Rick Fines, Peterborough, ON
As a member of Jackson Delta, Rick exhibited a wonderful rapport with the blues. His ability to play acoustic guitar and slide, plus his songwriting skills ensured that Jackson Delta remained strongly ensconced as one of Canada's foremost acoustic blues bands. He has gone on to establish a credible solo career with two albums recorded. However, after seeing him perform last summer, I am truly convinced that Rick Fines best work still lies ahead of him. He is a gentleman and a great performer.
Mickey Andrews, Toronto, ON
Mickey Andrews came to Toronto from Nova Scotia to play country music in the 1960s. He eventually found himself in a unique band called The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - house band for the Horseshoe Tavern when it was one of Canada's top country music venues. (It was this band that backed up Stompin' Tom Connors on his Bud The Spud album.) Mickey excelled on the steel guitar and dobro and became one of the most requested session players around. He has released solo albums that show ingenuity and charm, highlighting the slide guitar style. He currently works with Sandy MacIntyre, Cape Breton fiddler.
Gerry & Bobby Robichaud, Boston, MA
The Robichaud brothers were originally from the Minto area of New Brunswick, condemned to work the coal mines. It was their mother, a fine fiddler, who brought music into their lives at a tender age and Gerry followed in her footsteps. Playing the Don Messer style with an Acadian lilt, Gerry became a very good player. He recorded two albums for the Rodeo label before moving down to Boston in search of better work. There he became one of the mainstays of the large Acadian community, playing at the French Club. His recent recording, The Slippery Stick (Rounder Records CD 7016) with his brother Bobby on guitar, was an attempt to play the music the way his mother would have played it, a little slower for the dances of her time.
Naiman, Aurora, ON
Chris Coole, Toronto, ON
Arnie Naiman and Chris Coole - an unlikely combination spanning two generations - got together to explore their love of the claw-hammered banjo. Arnie has developed a love for traditional banjo and fiddle music which he plays with his wife, Cathy Naiman-Reid in 'Ragged But Right'. Chris, on the other hand, busked in Subway stations. Their musical marriage produced two excellent CDs: 5 Strings Attached (Vols. 1 & 2) which won them critical acclaim across Canada and the United States. No bullshit, just the music, acoustically played as it always has been. Just a great sound from two guys who love the banjo.
Jennifer Roland, Bras D'or, Cape Breton, NS
Coming from an Island filled with amazing fiddle players was no guarantee that Jennifer Roland would become one of the great up-and-coming young fiddle players. She had medical problems that would have shut the average person away from fiddling and step-dancing. With the encouragement of her family and relations, she persisted, dedicating her life to Scottish fiddle music. For this, and for her excellent natural abilities, she was given Winston 'Scotty' Fitzgerald's violin - as if she needed any more encouragement to play.
Alain Lamontagne, Montreal, QC
Alain Lamontagne has been flipping out audiences for years - in either French or English - playing his harmonica, singing and tapping out incredible rhythms with his feet. But he is also a composer of fine pieces of music. He told me that he was once enlightened by a little wooden man who taught him how to tap his feet; if he would do that he would never have to worry about money: he would always have enough. But he would have to commit himself to a life-long career of tapping his feet. Watching him transform himself into a live limberjack before your very eyes, you wonder where the special effects team is hiding.
Atlantic Union, St. John's, NF&L
I had never heard of this band before asking Francis Fougere of Atlantic Ceilidh to chose his favourite CD for this year's award. He had a very difficult time with this choice but settled on Atlantic Union because, quite simply, he loved the album. He picked it up in St. John's at a music shop called O'Brien's. The owner put this CD in his hand and guaranteed that he'd love it. He wasn't wrong. A varied collection of songs incorporating numerous styles, from lively chanties to slow ballads with never a dull moment. They are Scott Schillereff, Sally Goddard and Andrew Lang. Their website is www.atlanticunion.net.
