Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival 2013

BurnabyBluesRootsThe 2011 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festiva has become one of my favourite things about summer. This year in 2013 was no exception.

The festival represents more than just a world-class outdoor festival celebrating folk music, rock music, country, the blues, and every blend of music in that spectrum. It’s a chance for me to see my friends Emme and Erica, and a chance to meet new people too, since Emme is constantly making new connections.

That’s helpful to a shy, retiring fellow like me, although one who can still appreciate the energy of a crowd that loves to witness some great performances. I’m talking about the music, now, although Emme has her moments when it comes to performance, too.


Rob Jones, enjoying the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.

A photo of me, taken by an impish young friend (8) of Emme’s, who refused to let me be shy.


Another aspect of the festival is that it seems to go from strength to strength each year, getting bigger and bigger, and yet still feeling like the community building and community inclusive event that it is. Children, teens, seniors, couples, hipsters, the curious, and middle-aged music geeks are all at home. And the line-up is always a delightful mix of the big names you know, and the names you didn’t know that you needed to hear.


Dancing to Shaun Verreault at the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.

The early afternoon crowd having a blast dancing it up to Shaun Verreault.


This year, the festival was expanded, adding another stage to make things more flexible, and to give more acts a chance to wow the crowds. This meant that this year, my friends and I had a choice on which acts to catch. It was hard to choose. But, I think we chose well. Here are some of the highlights for us, although since the extra stage presented some choices, I’m sure you’ll hear a different story depending on who you talk to. We love stories here! And here’s ours.


David Gogo

He’s a blues-rock guitarist who’s been on the scene for many years here on the West Coast, and then subsequently all points east too. He won points with me by opening the festival with a storming version of The Faces‘ ‘Bad N’ Ruin’, one of my favourites. Also, his take on Muddy Water‘s ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ was a sight, and sound to remember.


David Gogo at the 2013 Burnaby Blues  and Roots Festival.

David Gogo in the moment at the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.


Shaun Verreault

You know him from his work with Wide Mouth Mason (a canning term, not a blues term as I learned …). But, a big highlight was his ability to take the musical letters from the names of members of an audience (in this case, ACE), and make a live improvisational song out of it using those respective chords. This was a phenomenal showcase for his band, and their almost psychic ability between them to deliver music from the ground up and in the moment.


Shaun Verreault at the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.

Yep, that’s Shaun Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason!


Shakura S’Aida

A singer with divine pipes who’s worked with the legendary blues singer Ruth Brown and soul-jazz architect Jimmy Smith, S’Aida was aided and abetted on this occasion  by a crack band of pros including a lead guitarist who shredded her axe to pieces – in a good way, of course. S’Aida’s song ‘That Ain’t Right’ is a must-hear tune. In fact, listen here.


ZZ Ward

One of the things that the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival helps to do is to remind people that these strains of music are living, breathing artistic avenues being explored by up-and-coming writers and performers. This was embodied this year at the festival by ZZ Ward, who takes the blues traditions of the past and repositions them for modern audiences, referencing Etta James, Son House, and many other influences. When ZZ Ward sings, none of the power of what we love about the blues is lost. It’s alive, and ready to mess with you. Her song ‘Charlie Ain’t Home’ was a true stand-out.


The Sojourners


The Sojourners at the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.

Man! Do The Sojourners ever move the soul!


“Yes, people it’s true; we are black folks”. It was the tongue-in-cheek quip that this trio of singers included in an introduction to one song called ‘Keep Your Eyes on the Prize’, an anthem to the civil rights movement, a time when gospel music of the southern churches met with what was being called ‘message’ music. This is where the Sojourners live, as an active connection to this tradition. Their voices melded perfectly, matching the sacred with the secular with ease. And as they sang this tune, we were all connected.



John Lee Sanders

Transplanted from Lou’siana to Vancouver of all places, John Lee Sanders laid down the fonk of the New Orleans variety. And connected with what the Sojourners had said about how the history of black America informed the development of the music, Sanders talked about how Louisiana was a bastion of musical culture from its very early history, with cultures mixing and exchanging ideas in a way that was unique. As we rocked to the R&B of the deep south, with Sanders playing piano and saxophone with equal aplomb, we were reminded how far the music has come since that melding of ideas began.



Charles Bradley


Charles Bradley on the Big Screen at the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival

Rather love this shot of Charles Bradley and Band that our young 8-year-old friend took on the Big Screen.


