VFRMS - Concert Review - Pharis and Jason Romero Mar 13 2015

VFRMS - Concert Review - Pharis and Jason Romero Mar 13 20152






Concert Review

Norm Strauss & Band/Kim June Johnson

Alessandra Woodward, Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society
photos by Dianne Hustler

unnamed (6)

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Elk’s Hall on Saturday evening, January 24 for great performances by Kim June Johnson as well as Norm Strauss and Band.

Johnson was on stage for much of the night, delighting the crowd with her opening set of songs she not only wrote, but performed with all of the heartfelt intimacy her fans have come to expect. Interspersing intimate stories of her life as an artist and how each musical piece unfolds from the
journey with beautiful guitar playing and her uniquely charming vocals, Johnson’s performance was captivating. Many of the songs were from her latest album “Canvas and Clay,” with overtones of idyllic, sweet summers, and undertones of bittersweet longing. Johnson made full use of her clear voice and whether playing guitar or banjo, her songs were a colorful and true reflection of the poet inside. Accompanying Johnson as back up guitar and even the trombone was Bruce Wiebe, which lent an eclectic and memorable layer to the set.

unnamed (9)

Having played together on stage for many years, headliner, Norm Strauss, brought Johnson and Wiebe’s unique talents into the feature act. Strauss is well known for his own heartfelt lyrics, pulled from the everyday twists and turns in the road of life. The opportunity to hear him perform his music with a full band was a uniquely rare one, and the audience was able to enjoy everything from the high-energy blues of his “Gunfighter Nation” song to the folksy storytelling of “The Roofer” from his latest album “The Colour of Everything” with the full sound of the band behind them. There was even some Irish Celtic flare in some of the tunes, and the guest accordian accompaniment was an entertaining addition to several of the folk tunes.

unnamed (11)

Like Johnson, Strauss is a believer that every song has a story that is almost as important as the music itself. This lent a very intimate atmosphere to many of the songs, and each number, whether a simple folk tune or the occasional political piece, gained traction with the crowd because of the relatability and message.

Again, the Vernon Folk Roots Music Society was delighted to have such talented artists on the stage.




Concert Review

Canadian Whitewater/Carolyn Anele

Alessandra Woodward, Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society

photos by Dianne Hustler

unnamed (10)

Vernon Folk Roots Music Society was honoured to host opening act Carolyn Anele, and headliners Canadian Whitewater, at the Army and Navy’s Spitfire Lounge on Saturday November 22.  If you were part of the full crowd, you won’t need to read this to know that the show Canadian Whitewater treated us to was a spectacular exhibition of talent, showmanship, and of course good ol’ fashioned bluegrass.

unnamed (4)

Carolyn Anele, the singer-songwriter folk artist from Vernon, delighted the audience with her quirky, personalized lyrics and pure singing voice as she played her original songs.  Accompanied by Andrew Smith on the mandolin and Rod MacDonald on the stand up bass, Carolyn brought back some quaint memories of birch trees, family, (and certain less romantic aspects of bodily functions), which certainly scored her points for uniqueness and humour with the crowd.  Her humour and lightness were well suited to setting the stage for one of the best bluegrass shows Vernon has seen.

unnamed (2)





unnamed (16)Anyone who knew what Canadian Whitewater was about found that their anticipation for this reunion show was well justified.  And those who were experiencing the band, or even bluegrass, for the first time were certainly not disappointed.  The quartet, comprised of Chris Stevens on the banjo (and the “manjo”), Bert Jensen on the fiddle, Jim Leduc on the stand up bass, and Charlie Veaudry on guitar, amazed the audience with their talented instrumentals and well-matched harmonies.  And as a special treat, Vernon’s own Mike Waters joined the group with his mandolin for much of the set, adding a delightful tone to the evening as each song was executed with deceptive ease and energy.

But it wasn’t just the lightning fast banjo picking or charming fiddle antics that delighted the crowd.  The stage presence of the band members, displayed through humour, friendly rivalry, and good-natured jibes, ensured that the audience was engaged throughout the entire show.  The showmanship of the group was exemplified by their easy familiarity with each other and with the music.