Carlos Del Junco, Toronto, ON
Born in Cuba, Carlos moved to Canada at a very young age. Somewhere along the line he began playing the harmonica which eventually lead him to the world of the blues. But Carlos wasn't satisfied imitating the great blues harp players; he was destined to take the harp places it has never been before. He took his instrument seriously, the same way a guitar player like Lenny Breau did. After winning numerous awards in competitions in Europe it is only fitting that he be recognized here for his enormous talent.
James Cheechoo, Moose Factory, ON
Factory was the first English settlement in Ontario, dating back to the
1670s. It was here that the Scottish fur traders of the Hudson Bay Company
first traded licks with the Cree. They were transfixed by the fiddles the
Orkneymen and Shetland Islanders played, and they wanted fiddles for themselves.
They learned the tunes and passed them down in a tradition that continues
on to this day. James Cheechoo is a traditionalist, old enough to have
learned to play from those who did it the old way, before the radio and
the phonograph record. He plays to the beat of the Indian drum, fiddling
to the dances of his people. The Rabbit Dance, the Scratching Dance, the
Kissing Dance or the Elbow Swing. A great deal of the past is still alive
and fiddling up in James Bay.
Karen Taylor, Buckhorn, ON
of the shantyboys - as collected by Edith Fulton Fowke - are some of the
most important Canadian traditional folksongs. The shantyboys worked the
logging camps up and down the Ottawa Valley and were served by teamsters
who shunted supplies in all kinds of weather. It is of a time not so very
long ago, from the 1830's to the early decades of the 20th Century. Karen
Taylor found a snippet of one of Edith's folksongs and turned it into a
fantastic song that takes you back, so far back, back into the shanty camps.
A melodic tune with a catchy chorus that bounces inside your head. The
Opeongo Line (which still exists between Renfrew and Barry's Bay, Ontario)
was one of the first roads which opened up the interior of Madawaska country
in Ontario. Karen performs with her band, Garrison Creek, which blends
Quebecois fiddle tunes, contra dance tunes, and songs of the lumber woods.
This song would have made Mac Beattie very proud.
Edmund W. Bradwin
Edmund Bradwin was a member of Frontier College which was founded in 1899 by Rev. Alfred Fitzpatrick as a means to take adult education into isolated camps where men worked. University students - who worked alongside the men during the day - would teach them rudimentary skills at night in the bunkhouse. Through the college thousands of working men became literate in English and French. Bradwin began going into the roughest railway, logging and mining camps across Canada, beginning in 1904. At first he was an instructor but later became a supervisor, a job which took him to the furthest reaches of the country, miles beyond the end of steel (as the railway was called). Between 1903 and 1914 he collected data which formed the basis of his thesis which was submitted to Columbia University in New York City in 1920. Bradwin went on to become Principle of Frontier College - a position which he retained until his death in 1954 at the age of 77.
In 1972 his work was published by the University of Toronto Press in a book they called 'The Bunkhouse Man'. A social history of Canada, Bradwin called his thesis 'A Study of Work and Pay in the Camps of Canada 1903 - 1914.' An incredible take on life of the men who did the work, and the ordeals of exploitation, sickness, weather, and bugs that would plague them.
Perth County Conspiracy: Alive!
in the late 1960s in the days of communes when people lived together, made
music and food together, and even love! The Perth County Conspiracy was
a communal get-together which later took to the stage. In their shows entire
families sat on-stage with the musicians and featured story-telling, jokes,
as well as infectious music. Lead by Terry Jones, Brian Burchill, George
Taros, Richard Keelan and neighbour, Cedric Smith, the Conspiracy combined
powerful songwriting and theatrical performances that were legendary. Signed
to Columbia Records, they recorded a few albums, but the one that captures
their essence is Alive!, a two-record set of songs at the height of the
conspiracy. Their motto: Perth County Conspiracy Does Not Exist was prophetic.
Les Crapaudes: Danielle Martineau and Lisan Hubert, Ste-Melanie, QC
usually give the same award out to somebody twice, but in the case of Danielle
Martineau - who continually keeps re-inventing herself, this time into
a toad, I had to. With Lisan Hubert she explores the secret life of toads,
those magical creatures that have to power to create scenes of bittersweet
beauty. With accordion and drum they can transport you with a spell and
before you know it, crapaude rules. And crapaude means toad, if you didn't
already know it.
