The Mission Folk Music Festival is offering 21 bands and solo artists this year, ranging from Celtic folk to Indigenous hip-hop to indie-rock to Latin American sounds. To help music lovers maneuver the many choices, the Straight is taking a look at one act from each of the annual event's three days.
Headlining the opening night of the festival, on July 22, is Shred Kelly, a lively alternative folk-pop quintet from the wilds of Fernie, B.C. The band--composed of Tim Newton (banjo, guitar, vocals), Sage McBride (keyboard, vocals), Ty West (electric guitar), Ryan Mildenberger (drums), and Ric Behan (bass)--will be showcasing tunes from its fifth and latest album, Like a Rising Sun, which Newton points out is a lyrical departure from its earlier releases.
"This one's different in a bunch of ways," Newton told the Straight before the band's virtual MFMF appearance last year. "Normally I've been writing songs sort of inspired by different things around my life here in Fernie, but on this record I had all kinds of explosive life events happen to me all at once. My daughter was born in March and then my father passed away in April, so within a month that all happened, right when we were starting the writing process of this record.
"So this is probably the most honest songwriting that I've ever done," Newton added, "and I just mean honest in that I had a clear direction of what my emotions were, and what I needed to write about."
Music fans in the mood for a bluesier vibe may want to consider checking out Brooklyn-born, Swiss-raised, and Canadian-based vocalist Shakura S’Aida, who performs on the festival's second night (July 23).
The former lead singer for world-music band Kaleefah, S'Aida's powerful pipes have won her international acclaim, including a performance at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis that saw her beating out over 100 other acts for the runner-up prize in 2008. Her credits also include performing at festivals in Dubai, Australia, Rwanda, and Russia as part of a Nina Simone tribute.
To get an idea of S'Aida's soulful style check out her YouTube version of the old Doobie Brothers' chestnut "Taking It to the Streets". Her pandemic-era version of the song featured over 30 contributing vocalists, and was meant as a rallying cry against injustice everywhere.
"You may not know exactly what to say or how to say it," writes S'Aida on her YouTube channel, "but if you believe that everyone has and deserves the fundamental right to live their life freely without a fear/threat of violence, hatred or oppression, then you have all it takes to stand up and speak up. Let's live and grow together by supporting our communities together."
Topping the bill on the festival's final night, July 24, is Winnipeg-based country-folk singer-songwriter William Prince. He first caught people's attention when his debut album, Earthly Days, won the Juno Award for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year in 2017.
Prince was raised in the Peguis First Nation of Manitoba, and his father was a preacher and a musician, so many of William's first musical experiences involved playing alongside his father in church.
He was also influenced by country icons such as Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. His latest album, Gospel First Nation, sees him using his rich baritone voice and gentle, expressive songwriting style to explore both his personal past and the consequences of colonialism in general.
Don't be surprised if he draws heavily from that album for his setlist in Mission.
The Mission Folk Music Festival runs from July 22 to July 24 at Fraser River Heritage Park in Mission. You can find tickets here.