For the upbeat, toe-stomping tunes, each of the musicians displayed their rightfully earned reputations as masters of bluegrass, perfectly executing complex banjo, guitar, fiddle, and mandolin solos while singing melody and harmony into the solo microphone.  Classic bluegrass content, from trains to death to loneliness, was delivered in the relentlessly hopeful cheerfulness only bluegrass music can lay claim to.

For the slower, more intimate songs, the harmonic quality of the group’s vocal abilities was brought to the fore.  And even classical music lovers were rewarded with a rendition of a Mozart piece performed solo by Stevens on the banjo.

VFRMS would like to thank everyone who came out to make the show such a success, both musicians and audience.  Thank you also to all of our members and sponsors, especially the Sherk family who donated so generously in memory of their family members.

Be sure to catch the next VFRMS presentation, Saturday January 24 at the Elk’s Hall, featuring Norm Strauss and his band with opening act Kim June Johnson..

Concert Review

Ann Vriend/Marv Machura­

Alessandra Woodward, Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society

photos by Dianne Hustler

AnnVriendConcert-Ann Smiling

Saturday was a beautiful day, and what better way to end a glorious autumn day in the Okanagan than with the fantastic music presented by the Vernon Folk Roots Music Society? Truly, the caliber of performers the group has been able to put on stage continues to impress the society, as well as the audience.




AnnVriendConcert-Marv Machura+Ray

Marv Machura, co-­founder of the VFRMS, was the first to take the stage as Ann Vriend’s opening act. Marv lived up to his reputation as one of Western Canada’s most honest and sincere musical storytellers, sharing heart and soul through unpretentious and vulnerable lyrics,and cleanly executed guitar playing. Roy Kawano was a delightful addition to the set, as he accompanied Marv on the bass, and the two of them portrayed a comfortable ease on stage that allowed the audience to simply sit back and enjoy the ambience of great Canadiana at its finest. From country folk to crooning lullabies for a lover, Marv proved his down­home country music has a depth of heart that can only come from a musician that knows the value of a good story, especially a story told straight from the heart. For a singer­songwriter, there is always a vulnerability that takes place in sharing one’s heart from the stage, but Marv did not shy away from that endeavour and the result was an appreciated glimpse into the emotional landscape of life that anyone can relate to.


Such vulnerability was the perfect opening act for the highlight performance of VFRMS’ run to date; Ann Vriend’s unique blend of raw emotion and groove, along with a voice that can give a person goosebumps and make you want to cry at the same time, was enough to ensure the audience’s desire for an extended encore before she had even finished her first song. Unfortunately, writing cannot ever hope to convey the power or emotional intensity music can have on a single person or a collective audience, but Vriend’s performance was overflowing with passionate impact that simply left no room for anything but amazement.

The intensity of Ann’s mature voice, as bluesy and smoky as a New Orleans jazz club, had the audience holding their breath and forming those round O’s of astonishment early on. Vriend claims Aretha Franklin as a vocal inspiration, and clearly the young performer does not have far to go in closing the gap when comparing her to the legendary blues singer. Her musical abilities on the piano were also evident with the nuanced, playful manner in which she engaged with the music, drawing the audience in and requiring an interactive experience that assures her the title of “Sweetheart of Canadian Blues” should she ever wish to have the tag name. The only downside to that nickname would be that it completely fails to portray the amount of undiluted passion and absurd amount of talent the woman has with just a microphone and a keyboard!

That being said, Vriend was also very careful to mention her missing band mates, whom she often travels and performs with (they are, in fact, making their way to Germany for another successful European tour together), and for anyone who enjoyed her solo performance, the thought of a full band performance of her work is a delightful prospect to look forward to should they ever make their way back to Vernon.


Like Machura, Vriend was also very skilled at weaving the theme of the song around apersonal story, sharing intimate moments of her family history, self­-deprecating vignettes of personal foibles, and highlights of interactions with the world around her that have informed much of her work. When asked about her songwriting heroes and heroines, Vriend proclaimed “Paul Simon, Tammy Wynette, and all those guys I listened to growing up” as her inspiration for how songs are formed and what ends up as her final material. In fact, her cover of Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” was quite possibly (dare it be said in the face of tried and true country music fans) better than the original.

