their belts.
The series wraps up with a performer who needs no introduction to traditional folkies. Valdy, who plays May 4, is a pop/folk icon whose career spans more than four decades.
“A man with a thousand friends, from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island to Texas to New Zealand, he’s a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and – above all – a live experience who catches the small but telling moments that make up life.”
When he returns next spring, it will have been seven years since he previous Folk Night performance.
Though not part of the Folk Night series per se, a couple of related performances are also lined up for the coming season.
A winter/Christmas show on December 16 will see Boreal – Katherine Wheatley, Tannis Slimmon and Jude Vadala – return after a very popular Folk Night concert in 2015.
“Their songs conjure up vivid sights and sounds that every Canadian would fondly recognize: pine branches bending low, squirrels’ footprints in the snow, winter’s hush, shovelling, the sound of slap shots off the boards.”
On the night before The Ennis Sisters perform, Stephen Fearing opens the Roots Weekend on April 5.
A long-time Guelph resident now based in Halifax, Fearing is a Juno-winning singer-songwriter with 10 albums to his credit, featuring guest artists such as Bruce Cockburn, Margo Timmons, Richard Thompson, Shawn Colvin and Sarah McLachlan. He is recognized for his guitar playing, record producing, and storytelling. He has toured the world as a solo artist, as a duo with Andy White (two more albums), and as one third of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings with Colin Linden and Tom Wilson (nine more albums and another Juno).
All shows take place at the Registry Theatre, 122 Frederick St., Kitchener. Tickets are available through the theatre or online. For more information, check out Folk Night.