Home Concert review Ottawa Grassroots Festival Day 2 – Charlie A’Court and Rory Taillon

Ottawa Grassroots Festival Day 2 – Charlie A’Court and Rory Taillon

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Charlie A'Court. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

Nova Scotian folk and blues artist Charlie A’Court was the second headliner for the Ottawa Grassroots Festival, following the first performance by Lynn Miles and the Tumbleweeds. His show was held at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa on April 26.

Opening for Charlie was Ottawa-native Rory Taillon, whose set was emotional and breathtaking from beginning to end. He included a mixture of songs from his two albums, Only Whispers and Drifting, with a small musical set-up of his guitar, a make-shift bass drum made from a suitcase (he claimed that it was “more convenient” for him to transport) and his powerhouse voice.

He jokingly admitted during his set that many of his songs were depressing in tone, as they often centred around the themes of life and death. In the greenroom following the performance, he talked about how songwriting allows him to express struggles related to mental health and loss, and how he’d often connect with fans who related to the messages in the songs.

“It’s like a weird nice, but bad thing that occurs a lot… it’s really nice to connect with somebody like that, but at the same time, this is an awful conversation to have with somebody because you know their pain,” he said.

Rory Taillon. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

“Smile” and “Gone” showed the audience Rory’s impressive skills with the pedalboard, which he used often throughout the show to mix together guitar melodies, bass drumbeats, and satisfying vocal harmonies. More somber songs such as “Welcome” and “Float” allowed Rory to showcase his bellowing and powerful voice, leaving the audience speechless with long belts and great breath control. I found that his vocal abilities and musical style were quite reminiscent of Hozier’s. He also performed a few unreleased songs from his upcoming album that will be released in August.

“I catch myself playing too many of the new songs before the record’s out,” he joked.

Overall, Rory was happy to perform at Grassroots as it was based in his hometown, and to be able to connect with other folk singers.

“It’s nice to see familiar faces,” he said.

Charlie right off the bat made a joke to the audience by saying “Have a good night!” and pretending to leave the stage. His funny antics continued throughout the rest of the evening, often through telling stories between songs about his life. His tales of the numerous pizza joints in Halifax and watching Al Green perform at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis gained lots of chuckles.

Charlie is a five-time East Coast Music Award Winner who has won awards in the blues, pop, and R&B/soul categories for Recordings of the Year at the Nova Scotia Music Awards. His latest album, released in 2021, A’Court, Spiegel and Vinnick, involved a collaboration with fellow blues stars, Lloyd Spiegel and Suzie Vinnick.

Charlie is also known for giving back to his community, and launched a scholarship under his name to be awarded to a high school graduate from his home province who will be pursuing music at the post-secondary level.

Charlie began his set with an impromptu guitar instrumental, and like Rory, experimented with his pedalboard to combine different sounds. Songs such as “I Gotta Run,” “July Josephine,” and “If This Is Love (I’d Rather Have the Blues)” were immediate toe-tapping tunes as Charlie had the audience whisked away with his joyful strumming and soulful voice. He even paid homage to his story of seeing Al Green by singing a cover of “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn.

While Charlie did play a lot of songs in the folk genre, he did not stray away from his blues background. “Caroline” gave Charlie a chance to once again use his pedalboard to combine guitar, bass, and electric guitar to create a soul groove, along with growling yet spirited vocals.

While his new album is not due until later this year, Charlie gave the audience a special preview of some of his new songs titled “Citadel Hill” and “Towards the Sky,” in which the latter was performed as an encore in response to the generous applause he received at the end. Overall, his set was a delight and amusing.

After his set, Charlie talked about how happy he was to be back in Ottawa and how he’s looking forward to participating in Grassroots’ Songwriter Circle, which will be led by Lynn Myles, along with Rory (who also expressed his excitement).

“I think the three of us together are going to bring a really beautiful mix of perspective and writing experience to the circle,” Charlie said.

He also reflected on his admiration for Grassroots’ core value, which he said is to “bring people together.”

“The festival here has such great core values of wanting to connect with community and make it accessible to people that want to be involved in the arts, and to give me a little bit of time and space coming up from Halifax to be a part of that lineup… I felt very fortunate and grateful for that.”

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