Home Concert review Ottawa Grassroots Festival Day 1 – Lynn Miles and the Tumbleweeds

Ottawa Grassroots Festival Day 1 – Lynn Miles and the Tumbleweeds

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Lynn Miles and the Tumbleweeds. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

The Ottawa Grassroots Festival showcased its first headlining act this year with Juno Award-winning folk singer-songwriter, Lynn Miles. The Ottawa-based artist performed a sold-out show at Irene’s, a pub nestled in the Glebe.

Lynn is a graduate from Carleton University’s Music program and served as a vocal teacher at the Ottawa Folklore Centre. She even served as a mentor to a younger Alanis Morrisette, who was one of her students.

Throughout her career, Lynn has traveled from Ottawa to Los Angeles and Nashville, and has received many accolades for her work. Her album Unravel won the Juno Award for Roots Traditional Album of the Year in 2003. She has also received six Canadian Folk Music Awards, and her most recent album, TumbleWeedyWorld, was nominated for Album of the Year.

Lynn’s accompanying band, the Tumbleweeds, are an eclectic and skillful group that showcased a variety of talents with different bluegrass instruments throughout the night. The two backup singers, Rebecca Campbell and Rob McLaren (who was also on banjo), had a satisfying blend with Lynn’s voice as the three of them would often sing in three-part harmony.

Lynn began her set in front of the jam-packed crowd with “Night Owl,” a song off of her latest album. It was a good opener as it allowed the other band members to have a chance to shine with their respective instruments by performing short solos. This continued on throughout the rest of the set, and was met by applause each time.

Most of the set consisted of songs from TumbleWeedyWorld, which was evidently enjoyed by fans who attended. However, Lynn also included some of her older discography towards the second half of the show. Songs such as “Highway 105,” “Cold Cold Moon,” “Johnny Without June,” and “Sorry’s Just Not Good Enough” introduced the audience to the newer tunes that Lynn crafted, which was all delivered with crisp, rustic acoustics along with her soothing voice.

“All Bitter Never Sweet” provided a rush of joyful string instrumentals that got the audience bopping their heads along to the beat. You could also tell that the band was swept along for the ride through their enjoyment playing it.

“Moody” allowed Lynn to give a more playful performance as she experimented with different vocal tones, especially during the chorus when she used a slight yodeling technique. The overall performance of this song matched its theme of feeling up and down with your emotions.

One of my other favourite stand-out performances was “My Road,” in which Lynn pulled out a harmonica and played triple-threat along with her guitar and doing lead vocals. It was quite impressive to see her juggling all three throughout the song, and the harmonica was a great addition to the rustic feel.

Lynn’s overall stage presence and interaction with the audience was admirable, as she would often make wise-cracking and witty jokes in between songs. On one instance after a long applause, she told us, “Thanks, I wrote it” with a smile on her face. After looking through the pile of cash she received from CD sales, she jokingly began to “make it rain” on Rebecca as she shuffled out the dollar bills, which had the audience erupting in laughter.

One of the last songs of the night was none other than “Black Flowers.” It was a rather sentimental and peaceful performance, and the harmonies between Lynn, Rebecca, and Rob were silvery in tone. They ended the song with a short a cappella number between the three of them, and the show was met with a standing ovation. However, while Lynn said that it would be the last song, some audience members requested an encore, which was happily obliged. After a performance of “Old Soul,” the crowd once again cheered loudly as Lynn and The Tumbleweeds took their final bows.

Ottawa folk fans reveled in the evening’s performance, with many clearly having been long-time fans of Lynn. Her joyful spirit and soothing stage presence made the performance memorable. No matter how old or new of a fan you are, Lynn makes you feel as though you’re an old friend of hers.

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