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Illustration: Geneva Haley

Calgary Folk Fest Announces 2022 Line-Up

Courtney Barnett, Spoon, DJ Shub, Allison Russell top the list of 70+ artists descending on Prince's Island Park.

by Christine Leonard

As a loyal folk fest fan, you’re likely already familiar with that jolt of anticipatory excitement that comes with the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s annual line-up announcement. But if you’re looking for a leg up on the stellar lineup at this year’s celebration of all things bucolic, bohemian, and rootsy, check out these RANGE-recommended acts, founder-favourites, and other rising stars. 

A four-day, multi-staged extravaganza of music and culture, the CFMF is celebrating its 43rd year from July 21 to 24 with 70+ artists, giving festivalgoers one of the summer’s most generous opportunities to soak up the sun and sample some new (and old-timey) sounds at the same time. 

Kicking off with a Thursday night in Texas revival, Black Pumas will get heads a-noddin’ with their soulful psychedelic tones, while the back porch swing of Chapel Hill’s Squirrel Nut Zippers will set the stage for Nashville songcrafter Devon Gilfillian and Bahia. As irresistible as ever, the rhythms of Brazil in Xenia França’s African diaspora will have you strolling through Festival’s famous beer gardens like you’re the freakin’ girl from Ipanema.

That Friday feeling will be in full effect when K’Naan raps his way towards the Watchhouse’s fiddle kingdom – where modern troubadour Josh Ritter will lift your spirits as high as the poplars of Prince’s Island Park. Speaking of trees, The Wood Brothers will be screaming their upright bluegrass gospel until Brooklyn wildflower Bette Smith sings the evening to a close in an empowered parade of lanterns and inner light. 

“Bette Smith is super funky and cool, and then we have musician and singer Josyara and also Xenia França from Brazil and bassist Manou Gallo (the Queen of Afrogroove) from the Ivory Coast,” artistic director Kerry Clarke tells RANGE. “The discovery element is kind of unique to festivals that have multiple stages and collaborative sessions, we call it Icons and Upstarts; you get to see artists really stretch their experiences out of their comfort zones. It’s a privilege to work in this format where we have everything under one big sky.”

Saturday night’s alright for dancing and getting a little Spoon-ing in. It’s been a minute since vocalist/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno started their little indie rock band — try 30 years — and with their brand new album, Lucifer on the Sofa, released last spring via Matador Records, you can bet Spoon’s live show is going to be devilishly cool. Grounded by the warmth of Allison Russell’s torch songs, the unhurried harmonies of The Barr Brothers’ library, and the communal joy of Hey Rosetta!’s Tim Baker and All Hands, concertgoers will be able to relax, grab fresh munchies and absorb the natural atmosphere of Calgary Folk Music Festival at its best.

“Everyone’s talking about Allison (Russell),” says Clarke. “The words critically-acclaimed are an understatement when it comes to her. She’s been nominated for Grammys and Junos and her new album (Outside Child) is just one of the finest albums of the year in any genre.”

Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett will serve up her “Sunday Roast” for CFMF’s final day. A forthright and funny guitar-star with a knack for digging up grooves while laying out the plain truth, Barnett airs her dirty laundry in a quirky, danceable format that conjures fresh breezes and sonic sunshine. Blues master Matt Andersen is primed to command the crowd of 53,000 spectators (the fest’s projected total attendance) who will also be regaled by the romantic folk tales of auto-harpist Basia Bulat.

Eclectic entertainment will flow like Calgary’s mighty Bow River thanks to a host of international mythologists who are fearlessly recycling poetry, throat-singing, and instrumental improvisation into novel new creations. From compelling storytelling to rocky jams, the lo-fi vibes and intriguing combinations on the CFMF’s menu will give audiences a taste of the boundless and sometimes subtle styles that comprise the contemporary folk palette. A familiar tune with an experimental twist, this time-honoured rite of summer promises to whisk city dwellers into a hidden heartland.

“We take bitcoin, if you bring it in a mason jar,” Clark says. 

The Calgary Folk Music Festival runs July 21-24, 2022. For more information visit calgaryfolkfest.com