Both Ends of the Earth, BC, MB, ON
Both Ends of the Earth features members from Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia: Sasha Boychouk, Daniel Koulack, Marilyn Lerner, Rick Shadrack Lazar and David Wall. The music is clever Klezmer infused with jazz and unique arrangements. It literally takes you to different ends of the earth, on the backdrop of a Canadian doormat. The musicianship is flawless - just excellent in execution. The project lights a flame of beauty that is refreshingly bold, subtle and loving. The world comes to Canada - are you ready?
Patti Kusturok, Winnipeg, MB
A protégé at a very young age, steeped in the Red River traditional style of Andy DeJarlis and Reg Bouvette, she was one of Graham Townsend's favourite young fiddlers. Her playing is exciting and he were alive today, Don Messer would have traveled to Winnipeg to have her on his show. Her voicings belong to the Metis, to rural Manitoba, to those who went before her. Winner of numerous awards, including Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Champion (3 times) and Grand North American Champion (also three times), Patti Kusturok surely belongs in this class.
Angus MacLeod, Kincardine, ON
109 families were evicted from their crofts on the isle of Lewis in Scotland's
Outer Hebrides and transported overseas." That is a story that has become
all too familiar in North America. What is special about this particular
band of immigrants is that they settled in, what was then, a very remote
part of the country: Bruce County along Lake Huron's shores. There they
spoke the Gaelic, their fiddles and their songs. There they worked and
survived before their gradual assimilation into Ontario. Angus MacLeod
spent three years tracing back the genealogy, the deeds, the oral history
of his own people. Having moved back to his family's original homestead
from Toronto - where he fronted one of the first Celtic-rock bands, Brigand,
in the early 80s - he composed The Silent Ones: the story of his ancestors,
incorporating traditional elements into a contemporary sound, thus not
only preserving but furthering the legacy of his lineage.
Mark Miller, Toronto, ON for Such Melodious Racket
The lost history of jazz in
Canada dates back to the early days of jazz, 1914 to 1949 when a young
Oscar Petersen took to the stage. Between those years much has been forgotten.
What Mark Miller did was scour through newspapers, old posters, programs
and interview those still around to remember. The rise of the Lombardo
brothers, Bert Niosi and dozens of other musicians is now documented because
of the work Miller did to compile this book. The invention of the phonograph
record by the Berliner Company of Montreal and various publishing houses
and record companies is also included. Just a splendid work of the history
of the music scene spun off from the rise of American jazz. Published by
Mercury Press of Toronto in 1997, ISBN 1-55128-046-9 with photos, tickets,
posters and record labels.
Daisy DeBolt, Toronto, ON
head swims with ideas that defy convention. She doesn't care what anybody
calls it, she challenges the listener as well as her fellow musicians,
coaxes them to improvise and add their own images to the music. Her latest
CD, Just Mountain Songs, a suite of songs and jazzy poetry that tell of
her adventures in the Canadian Rockies from 1965 to the present, is way
out there. With age, Daisy becomes bolder, wiser, more demanding and more
telling. She is truly one of the most original artists on the folk music
scene. Her vocal approach borders on Qawali, using yogic breathing, reaching
down to the bottom and up to the top of her incredibly large range.
Hicks & Maritime Express, Moncton, NB
June 1, 2000
It was just like old time radio shows, live off the floor with a variety approach. Not only is Ivan Hicks a champion fiddler, he is a most gracious guest, always willing to give his all, infectious with his desire to make listeners happy. The Maritime Express play bluegrass, country and old time music. Del Wheaton (guitar and bass), Tom Johnston (guitar and bass), and Ivan's wife, Vivian Hicks (piano) have been playing together for years. Included tonight was Garnet Johnston on the banjo; Janet Adams and Brenda Easterbrooks (who are Diamonds in the Rough) as featured vocalists; Francine Grenier, of Montreal, on second fiddle. It was an hour of absolute joy as we presented a good, old fashioned hootenanny, live on air.
