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Multi-Grammy winners Fleck, Lanois added to Vancouver Island MusicFest lineup

It’s countdown time to the Vancouver Island MusicFest and as the days leading up to the 30th annual event slide off the calendar, it’s once again beginning to look like the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds will be the only place to be, for fans of traditional and contemporary folk, blues, and global music, on the weekend of July 12-14.

The latest two acts to be announced are artists who comfortably slot into the “legendary” category when it comes to musicians who have created unique and timeless sounds under the giant banner known as roots music.

As announced by the festival yesterday, Daniel Lanois and his band, and the all-star aggregation of Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain are the latest additions to what will be another deep Vancouver Island MusicFest lineup.

This comes on the heels of a recent VIMF release, announcing that Lucinda Williams and her band would be taking to the festival main stage on Saturday July 13. Williams, considered one of America’s finest songwriters in any genre, is enjoying the positive response to her latest album Stories from A Rock N Roll Heart.

Lanois is a Canadian music icon whose remarkable career has spanned six decades.

As a performer, this Quebec native has released 11 solo albums including the critically acclaimed Beauty of Wynonna plus a collaborative effort with drummer Brian Blade, vocalist Trixie Whitley and bassist Daryl Johnson under the banner Black Dub.

A vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who focuses on guitar and pedal steel, Lanois released his first album Acadie in 1989, some 20 years after he started working as an engineer and producer, while establishing himself as a force in the recording studio.

Associated with some of the best recordings from a blossoming independent Canadian folk roots era of the ’70s, his production talents came to the attention of Brian Eno and the rest, as they say, is history.

The association with Eno, of Roxy Music fame, included work on the David Lynch-directed film Dune, which led to a co-producers’ credit with Eno on U2’s Unforgettable Fire, which was recorded and released in 1984. This project gave Lanois his first Grammy Award and thus far he has been honored with seven Grammies.

Island MusicFest artistic Director Doug Cox is more than a little excited that Lanois will be making his first appearance at VIMF.

“Daniel Lanois is one of the producers who ‘wrote the book’ on modern textural recording and he is a master musician,” said Cox. “Listen to any recording by him and no matter which one you go to, it’ll knock you out. He could have very successfully had a career just as a roots/pop songwriter and musician, or as one of the world’s most effective record producers, but thankfully, he’s also the kind of artist who continues to challenge himself and push boundaries. He’s a tone man.”

The multi-dimensional artist will be making his debut at the festival Sunday, July 14. He will be playing in a trio setting on the festival main stage, in what will be, as Cox noted, is a very rare West Coast performance.

Lanois has created what can only be described as a brilliant discography as a producer that includes some career-defining moments for Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and the late Robbie Robertson.

Cox has every reason to be just as excited about the confirmation of Fleck, Meyer and Hussain who will be on-site at VIMF on the Friday evening.

“Fleck, Meyer, and Hussain along with singer/flute player Rakesh Chaurasia have put together one of the most cohesive fusions of global and new acoustic music I have ever heard,” says the long-time producer, artistic director and founder of the festival, in reference to the group’s album As We Speak, which was released almost a year ago.

“That this collective just won two Grammy Awards proves I’m not the only person with this opinion! Each musician transcends the expected boundaries of their instruments and together, the music they have created is sublime. It’s not hype to say that each of these musicians is a recognized modern master of their chosen instrument. It’s a musical brotherhood like no other.” The two Grammy nods were for Best Contemporary Album and Global Music Performance, giving Fleck a total of 17 Grammy awards.

The publication All About Jazz stated that As We Speak is a “sumptuous program, worth savouring repeatedly in its entirety,” while the respected All Music Guide describes the recording as a “thoroughly engaging conversation among four world-class musicians.”

Fleck last appeared at Musicfest in 2008 along with his wife Abigail Washburn. Edgar Meyer played the festival in 2009 when he reformed Skip Hop and Wobble with Jerry Douglas and Russ Barenburg, for what was an exclusive reunion performance with that ground-breaking trio.

This will be a first-time Musicfest appearance for Hussain.

“I am very proud to be featuring Zakir Hussain at our Festival this summer, as is he truly the living master of the Indian tabla drums. For fans of Indian music, this is almost like having the late Ravi Shankar grace our stages. As good as it gets. That’s our mantra,” said Cox with an accompanying smile.

That’s not all that is putting a smile on the producer’s face these days as ticket sales for MusicFest have been strong out of the gate.

Cox also pointed out that “the volunteer sign-up is strong and we’re at about 1,200 so far. The fact we aren’t having a problem retaining our volunteers speaks volumes to our community support. It’s going to be one for the books.”

Expect more Vancouver Island MusicFest artist announcements in the coming weeks.

Béla Fleck will perform Friday, July 12 and Daniel Lanois will take the stage on Sunday, July 14.

Vancouver Island MusicFest takes place July 12 – 14, 2024. For tickets and information go to