Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival

Date: 23 August 2004
Deer Lake Park, Burnaby

Reviewer: Patricia Fleming


Colin James

The crowd definitely soaked up the music, and then some, last Saturday at the 5th Annual Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival held in the lovely setting of Deer Lake Park, Burnaby.
Gorgeous flowers, a nice, sloping venue with good viewing for all, and access to the building facilities (including the fire for drying off) made the rainy-day experience that much more comfortable. It rained off and on for the whole event, which ran from 12:00 pm through 10:00 pm with a Main Stage (featuring the six major performers) and the Gateway Casinos 2nd Stage showcasing three local, talented bands: Gary Comeau and the Voodoo All Stars, Mike Henry and The Big Dawg Band and Incognito. I arrived at noon, and it was pouring rain, but thanks to the generosity of the nice people at Gateway Casino, we were able to take refuge under their awning, and listen to the whole event relatively dry, and with comfort, and also partake of their free lemonade and cookies. Gateway were one of the major sponsors of the event.

The first set on the Main Stage introduced the Boston based, Tarbox Ramblers with drums, maracas, tambourine, banjo, bass, guitar and a lead singer with a very primitive sounding voice – gravely, and a mix of Lucinda Williams and Lonnie Donegan , the master of skiffle in England back in the 50’s and 60’s. They played a mixture of up-tempo songs, an apocalyptic gospel number, a tune from their first CD and a work in progress.

While the Main stage was being set up for the next performer, the music shifted over to the Casino Stage for about 20 minutes of music from the local band. Unfortunately, as it was raining, I didn’t make it over to see the local bands but I could hear their great blues sound.

The always good Jim Byrnes Acoustic Band were up next with a very nice, mixed set of Bob Dylan, Neil Young songs, a lovely Mexican number with accordion, a Cole Porter tune, and a lovely banjo and slide guitar infused number he heard a lot when a young boy from “a Holler in Kentucky”.

Following the Jim Byrnes Band were Joajoby from Madagascar and it was time to dance! Impossible not to move listening to the funky sounds of Salegy, the national dance beat of Madagascar.






Salegy is a combo of popular and traditional music with lots of electric instruments and bewitching rhythms. Great percussion, and two young girls (daughters?) who enchanted us with their hi-swiveling, shimmy dancing) reminiscent of 1960’s Watusi).

Buckwheat Zydeco was up next with accordions, trumpet, guitar, alto sax, a rub board (or Frottroir as it is called in French) and a big dose of personality and a lot of show. Buckwheat addressed the audience in his native Louisiana French several times and put on quite a show. It was great fun to dance, with and without umbrellas, to Hank Williams “Hey!..Good Lookin” and other lively tunes.
With the introduction of Rosanne Cash, daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, and a Grammy award winning artist in her own right, the mood slowed down considerably. Rosanne started her set with a nicely rendered acoustic version of the beautiful “I Still Miss Someone” (written by her Dad). She also did a Jacob Dylan song, an up tempo number and her 1985 Grammy winning song “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me”. I particularly liked “Green toYellow – Yellow to Red” with some nice very nice organ work. A different, softer pace than the very up tempo Jaojoby and Buckwheat.

I had never before seen Colin James in live performance and everything I had read and heard was true. What a great show! Great band, great choice of material. A mix of rock and blues and all done with great confidence and polish. He really gives it 110% and his guitar work is superb. I was very impressed. He quickly moved from one different guitar to another with a very Bluesy “Nothing is Better than Freedom” then “I’m Losing You, a John Lennon number and the funky “Bad Habits”. A great tribute song to Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a great rocking version of “Rock Me Baby” plus a wonderful version of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”. Also “Voodoo” from a previous CD and “Anywhere is Home” from the new CD. A crowd favourite, his virtuoso guitar solos (with him down amongst the crowd) were a blast – we loved it. He came back for an encore with a Solomon Burke number and we all left but could have definitely stayed for more of him and his band.

The event was well organized. Lots of different kinds of food. Facilities, wine and beer (although the wine ran out early) and not restricted to one particular area to drink made it easy. Perhaps the organizers might want to consider a few more awnings next year (or move the event so it doesn’t start the day the PNE starts which seems to be the kiss of death vis-à-vis a rainy event). The performers continued to thank the crowd all day for being such troopers – and we were!

2004, Patricia Fleming