Special Report – Metro Mag’s Jen Zoratti reports from Winnipeg Folk Festival

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Sarah at the Winnipeg Folk Fest. FishStock is coming in August! August what? Well, now, we will let you know. Comin soon an interview on video with John Teljeur. Photo by Vince Lombardi.

Blue Rodeo, Luke Doucet and Sara McLachlan’s sweet voice – wowswer

By Jen Zoratti – Special to Haliburton News.CA

The opening night of the 38th annual Winnipeg Folk Festival was all about nostalgia — and who better to evoke images of big Prairie skies and campfire singalongs of folk fests gone by than Blue Rodeo?

The veteran Toronto country/roots act played its classic — not to mention thematically titled! — 1993 album Five Days in July in its entirety before a packed field of enthusiastic folkies.

A definitive summer album for many Canadians, hearing it live in the warm, humid air while the sun sank made for a set that had a baby-blanket comfort and familiarity about it.

Kicking things off with the jammy seven-minute album opener 5 Days in May, the band continued with record-faithful renditions of the gorgeous Bad Timing and Dark Angel, on which Hamilton singer/ songwriter Melissa McClelland did an immaculate job with the unenviable task of singing Sarah McLachlan’s ethereal parts.

Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor played off each other beautifully; their sweet ‘n’ salty counterpoint perfectly reflected in this set. Without Keelor, Cuddy is too saccharine — without Cuddy, Keelor tends to meander into jam-band territory.Full disclosure: I’m the first to admit that I’m not Blue Rodeo’s biggest fan, but I can’t think of a better band — or a better album — to have kicked off the festival.

That said, Blue Rodeo had some help. Minneapolis roots/alt-country pioneers The Jayhawks treated revellers to a raucous, twangy set that bordered on wanky over the course of its 70 minutes.

Still, Gary Louris and Mark Olson kept things on track with their tight harmonies expertly crafted vocal hooks.Melissa McClelland’s 50-minute opening set was an absolute treat.Serving up a down-home slice of apple-pie Americana, the singer/ songwriter — wearing red gingham sundress, natch — serenaded the audience with laid-back rootsy numbers such as A Girl Can Dream and Victoria Day (May Flowers).

The set’s runaway highlight was McClelland’s killer cover of Tom Waits’ Gun Street Girl, backed by husband Luke Doucet rocking out on his trademark Gretsch White Falcon.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]