Concert Review :: Winnipeg Folk Fest :: Richard Inman

*as we gear up for this years Winnipeg Folk Festival we thought it would be fun to revisit some of our highlights from last year!*

by Myles Tiessen

On Saturday afternoon, nestled in the far back reaches of the Winnipeg Folk Festival grounds, Richard Inman performed a set as thoughtful and pensive as his reflective songwriting. 

The decision to open the set with “Cut Fences (Let God Sort Em Out),” one of his most dismal songs about a rancher saving his horses during a forest fire, instantly threw you into Inman’s world of cowpokes, trucks, sin, and ultimately, redemption. “Good luck, godspeed to all you fine mounts/ Better than burn in here with me,” sang Inman to a mid-sized crowd already in tears.  

Inman’s performance was casual and meditative. Joined only by Ryan Funk on pedal steel, the small band led kindly to slower renditions of his higher tempo tracks. Without its full-throttle zip, “Red River Racer” displayed Inman’s eagle-eyed lyrics and unique vocal croon. The song’s affection still got some of the crowd on their feet, but instead for a raucous barn burner, it became a wistful couple’s slow dance. 

As the audience paid heed to Inman’s outlaw country songs, he, in turn, made humorous small talk and mostly provided insights into his lyrics and ad-libs on booze and gambling. Inman joked about slipping on the Indigenous Music Countdown chart and between songs, got audience members to check the live updates on the charts, and was surprised when he was still near the top. 

While his mournful vocals would have been enough on their own to hold the crowd’s attention through the entire hour-long set, Inman created space for Amber Nielsen of Sweet Alibi to join him for duets. 

Together they cycled through some Inman originals and mixed in a few tracks from their collaborative project, Fortune Block. Their rendition of “Hotdogs (In Heaven)” off the 2022 album Might As Well Stay Home was an exquisite display of both songwriters’ capabilities. “I sure hope there’s hotdogs in heaven/ Ballpark franks and Kurt Cobain,” they sing in glorious harmony. The John Prine indebted songwriting showed the duo’s ability to mix the bitter experiences of life with a gleeful, playful tone. “If there ain’t hotdogs in heaven/ Guess I’m just shit outta luck.”

The set came to an end with “Clean.” As someone who seems to have taken up residency at the fateful crossroads, Inman’s songs about addictions, broken love, and the consequences of a rambling life strike a sensitive chord in the soul of anyone searching and longing for something greater than themselves. “Falling in love is like going insane/ This must be the devil’s dream/ Standing out here in the pouring rain/It’s been a long time since I’ve been clean,” sang Inman and Nielsen before the crowd departed in profound, contemplative silence. 

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