In the world of folk music, being compared to Woody Guthrie is about as good as it gets. Being nominated twice for a Juno doesn’t hurt either.
Such is the case for Maria Dunn, who will be performing live (as the Maria Dunn Duo with Shannon Johnson) for the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society on May 22 at the Prestige Vernon Lodge and Conference Centre.
Dunn has been involved in the world of folk music from a very young age.
“Music was always in our home,” Dunn said. “I remember my dad playing in the kitchen. He’d be playing guitar and singing everything from Johnny Cash to Lonnie Donegan to traditional Scottish and Irish folk songs.”
She was impacted musically by both her father and mother in her childhood.
“One particular memory of discovering the joy of singing was around a campfire in the Rocky Mountains,” said Dunn. “I started harmonizing with my dad and experiencing that wonderful feeling you get when you’re singing harmony with somebody and you just know that it sounds good.”
“I sang in a lot of choirs in my teenage years,” said Dunn. “I was also invited to join a folk group and I took piano lessons. But it wasn’t till I was working full-time in my early 20s that I really discovered making music for fun with my peers.”
At one point, she was given a guitar at Christmas.
“It was a totally new instrument to me,” said Dunn. “But I started tagging along with other guitar players who were way better than me—but I was singing lots of folk songs.”
She volunteered to be a DJ at the University of Alberta, which proved to be very beneficial.
“I was exposed to all sorts of wonderful folk music through the record stacks there,” Dunn said. “It actually felt like I was getting a master’s degree in folk music simply by learning about all the great folk music performers from over the decades. So I ended up doing a ton of listening before I even dreamed of writing a song.”
When she started writing and performing her own songs, she did so cautiously.
“Very often, I wouldn’t admit to writing the song until I got a reaction from the crowd,” Dunn said. “It’s a very, very personal and a very scary thing to share those first songs.”
Dunn has been sharing her songs and singing for audiences around the world since the mid 1990s.
On May 22, she’ll be accompanied by Shannon Johnson (of the McDades) on violin. They’ve performed together off and on also since the 90s.
“Shannon was been the producer for all six of my albums and she has always been my first call when I need a musician. She’s a very accomplished violinist and a lovely harmony singer,” said Dunn.
“I love inviting people to sing along,” Dunn explains. “I have a lot of songs where I’m able to do that. I love that tradition where you hear a lot of voices together, making music together. So for me, performing live is all about the connection with the audience.”
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30, $25 for members. Food and alcohol will be available at the show.
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