In the traditions of James Brown and Wilson Pickett, Bradley carries the torch. And quite simply, it was all about the sanctified version of Neil Young‘s ‘Heart of Gold’ for me. Class!


Charles Bradley at the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.

Charles Bradley showing off his moves at the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.


Blue Rodeo

What can be said of this band who forged a path into what would become known as alt-country many years later. Although it must be said, this band is beyond a single scene, and certainly of a single musical label. Since their formation on Toronto’s Queen Street scene in the early to mid-80s, they’ve built up an incredible catalogue of songs to match any pop songwriting standard you’d care to name. Live, they are a force of nature. Every song was an event, I suppose. But hearing ‘Diamond Mine’ being performed by the guys who wrote it was a thrill to beat them all.


Blue Rodeo at the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.

Closing out the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival … Blue Rodeo!



There were other cool acts that we didn’t catch. And of course, there were food wagons, craft booths, kids’ activities, giveaways, and other cool stuff that happened, too. That’s the beauty of the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival. There are all kinds of avenues of possibility to explore. No festival is the same twice, good people – even if it’s the same one!


Blue Rodeo at the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival.

A great end to a great day of fantastic music!


Thanks to Emme for letting me tag along once again!


Bring on the 2013 Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival!

For many, the summer is about travel … for me it’s about enjoying lazy summer days close to home!  British Columbia is a bit of bliss every summer, and there are so many adventures to be had. There is never any debate though as to what the summer highlight is for me.  It is always one Hell of a great day of music spent with Rob Jones and other friends at the Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival.


Kelly Joe Phelps at the 2012 Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival.

Lazy summer days listening to Kelly Joe Phelps at the 2012 Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival.


Here’s a look back on the years:


Amadou & Mireille at the 2012 Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival.

Dancing our hearts out to Amadou & Mireille, my personal highlight of the 2012 Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival.


It’s actually become my birthday party, the past few years, and those of us that have been going for a few years together now, plan our summer weekends away around it, to ensure we are in town, as it is not a day to be missed.

This year is extra exciting, as the Festival has grown to three stage and 12 acts. Exciting, but conundrum filled, as now I have to decide between 2 acts at any given moment in time, as oppose to soaking it all in. Feel free to help steer me. Luckily no decision has to be made for acts on the Main Stage, just between acts on the Westwood Stage and Garden Stage. Here is each act, and a sample of their music:





  • ZZ Ward ~ 5:30 – 6:20 pm on the Main Stage




  • Jon & Roy ~ 4:45 – 5:30 pm on the Westwood Stage













  • Brickhouse ~ 1:45 – 2:30 pm on the Westwood Stage







Which acts would you suggest I take in?  I am sure Rob will have an opinion on the matter too.

Oh, and if you want to join us, you can still get tickets.

Sultry Blues Kisses,

Emme  xoxo


Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival 2011

One of the most fascinating things about the blues is that no one really knows how old it is. It is a mysterious, sexy beast.

This sense of mystery is true of all folk music, handed down from generation to generation, and not by means of historic documentation. No. By its very nature, blues and folk music, and all of the popular music that they inspire, is kept alive by listening to it, playing it, adapting it, and sharing it with a live audience. It illuminates our lives when we see it and hear it on stage.

So, with all of that in mind, I am pleased as punch that our Emme Rogers has asked me to be her correspondent at the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival, 2011. The festival this year inspires audiences on several levels, as usual. And with the promise of what awaits me on Saturday, August 13 in Deer Lake Park, Burnaby this year,  I am reminded of how far-reaching the music really is.

For instance, a HUGE BLUES LEGEND John Mayall (!!!) will grace us with over 50 years worth of live and recorded blues behind him. A ’60s British blues-boom hero, this is the guy who apprenticed Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Jack Bruce, Mick Taylor, and a bunch of other guys who went on to blues, blues-rock, and rock/pop greatness themselves. I mean, you wanna talk about reach, and influence? And really that’s only one strain of vital music Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival audiences will soak up along with the sun this Saturday.

Blues Legend John Mayall (Photo: Per Ole Hagen)

Speaking of Eric Clapton, Irish singer Imelda May has shared a stage with him, too, not to mention David Gilmour, Shane MacGowan, and fellow countryman Van Morrison. Her music is an amalgam of rockabilly and ’60s surf rock styles that I’m really looking forward to hearing live.

