Tue, Nov 13, 2012.
Saint John is in for a treat this week, as it hosts the Canadian Folk Music Awards. The Saint John local committee have done a grand job of not just bringing in top talent, but also showcasing the local and regional artists, giving them some much-deserved national recognition. There are performances stretching from Thursday to Sunday at various venues throughout the city, as well as the gala awards show, being held at The Imperial Theatre on Saturday night. As well as handing out the hardware, the audience will be treated to performances by New Brunswick's own Matt Andersen (a nominee for Solo Artist of the Year), along with his harp buddy Mike Stevens, Cindy Church and Susan Crowe, The Spinney Brothers, Genticorum, Cara Luft, and a special appearance by the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada. The company will be dancing to a live performance by Stevens, which should prove to be a unique collaboration.
It's the eighth year for the awards, which represents the best Canadian music in the broader folk world. Given the wide and multicultural scope of music in the country, that includes a lot: The organizers say that includes "contemporary songwriters, traditional music from fiddlers, accordion players, singers, dancer, to Celtic, Quebecois, Blues, Alt-Country, World, Klezmer, Bluegrass and more." Among the many performers taking the stage at the events you'll find Michael Jerome Browne, Sneezy Waters, Three Little Birds, Linda McRae, The Navigators, Acadian star Lisa LeBlanc, Rose Cousins and many more. There are children's performers and shows, and even a couple of movies, including Man Of A Thousand Songs, the acclaimed documentary about Ron Hynes.
Local performers on the stage this week include local stalwart Brent Mason, Babette Hayward, Mike Biggar, Arsenault, Chambers McLean, Clinton Charlton, and Shaun Ferguson, a nominee for Instrumental Artist. Many of these sets will be at the Folk On The Water stage at Market Square, a special initiative for the Saint John awards.
It's completely fitting that Bible Hill, Nova Scotia's Cindy Church will take the stage at the Gala. She has a brand-new disc out, and her career has seen her become one of the favourite singers in Canadian folk, from her time with Ian Tyson, her continuing solo career, and her groups, Quartette, Lunch At Allen's, and the combo of Rankin, Crowe and Church. This, sadly was to be the next scheduled performance of the trio, until the recent passing of Raylene Rankin. But both Church and Crowe, plus the organizers felt there was no better way to pay tribute to one of the country's most loved performers.
Meantime, Church's new disc deserves a big plug. It's called Sad Songs Make Me Happy, and includes a dozen such heartbreak and romance numbers that will do just what the title suggests. There's a new composition from Church along with Crowe, and the rest is a well-curated group of standards and more modern numbers that have a similar tough. It's a quiet disc, the better to concentrate on her voice and the heart-tugging words, and the backing is subtle, and superb, by such aces as Kevin Breit, Rob Piltch and John Sheard. Church brings her own vocal touches to the arrangements, including some slightly different deliveries that breath new life into the better-known songs. Check out her version of Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, which she sings in a much smoother manner than the Willie Nelson take. The whole album is an intimate gem. Enjoy the Folk awards!
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Bob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).