Wickham gives the skinny on 64 folk fest acts

Mohsin Zaman folk fest GigCity Edmonton

Mohsin Zaman performs at the folk fest press conference Wednesday

Every year the entire media of Edmonton assemble for a spring ritual – to hear Edmonton Folk Music Festival producer Terry Wickham talk about who’s coming to the festival this year, and to show us why we should care.

He cares. That makes a big difference. Every year, he educates the press on another crop of the best folk musicians money can buy, within reason. Few beyond the hard-core folk journalists have a clue who most of them are – but I think we all learned something today.

At the Wednesday press conference, Wickham blurbed all 64 acts performing in Gallagher Park this year, Aug. 4-7. Some highlights:

Nathanial Rateliff and the Night Sweats – Demand for the sold-out show at the Winspear Centre crashed the ticket server, so now the band is closing the festival’s mainstage on Sunday, Aug. 7. They’re “brilliant,” says Wickham.

Kaleo (closing the first night mainstage on Thursday, Aug. 4) – Another Icelandic act representing the Iceland music scene’s connection to Edmonton: “They might be a little bit lonely,” Wickham said.

Mary Chapin Carpenter folk fest GigCity Edmonton

Mary Chapin Carpenter loves the folk fest so much she got asked back.

Mary Chapin Carpenter (mainstage, Friday, Aug, 5) – She said such nice things about the Edmonton folk fest, that it wasn’t just the best festival show she’d done, but the “ ‘best experience of my life,’” Wickham related, adding, “Flattery might not get you everywhere, but it can get you to the Edmonton folk festival.”

Dervish (appearing in afternoon sessions TBA) – Traditional Irish band is “part of the glue that holds the festival together.”

Dreamer’s Circus (sessions) – Classical music embraces folk music, with “typical ugly looking Scandinavian guys.” He’s going to catch heck for that one.

Maura O’Connell and Karen Casey (sessions) – Couple of Irish folksingers, among many this year; “There aren’t a lot of Scots this year, which isn’t an oversight, really,” says Wickham. Laughs all around ‘cause he’s Irish.

Kruger Brothers (sessions) – “From the hotbed of bluegrass – in Switzerland.”

Tasman Jude (sessions) – “From that hotbed of reggae, Grand Prairie, Alberta … you never know where you’re going to find things.”

Passenger (mainstage, Saturday, Aug. 6) – Vancouver busker who’s about to crack one billion YouTube views.

Lera Lynn (sessions) – Wrote and performed the music for the second season of True Detective.

Mike Farris (mainstage closer, Saturday, Aug, 6) – Wowed folks as a 25-minute “tweener” act last year; returns this year with a nine-piece band.

Linda Tillery (sessions, likely Sunday morning) – Convinced Wilson Pickett to perform with her at a side stage gospel show.

Songhoy Blues (mainstage, Thursday, Aug. 4) – “We have a lot of Africa this year” – including Amadou Fall, Black Umfolosi, Fatoumata Diowara (also mainstage Thursday), Daby Toure, and Jay Prayzah. There are as many acts from South America as there are Scots – zero.

Amos Garrett (sessions) – One of the few folk regulars “who have been around longer than I have,” Wickham says.

On the topic of beer, Wickham directed a gentle shot at the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, urging the province to look into “shall we say, outdated liquor laws” that results in folk fest fans having to stand in line in the hot sun for two hours just to get a cold beer. He added, “Well, I don’t.”

Finally, for a bit of controversy in the middle of the overlapping demographic between folk fest fans and the “Save the Cloverdale Bridge” people, “The LRT is coming, but not this year,” Wickham says, adding, “We support it.”

Folk fest tickets go on sale Saturday, June 4, in person only at Telus Field from 7 am, online starting at 3 pm. Adult non-transferable passes are $179, transferable for $209; $88 for youth, $22 per day for seniors 65-79; kids 11 and under and seniors 80 and over are free.