July 28, 1996


Blue Rodeo Ropes 'Em In
by Tyler McLeod - Cargary Sun


I have to admit a strong sentimental attachment to Blue Rodeo -- and apparently 8,000 other people do, too.

 Last night at the Calgary Folk Music Festival, the Canadian supergroup overcame a rocky start with muffled sound and turned in a performance to challenge Jann Arden's fine showing on the folkfest's first night.  My attachment to Blue Rodeo began at age 11 (theirs was the first concert I attended) -- and my devotion has just kept building over the years.  Blue Rodeo gave fans a nuanced hour and a half of their distinctive country rock.

 How distinctive was it?

 When was the last time you heard someone say, "Hey, that new band sounds just like Blue Rodeo?"  They are truly a Canadian original, and we're glad to have them drop by anytime.  Earlier in the day, Joe Ely took the mainstage showcasing his country-rock that recalled images of empty gravel roads and open plains.  But it was hard to feel lonely with so many people around.  The Ukrainians, on before Ely, were on the opposite end of the musical spectrum.  The wacky band has been known to do traditional Ukrainian folk songs -- and even Ukrainian covers of The Smiths.

 As a mostly a cappella act, Four the Moment, used its well-formed harmonies to give us little treasures.  Just one of the many members of The Cold Club at the festival, David Wilkie -- with The McDades -- strayed from his usual style to bring us something called Cowboy Celtic, which proved quite popular.  Paul Kelly played a short set, but didn't leave fans dissatisfied because he was a part of some of the day's more memorable workshops.  From the southern edges of Prince's Island, folkfest outsiders (those without tickets) can catch some of these workshop stages.

 I don't know if the producers did this to provide free entertainment or to tease people with all the fun they're missing inside the folkfest gates.  The workshops, taking place on five stages throughout the day, proved to be too much entertainment to take in at once --so festivalgoers had to pick their musical fancy carefully.  Hundreds crowded around a small stage to hear Jann Arden, Janis Ian, Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Anne Loree strut their Write Stuff.  Providing a break from the afternoon workshop bustle, was Laura Love on the mainstage.

 She provided a vivacious hour, highlighted by the tunes Nelson and Put A Little Love in Your Heart.  Someone once described Laura's music as Afro-Celtic-Appalachian-Folk-Funk.  Sounds about right to me.