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Canadian Country weekend opens with a blast from the past with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and voices from the future

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The first day of the Canadian Country weekend in Fort Macleod was a hit, Aug. 3.Aaron Pritchett throws the horns during his energetic set, Aug. 3. Photo By Richard Amery
Lethbridge country/ pop musician Alyssa McQuaid kicked the first day off in style.

 She opened with crowd favourite “Who I Am,” the title track from her last CD then played “The River is Wide,” which she released online on Friday. Most of the rest of the set was a preview of her upcoming third CD “The River is Wide.

Even better, this time she was backed by a full band including a stand-up bassist, a drummer, a mandolinist/ fiddler and a lead guitarist plus special guest Kristina Wrenn who flew in all the way from Nashville for a visit and to sing backup harmonies. She sang some beautiful melodies. Some of the highlights were “Time To Make a New Mistake,” and “This is Your Song,” for which she tried to get the crowd singing along with.

Alyssa McQuaid opens the Canadian Country Weekend. Photo by Richard Amery She ended with her version of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” on which her fiddle player played Slash’s inimitable guitar intro and solos.

 Vancouver country musician Aaron Pritchett was up next. You only have turn on a modern country radio station to hear one of his many hits and he played pretty much all of them beginning with “Let’s Get Rowdy.”

He slowed things down with “New Frontier,” shook hands with all of the fans gathered in front of the stage by the second song and grinned about how awesome it was to hear people singing along with his songs as his band including a lead guitarist/ pedal steel guitarist and a lead guitarist, crashed into one of his first hits “Lucky For Me.”

He picked up an acoustic guitar and observed his then 12 year old son was in the video painting  “Aaron is evil” on a wall for “You Can’t Say I Didn’t Love You.” One of his 2002 hits and joked he had him when he was eight and noted his son, now 22,  has his own band Faber Drive.

 Pritchett observed he just turned 42 the day before, which eventually lead to a break in the show for Brooksie from  Country 95’s morning show and the organizers to bring a birthday cake on stage for him. Organizer Broc Higginson observed Pritchett originally inspired the idea for the Canadian Country Weekend.

 But it was back to the hits after that. He grinned and shook hands with the crowd and paced all over the stage, talked about a few of his songs, noted Bryan Adams write  “Go For A Ride,” and then sent out “Somebody Must have done You wrong,” to all the women in the audience. Then they played their country version of the Band’s “ The Weight,” before winding down his show with “ My Way, which he  and Deric Ruttan both recorded.

He “ended” his show by saying that he originally hated his big hit “Big Wheel,” before ending with a rocking version of it.Aaron Pritchett shakes hands with his many fans. Photo by Richard Amery
 He was called back for an encore, returned to stage in a different shirt and said he heard his brand new single “Summertime” on the radio for the first time on Country 95, then got the crowd to sing along with it.

 He officially ended the show by raving about the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and sending out his biggest hit “Hold My Beer While I Kiss Your Girlfriend,” to all of the women in the audience.

 The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band showed off some impressive musicianship and vocal harmonies to close off the first night of Canadian Country Weekend.

Jimmie Fadden playing drums and hrp with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Photo by Richard Amery
They played songs from throughout their career. “Face on the Cutting Room Floor,” was at the beginning of the set followed by their wedding song “Dance Little Jeanie,” as lead singer Jeff Hanna joked about marriage, noting drummer/ harmonica player Jimmie Fadden was “between divorces.”

 All of them  showed their prowess on a variety  of instruments. It was impressive seeing Fadden simultaneously play harmonica and  the drums , meanwhile Bob Carpenter played two keyboards — the bass lines on one of them and a variety of piano and  organ sounds on the other.The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s John MacEuen. Photo by Richard Amery
 During  my new favourite Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song “Tulsa Sounds Like Trouble To Me,” fiddler John McEuan switched between mandolin and banjo, then gave his banjo a workout on a sizzling bluegrass instrumental which followed, joking “if the banjo was nay good the Beatles would have used one.” They stayed in the bluegrass vein for “Walking Shoes,” and broke out their big hit Mr. Bojangles midways through their set. I wasn’t able to stay around for the big hits sure to come — “Fishing in The Dark,” and “Cadillac Ranch.”

 The Canadian Country Music Weekend continues today with the Brant Anderson band at 3:30, Calgary’s Melissa Papp and  the Naturals at 4:45, Livy Jeanne at 5:30 p.m., Ridley Bent at 7 p.m. and Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans closing off the main stage at 9 p.m.

 On Sunday, Hurtin’ open the main stage at  3:30 p.m. followed by Trevor Panczak and Rough Stock at 5 p.m., Charlie Major at 7 p.m. and Doc Walker at 9 p.m.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 August 2012 11:27 )  
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