Arts

Casa Loma guitarist strikes a chord for Winterfolk festival

Rick Zolkower talks performing, coming to Canada and his future album

PHOTO COURTESY RICK ZOLKOWER
BLACK AND BLUES: Americana musician, Rick Zolkower, performed at his 15th Winterfolk Festival and looks to finish his first solo album this year.

The fallout from the Riverboat scene in Toronto’s 1960s Yorkville scene was when Detroit-born Americana musician Rick Zolkower arrived here.

It was 1972 and the photographer-musician came to Canada via Detroit, Mich. because of his girlfriend. He decided to call it his new home.

Now, the 68-year-old is a fixture in the Winterfolk Blues and Roots Festival. He’s missed all but one of the shows but he enjoys meeting up with old friends during the three-day event.

The Casa Loma resident was born on April 1, and that day of notoriety plays in his voice as he jokes and joshes over the phone.

“I won’t tell you because I’ll scare all the girls away,” he says, with a laugh.

What he likes the most about Winterfolk is the ease music lovers have to travel along Danforth Avenue to listen to music. His show was on Feb. 18 at the Black Swan Tavern.

“It’s a lot of entertainment for not a lot of money,” he said in a phone interview. “I like that. For me, as one of the players, I like to bump into old friends and talk about stuff.

“Some people you don’t see for one or two years at a time.”

There is a concentrated amount folk music at the event, all within one block of the Danforth.

“It has a great musical community feel,” he said. “It’s a great little music festival in the middle of the lousiest weather of the year.”

The endless grind of the musician. Travelling across the country to keep the thrill and energy alive in a musical art form that calls the 1930s and 1940s its ragtime roots.

Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Neil Young were not distant sounds when Zolkower arrived in Toronto back in the ’70s but it formed the foundation of his playing days.

“I was musically related to all the people rediscovering traditional roots music,” he admitted. “There have been other waves of interest in that music.”

Of course, bands like Mumford and Sons, Greensky Bluegrass and Trampled By Turtles have repackaged the Americana sound it a more digestible sound to modern audiences.

Appalachian, blues, country, and ragtime all play factors in Zolkower’s music, as well as Cajun and Piedmont. He’s also using that as the foundation of his first solo album that he’s currently hammering away at.

“Getting ideas never ends. It goes on all the time,” he said.

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