Colin Linden, Toronto, ON
Colin Linden, well known musician currently with Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, has a special touch at producing records. With credits at production such as Bruce Cockburn, Blackie and other fine performers, Colin goes for performance over perfection, and is able to lift musicians spirits with his confidence. Stephen Fearing's latest CD was a special type of project: a live album recorded over two successive nights at Toronto's Flying Cloud Folk Club (in the Tranzac Club) last April. But the surprising aspect of this project was that Stephen was going to perform solo; they would bring his gig to life on a CD. Using over a dozen microphones to get the right room ambiance, all Stephen had to do was to get up on stage and do his thing. And the CD? Truly remarkable. Completely enjoyable. A true feat of genius by Colin Linden.
Kim Barlow, Whitehorse, YK
songwriter who can hook simple lyrics together simple melodies, re-arrange
them and interpret them beautifully, Kim Barlow is like a breath of fresh
wind blowing down from Whitehorse. Her recordings with The Glacial Erratics
were no mistake; her own solo CD 'Humminah' also captured the feel of her
moods, the pace of her heart and yet, with all this introspection, present
no barrier to the listener. Of all the songs that I have heard her perform,
not one was a struggle to get through. Every one was the opening of new
territory, setting a high quality standard which she seems to effortless
to her to perform. I did have the opportunity to listen to a poor quality,
live recording, made in a club; there her songs carried the audience away.
Truly deserving of this award!
John & Michelle Law, Saltspring Island, BC
Everybody's talking about the Laws! And for good reason, too. John and Michelle are two extremely good players who can put the bite into bluegrass in a refreshing way. Their CD, Estimated Time of Revival, delivers 10 beautifully crafted songs, nine of which are originals. Although bluegrass is their game, they don't depend on covering popular songs. Instead, they rely on their strong writing skills, and their ability to shine through the limitations of a CD. You feel as though they were right there before you, creating the magic that is so often missing from recordings.
David Greenberg, Halifax, NS
Originally from the US, David Greenberg apprenticed at learning the art of Cape Breton fiddling from the masters. Not only is he a gifted musician, (he plays with Tafelmusic and the Celtic-Classical hybrid, Puirt (pusht) a Baroque), but he has developed the style so important in Cape Breton music, which can only be acquired by learning over time. Having done his homework, spending years at the feet of the masters, he has been able to come over to Cape Breton culture, making it his when he plays the violin. But the real truth is in the way he is fondly spoken of by Cape Breton musicians. They think he's wonderful and so it was that Francis Fougere chose David Greenberg for this year's award.
Reg Bouvette, MB
Reg was one of the best exponents of the Red River style of fiddle playing, developed so much by the late great Andy DeJarlis. Incorporating a mixture of Metis and Messer, DeJarlis set the standard in his native province. Bouvette was an incredible player who became the next best thing to Andy DeJarlis. He recorded several albums of old time fiddling and became a fiddler's fiddler, well loved and respected by greats like Graham Townsend. He passed away in the mid-1990s; his blue violin has been missed ever since.
Philippe Bruneau, Paris, France
Some years ago Philippe Bruneau left Quebec to live in France where he feels his music is more appreciated. A virtuoso button accordion player, Philippe inspired an entire generation of traditional musicians who took the time to track down his recordings and learn the tunes from his repertoire. He recorded for Philo Records in the US at the same time that Jean Carignan did but his records had to be imported into Canada which made them hard to get. At the time Quebec was gripped by the emergence of popular music and paid little attention to traditional players and Philippe felt under appreciated.
Figgy Duff, St. John's, NF&L
One of the legendary Canadian bands of all time! Although Figgy Duff never became a household name, this band - lead by Noel Dinn and Pamela Morgan - cut a swath in the forest, opening up new territory for bands that came 20 years later. Using a full drum kit - as well as a bodhran - the band played rock n' roll, to traditional Newfoundland music. Whether it was a traditional French song, an Emile Benoit fiddle tune, or a Morgan/Dinn original, they used Geese in the Bog, the accordion sound of Frank Mahar, long hair and a mini-van and brought the music off the rock and into the rest of North America. After the death of founding member, Noel Dinn, in 1993, the group disbanded, leaving us a legacy of great recordings, especially found on A Retrospective, the 1995 winner of the Gem of Canada Porcupine Award.
