Pick up the Blueberry festival at Stony Plain

f you haven’t purchased yours yet, tickets for the annual Central Music Festival remain available. Scheduled for the Aug. 14-15 weekend, the little home-grown fest features numerous local and western Canadian acts.

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If you haven’t purchased yours yet, tickets for the annual Central Music Festival remain available. Scheduled for the Aug. 14-15 weekend, the little home-grown fest features numerous local and western Canadian acts. Roots artists including singer-songwriter, blues, world and country performers, as well as jazz and rock acts share the stage.

The well-rounded festival includes Gordie Tentrees, Ryan Sande, The Amos Garrett Trio, Steve Coffey & the Lokels, Crystal Plamondon, Honeyboy Edwards, Donna Durand, Ndidi Onikwulu, and Steve Arsenault, among others. Details at centralmusicfest.com, with tickets at the Black Knight Inn outlet and Valhalla Pure Outfitters.

If you’re looking for some summer bluegrass, it will be hard to beat the line-up at Stony Plain’s Blueberry Bluegrass Festival July 31-August 2. This year’s fest features two bands that are always popular when they play Red Deer — John Reischman & the Jaybirds and Down to the Wood — as well as Dan Paisley & the Southern Grass, Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys, Alecia Nugent, and a rare bluegrass festival appearance from Marty Stuart & his Fabulous Superlatives. Tickets by phone at 780-439-9788.

Continuing our theme of summer music festivals, those featured in today’s column would be fine additions to any roots fest:

Vieux Farka Touré

Fondo

Six Degrees

Son of the late Ali Farka Touré, Vieux continues the rich tradition of guitar-based, West African music. Loose and freewheeling numbers enable the musician to seemingly improvise his way around sweeping melodies, providing a compelling listen.

Touches of the blues are apparent, especially on numbers such as Souba Souba and Paradise. Most assuredly, this is an African album. Recorded in Mali, the album has a consistent sound, one that is complementary to the western and African styles that meld into a fresh, coherent mixture of influences.

A remarkable collection of original music, the album features the traditional tune Walé, a song from Timbuktu. This track, and two others, feature vocals from Afel Bocoum. Elsewhere, Vieux takes the lead vocal spot and his words, while not understood by those not speaking his language, connect with the listener through inflection and intensity of phrasing.

For most of us, “world music” — that which includes lyrics we don’t understand — is about the groove, and Fondo succeeds in this area like few others. Song after song, Sarama, Diaraby Magni, and the aptly titled Slow Jam pull listeners into complex but accessible rhythms.

Vieux Farka Touré knows that heartfelt music requires no translation, and Fondo speaks to all who are willing to listen.

Todd Snider

The Excitement Plan

YepRoc

In which everyone’s favourite bar-stool philosopher goes uptown with Don Was producing. While a studio A-team is present: Jim Keltner on drums, Greg Leisz on steel and Dobro, and Was himself on the bass, Snider’s acerbic wit and cutting couplets prevail.

“The number one symptom of heart disease is sudden death” Snider sings on Greencastle Blues prior to asking: “How do you know it is too late to learn?” Honed by countless performances in hundreds if not thousands of dives, Snider maintains interest through the use of a charming “Aw, shucks” persona while skewering the very hands that feed him.

Back to back — on Barefoot Champagne and Don’t Tempt Me — Snider captures the strain and dark humour of marital discord. On the latter, honky-tonkin’ song, Snider duets with Loretta Lynn; the legend drops lines like, “You’re stoned as a rock” with aplomb. Lighthearted as the tone may be in many places, Snider pulls no punches on Bring ’em Home, an anti-war protest song that could be forty years old, but unfortunately isn’t.

His tribute to Dock Ellis’s No-No (America’s Favourite Pastime) differs greatly from Chuck Brodsky’s previous, novelistic approach. Snider succeeds because of what he leaves out; cutting to the core of the accomplishment — pitching a no-hitter while on LSD — by capturing staccato images of the day.

Clocking in at just over 40 minutes, Snider knows how to quit while ahead. The Excitement Plan, with its straight-ahead approach and uncluttered arrangements, contains nothing extraneous. It should appeal to all long-time fans and, for others, may serve as a gentle introduction to a singer who takes some getting used to.

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

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