This year’s third running of the Kingsville Folk Festival was specifically designed to showcase the diversity of the genre. It has come a considerable distance from 1965, the year purists showed their displeasure when famed folk artist Bob Dylan picked up, and then played, an electric guitar.
Even the act of picking up such a guitar was seen as sacrilegious to some.
Since then, folk music has shaken itself to its roots, becoming a menagerie of musical concepts. This was most notable in the range of instruments used to make music at the Festival.
There was everything from cigar box guitars to mandolins to Rickenbacher bass guitars, a favourite of the Beatles’ Sir Paul McCartney, to washboards. The latter brought to life by Canada’s rising recording stars Toronto-based Union Duke.
The quintet wowed the audience with its self-described country bluegrass embedded with a tinge of folk rock.
The Yukon-based Gordie Tentrees went even further by introducing a classic Resonator guitar to add some true blues to his repertoire. Tentrees, who partnered with Winnipeg’s Jaxon Haldane, is a fan of so-called acoustic blues. He also demonstrated a unique distinction of folk music.
Tentrees spent almost as much time playing as he did in talking with the audience and telling stories. Most of the performers were skilled at weaving their music with yarns about themselves or their groups. In contemporary folk music, storytelling is about as important as the music.
Organizer Michele Law, half of the singing/song-writing duo The Laws, talked of this year’s event being a little more representative of what is happening in music, where the boundaries between varieties are slowly being removed.
This was most apparent with the introduction of world-music, a common folk pursuit, into the mix in the form of Maneli Jamal and further with the Portuguese love songs, also known as Fado, of Tony Gouveia.
The diversity also included a little Celtic, with the team of Qristina and Quinn Bachand.
Without question the highlight of the event was famed septuagenarian Canadian native Buffy Sainte-Marie. She has been performing about as long as the aforementioned Dylan. As Law explained, she was sought after to bring another element to the festival; Indigenous music.
Coincidentally, another singer, Amanda Rheaume, told the audience of her pleasure to have been called to Ottawa to perform on August 3, the day the Federal Government announced its launching of a national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
Putting on such an eclectic event, says Law, takes over 220 dedicated local volunteers, about 10% of the thousands who entered the gates at the town’s Lakeside Park. The volunteers serve in a variety of categories from traffic coordinators to runners, mostly teenagers who make sure the performers have everything they need.
Since its first Festival in 2014, the event has proven what the local town thought was needed. Law described the goal as being to create a significant national-level gathering of musicians able to attract people from local neighbourhoods and afar.
And from afar they came. She told of one woman from the Netherlands who attends every year to work in the kitchen, under the supervision of Jules the Pieman, who moved to Canada’s most southerly town from Newmarket.
Other audience members hail from all over North America and, to the delight of Law, many are young. She sees this as important to keeping folk music alive and relevant.