Swamp City

Musician swaps out woodchips for guitar

A few new faces, a few local names, and a several returning favourites are on stage at Arts Alive.

Allan Cusworth dusts off all the sawdust and woodchips that have accumulated on his clothes and in his hair from a day of serious woodturning, grabs his guitar and wife, and rushes onto the stage of Arts Alive to belt out a few classic country and old rock ‘n’ roll songs to close out the show at the annual street festival.

For the second year running, the Willoughby resident will be wearing two official hats at this Saturday’s Arts Alive.

Cusworth is there with four or five fellow woodturners selling and demonstrating their craft throughout the day.

Then, about a half hour before showtime, he does his best Clark Kent impersonation – strips off his woodworking clothes in favour of a showier stage outfit – grabs the hand of his beloved wife, Natalia, and makes a grand entrance onto the Arts Alive stage – guitar in tow.

For Cusworth, Arts Alive brings together several of the best things in his life.

Naturally, he said, he has the chance to not only hang with, but sing with his wife of 49 years.

He has an excuse to demonstrate woodturning all day with his buddies.

And he ends the day performing for an “appreciative” crowd at a venue in his own backyard.

Does life get any better? he queried.

Cusworth and his wife make up the Cypress Creek Duo, and while they typically perform at about 60 shows a year at seniors homes, recreation centres, and private parties in and around White Rock, Surrey, and Langley, they do a few larger shows a year – including Arts Alive and Douglas Day.

While it’s Cusworth’s fifth year at Arts Alive turning wood, it’s the second time on stage as Cypress Creek Duo.

A few other Langley musicians will also be on stage at Arts Alive this year, said stage coordinator Steve Laszcz – pointing a finger at a few members of a roots-blues group called Swamp City.

It’s always gratifying to have a few fellow Langley musicians on the stage in McBurney Plaza each year for Arts Alive. And in addition to the local presence, festival-goers can expect to see some familiar faces.

Too often for Laszcz’s liking, world-renowned musician and composer Michael Friedman – now a Gibson’s resident – is faced with conflicting events on Arts Alive weekend. But that’s not the case this time around, so the iconic Vancouver music figure will be in Langley Saturday afternoon, Laszcz announced with an exaggerated hooray.

Also returning, and bringing a huge following of fans, is Vancouver musician Don Alder.

“He’s a brilliant finger-style guitar player… I’m glad to have him back,” said Laszcz, who has earned a bit of a reputation himself for his work with the guitar.

New to the stage this year is Chilliwack’s Daven Atma, an independent singer-songwriter who brings the tradition of the 1960s folk music revival period into modern times.

And also new on the roster is the Swamp City group, with members of the group hailing from throughout the Lower Mainland.

“In the sounds of Swamp City you’ll find homegrown and old time, Zydeco, soulful southern roots and blues made anew,” Laszcz said, noting there are people and instruments in this band that he won’t dare attempt to pronounce.

And closing the show this year is the Cusworths and their Cypress Creek Duo.

‘Great’ show planned

Looking over the roster just days out from Arts Alive, Laszcz said: “I think it’s going to be a great show this year. But then again, I say that every year, and without sounding too conceited, I’m always right.”

He’s charged about the lineup, but said he’s also particularly impressed with the venue for the show.

A few years ago, McBurney Lane was renovated and redesigned as more of a community hub or plaza.

It was redesigned in such a fashion as to facilitate smaller, more intimate outdoor events and concerts in the centre of the City.

“I think it’s a real good location for the type of music we present at the festival,” Laszcz said, noting several of last year’s musicians came close to packing the space.

In fact, he said, it would be a waste for it not be become an outdoor music hub for Langley, offering a wide variety of different genres of music in a more intimate setting.

“It’s absolutely perfect,” he said, anxious to see it become even better utilized to showcase local artists.


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