There’s the twang of country champions gusting from the 27th annual Blueberry Bluegrass & Country Music Festival.
The annual family festival held Aug. 3 to 5 at Stony Plain’s Heritage Park is patterned after a good old-fashioned barn party celebrated with the whole town.
“The three days will see 14 bands perform, plus music workshops, a gospel hour on Sunday and many opportunities to interact with the singers and musicians, said festival president Pat Guidera.
“It’s really a huge community coming together,” he said.
This year the stars have aligned and Guidera is particularly pumped about the featured luminaries. He rattles off the names of Rhonda Vincent, The Rage, the Gibson Brothers, The Good Brothers and Blue Highway.
“And then there’s the Quebe Sisters. They’re a family from Austin. They have a genetic harmony that is so precise and clear, and they really move you with their western swing,” Guidera said.
One of the most esteemed and influential bluegrass bands, Blue Highway has really hit its stride.
“I first heard them in a small church about 10 years ago. I was blown away by their harmonies and instrumentation. They are close to hitting their 20-year mark and they’ve written such great songs about life,” Guidera said.
Guidera also can’t say enough about Michael Martin Murphey, a Texas singer/songwriter/rancher who has made more than 35 albums, with many hits and millions in sales.
“He’s got six gold records and won an amazing array of awards. He’s a real cowboy and he really appeals to the Alberta brand and style. He’s written a number of hits and as a celebrity, he is solid entertainment.”
Another strong act is British Columbia’s Four Chords of Wood, who lay out traditional hard-driving bluegrass from gospel and instrumentals to foot-to-the-floor ravers and timeless classics.
“They are very high energy, tight musicians and generally a good show,” Guidera said.
Morinville’s musical prodigy Calvin Vollrath drops by for a fiddling duel while The Larsgard Family Band from Rocky Mountain House set up inspirational and gospel songs.
Elaine and Lee Roy, a brother-sister duo originally from Nashville who relocated to New Brunswick, are making their Blueberry debut. On the other hand, the much-anticipated Rhonda Vincent, dubbed the Queen of Bluegrass by the Wall Street Journal, returns to promote her new album Taken.
“Rhonda is very popular and one of the hardest working musicians I know. She will not only be performing, she’s also helping with the gospel hour and she’s running two workshop,” he said.
From Edmonton’s local scene, Guidera has invited two different acts: the four piece wunderkind Prairie Sky and country singer/songwriter Colleen Rae.
Although the Blueberry Bluegrass Festival is held on the same weekend as Big Valley Jamboree, Guidera doesn’t see the massive Camrose event as competition. In fact, the two festivals have often worked together to bring in the same act.
“Our audience loves the sound of driving, acoustic bluegrass. Many prefer the acoustic sound. They love the foot-tapping, flipper-flapping, can’t-sit-still beat,” he said.
“Also, people interested in this music usually play an instrument. When the bands finish playing, they actually float from campsite to campsite playing with fans until the early morning hours. At Blueberry, bands stand and talk to people.”
This personal touch has over the years created a dedicated fan base that translates into high CD sales.
“This is a very personal festival. Singers play off one another and tell silly stories. It really binds the community.”
2012 Blueberry Bluegrass & Country Music Festival
August 3 to 5
5100 – 41 Ave.
Stony Plain, Alberta
Tickets: 3-Day pass $95.50, Single day pass $55.50 and camping $15 per night
Call Myhres Music at 780-477-1586 or drop by 8735 – 118 Ave.