Organizers are busy prepping for the seventh annual Central Music Festival, slated to run Aug. 16-18. Excitement is building for the event, which is described as a family-friendly weekend showcasing a top-notch array of musical artistry.
One of the first-rate artists gearing up to hit the stage is folk singer Ruth Purves Smith, who performs Aug. 17 at 3 p.m.
There is an unmistakable authenticity to her music, which also shines through her engaging and compelling vocal strengths. These days, Purves Smith divides her time between Three Hills and Calgary, and is still relishing the acclaim of her debut CD Out In the Storm which was released with her band The 581 back in 2010.
In the meantime, she’s gearing up for a fall release of Faster Than the Speed of Dark – which will follow a similar vein to Out In the Storm. Although that wasn’t the original plan. Purves Smith has a heavier rock CD virtually finished but then decided to go back to the drawing board and record something more along the lines of her debut, as folks are continuing to respond so strongly to it.
“Up to three years after the release, I am still getting reviews on the debut. It’s so cool,” she explains. “You’ve got to love independent releases – they do not have an expiry date.”
She realized her audience base was primarily fans of folk/roots/country, and perhaps this wasn’t the time to introduce something with a rockier edge. “I would completely throw them off if I pull this big, heavy rock album.
“So it’s been really quite an adventure.”
Ultimately, that product has been shelved for now, and Faster Than the Speed of Dark is on its way. Purves Smith will be introducing much of the disc during her stint at the Central Music Festival.
Purves Smith’s childhood rambled the prairie highways between urban and country homes. Her mother, an English teacher, lived in the city, and her father and stepmother operated an antique woolen mill in the country.
A love for music was sparked early; she recalls belting out Somewhere Over the Rainbow as a youngster walking home from school, feeling like she really was Judy Garland. Her step-mom gave her a guitar early on as well.
Through the years, it was becoming apparent that she had found her calling.
In the fall of 1987, she answered an ad for a ‘girl country singer’. The ad was posted by Frank James, a one-man-band who played the bass guitar with his toes while playing guitar with his left hand and piano with his right. It proved a fascinating ‘introduction’ to the industry to say the least.
“As long as my hair was big enough and my skirt was short enough, Frank would play the songs at their proper tempo. Otherwise it was Blue Eyes Cryin in the Rain at 90 miles an hour.”
Next came Purves Smith’s first ‘real’ band, Rodeo-A-Go-Go. The band was often too far out to be country, but too country to be anything else. This didn’t make for a very long run and by 1989, it was over.
She then joined an Edmonton road band for a while, played the odd solo engagement, and in 1993 joined the all-girl trio Roadside Turnout. The highlights of their time together included a performance at the Calgary Folk Festival and the birth of her first child.
The fall of 1993 marked a break for Purves Smith, who then focused on raising her family and writing her own tunes. Though she was involved in the writing process over the years, she was playing other people’s music. Now, she was writing her own.
After the birth of her second child in 1996, she embarked on her solo career – opening at different clubs and events, including a couple of shows for Fred Eaglesmith. She counts him as a major influence in allowing herself to write about all kinds of stuff and truly broaden her creative vision.
These days, Purves Smith remains as devoted as ever to the craft of making music and introducing it to audiences.
“It’s the emotional and spiritual connection you have with other players; the creation of something new. So there is that collaboration with other players.
She describes the process of writing a song almost like something taking over one’s life. And those creative bursts can come out of the blue. “Lyrics come into my head, and they can leave as fast as they come in – you’ve got to grab them,” she says with a laugh. “It’s so exciting when you get a new song. Finally, you get that last line and you run around the house shouting ‘Yay, I got the line’. I can’t wait to share it with everybody.
“Plus there is that connection with the audience. They’ll come up and say ‘You must have read my life; I’m so inspired’. You get to give something to people they maybe wouldn’t have otherwise had. And it goes both ways. When people like what you do and get something from it, that’s what life is about.”
Meanwhile, other artists slated to perform at the Central Music Festival this year include Devon Coyote, Levi Cuss, Just Glovely, Kevin Cook, Randi Boulton, Leeroy Stagger, the Amos Garrett Jazz Trio, Dick Damron & Stoney Creek and Bill Bourne among others.
The event takes place in a natural outdoor amphitheatre located minutes north of the City – attendees can head north on Taylor Dr., cross Hwy. 11A and continue on the C&E Trail. Continue onto Township Rd. 392, turn left and the site is located just up the road.
There will also include free camping, food and artist vendors, a Kids’ Corner and a shuttle service running back and forth from the Red Deer Lodge through the weekend.
For complete information on weekend prices, sponsorship opportunities or ways to volunteer, check out www.centralmusicfest.com.