10 must-see acts at this year’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Matt Holubowski 2017 Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Matt Holubowski is one of the performers at this year’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival (July 13-16).

This year’s edition of the annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival kicks off this Thursday (July 13) with a free concert, and keeps going with afternoon workshops and shows and evening sets until July 16. The festival features dozens of artists, some returning, some here for the first time; some veteran acts and some exciting up-and-coming musicians.

Here are a few of the many artists in this weekend’s lineup we think are worth checking out.

Blick Bassy—Originally a member of Cameroon-based multi-lingual outfit Macase, Blassy left the band and relocated to France in 2005. He now makes music with trombonist, Fidel Fourneyron and cellist Clement Petite that combines Delta blues and West African guitar music with forays into gypsy swing, salsa and Parisian jazz.

Blick Bassy.

Begonia—Begonia is former Winnipeger Alexa Dirks, who was once part of folk/pop outfit Chic Gamine. Dirks has reinvented herself as a solo act, Begonia, using musical collages of church-style organ, pop-synth samples, hip hop drum tracks and her soulful voice.

Begonia aka former Winnipeger Alexa Dirks.

Choir! Choir! Choir!—A Toronto-based initiative to organize folks who like to sing, Choir! Choir! Choir! has turned into a buzzed-about touring sensation. They’ve organized singalongs of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” and more.

Cold Specks—In 2012 Cold Specks, aka Al Spx, released I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, a much-praised fusion of sparse folk and gothic gospel. Her most recent album is 2014’s Neuroplasticity.

Kathleen Edwards—Following her 2012 album Voyager, the tough-voiced, Ottawa-raised singer/songwriter is back on the touring circus. Don’t miss this fiery performer (and one of David Letterman’s favourites!).

Rhiannon Giddens—Singer-songwriter Giddens is the co-founder of the Grammy Award–winning band Carolina Chocolate Drops, in which she also plays banjo and fiddle. She released her second solo album Freedom Highway this year.

Matt Holubowski—At 18, the Quebec singer Matt Holubowski tuned to folk music after hearing Elliott Smith’s song “Twilight.” This led to participation in Quebec’s version of The Voice, and in 2016 released his album Solitudes.

Tift Merritt—The New Yorker once called the singer-songwriter-guitarist “the bearer of a proud tradition of distaff country soul that reaches back to artists like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry.” She released her solo debut Bramble Rose in 2002. Her most recent release is 2017’s Stitch, produced by Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam.

Native North America: A Gathering of Indigenous Trailblazers—The 2014 release of the groundbreaking, Grammy-nominated anthology Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 brought to light many heretofore forgotten and obscure pieces of music from Pacific Northwest and Canadian First Nations artists. Some of those featured, including Duke Redbird, Willie Thrasher And Linda Saddleback, Willy Mitchell, Lloyd Cheechoo, and Gordon Dick Sr., are performing at the festival.

Gabrielle Shonk—Born in Rhode Island to a blues-man father and a French Canadian mother, Shonk grew up in Québec surrounded by music. She has a bachelor degree graduate in jazz vocals, but has dedicated her voice to folk and blues. Like Holubowski, she first came to prominence with an appearance on Le Voix in 2014.

For ticket info and a complete schedule visit thefestival.bc.ca.

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