Saskatchewan·CHRIS PICKS MUSIC

Your playlist primer for Regina Folk Festival's 50th year

Chris Picks Music is a weekly playlist of songs that have aired on CBC Radio's Morning Edition.

Chris Picks Music is a weekly playlist of songs that have aired on CBC Radio's Morning Edition

Blue Rodeo is closing out the festival on Sunday. (Blue Rodeo)

When the Regina Folk Festival first came into being in 1969, it was hosted in a cafeteria in Campion College. Fifty years on, it takes over downtown's Victoria Park for three days. This playlist offers up a taste of what you can expect to hear on stage. 

In a previous role at CBC Saskatchewan, I had the opportunity to record hours of music straight off the Regina Folk Festival stage. One memory that always seems to bubble up for me was the first time I saw Andy Shauf perform as a 'tweener act on the main stage. 'Tweeners are those acts who perform 15- to 20-minute slots between the headlining acts in order to allow for technical stage changes. The audience is distracted, either running to the bathroom, getting a drink or talking about the act they just saw. It was in one of these moments that I saw Shauf perform some magic. As he began his set, the crowd almost instantly went quiet, magnetically drawn to his voice and guitar. You got the sense that he was well on his way to becoming a headlining act, which he eventually did.

One of the songs he performed in that first 'tweener set was "You Remind Me," so I've added it to the playlist.

A Tribe Called Red released a new single just before arriving in town to headline the Friday night show. Called "Ba Na Na," it features Odario , Haviah Mighty, and Chippewa Travellers. They're calling it a perfect blend of sounds and worlds, and in many ways that's exactly what the Folk Festival strives to achieve every year.

Non-binary author and musician Rae Spoon will be emceeing the Saturday main stage. Rae Spoon has released nine solo albums spanning folk, indie rock and electronic music. Take a listen to their song "It's Not In My Body."

Do you like something a little more experimental and alternative? How about the indie sounds of Toronto band Weaves. I offer up two tunes for you here so you can truly appreciate the range of altered space this band can create. Acclimate yourself with  "Drag Me Down," then go fully immersive with a track called "Scream," which features the throat singing talents of Tanya Tagaq.

Next up, Regina's own Juno-winning act The Dead South brings us back to the world of acoustic instruments with a brand new pre-release single from their upcoming album Sugar & Joy, due out in October. The new track is called "Diamond Ring". It starts small but then takes on an epic trajectory toward the end. 

American singer-songwriter Jason Isbell is leading a life in recovery and he puts it all into his honest and insightful music. First give the track "If It Takes A Lifetime" a listen. Then put on the duet he does with Sheryl Crow on her new album Threads. It's a cover of the Bob Dylan song "Everything is Broken."

Isbell's wife, singer-songwriter Amanda Shires, will be joining him at the Folk Festival. Give her song "Leave It Alone" a listen, then, just for fun, check out a track from the new female super group she just formed with Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby (The Highwomen). The song is called "Redesigning Women."

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, a couple with their own distinct music careers, are both performing at the Folk Festival this year. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Regina-born singer-songwriter Heather Bishop first performed at the Folk Festival in the mid-seventies, and made a decision that changed her life. She came out as a lesbian on stage and was received with a standing ovation after she finished her set. More than 40 years later, she's back emceeing and performing on the final night of the festival. I've added her song "Nothing Like The Freedom" to the playlist.

The rhythmic sounds of Montreal-based band H'Sao are going to sound great in Victoria Park. The band members originate from Chad and their music is a blend of Afro-Infused gospel, soul, R&B and reggae. Imagine a beautiful summer evening with this track "Minipa" echoing off the stage.

Juno-winning singer-songwriter Ruth B is new to the folk festival circuit. Her latest EP, Maybe I'll Find You Again, offers up "Sycamore Tree," a sweet track that should sound like a dream coming off that stage Saturday evening.

In 2017, the trio known as Quantum Tangle won the Juno for Indigenous Album of the Year. One of the songs that helped earn them their Juno win is "Tiny Hands." This year, the Folk Festival welcomes them.

Quantum Tangle won the Juno for Indigenous Album of the Year in 2017. (Kayley Mackay)

Multiple Juno award-winning artist Bahamas returns to the festival this year. This guy is smooth with a melody and a pure delight to hear in live performance. I've added 'the shooby dooby song,' "Opening Act," from his Adult Alternative Album of the Year Earthtones to the playlist.

The Regina Folk Festival doesn't just feature great headlining acts; the artists who occupy the stage in between those acts are pretty good as well. Alberta's Celeigh Cardinal is one of them. She won Indigenous Artist of the Year at the 2018 Western Canadian Music Awards. Give her track "Wrap It Up" a spin.

Few artists have a more down-to-earth country sound than Saskatchewan's own Colter Wall. It's no surprise that he's one of the featured performers this week at the Folk Festival. I've added the final track of his latest album, Songs of the Plains, to the playlist. "Tying Knots in the Devil's Tail" offers up a real treat for listeners. He's joined by two other former Folk Festival performers on vocals: Blake Berglund and Corb Lund.

Finally, Sunday will see Blue Rodeo close out the 50th edition of the Regina Folk Festival. Every end can be seen as a new beginning, so I offer their song "New Morning Sun."

About the Author

Chris Haynes

Associate producer-technician

Chris Haynes was the long-time recording engineer for CBC Saskatchewan's performance department. He's travelled all over this province recording music, drama and documentaries. He loves picking music and does it every week for CBC Radio's Morning Edition as the show's associate producer-technician.

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