Home Concert review Ottawa Grassroots Festival Day 3 – Connie Kaldor and JPEW

Ottawa Grassroots Festival Day 3 – Connie Kaldor and JPEW

From left to right: Paul Campagne, Gabriel Campagne, Aleksi Campagne, Connie Kaldor. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

Award-winning Saskatchewan-based folk artist Connie Kaldor and her family took to the stage at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa on April 27. The final headliner for the Ottawa Grassroots Festival this year was a complete sold-out performance.

Opening for Connie was Ottawa-based canadiana girl band, JPEW, otherwise known as Jessica Pearson and the East Wind. Lead singer Jessica was joined by her bandmates, Sam Stone and Malia Rogers, who sang back up vocals and performed additional instrumentals using the banjo and shakers. Their third time performing at Grassroots, the trio gave the audience an incredibly cheerful and fun performance. The chemistry between the three was spell-binding, as were their vocal harmonies.

“It’s really beautiful when you start to find people to play with that you just fully trust and can be fully vulnerable with. There’s just something extremely magical that happens to the music in that space,” Jessica said when she, Sam, and Malia spoke with me after the show. Jessica and Sam have performed together since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Malia having performed with them for the first time tonight.

The girls listed Brandi Carlile, Dolly Parton, Trousdale, and The Staves, to name a few, as inspiration behind their musical style. Overall, they love anyone who has great harmonies, are classic country artists, or produce a sense of “sisterhood” in their work.

From left to right: Malia Rogers, Jessica Pearson, Sam Stone. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

JPEW started off their set with a few songs from their album On the Line, including “Better Bad Decisions,” “Ready My Heart” (which won the 2021 “Songs from the Heart” award at Folk Music Ontario), and “Burden to Carry.” Jessica would often speak in between songs to talk about childhood memories, stories behind a song, or to simply show her appreciation for performing. There was not a single moment where she and the rest of the band were not smiling or having fun while on stage.

While singing “Coal,” the trio encouraged the audience to sing along with the chorus towards the end of song, and everyone enthusiastically joined them while clapping to the beat. They also sang their newest single “Self Helpless,” which was met with an enthusiastic response.

For their final song, Jessica, Sam, and Malia joined together at the front of the stage and sang “Send Me Down” a cappella. It was a rather touching performance given the acoustics and serenity of the venue.

Afterwards, Connie and her family band, which included husband Paul Campagne and their two sons Aleksi and Gabriel Campagne, entered with a rip-roaring applause. For Connie, getting to perform with them is a gift that she is always grateful for.

“When you’re sharing something you love with the people you love the most in the world, that’s the added value kind of thing that you can’t really pin down,” she said in the greenroom.

Connie’s career in show business has spanned for nearly 45 years, having won three Juno Awards, becoming a Member of the Order of Canada, and receiving the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. Her 18th album, Keep Going, was released last year.

Connie and her family performed a variety of songs that spanned throughout her musical career, starting off with “Keep Going,” “Judge Me,” “Wood River,” and “Bird on a Wing.” With Paul on bass, Aleksi on violin, and Gabriel providing beats and vocals, Connie would play on the piano or join in with the guitar. Each of them would have their own moments to shine on stage, whether it was Aleksi playing a soothing violin solo or Gabriel’s powerful operatic solo during “Wind Blow Through.” It was lively seeing all of them come together and weave their own musical talents to create something spectacular. Their rustic and lyrical performance could’ve easily transported anyone into the grassy fields of the Saskatchewan prairies.

“Woman Who Pays” was a solemn and important song included in the set, which was written as a tribute to the women in Montreal whose murders were linked to domestic violence during the pandemic. Connie delivered the song with passion and heartfelt strength, receiving a lengthy applause at the end.

Connie Kaldor. Photo by Audrey Pridham.

After performing her jolly sea shanty “Come All You Women,” and making the audience feel as though they were ready to set sail with her, Connie returned to the stage for an encore following a standing ovation. She and her family performed “A Long, Long Way (Paul’s Song)” as a bittersweet closer before saying goodbye.

Getting to perform in Ottawa for Grassroots gave Connie the opportunity to be introduced to more female folk singers, and she reflected on her own experience as a long-time artist.

“I have actually been told, and many times and other artists will say, we have our one woman’s act. So to see now, there’s Lynn Miles, there’s Jessica [Pearson], there’s myself… There’s all of these great writers at every age coming up and singing great songs. To me that is just fabulous.”

As for her sons, Aleksi will be performing at Bluesfest this summer, while Gabriel will be attending the International Folk Alliance Music Conference in Montreal next year.

“I know it’s not going to be forever because they’ve got their own careers going,” Connie said, referring to performing with them. “So I’m just soaking it up while I can and I appreciate it.”


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