Roots & Blues dips deep into B.C. talent pool

Province’s folk and roots scene to be well represented at festival

By Barb Brouwer


The temperature is ramping up and so is the excitement for this year’s Roots and Blues Festival.

Headliners include The Jim Cuddy Band, Jamaican reggae legends Third World, the magnificent Ruthie Foster and Ireland’s Dervish. A return visit by Irish Mythen is also hotly anticipated.

Mythen, who just dropped a new album, will close out Sunday night with special guests including Anne Lindsay from the Jim Cuddy Band, the house band and other surprise artists.

Artistic director Peter North has already announced a number of homegrown artists for the 27th edition of the event, including The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer, Early Spirit, Tonye Aganaba, Ostwelve, Qristina & Quinn Bachand and Valdy.

Read more: Ruthie Foster brings her musical mastery to Roots and Blues

Read more: Roots & Blues adds four more acts to 2019 festival

Read more: Steve Marriner to serve early taste of Roots and Blues

He maintains the talent pool in B.C.’s folk and roots scene has never been deeper and making sure artists in the province are well represented is one of the festival’s mandates.

Describing Vancouver’s Dawn Pemberton as one of Canada’s finest soul singers, North says she will perform with the The Harpoonist & The Axe Murderer and take a turn in the spotlight on Sunday with her own band.

“Pemberton is one of those artists who is really community oriented whether working with choirs, in social settings, with the disenfranchised and people on the margins, she gives a lot back to the community, which I think is a sign of a special person,” says North. “The fact she can shift gears from the intense and kind of aggressive music that the Harpoonist & Axe Murderer play and then do these sweet soul sounds of Memphis and Detroit, shows how broad her palette is.”

Next up, North calls The Unfaithful Servants a great addition to the acoustic music scene.

American born, virtuoso mandolinist Jesse Cobb is a founding member of the critically acclaimed bluegrass group, The Infamous String Dusters, which earned a Grammy nomination.

Soon after he moved to Vancouver Island, Cobb began collaborating with singer/songwriter Dylan Stone. Their collaboration grew to include fiddler Miriam Sonstenes, a founder of beloved Canadian roots trio, The Sweet Lowdown, and upright bassist Alex Rempel.

“The Unfaithful Servants are pushing forward the limits of traditional music and have a strong foundation of experience and skill to boast” North says. “I’m gonna give them a lot of room and a lot of prime spots on the schedule.”

Read more: Third World brings reggae fusion infusion to Roots and Blues

Read more: Jim Cuddy to return to Roots and Blues stage

Also from the West Coast comes young Luke Wallace, a folk musician and coastal advocate from unceded Coast Salish Territory known as Vancouver.

“Luke’s music is a platform for the voices of communities fighting to protect the systems that help them thrive,” North says, noting that since 2012, Wallace has relentlessly toured the West Coast of North America with the mission of inspiring audiences into action focused on social and environmental justice. “Drawing from folk heroes like Pete Seeger and Woodie Guthrie, Luke embodies a new a wave of political folk music.”

From Campbell River comes Big Willie G, an 18-year-old blues, rock and country folk musician.

This young artist grew up listening to greats like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, and Johnny Cash, has a ‘serious handle’ on this kind of music, and will perform with the House Band and some of the veterans of the Canadian blues scene.

Rounding out this release of artists is Salmon Arm’s own Jordan Dick Trio, which will lead a guitar-driven quartet for multiple performances at Roots & Blues and during the pre-festival music crawl.

“An avowed disciple of the masterful Bill Frisell, Dick will be showcasing unique interpretations of folk and rock tunes in an all-star quartet setting,” says North, adding a few more artists are yet to be announced for Salmon Arm’s hottest musical event, which takes place Aug. 15 to 18.

For all the details on this year’s festival, go online to or phone the festival office at 250-833-4096.


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