Cousins Big Winner At 2013 ECMA's

March 10, 2013 10:52 PM

Not only did she co-host the Gala Awards show at for the 25th Anniversary East Coast Music Awards, she was the big winner in the trophy race. Rose Cousins took home three awards, for her disc We Have Made A Spark: Solo Recording of the Year, Folk Recording of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year. The Stanfields also had a big night, taking home two awards, Entertainer of the Year, and Group Recording of the Year.

It wasn't a grand year for New Brunswick, with only three of the trophies heading back to this province. But big congratulations go to those winners: Stephanie Mainville won for Gospel Recording of the Year, Helen Pridmore from Mount Allison University in Sackville joined with Wesley Ferriera for the Classical Recording of the Year, and earlier in the week, Joel Miller picked up the award for Jazz Recording of the Year.

There were plenty of N.B. shout-outs in the Gala though, as Cousin's co-host, David Myles, made several references to his hometown of Fredericton. The team of Myles and Cousins were surprisingly funny as M.C.'s, with plenty of jokes handled well by the musicians. Myles told about the first time he appeared on the gala, in a songwriter's circle back in 2007, when the Daily News columnist said of him "I didn't know Bob Saget played folk music." Myles reminded everyone that "The Daily New no longer exists, but I'm still playing folk music."

The gala opened with a tribute to Stompin' Tom Connors, who died this past Wednesday, the opening day of East Coast Music Week. That became the dominate news of the week, and many of the shows during the event featured musicians speaking of their admiration of the East Coast legend. There were also several 25th Anniversary Awards presented through the night, to significant artists of the past twenty-five years: Lennie Gallant, The Rankin Family,Teresa Doyle, Rawlins Cross, Ashley MacIsaac, Great Big Sea
Natalie MacMaster, John Gracie, Rita MacNeil, Roch Voisine, The Barra MacNeils, Matt Minglewood, and Mary Jane Lamond.

MacMaster also performed a rousing fiddle medley, complete with her terrific stepdancing, earning a standing ovation from the crowd. There were plenty of great live numbers, including Ashley MacIsaac and Mary Jane Lamond performing Sleepy Maggie together for the first time in 16 years, a groundbreaking song that brought Celtic music into modern times. Radio Radio, Jenn Grant, Christina Martin, Jimmy Rankin with Slowcoaster's Stephen MacDougall, and Dave Gunning also provided highlights.

Touching tributes and honours were also paid to three deserving musicians. The Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award went to the late jazz great Bucky Adams. A Directors' Special Achievement Award was given to the late Raylene Rankin, and another went to The Man of a Thousand Songs, Ron Hynes. Amelia Curran paid touching tribute to fellow Newfoundlander Ron Hynes. Hynes took the stage, and spoke about his recent battle with cancer. He thanked everyone for being in his corner and frankly said there's a small chance he'd leave this alter soon, but added he's not ready for that, and to send a prayer his way.

During the week, it was announced that the 26th East Coast Music Awards would happen in Charlottetown, P.E.I. in 2014. Here is the complete list of this year's winners:

Aboriginal Recording of the Year
We Are Medicine People - Lone Cloud

African-Canadian Recording of the Year
Ocean Blue - Cam Smith

Album of the Year
Coyote - Matt Mays
Producer: Matt Mays

Blues Recording of the Year
Triumph & Disaster - Charlie A'Court

Children's Recording of the Year
La vie pour moi - Donna & Andy

Classical Composition of the Year
Between the Shore and the Ships - Derek Charke

Classical Recording of the Year
Between the Shore and the Ships - Helen Pridmore and Wesley Ferriera

Country Recording of the Year
Where Does The Time Go - RyLee Madison

Electronic Recording of the Year
Red Potion - English Words

Chronicle Herald Fan's Choice Entertainer of the Year
The Stanfields

Chronicle Herald Fan's Choice Video of the Year
Saddle Up - George Canyon
Director: Warren Sonoda

Folk Recording of the Year:
We Have Made A Spark - Rose Cousins

Enregistrement francophone de l'année
Mōsaïk - Vishtèn

Group Recording of the Year
Death & Taxes - The Stanfields

Gospel Recording of the Year
Old Man Winter - Stephanie Mainville

Jazz Recording of the Year
Swim - Joel Miller

Pop Recording of the Year
The Beautiful Wild - Jenn Grant

Producer of the Year
Daniel Ledwell

R&B/Soul Recording of the Year
Triumph & Disaster - Charlie A'Court

Rap/Hip-Hop Recording of the Year
Havre de Grâce - Radio Radio

Rising Star Recording of the Year
In the Time of the Great Remembering - Ben Caplan

