Home Feature Richard Barry’s must-see list for the Mariposa Folk Festival

Richard Barry’s must-see list for the Mariposa Folk Festival

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It had been a while since I’d attended a Mariposa Folk Festival prior to visiting the beautiful Tudhope Park site last year.

I was reminded why the festival, Canada’s longest-lived, is one of the most important anywhere, especially with respect to what Billboard Canada in its review of this year’s offering called a “compelling and diverse lineup.”

I’m very excited about driving to Orillia this year to take in what looks like an absolutely fabulous program.

Any genre of music keeps moving, changing and developing or it slowly fades away.

As an older music consumer decidedly set in my ways, it is a joy to attend a folk festival that gives me a chance to sample all sorts of music I would otherwise not have on my playlist: pop-rock, hip-hop, classic rock, indie-rock and on and on.

I’m grateful for the opportunity and look forward to widening the scope of my music knowledge.

I will, however, be focusing my attention here on more traditional folk festival fare such as a number of fantastic singer-songwriters, fine instrumentalists, Americana artists, blues performers and more.

It’s great to see that Canadian music legend Bruce Cockburn will be inducted into the Mariposa Hall of Fame this year. He first played the festival in 1968 and has performed eight times to date. His induction will take place at his ninth appearance this year.

As Bruce said, “Mariposa has been at various points a really important part of me being able to get my songs out to people.”

Iconic festival, iconic performer.

Canadian guitarist, songwriter, and producer Colin Linden will be there. Colin is a stand-out blues artist also known for his collaborations with a who’s who of roots musicians. Blues fans in particular will be thrilled.

Old-Crow Medicine Show, a two-time Grammy Award-winning string band based in Nashville, will be at the site.

If you need a label for them, old-time, folk, and alterative country have been used. A favourite for me is their performance of pre-World War II blues and folk songs.

I saw Old Man Luedecke at Hugh’s Room in Toronto a few months ago, and what a fine show it was. He was one of the best performers I’ve ever seen at relating to an audience both through his stage presence and his songwriting.

If I’m not mistaken, the Doghouse Orchestra was a part of the line-up last year. They are hard to describe and in fact they describe themselves as an “ensemble that weaves through a variety of styles crafting a sonic experience that defies categorizations.”

We’ll go with that, but mostly they are a lot of fun.

I’m a big fan of the Good Lovelies, their beautiful harmonies and songwriting that, as they say, delivers an “immersive emotional experience crafted by three seasoned songwriters who bring their own real-life stories
in all their dynamism and messy complexity to the fore.”

I’ve never seen Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys live but have known about them and have checked out a number of their videos. Any band that describes themselves as “a roots quartet featuring all-star pickers and singers, with everything from down-home country to reckless rockabilly to intricate bluegrass” is going to get my attention.

I will enjoy seeking out multi-award-winning Canadian guitarist Jesse Cook throughout the weekend. He’s an immense talent.

I caught one of Ken Whiteley’s gospel shows at Hugh’s Room this past year, but I’ve been listening to Ken play folk, blues and other roots traditional music for a long time. If for some reason you don’t know his music or have not seen him live, you simply must. It’s not just what you will hear, though that’s always amazing, but what you will learn about the tradition.

Mia Kelly showcased at the 2023 Folk Music Ontario Conference, which was a good time to see what all the fuss is about, and it is much deserved. She is a singer-songwriter from Gatineau who performs in both French and English. At the 2024 Canadian Folk Music Awards she won the Young Performer of the Year and Emerging Artist of the Year awards. The next generation is here.

I recall seeing Rick Fines as a member of Jackson Delta more than a few years ago. Since then, he has released eight albums including one with long-time collaborator Suzie Vinnick. His bio says he “crafts a unique blend of warm-hearted blues, juke-joint folk, and dockside soul.” I don’t know what some of that is, but Rick is always a fine addition to any festival.

William Prince is surely a name many will be glad to see in the line-up. He is a Juno-Award winner and an increasingly high-profile performer who has certainly become one of the country’s most celebrated songwriters.

So here it is, just a handful of the performers who are on my must-see list. There are going to be others I am sure will impress – there always are.

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m honoured to be included in your list of what to see at Mariposa this year. It was 60 years ago I went to my first Mariposa and it was life changing. My concert on Saturday is with a hand picked crew of musical support including my son, Ben Whiteley (string bass), Ciceal Levy (vocals, percussion), Rob McLaren (guitar, banjo, mandolin, vocals) and Bucky Berger (drums, vocals). There will be musical references to some treasured memories of festivals past. On Sunday I will get to do a (too short) workshop with old friends Colin Linden and Rick Fines along with young Saskatchewan songwriter Ellen Froese, who I look forward to hearing in person for the first time. I’m very excited to be back!

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