WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: Brett Fillmore
The sun dutifully shone on Prince’s Island Park for another terrific weekend of diverse music and overpriced lemonade. Which performers were the cream of this year’s crop? Here are the winners of the inaugural B&K Calgary Folk Fest Awards
Throwbackiest – Whitney Rose
She has the old school country aesthetic pinned so well it’s like she stepped onto the stage from a Delorian. Watching her weave her musical Texas love letters felt like witnessing a sassy postmodern Patsy Cline in the making. Note: she was also nominated for best on-stage snacking, as her dress pocket was apparently full of licorice for an entire afternoon.
Warhorse-iest – Dave Alvin
Old hand blues man Dave Alvin oozes cool, even at age 61. Hearing him riff through his dusty chest of songs felt like being part of American music history.
Loudest – The Sumner Brothers
Vancouver’s own Bob and Brian slipped into the festival under the guise of alt-country, but their grungy garage delivery isn’t fooling anyone. These fellas rock hard.
Peppiest – Parsonsfield
When they put their mishmash of punk/bluegrass/celtic/something-or-other into gear, things gets nutty. They undoubtedly had the most stage energy of the weekend, with fist pumps aplenty.
Gutsiest Song Selection – John K Samson
Although he mostly left his overtly political days behind him with Propagandhi, Samson used his main stage set as a sounding board for the cutting “Vampire Alberta Blues”—a scathing indictment on the petroleum industry, sung in the heart of oil country.
Unlikeliest Brit – Yola Carter
Her voice is pure soul, and her songwriting is pure country. She so flawlessly executes Americana music that it’s stunning to discover she is 0% American.
Biggest Crowd Pleaser – Langhorne Slim
Appearing solo, alt-folk freewheeler Langhorne Slim delivered an impassioned performance that served as a master class on audience engagement. He went over his allotted time to sing his last couple songs in the grass, offstage and surrounded by the standing audience. That’s where he stayed until half an hour after the set was done, to meet and greet anyone who wanted to chat.
Dorkiest Badasses – BadBadNotGood
Books and covers, man. The again, if these guys look like nerdy kids, it’s because they mostly are. Fresh out of high-end music school, they are technically proficient, classically trained jazz musicians—only they have an ear for hip hop and own the stage like bosses. They recorded an entire album for none other than Ghostface Killah. Who’s the nerd now?
Best ‘Stache – Foy Vance
…and it’s not close.
Best Feels-Puncher – Donovan Woods
Yessir, this guy will sock you right in the feels, whether you asked for it or not. Although he’s funny and lighthearted between songs, his whispery delivery of songs like “They Don’t Make Anything In That Town” had people cutting onions in the Stage 6 tent.
Best Workshop Addition – Basia Bulat
When she led everyone on stage to a rousing, impromptu rendition of Neil Young’s “Helpless” to close out the Canada Far And Wide workshop, Bulat exemplified why she’s a refreshing remedy to the sometimes tired or awkward nature of daytime workshops. She plays every instrument you can think of, and is skilled at jumping in to add improvised flavor to other artists’ songs. This musicianship coupled with her animated, sweetheart character make her the perfect addition to multi-band jams like the ones found on Calgary Folk Fest’s side stages.
Best Moody Baritone – Sean Rowe
Rowe’s voice is as thick and deep as his woodsman beard, and it has an arresting effect on brooding, earthy compositions like “To Leave Something Behind”. He was probably the only performer of the weekend to never smile on stage.
Best Cover – Barney Bentall
The versatile and crafty Bentall nailed Gordon Lightfoot’s “Talking In Your Sleep”, and then for good measure capably trotted out Stan Rogers’ “Barrett’s Privateers” and a rollicking “Home For A Rest” by Spirit Of The West.
Best Slow Jam – Charlotte Cornfield
Newcomer Cornfield hushed the crowd with a heartfelt performance of “Big Volcano, Small Town”, to which a stunned John K Samson remarked, “whoa, I’m feeling a lot of things right now.”
See you next year, Calgary!