For that earthy, early ’70s Cosmic American Music, Ben Rogers and the Black Oats brings the goods, with not just a little bit of Steve Earle in there for good measure. They will be playing tunes off of their new EP, Brigands.

Hailing from the Deep South, the cradle of American popular music, come the Secret Sisters.  This is a duo of actual sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, singing close-harmony country music that hearkens back to an earlier age.

Matt Anderson ties together various strains of roots music, including hard-hitting blues-rock that is meant for open air festival crowds. Originally from New Brunswick, Matt’s word-of-mouth following has led him all over the country and beyond. For soulful vocals, and guitar hero showmanship, Matt’s on-stage experience opening for the likes of blues legends Buddy Guy, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and Bo Diddley is ripe for the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival.

Victorians Current Swell demonstrate that the creation of roots music is not just an exercise in celebrating the past. Theirs is a vital sonic avenue into the future, allowing them to share stages with acts ranging from Bedouin Soundclash to the Beach Boys. Find out where they fit in between that spectrum, kids!

Musical journeymen Luke Doucet and The White Falcon joins this year’s Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival, with a classic-era anthemic roots-rock sound that has earned them a 2011 Polaris Prize nomination alongside Ron Sexsmith, the Dears, and Black Mountain, among others.  A charismatic frontman, and seasoned guitarist, Doucet and his band create a sound that supports tunes that you swear have been around forever.

And who is the headliner this year?

k.d lang

k.d lang (Photo: jbach)

What about k.d lang?

A giant among Canadian artists, sure. But, also deemed “the best singer of her generation” by Tony Bennett, a guy who knows a thing or two about singing, folks. An uncannily gifted interpreter of music that ranges from Roy Orbison’s “Crying”, to Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”, to her celebrated version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as performed at the 2010 Olympic Games, k.d lang is a national musical treasure.

Her roots as a cowpunk and alt-country pioneer is matched only by her work as a revivalist torch song stylist. And of course, she writes her own songs, too, like the radio hit “Constant Craving”, her signature tune. Country, pop, tin pan alley; she’s mastered them all, and all of those styles feed into all manner of pop music as we know it today. That’s why they call it roots, after all. And who better to deliver it than k.d lang?

Music is best when it’s enjoyed live, and (in my humble opinion) in the open air. With a scenic setting like Deer Lake Park, I’m looking forward to falling in with a jubilant festival crowd at the Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival for the third year in a row for me.

This is becoming a habit, and one that’s becoming an indespensible part of summertime in the Lower Mainland.

The Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival takes place this Saturday, August 13 at Deer Lake Park. Gates open at 1:00PM, and the show starts at 2:00PM.





I’m a Late Bloomer … Ron Sexsmith Day in Canada

Its been a few months now since I first discovered Ron Sexsmith thanks to Rob Jones and Love Shines (yes, I’m a late bloomer), and the more I learn about him the more he endears himself to me and the more I can relate to him. This is a man that speaks to me on so many levels.  This interview with Jian Ghomeshi on QTV says it all:



I love how honest Ron is and so much of what he says and sings rings so true to how I feel about both my writing and my life.  In so many ways I too am a late bloomer.  I love how Ron can be so honest about feeling depressed.  I’d arguably say this is something we all go through at times, but most of us are too afraid to admit to.  There’s nothing to be embarrassed about folks, it happens to all of us.  I myself spent too much time working this past winter, which tends to be a precursor of mine to depression.  All work and no play makes me a down girl.



And people!!!  Honestly!!!  Do you not understand why an artist, especially an older artist would want to be fiscally successful with their work???  They need to eat too, they need to worry about retirement too.  If it’s not paying the bills, there comes a point that you wonder if it’s time to close that book and move on.  It is the fact that folks enjoy your art and tell you that drives you to keep going with it, but there is nothing sexy about living the life of the starving artist or a poverty ridden retirement.

Thanks to the Shore 104.3 fm, I recently got to enjoy Ron in concert (an awesome experience) and got to meet Ron after the show.  Here was a man that had been on the road singing for weeks, had to be absolutely exhausted, yet he still took the time to genuinely talk to his fans at the end of a long night.  And many of them he knew and remembered from previous shows and from their online commentary.  A little bit of awesome!!!  He remembered things about them, listened to them, chatted music with them and shared his stories with them.  He genuinely cared about connecting.  Too cool!  Thanks Ron!


Hanging with Ron Sexsmith & Rob Jones - two of my music legends.


