Black Pumas, Rhiannon Giddens, Blue Rodeo join Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at Folk Fest Aug. 8-11

“I’m really pleased with the lineup,” says festival producer Terry Wickham. “It’s got a lot of diversity”

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Sunday closers Robert Plant and Alison Krauss are in terrific company in a deep and musically diverse, just-announced Edmonton Folk Music Festival lineup.

Among the highlights are Austin, Texas, psychedelic soul group Black Pumas, Grammy- and Pulitzer-winning folk innovator Rhiannon Giddens, the familiar faces and sweet songs of Blue Rodeo, another Grammy winner in roots genre-hopper Fantastic Negrito, and Scottish, Suddenly I See singer-songwriter KT Tunstall.

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A sleeper hit of last year’s fest with their high-soaring songs, Ruen Brothers also return to the Aug 8-11 festival at Gallagher Park.

“I’m really pleased with the lineup,” says festival producer Terry Wickham. “It’s got a lot of diversity.”

To demonstrate this point, starting at 6:15 p.m., Thursday night’s main stage lineup is psychedelic African-rock act Orchestra Gold, English singer-songwriter Ben Howard, with Black Pumas closing.

“We wanted to kick it off with a bang,” says Wickham.

Friday night starting at 9:10 p.m., celebrating 40 years as a band, it’s the ever-lovely Blue Rodeo, then the return of seven-piece cumbia/Afro-Latin act La Misa Negra.

“They’re full of energy,” Wickham notes. “I think they’ll get the crowd moving for sure.”

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This takes us to Saturday, where Canuck folk rockers Wild Rivers will get a main stage spot for the first time at 2 p.m. Then, starting at 6:55 p.m., it’s the L.A. folk rock of Dawes, the illustrious aforementioned Giddens, Australian singer-songwriter Angie McMahon then Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz — aka Fantastic Negrito — taking the night out.

“What I like about main stage is there’s a bunch of well-known names, and then there’s a whole bunch of completely unknown names,” says Wickham.

“And Angie McMahon we really like, so I wanted to give her that second-last spot on Saturday night, which is where we put Brandi Carlile in 2010 — unknown at the time — but she took it by storm.”

Finally, Sunday’s main stage opens with Toronto instrumental group Sultans of Sting showcasing their Walking Through the Fire project at 2 p.m.

“It’s like a reconciliation project, if you want — they have Indigenous artists with them — so that’ll be a nice cultural showcase,” says the longtime festival producer.

Moving into the final evening, starting at 7 it’s Zimbabwe Afro-fusion Tonga rhythm group Mokoomba, New York R&B/soul artist (and former lawyer!) Danielle Ponder then, of course, that huge score of former Led Zeppelin/Honeydrippers frontman Robert Plant and bluegrass legend Alison Krauss.

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“I’ve got a list of people, and in my time here I’ve probably gotten half the big artists that I wanted,” notes Wickhmam. “Neil Young and Paul Simon, they’re just out of our reach financially, and Leonard Cohen didn’t really like to do festivals.”

“Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, you can’t ask for a better closer than that,” laughs Wickham, noting he’s been chasing Plant for a good decade, and found out last July — before last year’s festival — this was happening.

“So, to keep that under my hat for a long time, well, we were really pleased with that,” Wickham says.

“I was a big fan of Led Zeppelin. Their song Black Mountain Side is an old traditional guitar piece. I never saw them live, but I thought they were great.”

Of course, these are just some of the 56 or so acts on the bill: boots, high heels and bare feet (and of course some golf carts) moving from stage to stage over the four days.

“I like them all, of course,” Wickham qualifies, but highlights Austin American act Briscoe, folky brother-sister duo Dorsten, L.A. singer-songwriter Jess Williamson, country outlier Boy Golden, Winnipeg indie rock singer Leith Ross, Alberta badlands singer-songwriter Noeline Hofmann, the return of Blanco White and also Ruen Brothers (both from the UK), and California bluegrass act AJ Lee & Blue Summit.

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“Jake Xerxes Fussell kind of reminds me of Guy Clark,” says Wickham. “Leif Vollebekk,” a Polaris-shortlisted indie folk singer, “we’ve been trying to get for years, and Robert Finley is quite the character, blues guy, really good.

“And Tina Dico from Denmark finally worked out this year,” says Wickham of the angel-voiced singer-songwriter.

“So there’s plenty there.”

Locally, besides School of Song, The McDades are also returning.

As is the wide-ranging, terrific and informative Indigenous programming of the Nikamowin — “song” in Cree — with artists around the site and in the gathering places in the Family Area around that lovely tipi added to the view from the Hill last year.

Also returning: the reusable plate program. “It’s a lot of work, but I think it saves a lot for the environment,” says Wickham. “I just found there was a lot of garbage on site and we just can’t keep up with the paper plates, even if they’re recyclable.”

He also notes the now-running LRT will replace the park-and-ride buses.

“The city wants to stress the LRT and that makes sense, so we’ll see how that works out.”

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Other than that, everything is in place and it’s just a matter of seeing what the weather delivers.

“Rain is rainier, heat is hotter, wind is windier, we’re getting into extremes,” he says, and we touch on, as always, a world of ever-increasing chaos.

“I find it apocalyptic,” says Wickham. “It’s a hard world out there.”

Luckily, events like these offer us reprieve and solace, the opportunity to get lost in the spell of music brand new or deeply familiar.

Wickham put it more succinctly. “It’s about celebration.”

Personal Passes for the weekend are $234 for adults (25-64), $189 for U-25 (18-24), $117 for youth (12-17) and $179 for seniors (65-79).

Adult single-day tickets are $115, seniors $56, youth $42.

Seniors 80+ and children 11 and under get in free.

Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. Saturday online only at edmontonfolkfest.frontgatetickets.com.

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The full 2024 Edmonton Folk Music Festival lineup (subject to change)

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Abigail Lapell

AJ Lee & Blue Summit

Alpha Yaya Diallo

Angie McMahon

Ben Howard

Black Pumas

Black Umfolosi International

Blanco White

Blue Rodeo

Boy Golden

Briscoe

Buffalo Nichols

Danielle Ponder

Dawes

Don Ross

Dorsten

Elisapie

Eric Bibb with Michael Jerome Browne

Fantastic Negrito

Good Lovelies

Gunning & Cormier

Jake Vaadeland and The Sturgeon River Boys

Jake Xerxes Fussell

JD McPherson

Jess Williamson

John Craigie

John Reischman & the Jaybirds

Jon and Roy

Kim Churchill

KT Tunstall

La Misa Negra

Leif Vollebekk

Leith Ross

Les Grands Hurleurs

Miko Marks

Mokoomba

Noeline Hofmann

Orchestra Gold

Pharis and Jason Romero

Reuben and the Dark with Bullhorn Singers

Rhiannon Giddens

Robert Finley

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Rose Cousins

Ruen Brothers

S.G. Goodman

Sammy Volkov

School of Song (John Hewitt, Kaiya Kodie, Ken Stead, Lily Monaghan)

Sultans of String – Walking Through the Fire

The Bankes Brothers

The Heavy Heavy

The Langan Band

The McDades

Tina Dico

Wild Rivers

Wyatt C. Louis

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