My picks for the perfect outdoor roots fest

Kat Danser, the Queen of the Swamp Blues, travels down Hwy 2 for a solo appearance at the Velvet Olive Lounge tonight.


Kat Danser, the Queen of the Swamp Blues, travels down Hwy 2 for a solo appearance at the Velvet Olive Lounge tonight.

On Saturday evening, a contingent of songwriters — Andy Donnelly, Lionel Rault, and Jon Randell — appear at the Matchbox Theatre.

Texas songwriter Willie Mack turns the Capri into a honky tonk next Friday night. Featuring catchy songs of the road (Howdy, Eh and Gonna Get Me A Cadillac), Mack has established himself on the Canadian circuit through his collaborations with The Road Hammers and Aaron Pritchett. Admission includes a copy of Mack’s new album.

Everything that needs to be said about Mose Allison — in Ray Davies’ words, the missing link between jazz and blues — has already been written; Greg Brown sang it best when he immortalized a night in a seedy, stinking dive with the line, “I’m proud to be here, because once last November, Mose Allison played here!” The piano-playing legend arrives at the Elks on June 26 in a fundraiser for the Central Music Festival.

Speaking of such, get your ducats for the third annual Central Music Festival on Aug. 14 and 15; a selection of the finest local and western Canadian roots, country, jazz and rock performers share the stage. Details at, with tickets at the Black Knight Inn outlet and Valhalla Pure Outfitters.

As we head out of mid-June, thoughts of those who appreciate our kind of music turn to the festivals. With the summer’s first significant festival occurring this weekend near Joussard (North Country Fair), I thought it fitting to review albums from artists who would fit the bill for an eclectic open-air show.

Join me for a few minutes then as I present the first of what I hope to be many Fervor Coulee Roots Music Fests:

The Gibson Brothers

Ring the Bell


Recorded with a revitalized touring band, the brothers from upstate New York are nothing if not consistent. With their third impressive collection in a row, the formula remains true.

Strong original material is their forte, while a few well-known tunes are provided the distinctive Gibson Brothers treatment. Not hard core or even traditional, but definitely bluegrass through and through. Their classic country influences are always apparent.

Every Gibson Brothers album has a familiar tone, one that somehow simultaneously brings to mind Tom T. Hall, The Band, The Osbourne Brothers and Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers.

Eric and Leigh Gibson are bright bluegrass vocalists, and Eric’s five-string shines through their unembellished arrangements. The album opens with long, mournful fiddle notes that soon pick up into something deceptively upbeat. From descriptions of the past (Farm of Yesterday, Bottomland) to songs of a future (Forever Has No End, I Can’t Like Myself), with a bit of a stop at the church of bluegrass (Ring the Bell), the Gibson Brothers have emboldened their reputation as one of the finest contemporary bluegrass bands.

T. Nile

The Cabin Song

Outside Distribution

Currently the indie-darling of the Canadian modern-folk circuit, British Columbia’s Tamara Nile maintains the significant interest generated by her charming debut album of a couple years back.

This elegant little EP of five songs and a pair of acoustic instrumental interludes arrives in advance of an album due in 2010. Vocally, Nile reminds one of Edie Brickell (especially on Rock Watcha Got) minus the intense affectations of Mrs. Paul Simon. The arrangements are more intricate than last time out, with percussion pulsing in the distance and Bob Hamilton’s dobro colouring the margins. Unfortunately, her pointillist banjo plinking isn’t nearly as prominent.

Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women

Dave Alvin & the Guilty Women


Featuring a cavalcade of California- and Texas-based female instrumentalists and singer Christy McWilson, Dave Alvin has again realigned his approach and songbook.

As always, emotion and experience drip off every syllable Alvin sings. A collaborative musician and producer if ever one existed, Alvin is the core of this project; but the ladies — all nine of them — take (excepting on the twin-fiddle numbers) second fiddle to no one.

Laurie Lewis, who is slated to again visit Red Deer this September with Kathy Kallick, is distinctly heard throughout the album, and Nina Gerber’s fiery electric guitar work bridges any gaps that may exist between the favoured styles of her bandmates.

Maria Marie is rejiggered as a swampy Cajun stomper, California’s Burning has all the hallmarks of an Alvin classic, and Potter’s Field is darn lonesome. Karen Carpenter, Big Joe Turner and Jimi Hendrix populate the songs.

Donald Teplyske is a local freelance writer who contributes a twice-monthly column on roots music; visit for additional reviews. If you know a roots music event of which he should be aware, contact him at

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