One of the great mid-winter music festivals is underway in Toronto this weekend with the 15th edition of the Winterfolk Blues and Roots Festival. This 3 day festival showcases the finest in local and national touring musicians, with some artists just beginning their musical journey and others who have been on the landscape for many years.
Taking place at 5 different venues around the intersection of Danforth and Broadview Aves., this festival is the perfect tonic to come out of the cold winter blues. Checking in at Terri-O's Sports Bar (185 Danforth Ave.) mid-afternoon, the Brampton Folk Club was holding court with a showcase that featured traditional Celtic music performed by members Moira and Elena, Brown Ale and Sylvia Genders. This set was Celtic in the traditional sense, there were no shades of Great Big Sea in this hour. Following this set, The Best of Dr. B's Acoustic Medicine Show kicked off their two hour showcase with local favourites Roger Zuraw, Kirk Felix, Sean Peever and Linda Saslove. Felix's "California Sunset" and Saslove's "Long Goodbye" were particularly well received by the packed house.
Over at the Dora Keogh Irish Pub (141 Danforth Ave.), Tragedy Ann was on stage performing a wonderful set that included a stellar cover of Jason Isbell's "Cover Me Up." Tragedy Ann will be taking the stage again today in the 2:00 hour once again at Dora Keogh's during a showcase titled "The Bridge." A big and bright future is in store for Tragedy Ann, this young and talented duo is just getting started. Another young artist from Toronto who impressed the audience is Isaak Bonk. With his wry sense of humor making its way to his songwriting, he's a cross between Corb Lund and Murray McClaughlin. I look forward to hearing more work from Isaak, as a bright future lies ahead for this young man as well.
One of the feature showcases of the weekend took place at the Black Swan (154 Danforth Ave.) on Saturday night with the Saturday Night Harmony Hoedown. Running from 7 to 11pm, this four hour showcase shone the spotlight on 4 of the country's finest folk and roots band. From Hamilton, Ontario, The Redhill Valley's kicked the evening off with an outstanding set performing songs off their latest album. Recent Toronto residents The Command Sisters showcased their spot-on sibling harmony's while sharing stories of their recent travels which inspired some of their latest writings. Johnson Crook offered up a country-rock set that was very well received, and the harmony's of Stratford, Ontario's female trio Trent Severn closed the Harmony showcase. Not to be outdone, Canadian blues virtuoso Jack Dekeyser closed off the nightly proceedings with a rocking blues set to send everyone out of the Black Swan ready to come back for more today.