As you take in those final mouthfuls of warm beer, you release a heavy, content sigh. Tonight’s show is steadily creeping to its end and you feel sun-beat and slightly withered, due in part of the growing pile of empties on the table in front of you. You are egged on to dance by a somewhat mysterious brunette who has a penchant for the two-step and who sings along to unheard lyrics. As she sways to the music in her leather boots and white satin dress, you struggle to remember… what day is it? It is… It is Friday. Friday. Sherman Downey and his band, the Ambiguous Case, are flooring a crowd at the Old Orchard Inn. As you stand up your knowledge of the evening comes rushing back. Deep Roots.
Summer has come and gone, and with it are memories of rocky surf and late nights fueled by cheap beer and even cheaper jokes. This year’s Deep Roots has also gone past, leaving us with a melancholy desire for the burning sunshine and leaves of green. Do not fret, though, because Deep Roots was as awesome an end to the summer as you will ever find in small-town Nova Scotia.
I awoke Saturday morning crusty and dried out, feeling pretty prune-like. Sherman had worn me out, killed my feet, and had made me dance like a fool in front of sixty-odd middle aged men and women. The venue just happened to be the Old Orchard Inn, a rustic and wholesome barn-stage-pub setting that had me dreaming of country socials and snuffs of hot whiskey behind hay bales and cattle barns. Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case jammed out with their classic line-up of fun, bouncy folk-rock songs that are sure to have you singing into a brush in front of your bathroom mirror.
As I sauntered down the hill to see the festivities on Main Street I was welcomed to a jam-packed and vibrant farmer’s market. The sights, the sounds, and the smells almost threw me overboard. Pure sensory overload, enough to kill a horse and then some. Children played and indulged in tasty frozen treats and laughed and sang songs that only they could imagine. Parents rested to the easy sounds of stage bands and enjoyed fine foreign cuisine from the numerous market stalls.
As the hours crept by and the afternoon sun streaked across the streets of Wolfville, the festival grew more and more lively. Buskers took to the streets and serenaded passers-by while I ducked into the iconic Al Whittle Theatre for a drink. Beverage in hand, I commanded a front row seat to partake in an intimate songwriter’s circle, where artists Sherman Downey, Caleb Myles and Jeff Arsenault took stage. These guys put on a deeply impressive show with plenty of original work, some covers, and a couple of impromptu jams.
Polishing off a hectic and lively afternoon was Blue’s Night at Paddy’s Pub, complimented by a wide array of Valley artists and ice-cold beer. Nothing jolts you awake like the slap of a bass and an Arctic cold pale ale. And then, before I even knew it, I was out like a light.
Out like a light, waxed like a candle. I was completely spent after the previous two evenings with very little gas to spare, but that did not stop me. I awoke in the morning with a fire in my belly. Most likely stale beer, though. After a wash and a shave to stave off that much-desired homeless look, I set off to the Wolfville Festival Theatre to catch the closing concert. The energy was felt in the air long before the MC hit the stage—a full house ready to rumble. Jeff Arsenault took to the stage for one final time and captivated the crowd with his dark lyrical style and a voice that only a Marlboro man could possess. Thom Swift stepped up next for some bayou-inspired rumbling, brandishing an 84-year-old completely full-metal jacketed guitar. Johnny Cash must be rolling in his grave. This year’s Valley Arts Recipient was Darren Harvey, the resident MC and a great contributor to everything musical in the Annapolis Valley and beyond.
J.P. Cormier, a large man with an equally large talent, busted out an absolutely incredible 11-minute freestyle/improvised guitar solo covering every genre of music under the sun. Last and certainly not least was one final performance by Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case. Cut short time-wise but certainly not energetically, Sherman and friends pounded out some of their best hits. Sherman and his band finished with their beauty of a song titled “Annalee”, which takes inspiration from the hit song “The Weight” by American-Canadian classic rockers The Band.
To be able to freely explore the talent associated with this year’s Deep Roots Festival was a true blessing. I was able to speak with many influential artists, writers, and overall great people throughout the entire festival and I was in the company of some beautiful souls all weekend long. For this I am thankful.