Vriend’s personable nature as a performer was almost unexpected next to her incredible talent on stage, but it certainly made for a delightful musical experience. Without a doubt, the feisty yet adorable musician has created for herself a place of honour amongst Canada’s best musicians, and her faithful following of dedicated fans has assuredly been added to by a great number after such an outstanding performance.

The VFRMS was truly honoured to be able to host such a fantastic pair of singer-­songwriters as Ann Vriend and Marv Machura. If you were able to take in the show, hopefully you were able to purchase any of the cd’s that were available, but if you missed it or missed out on the merchandise opportunity, both musicians offer items for sale on the websites. Go to www.vernonfolkroots.com for links to their websites, as well as more information on upcoming shows in November and the New Year.

Thanks to everyone who came out to support the society, and a special thank ­you to the performers for sharing their amazing gifts with us!



October 25, 2014

Alessandra Woodward, Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Vernon Folk Roots Music Society has a special treat for Vernon on October 25; co-founder of the non-profit VFRMS, Marv Machura, is scheduled to perform as the opening act of the night. The feature performance will showcase indie folk artist Ann Vriend.

Machura is a seasoned performer, having shared his poetry, folk/rock music, and songwriting with audiences for more than 25 years. He has released four recorded albums to date, the latest in 2011 titled “I Want You” and his latest album, along with his live shows, showcases a fun, relatable tone, with discernable influences from Gordon Lightfoot, Steve Earle, Fred Eaglesmith, and John Denver.

Ann Vriend Picture Cropped

Ann Vriend was a part of the same folk scene in Edmonton as Machura, which is what eventually led to them recording a duet together. Vriend’s sound is difficult to pin down to any one genre, as her soulful voice can evoke nostalgic memories of legends such as Amy Winehouse and Aretha Franklin, and yet there is an original, fresh quality to her music that sets her apart from any other.

Ann’s parents knew they had a musical prodigy on their hands when she mastered the violin and then the piano before ten years of age. Since then, Ann’s career has been on a steady incline of positive recognition for her stunning vocals and appreciation for her inspiring, soulful lyrics. Her latest album, “For the People in the Mean Time”, released in March, tells the story of the struggles of inner city life, portrayed through motown beats and bluesy, rockabilly folk.

This past summer saw Vriend take home the “She’s the One” prize for solo performance from the Ottawa Bluesfest, while one of the songs from her latest album has been chosen for an upcoming Russian film. The indie artist was also featured on a CBC Vinyl Cafe episode with Stuart McLean. Her humour on stage, along with consistently amazing live performances, have garnered her not only worldwide recognition, but also a loyal and appreciative fan base.

Ann Vriend is an act you definitely don’t want to miss. With impressive instrumental talent, songwriting acumen, and a voice that captures your attention along with your heart, the performance is sure to highlight some of the best talent Canada has to offer.

Be sure to catch the exciting live act by Ann Vriend at the Vernon Christian Fellowship hall on Saturday, October 25. Doors open at 6:45 pm, with opening act Marv Machura on stage at 7:30 pm, and Ann Vriend at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at www.vernonfolkroots.com , at the Bean Scene Vernon, or at the door. Memberships for VFRMS start at $20 per year, and members will receive $5 off the ticket price at the door. See you there!

VFRMS - Concert Review - Cam Penner-Jesse Mast Sept-2014


VFRMS - Concert Review - Cam Penner-Jesse Mast Sept-20142

AUGUST 23, 2014

Alessandra Woodward, Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society Photos: Dianne Hustler

DSC_0960Vernon Folk Roots Music Society’s (V.F.R.M.S.) Saturday evening presentation of award-winning musicians Wendell Ferguson and Jane Eamon was another success for the non-profit group. The pairing of the two performing artists could not have been more fitting, as the out-of-the-box styles of both Eamon and Ferguson added a unique tone to the evening.

As the opening act, Jane Eamon, a Kelowna based singer songwriter, pulled at the audience’s heart strings with her original folk songs about life, love, and the beauty of the natural world. Jane’s husband Gord faithfully accompanied on the guitar and revealed his own considerable talents, even when the set list got thrown out the window when Eamon “just wasn’t feeling it.” But such is the prerogative of a true artist, to follow where the muse might lead, and Eamon proved to everyone in the audience that she is, indeed, a stellar talent in the musical arena.


