It’s almost too much. Having Tanya Tucker, Emmylou Harris, Jeff Tweedy, Sierra Ferrell, Matt Mays, Art Bergmann and so many sweet musical souls all shoved into 15 hectares and 77 hours at Prince’s Island Park from July 27 to 30 during the 44th Annual Calgary Folk Music Festival is almost too much. Almost. But we’ll take it. Greedily.
Because you can’t be everywhere at once, the SCENE offers ideas to assist with figuring out where you might best find your bliss.
Thursday, July 27
ATB Mainstage, 7:45 to 8.55 p.m.
In the fest’s tradition of past featured hip-hop pioneers and weekend fan faves such as Arrested Development, this jazzy New York trio known for their groundbreaking 1993 debut Reachin’ (A Refutation of Time and Space), with its Grammy-winning single Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat), should have everyone on the island up on their feet and outta their minds.
ATB Mainstage, 9:10 to 10:30 p.m.
She sells shivers by the C(algary) shore.
Friday, July 28
National – Stage 4 (Twiokaylight Stage), 6:15 to 7:10 p.m.
Yep, he captured attention for telling it like it is – that many overblown Top 40 white boys who hijacked the blues have been pissing in the same pond so often that it’s a biohazard. Witness him setting that right as he’s likely to be all piss and vinegar, not pissing in the wind.
Colleen Brown and Major Love
Rigstar – Stage 5, 3 to 3:45 p.m.
If you missed them at Summer Serenades in 2021, for heaven’s sake don’t miss them now. This powerhouse Alberta band holds Colleen Brown’s powerhouse vocals aloft, from ballads to chunky 70s captured rock. A delight.
ATB Mainstage, 8:55 to 10:05 p.m.
Tucker’s mathematical abilities are said to be quite strong. After all, she put the count back in country. Or, well, something like that. In any case, a legend not to be missed.
Saturday, July 29
National – Stage 4, 10:30 to 11:15 a.m.
It’s true the SCENE can’t get enough of the tuneful, clever but never cloying, soulful song writing by Luke Colborne as played by his Calgary band. Sure, it seems tough to get out of bed and be on the island this early, and, yeah, I know, parking and blah blah blah. But. Do it. The vibe this band delivers will guarantee your Saturday blasts off into bliss.
Altitude Communications – Stage 2, 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
OK, so parking took a little longer than you thought? You can still savour this workshop with Del Barber, Sammy Volkov, Carter Felker and Boy Golden. Some great heartfelt heartland and local vibe there.
A Family Affair
Field Law — Stage 3 12:55 to 2:05 p.m.
The Garrys, The Sadies, and Kacy & Clayton deliver music that romps through a sneeze of Carole King fairy dust, some gothic garage country-something, and homespun harmonies that drew in Jeff Tweedy like a television preacher to a telethon.
Lived Through That
Altitude Communications — Stage 2, 4:20 to 5:30 p.m.
Sure, Art Bergmann is back after a horrid year last year with the passing of his wife and muse, but he’s also found love again. But even in love, this Canadian folk hero and survivor of the punk rock trenches is about as predictable as a tornado in August with a dozen trailer parks to choose from. Good thing Calgary veterans The Lovebullies can roll with whatever comes their way. So can Métis songwriter Cynthia Hamar, who never blinked at anything life threw at her, but instead bundled it up inside her music. As for queer Filipina collective Pantayo, well, you can imagine. This should be fun.
Thoughts and Players
Community Natural Foods – Stage 6, 1:55 to 3:05 p.m.
You can’t play with Matt Mays for long without soaking up melodic, gotcha songs as Mays’ keyboardist Adam Baldwin proves. He joins otherworldly chanteuse Sierra Ferrell with Hurray for the Riff Raff; perhaps these two will compare notes of their train-hopping days while trading songs. The swirly fun of The Paper Kites will be perfect punctuation.
ATB Mainstage, 9:05 to 10:10 p.m.
With his Princely guitar licks and mind-meld mastery with genres galore, Fantastic Negrito needs to be heard, not read about. Try just one song. Gotcha!
And, of course, Matt Mays (10:25 to 11:30 p.m.). There’s a reason that every time my streaming service tosses in one of his songs, I stop what I’m doing and go, “Who’s that?!” If he plays Cocaine Cowgirl with its heart stopping waterfall of a riff, an already unreal day just got better.
Sunday, July 30
We the (un) Common
Community Natural Foods — Stage 6, 1:55 to 3:05 p.m.
Under the radar songwriter Jim Bryson has been quietly putting out perfect songs for decades. Placing him on the other end of the musical teeter-totter with another Canadian hidden gem, The Weather Station, and mixing in Matt Mays and local lovelies Ghostkeeper pulls this bracelet of sweet diamonds to the top of the monkey bars to shine, shine, shine.
The Power and the Story
National – Stage 4, 4:20 to 5:30 p.m.
It’s tradition. Over decades, Stage 4 on Sunday at 4:20 p.m. (hey, Beavis, she said 4-20, hehehehe) has been a cornerstone event, having, over the years, mixed some high-powered musical artists with underdogs and up and comers in ways that delight, enlighten, and awe. It’s like artistic director Kerry Clarke wants to give everyone one more massive musical hallelujah that later becomes layered into memories to keep folks warm all the way through winter, and the one after that, and after that, and on.
This year, mixing Buffalo Nichols (soak him up, folks, he’s already putting boundaries on his time) with musical shape shifter Fantastic Negrito will create ground zero intensity. Adding traditional Columbian ensemble Bejuco and Tennessee’s Amythyst Kiah, who leans on old forms of music to create something that’s her own, means this gathering can take songs in any direction, but all of those directions with lead you home.
ATB Mainstage 6:35 to 7:25 p.m.
Big breath. She’s really here! My long-suffering husband’s been telling me Ferrell needs to play this fest for over half a decade. Well, finally, we get to hear her remarkable voice and ace musicianship as she swirls old-timey sounds together with any thing her train-jumping, state-travelling, open-eared and big hearted soul can absorb. It’s like she’s creating home spun musical cotton candy that grabs anything in her path, then offering it to us to delight in and savour for years to come. She can play without flash, or gussy herself up for the Grand Ole Opry. It doesn’t matter. This talent runs deeper than Rumi’s poems.
The Calgary Folk Music Festival is on Prince’s Island Park July 27 to 30. For tickets and information, check out calgaryfolkfest.com.