Ten acts worth checking out at Edmonton Folk Fest this summer

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After giving fans a major lineup tease earlier this year with major news that Alison Krauss and Robert Plant would be closing out this year’s festival, organizers released the full lineup on Tuesday.

And, while, yes, there is perhaps a lack of genre outliers in the lineup (specifically hip hop — Winnipeg Folk Fest is bringing Grammy-winning rapper Killer Mike, and Calgary has a headlining spot featuring hip hop collective The Roots, not to mention Edmonton MC Arlo Maverick), there is a wealth of wonderful music slated for Gallagher Park Aug. 8-11.

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Once you get past Krauss and Plant, who are the obvious big draw of the fest, you may be wondering, “Who else should I be checking out?”

I’ve had a boo at the full line-up, queued up some tunes, and I’ve got you covered.

Black Pumas

Look, this Texas psychodelic soul/R&B outfit may seem ubiquitous, with a handful of Grammy nominations, and a hit single, Colors, that has been on the airwaves consistently over the last couple of years. But that’s for good reason. Their 2019 self-titled debut is all killer, no filler, and their 2023 follow-up Chronicles of a Diamond has been called a “cross-cultural heavenly palette of starry-eyed soul, psychedelic rock, jazz funk and symphonic pop.” 

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Fantastic Negrito

Following in a similar vein to Black Pumas, Fantastic Negrito brings a muscular approach to guitar-based soul-R&B music. The Oakland-based musician won a trio of Grammy Awards for consecutive albums.

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KT Tunstall

If you’re not familiar with this Scottish singer-songwriter, you’ve probably already heard at least one of Tunstall’s singles in any number of TV shows or movies, most notably Suddenly I See in the smash hit The Devil Wears Prada. But Tunstall has released seven albums over the last two decades, plus a well-received collaborative effort, Face to Face, with American artist Suzi Quavo, in 2023. She’s known for her lively stage presence, and disarming engagement with the audience.

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Orchestra Gold

One of the more interesting sounds emanating from the Folk Fest lineup is courtesy of Orchestra Gold, which blends American and African psychedelic rock with Afrobeat and funk, resulting in a sound that’s sure to have the hill up and dancing.

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Angie McMahon

There is no shortage of singer-songwritery options. It’s Folk Fest, after all. But there’s something urgent and insistent in Australian Angie McMahon’s singing that’s sure to make for an emotional listening experience on the hill.

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Danielle Ponder

There is a hypnotic quality to Danielle Ponder’s voice that just flows so effortlessly into the groove of her songs — gorgeous, soothing soul inflected with trip-hop-adjacent beats. We should consider ourselves lucky that she put her legal career on hold to pursue music.

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Miko Marks

There’s something about the outdoor setting of Folk Fest that feels like it’s custom-built for a booming voice like Miko Marks has. Her soulful country stylings will surely fill the air in the river valley most harmoniously.

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The Heavy Heavy

There is something so familiar about The Heavy Heavy’s brand of sun-bleached soulful rock. However, the Brighton-based group’s retro-tinged songs, which definitely sound like they could have come from the California coast in the ’60s or ’70s, don’t feel dated.

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The Bankes Brothers

For another option in the rock end of the pool, the B.C.-based outfit, led by brothers Morgan and Nelson Bankes, blends alternative and folk rock. They’re at the fest supporting their EP In Waves, produced by former Hot Hot Heat frontman Steve Bays.

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Rhiannon Giddens

Multi-instrumentalist and singer Rhiannon Giddens has had as varied career as one can have — fronting Grammy-winning band Carolina Chocolate Drops, appearing on the New Basement Tapes with Elvis Costello and Marcus Mumford, acting in TV series Nashville, winning a Pulitzer. She’s a skilled banjo and fiddle player with a powerful voice whose music can run the gamut of blues, bluegrass, jazz, Americana, Celtic and more.

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Tickets for the Edmonton Folk Music Festival go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. at edmontonfolkfest.frontgatetickets.com

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