Written by Larry "Dawk" McCarthy
As a Blues lover, Winterfolk has always intrigued me. In the earlier years I didn’t even give it a second thought. After all, I never really enjoyed the folk music of the 60’s & 70’s so why would I revisit it now. But having read a number of blues related books over the years, I realized that many of my favourite “old blues guys & gals” were a big part of that folk scene. In fact their careers were revived, or in some cases kick started, for the first time because of the folk festivals. As a result, the “Blues Revival” of the 60’s was on! And from it spawned the American Folk Blues Festival that invaded Europe during that decade. DVD’s that I still love to watch. But I digress.
PHOTO – AL LERMAN
Once I realized that our own Winterfolk contained a number of blues events, I caught the Winterfolk fever. While I’m still mostly a blues man, I can now see & hear the blues influences in a number of festival performers. From the “Porch Music with a little Texas Dirt” of Lynne Hanson and her crew of Tia McGraff and HOTCHA! to the Classic rock and ballad sounds from Danny Marks (alone & electric) to Brian Blain's Campfire Sessions, the roots of the blues was apparent throughout. I was looking forward to the Winterfolk All Star Blues Band composed of Jack de Keyzer, Al Lerman (Fathead), Gary Kendall (Downchild) and Mike Fitzpatrick (Downchild) and I was certainly not disappointed. Although, as a photographer I find the lighting at the Monarch Pub in the Delta Chelsea one of the worst places for photographing musicians.
Over at the Market Garden, Al Lerman was doing his acoustic thing. I have reported on Al’s Alone & Acoustic events in these pages before but he has taken his solo gigs quite seriously and has improved on them immensely. So much so that he has a new solo CD called Crowe River Blues. Watch for his CD release parties and try to catch one of his solo gigs. If you love acoustic blues, you'll love Al's gigs.
The highlight for me came by way of a surprise. The advertised event was entitled “Acoustic Blues of Winterfolk”. The participants were John Jackson, David Essig and Mr. Rick. Now I know Rick Zolkower from Mr. Rick & the Biscuits, self-described as “old-tyme swing-jazz, vintage country & western, blues & gospel", but I was not familiar with Essig and Jackson, neither of whom had and reference to blues in their published bios, so I was unsure what I was in for. So I settled back in the close confines of the Listening Room on the 27th floor to hear a fabulous presentation of old time acoustic blues. They started with a couple of classic Robert Johnson tunes then proceeded to perform great renditions of songs by Howlin’ Wolf, Skip James, among others. They finished with some of Lenny Breau's music. Between songs they ran a little guitar clinic, discussing such things as how to do a little blues tuning on your guitar and what makes blues, blues. I had brought a new acquaintance with me that night who was quite new to the Toronto music scene. He seemed quite appreciative of the music we had seen earlier in the evening but when he heard this trio playing many of the old acoustic blues tunes, he turned to me and said; “Now this is great stuff. I’ve gotta see more of this”. So, thanks to the “Acoustic Blues of Winterfolk”, we have a new blues fan out there.
While the acoustic blues was a highlight, the closing event of my evening was actually quite fun. Hosted by Brian Blain and Gary Kendall, the small audience in the Listening Room were treated to interesting stories of tunes written by Brian & Gary. Music I'd heard a number of times in the past, both live and on CD, developed a whole new meaning for me. Gaining insight into how musicians write was quite fascinating. As a closing activity the audience, with the aid of Brian & Gary, who at times bickered like a husband & wife, wrote a blues song for the ages. And while I'm quite sure that it will remain on paper for antiquity, the damn thing kept playing over and over in my head over the next couple of days.
While Winterfolk is not primarily a blues festival, it has very interesting blues qualities. If you are a blues lover, be sure to have a look at the line-up for next years event.
Get out this week and experience some live blues. It is a privilege to hear live music. Support your local blues musicians and don't forget to buy your CDs directly from them.