A little of this, a soupçon of that; mix well and voila – a delicious recipe.
And the magic that creates a great meal can work with music as well.
It is the kind of magic Roots and Blues Festival artistic director Peter North had in mind when creating workshops for the annual musical feast.
“The workshops will begin Friday this year,” he says, noting that in the past, the festival has begun with entertainment at 6 p.m. on the main stage. “When the gates open at 4, why not give people something to listen to?”
Why not Different Shades of Blue at 4:10 p.m. at the Blues Stage with Rocky Lawrence, Red Tail Ring and James Lamb?
“It’s not a conventional blues sound, but blues being a feeling and a place where you’re at,” says North, noting Ladies First is a workshop that will run at the same time on the Shade Stage with Kat Danser and Naomi Wachira, a blues and gospel singer/songwriter. “Naomi is Kenyan, both have big voices and I think they’ll connect.”
Another Friday night workshop is Duhk Soup at the Boogie Bar-N, hosted by the Duhks and including J.D. Edwards from the Small Glories and two throat singers from Hanggai.
“That’s new to have that in the Barn Friday night, but it will still be high energy,” North promises, pointing out he is also excited about Worlds Collide on Saturday at the Barn Stage, with Hanggai, Amadou Fall Trio and Marco Claveria. “It will basically be them giving us perspective on their respective musical forms and genres – how they have evolved over the last century and finding common ground so they can interact.”
Another interesting brew on the Boogie Bar-N Stage later in the day will be Oyster Stew, a collaboration by Oysterband, two Duhks, Tony McManus and Tim Chaisson.
“I think there’s gonna be a real explosion there; one of the ones where the skill level is so ridiculously high and everyone is on the same page,” North says.
And there’s lots of great music on the Blues Stage.
Rockin’ with the Highliners will include the Rockin’ Highliners, Kat Danser, Sherman Doucette and Brent Parkin.
“In the midst of that whole giant jam will be a tribute to BB King,” says North of the late bluesman. “Brent performed as BB’s opening act and I think we need to stop and think about BB and what he meant.”
North believes putting the strong contingency of Winnipeg artists on the same stage will be another winner.
Portage and Main will combine the talents of JD Edwards from Small Glories and KD Luft, Leonard Podolak and Jessee Havey from the Duhks, Brent Parkin and Ken McMahon, the drummer from the Rockin’ Highliners
“I want them to talk about the great traditions in that Prairie city cause they run back a half century – Lenny Brault through Neil Young and the Guess Who, to Loreena McKeenitt,” he says. “Why has Winnipeg been such a catalyst in the Canadian music scene?”
Africa Smiles promises to be popular with world music fans, a workshop in which Naomi Watchira and Amadou Falls will explore the traditions of Kenya and West Africa.
Writers’ Block participants will explore the challenges singer songwriters deal with at the shade stage – John Oates, Russell DeCarle from Prairie Oyster, Monica Heldel from Norway and Josh Hoyer from Nebraska.
“Two of them have had huge hits and the other two are critically acclaimed,” says North. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the song.”
One of the hits at last year’s festival was a tribute to Bob Dylan. There will be another one this year with different artists and different Dylan tunes.
World music fans can get another fix Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Boogie Bar-N Stage with Latin Lovers and Polyrhythmic Panic – all about grooves and music from the equator and south, performed by Tacoy Ryde playing Santana, the Marco Claveria Project doing Afro Cuban music, to Quique Escamilla throwing reggae into the mix.
“It is expected that everyone will come together on that one and create one huge band,” says North.
An acoustic tribute to the Grateful Dead is on tap Saturday with the Slocan Ramblers and Current Swell, along with San Francisco’s Mark Karan and Jason Crosby from what North describes as the extended Grateful Dead family.
The electric tribute will be in Boogie Bar-N at 4:45 p.m. Sunday, a long one at one hour and 45 minutes, with Brother’s Keeper, Karan and Crosby, Tacoy Ryde and the Royal Southern Brotherhood.
“Cyril Neville does some of the best Grateful Dead songs I’ve ever heard,” says North. “What I think we have are people who are very keen to collaborate and who have collaborated before and really capture some lightning-in-a bottle moments.”
Saturday’s workshop menu also features a honky-tonk workshop with three “killer country guitar players” – Amos Garret, Wendall Ferguson and Steve Briggs.
“It is gonna be hard to know where to go and that’s exactly what you want,” adds North. “I try to make sure if people can’t see someone on one day, they can catch them at a different time the next day.”
Overall. North says he thinks the festival features a top-flight group of musicians that cover all the bases.
“We have an abundance of emerging artists, plus longtime musicians, and it’s nice to see some of the acts coming out with new albums just as we approach the festival,” North says. “You may not like everything, but you’ll respect that everything is of a really high standard.”
For more information and tickets, visit www.rootsandblues.ca.