By the time I got to the main ballroom at the convention centre on Saturday afternoon, Quote the Raven was hitting the stage. A wonderful way to start my musical day. Quote the Raven is Jordan Coaker and Kirsten Rodden-Clarke; they are from St. John’s, Newfoundland and have been playing together for over a decade. They deliver beautifully blended harmonies, an impressive vocal range, and a lot fun to their performance. They are becoming a well-established part of the scene and deservedly so. I should mention that Quote the Raven and several other acts were part or a showcase sponsored by NERFA, the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance. Major kudos to NERFA because this showcase lineup was very impressive.
Next up was Rachel Kilgore, and though it would be hard to pick a favourite among the many acts this weekend, she would certainly be in the top tier for me. Great voice, terrific delivery, all the tools. Her songwriting, though, was really what set her apart. She sang a lot about her father who had passed some time ago. When she got to a line that said, “I wanna be just like you and nothing like you,” I could swear, as I looked around, that a great many people in the room were instantly inside their own heads. It was quite a moment and some amazing writing. We use the term singer-songwriter a lot, but sometimes don’t fully appreciate how much goes into a performer putting him or herself out there and how much that helps us understand ourselves.
The Bombadills were also one of the NERFA-presented acts – another personal favourite. They consist of Luke Fraser and Sarah Frank and are Halifax-based. They describe themselves as intertwining string-band arrangements with tinges of bluegrass. Great playing on banjo, fiddle and guitar and great vocals. If you are a fan of more traditional folk music, you need to check them out.
The rest of the afternoon, at least my afternoon, was spent listening to and watching a terrific showcase sponsored by the Toronto Blues Society (TBS). They did a great job of combining up-and-coming acts with more established performers in the blues genre. If I heard correctly, both Camilo Restepo and Brock Stonefish came to the attention of the TBS through a talent search over the past couple of years. Camilo’s soloist repertoire ranges from classic Robert Johnson takes to more obscure predecessors of the genre, while paying homage
to other greats like Dave Van Ronk and Doc Watson. All of it authentic and beautifully done. As for Brock, currently the track “Residential Redemption” is #1 on the Top 40 Indigenous Music Countdown and he has recently released a debut album after 20 years of touring.
Then it was on to Juno nominated and internationally recognized singer, songwriter, slide guitarist Sean Pinchin who has been a steady presence on the festival circuit for over two decades. Brooke Blackburn followed, who we profiled here yesterday, so I won’t go into detail only to repeat that he is well established and immensely talented singer songwriter and guitarist.
Another well established performer who was a part of this showcase was Suzy Vinnick. Let’s just say that she has won 11 Maple Blues Awards, one Canadian Folk Music Award, and is a three-time Juno nominee for a reason.
Rounding out the TBS showcase was Garnetta Cromwell and Dagroovemasters. They are described as a classic soulful blues band that delivers a high-energy show and are another act to have benefited from the Toronto Blues Society Talent Search (July 2022). I like what Ken Whiteley had to say about Garnetta that she is “blessed with the passion, sincerity and wisdom that distinguishes great blues voices from all the rest. Whether you want to get down and party or simply lay back and appreciate classic blues and old school soul, Garnetta Cromwell delivers, big time.”
We’ll leave it there.