Summer Lights Festival: Artist Bio’s



Valdy, born Valdemar Horsdal in Ottawa, Canada has been part of the fabric of Canadian pop and folk music for over 34 years. A man with a thousand friends, from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island to Texas to New Zealand, he's a singer, guitarist and songwriter who catches the small but telling moments that make up life.

Remembered for Play Me a Rock and Roll Song, his bitter-sweet memory of finding himself, a relaxed and amiable story-teller, facing a rambunctious audience at the Aldergrove Rock Festival circa 1968, Valdy has sold almost half a million copies of his 13 albums, has two Juno Awards (Folk Singer of the Year and Folk Entertainer of the Year), seven Juno nominations, and four Gold albums to his credit.

One of Canada's most influential songwriters, Valdy's composition A Good Song was recorded under the title Just a Man by the venerable Quincy Jones (he sang lead on the recording!). Play Me a Rock and Roll Song has been recorded by a few artists, including John Kay of Steppenwolf.

Along the way, Valdy has taken his music to a dozen different countries, from Denmark to Australia and recently New Zealand. He has been an often-invited performer at the Kerrville Festival in Texas. His recent television appearances include Canada AM and Open Mike with Mike Bullard. Valdy has also been a panelist on Front Page Challenge, and played a lead role in an episode of The Beachcombers original series.

Today, he is based on Salt Spring Island, where he lives with his wife Kathleen, three dogs. All three children are grown, flown and doing famously, living in or near Vancouver, or Colorado.

Ridley Bent – July 14

Ridley Bent is back with his latest release Wildcard the anticipated follow up of Rabbit on My Wheel showcasing the Western Canada based Country artist's keen fascination for characters whose life on the straight and narrow rarely lasts past the nearest exit to a short, crooked road.

Ridley Bent continues to weave tales of wisdom and intrigue with titles such as 'Fill Yer Boots' about a truck driving card player, and 'Crooked and Loaded' written about a shootout with a posse of outlaws. Produced by the John MacArthur Ellis and supported by an all-star band of country musics finest Wildcard will take your mind away and get your toes tapping as Ridley Bent does what he does best..!

On Wildcard the 2009 CCMA nominee and 7-time BCCMA winner's storytelling and songwriting chops are sharper than ever. Although the tales are still as tall as they come, and the characters as large as life or larger, the cast of hard-drinking, fast-driving characters Ridley unleashes on Wildcard tend to be a shade less hell-bent on self-destruction than they are with keeping their lives between the lines and out of the ditch.

Channeling the high-energy performance ethic of artists like Dwight Yoakum and Little Feat, Ridley and his band tear a deep strip off the joint with tracks like 'Brooklyn Texas'. Of course these are love stories told the way only Ridley can; tracks that run the gamut from hard and bitter to hardly better, including a beautifully rendered, deliberately down-tempo take on the classic Tom Petty song , 'You Got Lucky'

While much of Ridley's new material is drawn from real life experiences he's gathered up on the road, Wildcard still has its share of shady characters, jackknifing tractor-trailers and whiskey-fueled bar fights. And for those who identify strongly with Ridley's less reasonable characters – the ones who tend to prefer to stir things up with a pistol in one hand and a bottle in the other – there's 'The Blood Trilogy'. A companion EP recorded during the same sessions and co-written with Dunn – a highly satisfying three-song western epic of violence and vengeance informed by Ridley's ongoing fascination with the bleak worlds of writers like John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy.

Donovan Woods – August 18

Donovan Woods’ work is guided by a mantra that only sounds simple: Good songs win.

Woods was raised in the small city of Sarnia, Ontario, to the sounds of country music, with a healthy dose of folk and pop, a combination that instilled in him a strong belief in the power of a good melody, the importance of everyday language and the potential of a carefully-crafted song. While amassing a catalogue of rousing and acclaimed music of his own, he has worked with some of the top songwriters in North America to craft cuts for performers ranging from Alan Doyle to Billy Currington.

It’s not that Woods makes music that is a product of both country and folk; it’s that he makes music that shows how distracting the line separating the two can be. Like with so many songwriters of note, what matters isn’t what you call it, or where it comes from, but the stories you tell, and the voice you use. And whether it’s Tim McGraw singing from atop a full-throttle stadium-show stage or a line whispered by Woods himself in a more intimate environment, one thing remains clear: Woods’ is a voice that demands attention.

That attention has been quick in coming, bringing international accolades, a growing number of fans inside and outside the music industry, and proclamations like “Canada’s best-kept secret,” “piercingly honest” and “quietly anthemic.” Throughout his work, Woods has remained focused on his one deceptively unassuming intent: crafting good songs – with an emphasis on ‘craft’.

It’s that mastery of the craft that places Woods squarely among the long line of great Canadian songwriters that have come before him: Artists whose work showcases the art of songwriting, and the painstaking effort to perfect everything from the title to the delivery. You can hear these forebears, and his contemporaries, in Woods’ music, but you can also hear the tradition being carried forward: Stripped down, but never simple; direct and poetic; new and timeless; all delivered with a confidence and in a voice that you wouldn’t expect from someone as young, approachable, or humorous as Woods.

And so, the trials and tribulations of living in a rustbelt town, the legacy of a CFL champ, navigating Facebook – all, and more, are fair game. All are probed with Woods’ unique combination of sharp eye and singular voice, and all ring equally familiar, and true. They are songs that come from experience and observation; from the journey of the songwriter who has been there – and one that’s just as comfortable telling you about it onstage as he is offstage.

What unites all of Woods’ material is the people he sings to and about. Rather than an idealized working-class-hero version of “The People,” it’s the people that we know – the people that we are. Donovan Woods knows how we speak, think and act, and has a way of saying exactly that – and so much more – in a voice that we’ve been hearing for as long as people have been singing, and the likes of which we’ve never heard before.

Woods’ fourth studio album, Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled, follows his JUNO Award-nominated Don’t Get Too Grand, and sees the songwriter in top form.

Whether big ideas or seemingly minor incidents, broken promises or the promise of romance, Woods’ stories affect listeners deeply. As he dissects the downward spiral of a small town (“They Don’t Make Anything in That Town”) you feel for the folks left behind, and a subtle string arrangement adds a delicate emotional layer that avoids overcomplicating or distracting from the song’s basic tone and language. The offbeat rhythm of “On the Nights You Stay Home” elicits the excitement of a hoped-for big-city quiet night in, while faced with the terrifying number of modern-day opportunities to be jealous. Rewriting history to confront a breakup (“We Never Met”) is a new twist on telling the story of a relationship – even if it might not be a reasonable coping strategy. Given Woods’ songwriting successes you can’t help but ascribe “Leaving Nashville”’s dark vision of Music City, USA to an active imagination, but the details contained in the lyrics make you wonder about his source material.

Throughout Hard Settle, Ain’t Troubled, what is clear is that Donovan Woods possesses a voice made to tell stories – his stories, and ours – and one that can’t be ignored.