Wade Hemsworth, Morin Heights, QC
Well known for his compositions, The Blackfly Song, and The Log Driver's Waltz, Wade Hemsworth has been instrumental in in creating beautifully crafted songs which incorporated the Canadian landscape. His strong voice and unusual guitar phrasings made him a popular artist in Montreal and helped the careers of Pete Weldon, Kate & Anna McGarrigle and others. His songs were recorded by Tom Kines, The Travellers, Guy Carawan, Omar Blondhal, as well as the McGarrigles and Stringband, among others.
Curtis Hicks, Sackville, NB
New Brunswick fiddler Ivan Hicks - The Maritime Fiddle Champion - attributes everything he has accomplished to his late father, also a fiddler, Curtis. Curtis worked for years with the railway but played the dances at every opportunity. His style was strictly old time, non-flamboyant, it was music for the dancers. Strict tempo, very little embellishment, and always of the highest caliber. Ivan learned by playing mandolin for his father and went on to a great career. In 1980 Ivan released an album by Curtis on his own Maritime Express label. Unfortunately, Curtis passed away shortly after it was released.
Mart Kenny, Mission, BC
At the age of 90 Mart Kenny is still blowing his horn, big band style. His music has been heard by over 5 generations of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. His popular CBC series, Mart Kenny's Ranch, in the 1950s, along with his performances in Canadian Pacific hotels across the country, made him a household word. In fact, most people who knew of him find it hard to believe that he's still playing music! Just about every major jazz musician in the country played in his big bands. In 2000 he released his latest CD: Celebration 2000 - Swinging Musical Showcase. Canada's Big Band King!
Bill Lamey, Cape Breton, NS
Bill Lamey was another one of the many Maritimers forced to seek employment in the greener pastures of the New England states. By the time he emigrated to Boston, in the early 1950s, he was already a well known Cape Breton fiddler. His ability to read music brought him closer to other serious players: Joe MacLellan, Dan R. MacDonald and Scotty Fitzgerald. He is known for the medleys of tunes he strung together - tunes gathered from old Scottish collections by Niel Gow and J S Skinner, and many others. In Boston he became an important presence to the expatriate community of Cape Bretoners. He would hold weekly dances and invite the top players, like Angus Chisholm, Scotty Fitzgerald and the other great players to perform. But it was at his home - after the show - that the real sessions started! (He was also the teacher of the young Jerry Holland). Bill Lamey performed in Scotland before thousands of enthusiastic people, recorded by the BBC. In 1983 he moved back to Cape Breton to live out his days. He died in 1991.
Ned Landry, Saint John, NB
Believe it or not, this New Brunswick fiddler started his career with Don Messer's Backwoods Trio (Messer, Charlie Chamberlain, Duke Nielson), in the early 1930s, as errand boy and harmonica player. He was destined to become one of Canada's champion fiddlers, learning from Messer and taking it to heart. In the early 50s he was signed to RCA Canada and became an internationally known musician. His flamboyant style made him more popular - in his day - than even Messer. His compositions - Hillbilly Calypso, Ontario Swing, and the Ripple Rock Jig - became Canadian classics. He still lives in Saint John. Just ask anybody about 'Ned' and they know who you're talking about.
Gordon Lightfoot, Toronto, ON
There's nothing that I can write here that can shed new light on Gordon Lightfoot. He set new standards in Canadian songwriting and wasn't afraid to incorporate Canada into his songs. His success is legendary: he and Anne Murray were as popular as Celine Dion is now. His annual performances at Massey Hall, in Toronto, are still as popular as ever even though he hasn't had a hit in years. His songs still stand the test of time; he is a name that every Canadian singer/songwriter knows of.