Rock Recording of the Year
Scrappy Happiness - Joel Plaskett Emergency

Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year:
Row Upon Row of the People They Know - The Once

Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year:
The Other Side - Tim Chaisson

Solo Recording of the Year
We Have Made A Spark - Rose Cousins

Song of the Year
"These Hands" - Dave Gunning

Songwriter of the Year
"Go First" - Rose Cousins
Composer: Rose Cousins

Traditional Instrumental Recording of the Year:
Cape Breton Girl - Natalie MacMaster

World Recording of the Year
Constellation - Gypsophilia

Directors' Special Achievement Award
Raylene Rankin / Ron Hynes

Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award
Bucky Adams

Another night of great East Coast sounds

March 10, 2013 5:46 PM

There are two ways you can do the ECMW. You can go crazy running from venue to venue, grabbing a set here from one group, catching another act at a different club. Or, you can find a comfortable spot, sit yourself down, and take in everything on one stage alone, and be ready to be surprised by somebody you don't know. With huge lineups and sold-out shows the norm in Halifax, I chose the latter route. My feet already hurt from a few days of standing, so my drive to wander around was sapped. I'm glad I did. Not only do I feel more rested, I got to see some great new performers I wouldn't have known about. Apologies, though, to those I missed over the course of the weekend. Next time.

I've already mentioned my fondness for The Member's Lounge, running three nights in the host hotel, Delta Halifax. It was a more quiet, acoustic stage, with even the bands on the bill playing with just light percussion and wooden instruments. It was all about the songs, and there were lots of grand ones. The show started with an already-established East Coast star, Christina Martin, nominated for two awards this year. Martin, accompanied as usual by her husband, producer and musician Dale Murray, showed that months of performing in Europe and across Canada has honed her set, and her voice continues to thrill listeners. Martin often sings about important topics, such as mental illness, and takes us into the lives of people who are hurt and overlooked.

Dana Beelor is another solid songwriter, and she released her debut disc this past year. Beelor's been performing her whole life, and comes from a bluegrass family band. Now going solo, her own music is more country-roots, and comes filled with great big hooks and memorable choruses. Matthew Hornell was there as well, offering up tunes from his brand-new album, Have It All. I'll review that this coming week. A name that was brand-new to me was Stewart Legere, a local Halifax writer and performer. Legere has recently been working with The Heavy Blinkers as a vocalist, and that band's mainstay, Jason MacIsaac, has been writing and producing with Legere for his debut disc. I can't wait for that one; he sang some killer numbers that were filled with emotion.

Christine Campbell showed why she's an artist to watch as well. The lead singer of the hard-rockin' Stone Mary has just released her solo album, and it reveals a whole different side to her. On her own, she does more roots and blues material. Her opening number was a piano ballad, and her classical training was on display with a deft touch at the keys. Then it was over to acoustic guitar, where she proved herself a great soloist as well. Her voice is very exciting, with a huge range, and she's able to lift to some great high notes, clear and loud, a real powerhouse singer. People were thrilled with her energy, and when she closed with a a Led Zep cover, a few jaws dropped.

I know there were lots of great perfomances all over the city Saturday for ECMW. I'm always frustrated I can't see them all, but I had a perfect seat in a great-sounding room, and no lineups at the bar or bathroom. What more do you want?

First NB ECMA Awarded to Joel Miller

March 9, 2013 3:23 AM

More trophies were handed out at the East Coast Music Week in Halifax Friday, included the first one for a New Brunswick artist. Saxophonist Joel Miller of Sackville took home the Jazz Recording of the Year award for his album, Swim. It was one of eight awards presented. Other winners included Lone Cloud, who received the Aboriginal Recording of the Year for their album We Are Medicine People. Cam Smith was the winner of the African-Canadian Recording of the Year award for his album Ocean Blue. Nova Scotia's powerhouse Charlie A'Court's Triumph & Disaster earned him two ECMA's, for Blues Recording of the Year and R&B/Soul Recording of the Year. RyLee Madison was the winner of the Country Recording of the Year award for her latest, Where Does The Time Go. Charlottetown's English Words were honoured with Electronic Recording of the Year for their album Red Potion. And Ben Caplan was awarded the Rising Star Recording of the Year award for his album In the Time of the Great Remembering.

578470_10152678420045574_632991039_n.jpg CHRIS KIRBY, KIM WEMPE, CARMEL MIKOL
It was a night that saw the ECMW go from simply busy to chaotic, with clubs, ballrooms and bars from downtown Halifax across to Dartmouth packed full, with lineups of at least an hour at some venues. I was able to witness some tremendous performances, but still only catching a tiny few of the dozens of sets being performed. The Soul Food Kitchen Party was a first-time free event, put on by ECMA nominee Chris Kirby of Newfoundland, and featuring sets from his musical pals, folks he's been writing with, and producing over the past few months. One artist would come up, and different combinations of the others would back them up on instruments and vocals. The lineup including Keith Mullins, Charlie A'Court, Kim Wempe, guest Diesel, visiting the ECMA's from Australia, and of course Kirby himself. Of special note was a new perfomer from St. John's, Brianna Gosse. She's just started to demo and write with Kirby, getting her pro career started, and she did a killer set, really impressing all who heard her, with a big voice and strong material You can expect to hear lots from her in the future.

It was a late night for your intrepid reporter, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make to give you the lowdown on the hot new acts. Plus, the regular great groups continue to turn heads. Moncton's Backyard Devils are playing several shows this weekend, bringing their mix of outlaw country and bluegrass virtuoso playing to Halifax, which is still getting to know the band. As is usually the case, even the jaded industry types at the Member's Lounge at the Delta Halifax had their heads turned to the band, watching their infectious stage show. Just another night for one of the hardest-working bands on the East Coast.

How to make it happen at the ECMA's

March 8, 2013 5:29 PM

One of the most important moves for a young band at the ECMA's is to make yourself visible. You can't sit back and wait for an invitation. Even if you don't have a manager or someone working for you, you can make it happen pretty easily. It doesn't have to be an official showcase. Those are earner via competition and judging by the ECMA selection committees, and don't necessarily guarantee an audience either. I've seen some of the top bands in the country play to a handful of people, because they were on last on a Thursday when there was a snowstorm outside. But bands can make it happen by doing some smart legwork.

Posters. Nothing works better than posters. Get a great-looking poster, put it everywhere, even if people don't go to your gigs, they'll remember your name.

Get a show. Local bars are always looking. Do this months in advance. Or, check with your provincial music industry association. MNB does its own showcases each year, and needs a couple of dozen bands to fill all the slots. This guarantees you a pretty good crowd, if not fabulous, and free promotion.

Got an album? Bring it. Hand it out. Or a download card. Something, and don't be cheap about it. Believe me, industry people are going to buy them at your merch table. If somebody in the music world likes you enough to talk to you, had them your new CD. They'll like you more.

I just got back from the Radio ECMA stage, where the afternoon was devoted to Francophone artists First up was a new singer-songwriter from Dieppe, Caroline Savoie. This is a young woman, 18 years old, but I had to be told that, she is already polished and pro, and writing excellent new songs, judging by what I heard. She's doing it right, she saw a stage that was looking for performers, that offers the constant crowd walking through the main hotel lobby, plus listeners at home. Then there are those industry folks, or maybe a (ahem) reviewer just passing by. And she came armed with her brand-new CD, that's being launched next Tuesday in Moncton. I'm already impressed, and that's how you make the ECMA's happen for you.

Another relative newcomer to the seen is Fredericton's versatile rock band, Tonella. With a new E.P. in hand, called Compromise, the four-piece are hitting the stage tonight (Friday) at Pogue Fado, where Music New Brunswick has set up. Lots of buzz has been building with the group, and the disc show why. Fronted by singer/songwriter/keyboard player Tonella Roy, this is a group that moves back and forth from big ballad style to harder guitar rock, with Roy's strong voice a big part of the show. She's the kind of singer who gets right up front in a song, with lots of drama. And there's plenty of volume from the band, layers of guitars that give way to delicate piano parts, lots of drums, a real rock band. It's a solid five-track disc, and this is the kind of group that could pick up some significant interest from bookers and agencies who haven't seen them yet. And that's how you play the ECMA game to your advantage.

Jenn Grant, Rose Cousins, Tim Chaisson Among First ECMA Winners

March 8, 2013 3:03 AM

The first awards of the East Coast Music Week were handed out Thursday night. Like many awards shows of late, the ECMA's has picked up on the trend of spacing out some of the genre-specific trophy presentations throughout the event. This makes the showcase performances a little more exciting, and helps clear up the traffic jam of awards that used to come during the actual main show Sunday night.

734367_10152675366250574_2129911409_n.jpg ENNIS
Thursday featured the annual Roots Room, a concept first debuted at the Saint John ECMA's years back, created by the Port City's Brent Mason. Mason, himself a fine singer-songwriter, and a previous winner of the Stompin' Tom Award from the ECMA's, came up with the idea to showcase more folk, country and traditional performers, rather than the rock acts that were grabbing much of the attention. The small room in Saint John has blossomed into a major stage over the years. Tonight's performers included Ennis (Karen Ennis acted as MC for the evening), The Dardenelles, Dwayne Cote and Duane Andrews, The Navigators, Ben Caplan, Dennis Ellsworth, Carmel Mikol, and the duo of Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac.

537757_10152675207880574_474475682_n.jpg LAMOND & MACISAAC
Four awards were presented during the Roots evening. Folk Recording of the Year went to Rose Cousins, with We Have Made A Spark. The Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year went to Newfoundland's The Once, for Row Upon Row Of The People They Know. Roots/Traditional Solo Recording of the Year was picked up by PEI's Tim Chaisson, for this album The Other Side. And the Traditional Instrumental Recording of the Year was picked up by Natalie MacMaster, for Cape Breton Girl.

Meanwhile, a fifth award was handed out across town. The pop recording of the year went to Jenn Grant for her latest, The Beautiful Wild. That was presented during the Pop/Rock showcase at the Palace Nightclub. More awards are going to handed out Friday night.

Meanwhile one of my favourite venues of East Coast Music Week got underway Thursday evening. The Members' Lounge is a quieter stage, away from the showcases, and set aside as a venue where you can get an acoustic taste of some of the best artists in town for the event. It runs again Friday and Saturday evenings, starting at 7:30. New Brunswick and PEI are sharing the bill Friday, and the lineup includes Irish Mythen, Pascal Lejeune, Dennis Ellsworth, The BackYard Devils, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin and more. That's award show-worthy right there, and best of all, there's nobody taking tickets at the door, or checking for passes, so you can just stop by, dart in and out at will, chill out if needed, and still see some of the very best. Stay tuned for more reports from the ECMA's in Halifax!

ECMA's and Stompin' Tom

March 7, 2013 11:39 AM

I'm off to the East Coast Music Week with the news of the passing of Dr. Stompin' Tom Connors. No doubt it will be the main conversation of the weekend, and many a glass will be raised in his name. East Coast musicians love Connors, and not just because he's from here. It's because of his attitude, and his fierce spirit. His connection with the country's small towns and working people made him a legend. He wrote about real people, and real places, the way most people live.

That's what Atlantic Canadian's musicians, or at least the greater part of them, do and do well. All that he wrote and did was with great respect, and love of the people and the places. He was a role model for generations of musicians.

Tom's East Coast roots are well-documented, especially in his two fine autobiographies, which I heartily recommend. Let's recap the highlights, though. He was born in Saint John, N.B., and spent the first nine years of his life in the city, growing up hard in the streets, with his unwed, teenage mother. Eventually he was placed with a family in Skinner's Pond, P.E.I., and later hit the road as a teenager, hitch-hiking and learning to play music. While he lived elsewhere, he returned to the Maritimes for his first hit, Bud The Spud in 1970. After that, almost every album included a song about one place or another in Atlantic Canada, and although he lived the majority of his life in Ontario, he'd always be thought of as a Maritimer.

It was St. Thomas University in Fredericton that gave him his first honorary degree, which was a source of great pride for him. He even named his next album Dr. Stompin' Tom, Eh? And when the East Coast Music Association bestowed a lifetime achievement award on him in 1993, he turned the tables on the board of directors. He asked that instead, they create a new award, and give it out each year to the unsung heroes in the local music world. The champion of the underdog wanted to see those people recognized. To this day, the Association gives out the Stompin' Tom Award yearly, to a deserving person from each Atlantic province.

You'll read and hear lots praise for Connors in the next few days from every corner of the country. I can tell you about the teacher in Yellowknife who plays her kids a recording of Tom's Name The Capitols, so they will sing along and learn the capitol city of each province and territory. You'll hear the stories about him packing the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto in the late 60's, his boot pounding the stompin' board so hard you could smell burnt sawdust in the air. People around your office will be singing the theme song for P.E.I. Tourism, "For information on vacations, phone the land of fun, 8-double-zero, five-six-five, seven-four-two-one." The East Coast Music Awards has stated that there will be a tribute at the Awards show, and the Industry brunch event. And I'm looking forward to the late-night hotel room parties, where I guarantee you the musicians will be jamming to Big Joe Mufferaw, The Hockey Song, Ketchup Song, Sudbury Saturday Night, Tillsonburg, Moon-Man Newfie, The Bug Song and of course, Bud The Spud. Why? 'Cause he's from Prince Edward Island. And New Brunswick.

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