Lunenburg Folk Harbour Fest returns with lots of East Coast flavour

by Brittany Wentzell

  • <p>BRITTANY WENTZELL PHOTO</p><p>Hillsburn took the stage for the first time last year and are returning as fan favourites at the festival.</p>
  • <p style="text-align: left;">CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p style="text-align: left;">Chelsea Amber was a key contributer in the album commissioned by the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Heather Rankin, the youngest in the Rankin Family, recently released a solo album. She will take the stage at Folk Harbour Fest.</p>

Music will fill the air as tall ships fill the harbour this weekend.

It's no surprise that this year's Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival has a real maritime feeling about it. With the Tall Ships Regatta coming to town and a focus on the theme of "home" in the Atlantic provinces taking centre stage at the Folk Steps Conference, the event could hardly be more East Coast.

"It sort of sets the theme for the whole conference and ... this year we're calling the conference Something To Sing About," said Deborah Watring-Ellis, president of the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival Society.

As a part of that theme, Folk Harbour Fest will debut an album titled Nothing Like Home, that commissioned five artists from all four Atlantic provinces to write songs about their home provinces. The album marks the first time the society has ever commissioned original work.

"We asked them all to write songs about what Atlantic Canada means to them and what does home in Atlantic Canada mean and so they all wrote meaningful songs to them about their home," said Watring-Ellis.

The album will be released at the Folk Steps Conference and will be available for download and purchase during the festival.

Chelsea Amber, a Nova Scotian musician now living in British Columbia played a big role in the creation of that album. Amber, who writes, sings, and plays guitar, released her first album in 2007.

She works in several genres including gospel, R&B, soul, and a bit of folk, and has received several accolades over the past 10 years including Gospel Recording and R&B/Soul Single of the Year in the 2015 East Coast Music Awards and Artist of the Year in the 2016 African Nova Scotian Music Awards.

Amber wrote two songs on the album and did some producing for the album from her home in British Columbia. She says she was inspired by the feeling she gets from being close to the ocean.

"There's one called On The Eastern Coast and that one is about how young people will often travel the world kind of looking for adventure and in a rush, and in traveling the world you realize that everything you really value in life is waiting at home for you," said Amber.

The other song is called Atlantic Sea and Amber says it's essentially a list of all of the things she loves about the province.

"When I was writing it, I was thinking about some of my favourite memories, especially driving to Peggy's Cove with the windows down," she said.

Amber is also leading a youth choir and teaching them Atlantic Sea to perform during the festival.

Other artists on the album include: Amelia Curran, representing Newfoundland and Labrador; Lennie Gallant, representing Prince Edward Island; Allan Syliboy, a Mi'kmaq musician also representing Nova Scotia; and Rob Lutes, representing New Brunswick. The artists will all be featured at the Folk Steps Conference at the beginning of the festival.

"These artists are really complimentary and there's some really great work on here and I'm really proud to see this album coming out," said Watring-Ellis.


The festival features 55 artists including David Myles, Lennie Gallant, Willie Straton, the Barrowdowns and Cassie and Maggie.

"I don't know how we keep doing it," chuckled Watring-Ellis regarding the artists the festival gets every year.

Heather Rankin, is performing as one of the headliners at the festival. Rankin, well known for being a part of the Rankin Family band, released her first solo album in 2016 - A Fine Line, which was nominated for a Juno.

"I've just been slowly building a solo following because I am known for my work with my family but it's quite a different animal when you take on the work as a solo artist and it's been quite a long process of finding my feet," she said.

This is the first time Rankin is coming to the festival as a solo artist. She has been doing some touring since the release of her album which she says has been getting positive reviews.

The album is a little more contemporary and contemplative than Rankin believes her audience expected.

"It was produced in more a pop vein than the work I did with my siblings," she said. "It was exciting because it was new and it was just a new territory for me to explore but you still hear some of the folk roots come through."

Rankin says she didn't get to do a lot of writing when she was performing with her siblings and this was a chance for her to hone that skill. Out of the 11 songs on the album, Rankin co-wrote seven with Canadian rock producer David Tyson.

The album is all about balance says Rankin, whether that's in your work life, home life, or even your own mind. A video was just released for her song Titanically last June. Most of it was shot underwater.

At the festival her sound will be a bit pared down than what is on her album because of that pop feel. Fans can expect to hear songs from her album as well as some Rankin Family favourites.

Fan favourites

Hillsburn, a Halifax band that's been making a name for itself across Canada, is returning after a successful first time at the festival.

As an experiment, festival organizers got audiences to vote on various categories over the weekend. Hillsburn won the vote for the "bring them back" award and they were also the top for people's choice.

Clayton Burrill, one of the members of the five-piece band, says the group is excited to be returning.

"It's pretty amazing and encouraging, it's pretty incredible," said Burrill. "We felt like we had a really great reception last year and we had a blast but it's definitely to get that confirmation, it was really exciting for us."

Hillsburn just wrapped up a cross Canada tour and are getting ready to drop a new album likely late in the fall or early winter. Their first full length album In The Battle Years has been a success, but Burrill says they are looking forward to releasing the new one as their sound has changed a bit with the inclusion of the band's drummer who joined after they recorded the 2015 album.

"The last record for us in a way felt out of date pretty quickly because when we added Claire on drums, that just immediately changed the sound and we've added in bass," said Burrill. "I think it will match more closely what we've been doing live over the last year or so."

Lunenburg Folk Harbour Fest returns August 10 through 13.

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