Sandy MacIntyre, Toronto, ON
Originally from Cape Breton, Sandy moved to Toronto for employment opportunities. He was one of the best examples of Scottish traditional fiddlers and was recognized as such by John Allan Cameron who asked him to perform in the Cape Breton Symphony (with Winston Fitzgerald, Buddy MacMaster, Jerry Holland, Wilfred Gillis et al) on his national television program At The Ceilidh. Sandy was the first Cape Bretoner to record independently in 1972. His appearances at folk festivals and Cape Breton clubs were important windows into the culture that, until then, was locked away on the island. He continues to teach fiddlers and step-dancers, and performs tirelessly in the Toronto area.
Johnny Mooring, Springhill, NS
Johnny Mooring was one of the most likable fiddlers of his day. Winner of three successive Shelburne fiddle championships - The Canadian Open - he performed on numerous Don Messer Jubilee programs (since he was one of Don's personal favourites). He was one of the first Canadian fiddlers to tour extensively across the nation and his live performances and personality made him life-long fans (and friends) wherever he went. This was particularly true in Western Canada and the Ottawa Valley. His great technique is exemplified by his waltzes, beautifully flowing without a hint of fatigue. He recorded numerous albums for the Rodeo label.
June Pasher, Toronto, ON
Another Cape Bretoner who came to Toronto seeking employment, June has lived here since the early 1950s. She loved country music before Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline, and with her then-husband, George Pasher, became a mainstay on the Canadian country music circuit. She recorded for Arc Records in the 50s and 60s, heavily influenced by the music of Hank Williams, Jean Shepard and Kitty Wells. She still performs regularly in local taverns - just for the fun of it now - where real country music is where it's at.
Lucille Starr, Montreal, QC
Although she seems like a one-hit wonder, Lucille Starr has been the Queen of Canadian Country Music, for years. She brought glamour and tears into her performances long before it was fashionable to do so. She first recorded The French Song (When the Sun Says Goodby To The Mountains - an old American standard) in the 1950s but was unable to crack the market then. In the mid-1960s she re-recorded the song and it flew, played on radio stations throughout North America - in English and French. She became a role model to younger singers like Sylvia Tyson, proving that you don't have to look like a farm girl to make it in Country Music.
Stompin' Tom Connors, Erin, ON
Ned Landry, Saint John, NB
For only the second time, the Porcupine Awards honours two winners of the lifetime achievement award: The Golden Porcupine.
Stompin' Tom Connors is easily one of the ten most recognizable Canadians alive. His big black cowboy hat, his stompin' board and trusty guitar have earned him the status of an icon. His guts and determination to make Canadians aware of Canadian heroes, places, and events can never be under-stated. Stompin' Tom blazed the way for other Canadians to sing about their own country. His wars with the music establishment are legendary (shipping his Juno Awards back to CARAS - refusing to perform at the Canadian National Exhibition) and on-going. Recently he was awarded the SOCAN lifetime achievement award for his songwriting. And along the way he has picked up two Doctorate of Laws degrees, most recently this past summer from the University of Toronto. His two books: Stompin' Tom Before The Fame (Porcupine Award winner in 1996) and Stompin' Tom and The Connors Tone shed light to this incredible man, his life and his music. One of the most valuable assets this country has ever known!
Ned Landry, as stated above, is still performing his legendary fiddle music in New Brunswick. One of the fathers of contemporary Canadian fiddle music, Landry never gives up. Even after suffering a stroke in the late 90s - which affected his memory, thus his recollection of his repertoire - Ned fought back to recapture his music. His now career spans 8 decades!
Circle: Bill Lamey
Rounder Records 82161-7032-2 - 2000
are house recordings, recorded by Bill Lamey in order to share his music
with other fine fiddlers who could not read music. These exceptional recordings
are invaluable for a number of reasons: they were the only recordings of
complete medleys of their day; showed the music in a none-threatening environment
(home instead of a recording studio); not limited to 3:30 as were recordings
made for records. This is a glimpse into the real world of Cape Breton
music, as it was in New England in the mid-1950s. As a bonus, there is
a recording Bill made in 1947 at a Sydney, Nova Scotia radio station. The
mastering has been flawless, the sound quality brilliant, the liner notes
(go to Bill Lamey) everything you could
wish for, conceived and executed by Bill's daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who
also co-produced the work. A must for anyone who loves true Scottish fiddle
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