Many of her songs contain a bluesy, swinging style that immediately captivates the listener and makes one wish for a tumbler of honeyed whisky and maybe even a fine cigar. Eamon’s second song was taken from her latest CD “She’s the Girl”, written and dedicated just this year in celebration of her parents’ 62nd wedding anniversary. The bittersweet melody likely caused many to reminisce about their first, or perhaps last, waltz with a loved one, reminding all that we are never too old for love to touch us. With her signature down-to-earth manner, Eamon flowed seamlessly from carefree, easy guitar picking to the melancholy, poignant folk styles, confirming that she is a true storyteller with the heart of a poet and the inspiration of a gifted musician. As performances by Jane Eamon are quite rare these days, it was a treat for the audience to experience the artist who clearly embodies the message in her music

As the feature act for the evening, and for someone soon to be inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, Wendell Ferguson from Toronto, ON, perhaps caused some surprise with his own easygoing and approachable manner. But the real surprise for ticket holders who might have been unfamiliar with the seasoned performer’s style occurred in the form of the two-for-one comedy show and musical act. Ferguson may have legitimately needed to tune his guitar once or twice during the show, but it soon became evident that the chance to share groan worthy jokes, original quips, and well-practiced one-liners was not something he ever lets pass by.


“My mother bought me a book of jokes when I was a kid,” Ferguson shared after the show. “And then I watched shows like Jackie Gleason where I learned all about comic timing and how to capture an audience, and I read MAD Magazine, which is what inspired me to write parodies. Parodies are my favorite thing, and I write them first to make my friends laugh!” Using a mixture of physical comedy and an almost low-brow humour, Ferguson “started with his second song” and lured the audience into a place of easy familiarity with humorous, sometimes outlandish lyrics. But just as many were settling in for what appeared to be an evening of light-hearted barnyard tunes, Ferguson slipped into “The Mayor of Loserville” (definitely not about Rob Ford, who happens to be from Ferguson’s home town), and the incredible guitar picking that the singer-songwriter is so famous for was in the spotlight. Ferguson’s talent on the strings was simply mesmerizing. After pleasing audience member “Abe”, who had met Ferguson’s idol Chet Atkins in 1975, with a medley of perfectly picked Atkin’s tunes, Ferguson had the audience tapping their toes and eagerly anticipating the next stunning performance.

“I would have loved to play with Chet,” Ferguson responded nostalgically when asked who his dream collaborator would be. “But he is dead now…all of the greats I would love to play with are dead, but they were my childhood heroes. My inspiration.”

Ferguson can’t say enough about how much Chet Atkins inspired everything to do with the award winning guitar player’s style. As a child of seven, Ferguson fretted over every song of Atkins’ until his small fingers could match the quick and complicated guitar picking. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and the likes of Jeff Beck were also inspirations for the country star, and though he has collaborated and played with almost every great musician in the country business, when asked who he now dreams of being on stage with, Ferguson claims it would be an honour to play with Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel.
When asked where he gleans inspiration from, Ferguson was quick to say “Everywhere. But quite often, cryptic crossword puzzles lead me down a path, word by word, that eventually emerges as song lyrics. And the tunes and melodies come to me while I am silently picking in front of the television. My hands can’t be still, so there is usually a guitar in them. It used to drive my wife crazy, me in front of the television picking mindlessly at my guitar, but she is used to it now,” Ferguson joked.

Ferguson’s future aspirations include recording an album with a full band, and perhaps a more “serious” album of pure country tunes. There is no doubt that Ferguson deserves the honour of being inducted into the Canadian Country Hall of Fame next week in Edmonton, and since his forthcoming material is likely to contain the same superb mixture of polished picking and easy lyrics, new and old fans alike will be ready for a taste of something new.

The V.F.R.M.S. was delighted to host both Jane Eamon and Wendell Ferguson, and it was a wonderful cultural experience for Vernon. Don’t miss the next performance hosted by the non-profit group, as folk artist Cam Penner performs on September 27th at the Spitfire Lounge at Vernon’s Army Navy & Airforce Hall. Tickets will be $20, available online at www.vernonfolkroots.com, at The Bean Scene Vernon, or at the door. And don’t forget, members of the V.F.R.M.S. receive $5 back at the door, so sign up now!