ALEX LUKASHEVSKY and guests JENNIFER CASTLE, ANNA LINDA SIDALL and RYAN DRIVER as part of the WINTERFOLK BLUES AND ROOTS FESTIVAL at Eastminister United Church (310 Danforth), Saturday (February 9), 4 pm. $5. www.abetterworld.ca. Rating: NNNNN
It seems the only people unaware of the growing interest in the new school of folk artists like Devendra Banhart, Espers, Josephine Foster, Vetiver and White Magic are those in charge of booking traditional folk festivals, which could greatly benefit by appealing to a younger audience.
But instead of making an effort to broaden their reach, many programmers are content to stick with the same grey-bearded circuit veterans and blame falling attendance figures on lack of media coverage.
At least the artistic committee selecting the 100 players participating in the three-day Winterfolk Blues and Roots Festival (February 8-10) have realized it could be advantageous to connect with the under-50 demographic, and invited Deep Dark United’s Alex Lukashevsky to put on the intriguingly named Zigzag & Quack show.
Lukashevsky’s freewheeling approach to performance is bound to result in some spontaneous kicks, abetted by resourceful homemade instrument ace Ryan Driver, autoharp-plinking cellist Anna Linda Sidall and fantastic singer/songwriter Jennifer Castle of Castlemusic notoriety.
For Castle, who regularly performs at the Tranzac Club, Sneaky Dee’s and the Music Gallery, getting to participate in a folk festival is a new experience.
“Alex asked me to join in the show, and I was happy to participate. It sounds like it’s going to be really nice,” says Castle while kicking up some freshly fallen snow outside her Toronto Island home.
“When I read about people performing at folk festivals, it looks like only the established artists get in. For some reason, there’s this huge divide between the people I’d pay to see at a folk festival and the artists I regularly see at downtown clubs. There are really amazing artists my age doing pay-what-you-can shows all the time, but I can no more imagine them sharing a bill with Sylvia Tyson at a festival than seeing someone like Bruce Cockburn in the front room at the Tranzac.”
Castle is poised to break out in a big way over the next few months. She’s already getting attention from punk kiddos because of her unlikely collabo with adventurous hardcore crew Fucked Up on their Year Of The Pig joint. But the real career boost will come in March when the new Constantines album, on which she’s singing, appears, followed by a tour with the group in May.
It’s a sweet set-up for Castle’s knockout new disc, You Can’t Take Anyone, tentatively planned for June. She delivers on the immense promise shown in Castlemusic: Live At The Music Gallery recorded back in 2005.
“I really didn’t know any of those guys in Fucked Up. I just got an e-mail from Mike Haliechuk (aka singer 10,000 Marbles) about recording a song. So I asked a few people I knew if they’d heard of Fucked Up, and it turned out that we had some mutual friends.
“I went into the studio to do my vocals, and the backing track just had this guitar softly playing a pretty melody. I thought, ‘This doesn’t sound very hardcore.' But then when I heard the finished mix with everything else added, it was like, ‘Ohhhhh.’
“We’ve played some shows together since Year Of The Pig came out, and they’re actually covering a song of mine called For My Friends from my forthcoming album. I’m wondering what they’re going to do with it. I just got an e-mail from Mike saying they’re recording the drums on the roof and really getting into it. Sounds like they’re having fun.”
Singer/songwriter Jennifer Castle explains that the reason some of her songs sound like early Tin Pan Alley tunes has less to do with what she listens to than how she composes them:
Having her songs interpreted by other artists is something Castle is still getting used to: