Blou, a group from Meteghan, N.S., that mixes Acadian, Cajun and Zydeco styles into a unique sound they call "Acadico," was the surprise winner of the Fan's Choice Entertainer of the Year prize on Sunday at the East Coast Music Awards.
An astonished frontman Patrice Boulianne ran up on the stage to take the top award of the evening.
"I really don’t know what to say, I mean, amongst all these guys," said Boulianne, referring to his competition for the fan-voted prize, which included Jimmy Rankin, Hey Rosetta! and Matt Andersen.
"I’ve been nominated for this award four times, and they say three times a charm. No. I think I broke that rule. It’s all the fans. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
There were several double winners at the gala Sunday at Casino New Brunswick in Moncton — among them singer-songwriter David Myles, bluesman Matt Andersen and rockers Hey Rosetta!
Fredericton-born Myles captured both the song of the year and songwriter of the year honours for his tune Simple Pleasures. As he accepted the songwriter of the year prize, he said his wife inspires much of his work.
"I started writing songs and I knew it was what I wanted to do forever, and I get to do it because of everybody in this room being so supportive. I love being part of this community," he said. Myles also gave a memorable performance with Classified as part of the ceremony, and credited the Halifax hip-hop producer for his work on the song.
"He did a few things to it that really livened the song up and got to the spirit of what I was talking about," Myles said.
Andersen, a New Brunswick native known for his rich blues voice, won both blues recording of the year and solo recording for Coal Mining Blues.
St. John's band Hey Rosetta! took album of the year and group recording of the year for Seeds, but they weren't there to accept the award because they're on tour.
The ceremony was a celebration of the best of music from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. It moved seamlessly between English and French performances, with Roch Voisine as genial host.
Acts on stage included Kim Stockwood performing with The Once, Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers, Catherine MacLellan, Joseph Edgar, Meaghan Smith and the Olympic Symphonium.
Jimmy Rankin, the former Rankin family member who is now a solo act, won the fans' choice video award for Here in My Heart, the song he performed to open the show.
"I'm happy to get an award," Rankin said. "I'm up for eight awards and I'd be a little embarrassed if I didn't get at least one before the end of the night."
Carmen Townsend was also recognized as rising star of the year for her debut album, Waitin’ and Seeing.
Catherine McKinnon honoured
Saint John-born singer Catherine McKinnon came on stage flanked by two Mounties to accept her Helen Creighton Award, a lifetime achievement honour. McKinnon, who was a regular on CBC’s Singalong Jubilee, became a nationwide star with her version of Farewell to Nova Scotia.
Her debut album was the first Canadian album to sell more than 100,000 copies. She was also among the first female Juno winners in 1965 and 1966.
"I am very humbled by this and very grateful," she said. McKinnon thanked her early music teachers, her piano teacher and her Grade 3 teacher, "who said to me ‘sing and you make people happy.’
"That was an incredible thing to say, and it stayed with me all of my life," she recalled. McKinnon also remembered the impact of Singalong Jubilee, crediting director-producer Manny Pittson with inventing music videos.
"In 1963, when I started on the program, he started putting in what we called ‘music inserts.’ Manny Pittson has been acknowledged by this very association for his innovation in television, and I dedicate this award to Manny for having me on Singalong and for starting what you know as 'music videos,’ " McKinnon said.
She also acknowledged the role Helen Creighton played in preserving traditional music.
"I owe my career to Dr. Helen Creighton," McKinnon said. "If this woman hadn’t gone through the Maritimes in a rowboat with an old tape recorder, we wouldn’t have the wealth of material that we have, that I was lucky to find and very proud to sing," she said, before performing Farewell to Nova Scotia to a cheering crowd.
A director's special achievement award honoured host Voisine for his 25-year career as a rock and pop star.
"This was not in the script. I was not prepared for this," Voisine said after a tribute that acknowledged both his singing career and his role in encouraging local talent.
"I had a chance to perform across Canada for 25 years and abroad. I am and always will be a boy from New Brunswick."
Voisine also took to the stage to close down the show, performing a rousing bilingual version of Sundown.