The other night I listened to the Grateful Dead’s song “Ripple”, for the first time in what feels like years. I felt that hug of song; a smile crept over my face, and I started to sway. It made me think of how much I love those easy-going songs, the kind one favours for a country drive soundtrack. Folk music, in my mind, fills that playlist. From the touching ballads of folks like David Francey to the deep and soulful stirrings of Leonard Cohen, I love the genre that gives songwriters and instrumentalists permission to be soft.
This weekend there is a show that celebrates all that is folk music, and the lineup is harvested from right here on our beloved Island. Cape Breton Island has long been revered for its musical culture, and it might be something in the water, but songwriters create great works here. Local Folks is a show that will celebrate the folk artists from our neck of the woods.
Saturday evening at the Upstairs Club (above the French Club, on the corner of Ferry and Dolbin Streets in Sydney’s North End), Local Folks will feature just about three hours of some beautiful voices and outstanding players. The bar will open at 6:30pm with the show set to start at 7pm. The unusually early start time is to accommodate a broad audience.
Being both a musician and one of the folks you may see tending bar or collecting cover at the door, I want to emphasize what’s going on at the Upstairs. Merrideth MacDonald and myself will host music shows at the club—which is only open for shows. The music is at the forefront. The reason people come is to hear performers they like in a comfortable venue (and our beer selection is pretty good too). I want to debunk the myth that the club is a venue for “alternative music” or “for a young crowd”; it is open to host shows of a myriad of genres. Being in a residential neighborhood might be the only limiting factor, prompting us to diverge away from ultra-loud screamo bands. In reality, there have been shows with artists who play punk, hip-hop, rock and roll, and classical guitar. The bar has also hosted songwriter’s circles and even a full-length play, with various start times, depending on what fits the show.
This Saturday, the 7pm start serves well for residents in town to walk down after supper, and also to allow those who might travel in from out of town for a night out that will end at a decent hour. The focus on the Folk genre comes from an awareness of amazing talent that expands beyond generations. Deanie Cox & Sue Miller, Ken Chisholm, Alicia Penney, Carolyn Lionais, Billie Yvette, Scott Boudreau, Pan’s Echo, Adam White, Steve Fifield, Vic Tomiczek, and Chad Tetford will offer a colourful spectrum of songs this Saturday night. We happen to be home to the best-kept secret in the Folk music revival. They live down the road, stomping feet in living room parties we attend, and on the 24th the Local Folks will take a little spotlight time to grace our lucky ears. Let their songs fill the air.