I write this now for slightly melancholy reasons.  You see, based on HBO Canada’s Love Shines schedule, it looks like the schedule of airings is coming to an end tomorrow (Thursday June 30th, 2011) with two last screenings at 9:30 am & 3:55 pm EST/MST. So I’d like to declare Thursday June 30th, Ron Sexsmith Day in Canada & highly encourage you all to take it off and spend the day with Ron on the couch.

Ron Sexsmith Love Shines Movie Shown in the UK

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (March 4-6) the Douglas Arrowsmith film about singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith Love Shines was broadcast on BBC4. The broadcast reached the big audience that Sexsmith has built up over years of releasing records and touring there. But, it also reached a new audience in those quarters, too, in part because of word-of-mouth efforts by many of the fans who already know and love his music.

Ron Sexsmith image courtesy of the2scoops

Reaching new eyes and new ears where Sexsmith’s music is concerned is perhaps the main aim of Love Shines director Douglas Arrowsmith. The documentary was shot during the time Sexsmith was working up material for the Long Player Late Bloomer album, Sexsmith’s latest record, produced by Bob Rock.

The core of the drama in the film is that of unique songwriting and performing talent Ron Sexsmith, celebrated by a cult audience, striving to get his music heard by more people. During the course of the film, he confronts his own identity as an artist, and is challenged to determine his own definition of what success actually looks like. All the while, the idea of fans championing his cause is pretty central to the soul of the movie.

Some high profile artists count themselves as Sexsmith admirers. Rod Stewart, Michael Buble, k.d lang, and Coldplay’s Chris Martin have all recorded Sexsmith’s material. Feist is another, and she also appears in the film. Elvis Costello, an early Ron Sexsmith champion, continues to sing his praises in an interview section in Love Shines. Steve Earle, who appears in the film as well, was the producer of the excellent 2001 Blue Boy album, and remarks on Sexsmith’s deep musical well. The list goes on.

Where many are familiar with those famous names mentioned, Sexsmith is not exactly a household name himself. Regardless, he’s something of a veteran anyway, with a twenty-year, twelve album recording career behind him, and with dues paid before that time as a struggling musician by night, holding down a courier job by day. Long player, late bloomer, indeed. But, partially thanks to Twitter, Facebook, the Ron Sexsmith online forum community, and a new album and documentary for them all to talk about, the perception that Sexsmith is an untested newcomer is changing.

For instance, the broadcast of Love Shines on BBC4 trended on Twitter in the UK during each airing, and internationally too, indicating great viewer numbers and a significant achievement for fans, who were instrumental in spreading the word.  Significantly, this helped to sell records, too. The Amazon charts went from 6-2 in the rankings immediately after Friday’s broadcast and the parallel chat on social platforms, with a number of Sexsmith’s albums showing in the top twenty.

Not bad for a”cult” artist.

Ron Sexsmith image courtesy of spaceameoba

It is a compelling idea that Sexsmith is something of a throwback singer-songwriter that would have been very welcome on ’70s AM radio, had he been born twenty years earlier. His work certainly would have fit in with that of artists like Harry Nilsson, Carole King, Elton John (yet another documented Sexsmith fan), Jackson Browne, Bill Withers, Joni Mitchell, and Todd Rundgren.

Yet, in other ways, Sexsmith being championed by so many voices all at once online can’t be easily dismissed. It has been these online communities championing Arrowsmith’s film, and Sexsmith’s music by association, that has really pushed Sexsmith’s exposure to that wider audience so far. It’s important to note that Love Shines director Douglas Arrowsmith is a fan himself, with the same goal shared with the very active community of fans on social platforms: to get Ron Sexsmith’s story told, and to get his material heard, bought, and celebrated. This concerted effort between artist, filmmaker, and fans is a very 21st Century phenomenon.

This is another layer to be found at the heart of the film; that the artist’s struggle to be heard by more people is actually also the very welcome and joyous struggle of those who already appreciate his work. This core of the drama goes beyond the interest of TV broadcast numbers, licensing, and international boundaries. It becomes something that great art was always intended to be; a shared and transformative experience.

Read more about the upcoming premier of Love Shines at SXSW in Austin on March 15, 2011 at 6:15 PM, where an even larger potential audience will be reached.

Also, be sure to become a fan of the Love Shines Facebook page for frequent news and updates that pertain to the film.

And thanks to Emme for allowing me to publish this piece on her site!