Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet from the band Whitehorse are just one of the acts scheduled to perform at this year’s Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival

Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet from the band Whitehorse are just one of the acts scheduled to perform at this year’s Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival

Get the inside view of Roots and Blues

Artistic director Peter North dishes on the lineup at this year’s festival in Salmon Arm.

Peter North

Special to Black Press

The best promotion Roots and Blues received after the storyline of 2014 came from our 2015 patrons as they were exiting the festival site.

Patrons loved the vibe of the 2015 event. The workshops delivered a number of magical moments and the identity of the festival reflected the message of the banner that has framed the event for almost a quarter-of-a-century, that being “roots and blues.”

So looking at what we would do for the 2016 festival on the artistic front came down to a few key elements.

One was keep it “roots bound,” and two, work with the devalued Canadian dollar and make the best fiscal and artistic decisions possible.

With that, I was on the phone in early September inquiring about some of what I felt are the best Canadian acts out there right now.

Talks with reps from Whitehorse, Delhi 2 Dublin, Locarno, Great Lake Swimmers, John Reischman and his Jaybirds, Quartetto Gelato, The Sojourners and blues road warrior David Gogo were in the mix quickly.

All of these artists have proven they are in this world of creating music for the long run and all have consistently delivered top-drawer recorded projects, been critically acclaimed by reputable sources and established very loyal audiences.

Everyone we’ve booked for 2016 understands the “all in” factor. Everyone wants to collaborate, make music with old friends and associates or create new fires with musicians they’ve long admired or just met.

When I started to pursue a handful of American acts, I wanted a mix of artists with impressive resumes as well as a handful of players and singers whose profiles were starting to really bubble up.

What can you say about Paul Barrere and Fed Tackett from Little Feat that hasn’t already been said? They keep a much-loved songbook alive and the two musicians will deliver an acoustic set, plus a main stage electric set comprised of Feat faves during their two-day stay.

Joe Craven was high on my list, as the master violinist and mandolin player is so versatile and at home in so many settings. As a player who spent a quarter of a century being a musical foil for David Grisman and who is a regular emcee at the prestigious Telluride Festival, it’s one of those no-brainers when putting the bricks and mortar of a good festival together.

I have been knocked out by Amy Helm as a member of her late father Levon’s group, as a member of Ollabelle and as a solo artist. Helm, along with young American bluesman Jarekus Singleton, and bluegrass sensation Molly Tuttle will all be leaving Roots and Blues with new fans.

We just missed getting Steve Earle a year ago but things sometime fall together in a better scenario down the road. That appears to be the case as Earle and Shawn Colvin are receiving rave reviews for their debut recording and live shows and we’re lucky enough to be one of only two Canadian stops for the duo.

Two exceptional young folk-roots artists from the U.K., Adrian Nation and Martin Harley, are sure to win over new fans. And we will be serving up music associated with South America thanks to Quartetto Gelato and Joe Craven: music rooted in traditions from Mexico via Locarno, spirited Celtic music with Tiller’s Folly, Miranda Mulholland, Tom Landa and Crossbow, as well as some serious gospel blues with Jerry Lawson of the Persuasions, and The Sojourners, plus the world/electronic mash-ups of Delhi 2 Dublin and kLoX.

After the fun we had celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Grateful Dead last summer, saluting the 40th anniversary of The Last Waltz was an obvious avenue to explore. We’ve assembled an inspired cast that will cover much of The Band’s songbook performed at The Last Waltz by Muddy Waters, Ronnie Hawkins, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. Barrere and Tackett, Whitehorse, Amy Helm and the Up On Cripple Creek crew will be at the core of the Last Waltz overview in the Barn late Sunday afternoon.

Back to that positive vibe that enveloped the site in 2015, expect more of the same as Roxy Roth and her team will continue to present additional spontaneous creative outbursts around the site. We’ve made new additions and tweaked all sorts of things, hoping to make your Roots and Blues experience better and more magical and memorable.

Before we know it, we’ll be assembling the 2017 lineup and that is the 25th anniversary of Roots and Blues as well as our nation’s 150th birthday. I suspect there will be no shortage of ideas inspired by those two milestones.

The Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival takes place at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds Aug. 19 to 21. Tickets and information are available at

– Peter North is the artistic director of the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival.