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Summerfolk: Sweet sounds from the Sound

Sorry to be so late with this letter. Time has gone screaming by and has left me standing.

Summerfolk is a large but intimate festival on the shores of Owen Sound. The attendance seemed greater than the year before, the reason for this may well have been the anticipated performance of Bruce Cockburn. I wouldn't have missed seeing Bruce for the world. For many consecutive years, my friend Perkins and I attended the October shows at Massey Hall, unsurpassed musical highlights of my misspent youth. I first saw Bruce Cockburn on a CBC TV special called "Rock One", when I was 14 or 15. He sang "Going Down Slow" and "Keep it Open" and my life changed forever. No word of a lie, I never listened to music the same way again. Discovering Bruce put me on the path that I am still walking and introduced me to another world, where poetry and music are inexorably intertwined. His performance wrapped up the festival on the Sunday night, and I looked forward to it all weekend.

Bruce Guthro, Steve Fox, David, Scott Merritt and Kat Goldman front, Joe Butcher and Dave Clarke back

The fact that we could enjoy the Burns Sisters, Murray McLauchlan, Bruce Guthro, SONiA, and the Bill Hilly Band gives you an idea of the talent attending. Our workshop with Bruce Guthro and his bass player Joe Butcher, Steve Fox, Scott Merritt and Kat Goldman was a standout for us. Dave "played so well with others" he actually ended up accompanying Bruce and Joe on the mainstage Sunday night. That line-up proved a splendid combo, rewarded by a well-deserved standing ovation.

SONiA, David and friend

The Beer Tent stage, greatly expanded and very well attended with a large and listening crowd, was my favourite workshop venue. We managed our own standing O there. An absolute beer tent workshop hit combined The Bills, Eddie from Ohio and Fruit (an Aussie Band), ripping the place apart with a wall of sound and all the energy you could stand. The response was immediate and electric - a rabid crowd on a sunny afternoon ended with a prolonged and raucous ovation.

I particularly enjoyed Scott Merritt's set in the tent - electric guitar and David Woodhead on additional instruments. It was an intense and mesmerizing combination of music and words, utterly compelling. I've found his work captivating from the first song I heard this summer.
Scott is a remarkable performer and writer.

Watching and listening to the Bills at work was a pleasure as usual. It is hard to curb the enthusiasm when writing about this band. Their new CD, "All Day, Every Day" is an excellent description of their approach to life and music. A fine body of men.

Mark, Chris Frye, Glen, and Beau

Bruce Cockburn's closing set in the darkness of Sunday night was, for most people, the highlight of the weekend. It really couldn't be otherwise if you are a fan of his work. Sitting side stage, listening to songs old and new, letting the songs take me backward and forward in time, with all the attendant memories and insights gave me a rare moment of contentment. It is not often that we get to witness the exceptional in life, in any field of endeavour. That Sunday night in Owen Sound, we all got to do just that.

Many thanks once again to Don Bird, the artistic director of Summerfolk for another fine festival. In particular for the opportunity to watch a quiet man stand alone in the spotlight, filling the night with such a pure and inclusive beauty.

Yours from the far end of summer,


back home

photos by Beth

Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Guthro, Steve Fox, David and Scott Merritt

Dave and David, main stage

Murry McLauchlan and Denis Pendrith