Roots of Blues kicks off this year’s Folk Harbour Fest

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Triple-Grammy nominated blues singer Ruthie Foster will be one of the moderators at <em>The Roots of the Blues</em> day-long conference, as well as a a performer at the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival.<em></em></p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Cover shot of Edmonton&#8217;s blues artist Kat Danser&#8217;s new album, Goin&#8217; Gone. Danser, who teaches university-level courses on American popular music, will be hosting The Roots of the Blues conference in the Foot Steps portion of this year&#8217;s Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival.</p>

A day-long conference, The Roots of the Blues, will kick off the 33rd annual Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival on Aug. 9.

Part of the Folk Steps program that has been launching the festival since 2010, the event gives audiences an opportunity to explore a particular facet of folk music and understand its relevance today.

"This year's Folk Steps gives music lovers a chance to delve a bit deeper into the blues, with expert presentations, audience participation, and plenty of great music," Louis Robitaille, chair of the Festival's program committee, explained in a news release.

The 'Queen of the Swamp Blues', Kat Danser, will host the program.

Also participating are: triple-Grammy nominated blues singer Ruthie Foster; storytellers and musicians Robert and Bernice Jones; Halifax-based musicians Ced Marty & Dave; and blues, jazz, and boogie-woogie pianist Doris Mason.

Danser told LighthouseNow participants can expect an "informational conversation driven by participant interest.

"And that's really what the blues is about. It's really about improvisation. It's about a conversation. And it's about history."

The Saskatchewan-born blues artist is a three-time nominee for a Western Canadian Music Award and a national Maple Blues Award - Best New Artist of the Year. She is winner of the Ambassador of the Blues Award (Blues Underground Network) and the International Blues Competition Best Independent Blues Album.

In 2014, CBC Radio and Blues Underground Network voted her as having made one of the Top 5 Roots and Blues Albums of the year.

Now completing her PhD on the roots of American popular music, she teaches American popular music at the University of Edmonton and Edmonton's McKewan University.

Danser explains that before the blues became known as such, "it was really at the crossroads of so many different kinds of music" that was shared among ethnicities, urban and rural blacks, whites, indigenous, Spanish, and Russian.

"It was a very rich time and that was before the record companies got a hold of the music and then needed to capitalize it for sales. And then once it started being categorized, then it started to become formulaic."

Danser suggests people might think of the blues as the "best soup you've ever tasted in your life.

"It was like that. It was the perfect combination of favour and texture and richness and depth. And that was all going on. And musicians were sharing their excitement for new musical styles. And that's the roots of the blues."

But it's not just about history, she explains.

Suggesting North American popular music has its foundation in the blues, Danser notes the Root Steps conversation will include "sort of where we are right now and how did we get here? And how history is alive in the present."

Danser insists blues is the most "emotionally deep" music in American popular music.

"And always has been. So that's the kind of conversation we're going to have."

She describes her own blues as sitting "at the outer boundaries. I don't define any music on any album as this is the blues and that is the blues.

"The real difference to me is I bring a poetic lyricism to it, which is the way it was created in the first place." But she says it's one that's based "in my own lived experience."

Folk Steps will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Zion Lutheran Church in Lunenburg.

Attendance for the entire day is encouraged, but participants can drop in any time. Admission is included in a full weekend Festival pass or with a day pass. Tickets are available at the Folk Harbour office on Lunenburg's Montague Street.

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