TALES FROM MUSICFEST: Compose an old-school radio show

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By Robert Moyes

Special for the black press

There is a wonderful song by John Hartford called “Turn Your Radio On”.

It captures the days when radio was king and families gathered around the old Sears Silvertone to listen to popular shows featuring bluegrass, country and gospel tunes… interspersed with cheesy commercials for soap from cooking and Wheaties breakfast cereals. That rosy feeling of yesteryear—but with even better music—will be evoked on Vancouver Island MusicFest’s Old-Time radio show, which pays loving homage to Western Canada’s country music scene of yesteryear.

“This is a one-of-a-kind performance that was created for us by versatile musicologist, writer and radio man Peter North,” says Doug Cox, VIMF Artistic Director. “It’s an entertaining mix of nostalgia, humor and fantastic music.”

Presented as a musical theatre, it is hosted by the incomparable Jim Byrnes. With his smoky, bourbon-rich voice that sang every root genre known to man, Jim is both a brilliant musician and an unparalleled storyteller – the perfect guide to introducing the show’s stars and taking the audience in this special musical journey.

Born in Calgary but long settled in Chemainus, Diamond Joe White is a talented singer-songwriter who never got the fame he deserved. His career began in the 1970s, during the vinyl era. A few of his songs have charted over the years, and he received back-to-back Juno Award nominations for Male Country Singer in 1983 and 1984.

One of those bands where a lot of the magic is in the synergy of complementary talents, Dirt Road Opera features four accomplished musicians – three of whom are Juno nominees – who revel in a mix of American roots style. three-part harmonies, inspired musicality, and driving rhythms. Featuring acclaimed vocalist Rachel Matkin, singer-songwriter Barry Mathers, classically trained bass boss Jim Ryan and multi-instrumentalist Robert Bailey, this opera hits all those high, lonely notes you love. really.

Originally famous for her work with Spirit of the West, Linda McRae went further and further in the realm of singer-songwriters, establishing an enviable reputation for creativity and authenticity. A multi-instrumentalist as well as a virtuoso singer, Linda has released six impressive and diverse CDs over the course of a dazzling career. Whether performing her own songs or launching into a David Bowie banjo tune, Linda captures and delights audiences wherever she plays.

You know you’ve arrived when Ian Tyson wants to record with you. Such is the fortunate situation of Calgary’s Shaye Zadravec, a hauntingly pure singer who, although only in her twenties, has already captured national and international attention.

His second CD, From time to time, reveals a truly exceptional breadth of musical influence and depth of talent. Whether singing songs by Shelby Lynne, Bobby Darin or Doc Pomus, Shaye will amaze you while touching your heart in unexpected ways.

And accompanying this galaxy of country stars, an equally luminous ensemble of back-up musicians: the Swingin’ Country Dance Kings, superb instrumentalists who have reigned on the Alberta country-roots scene since the 1970s. At the heart of the group are guitarist Dave Hamilton and steel guitar maestro Jeff Bradshaw (discover their delicious CD, country swing dance toons). Joining them are longtime friends Mike Lent on bass, Thom Moon on drums and superstar violinist Calvin Vollrath. The performance credits these men have accumulated over the decades are indeed impressive, having worked and toured with renowned Western artists such as Ian Tyson, Cindy Church, Tim Hus and The Great Western Orchestra.

“It’s a rare opportunity to hear from these super talented musicians,” notes Cox. “And the show itself, with all these stars, will be really entertaining.”

The Old Time Radio Show takes place on Sunday, July 10 at 6 p.m. on the stage of the Rotary Concert Bowl

–Robert Moyes is an arts journalist with a particular interest in music

Comox ValleyConcertsVancouver Island MusicFest

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