Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hillside Review I

Saturday July 26, 3pm-7pm

I couldn't get out of the big city for the Friday, July 25, start of the Hillside Festival near Guelph, ON. I arrived on Saturday just as Kelly Joe Phelps took the main stage. Phelps wailed the acoustic blues in his solo set, drawing from blues standards as well as original material. The godfathers of Canadian bluegrass, The Good Brothers, followed. The Good Brothers have been performing and recording since the early 1970s. Larry (banjo), Brian (guitar), and Bruce (autoharp) entertained the very bluegrass-knowledgeable crowd with classic originals such as "Fox on the Run" and a bluegrass cover of "Come a Little Bit Closer" originally by Jay and the Americans.

I next wandered over to the Lake Stage, the second of four music stages at the festival. On the way there, I stopped by the Sun Stage and listened to Harry Manx perform during the workshop "Mother Earth." Manx and the other musicians were playing Hindustati classical harmonies mixed with traditional American blues. Very interesting music. At the Lake Stage I caught the Brothers Creeggan, two brothers who used to be the rhythm section for the Barenaked Ladies in their early years. Brothers Andy (upright bass) and Jim (keyboards) and their band played an enjoyable set that had a very-Ben Folds-ish vibe.

Next I hit the Sun Stage for the workshop "Guitar Dreams." This workshop featured performer/producer Danny Michel, local musician Liz Powell (sorry, can't find her web site), blues guitarist Sue Foley, and multi-instrumentalist David Woodhead. I had not heard of any of these musicians before (yeah, I'm slightly ignorant), and all four of them blew me away. Michel started out with electric guitar doing a very stripped-down version of Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" and got the crowd to whistle along. He followed that with a slow version of "I Will Love You For Miles," off of his 2007 release Valhalla. Liz Powell did two lovely originals on acoustic guitar. Sue Foley, an accomplished blues guitarist, gave a demonstration on the Piedmont style of blues, then showed some of her recent interest in Flamenco-style guitar. Finally, David Woodhead blew everyone away with his fretless bass. The other musicians on stage had the "wow!" look on their faces too. Truly a magical session of music!

Since I am not that familiar with most these artists, I have no MP3s to share. The last few days I have been running up my credit card bill by purchasing CDs from their web sites. Most of them have tracks on iTunes and eMusic too. Check them all out.

Photos from the weekend.

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