Canada’s Atlantic provinces sometimes get accused of being a little bit folksy, and that might be true. But if life gives you lemons, the best thing you can do is make a big pitcher of gin sours. When the Canadian Folk Music Awards announced their list of 2017 nominees, it was clear some people decided to work with their strengths. East coast artists garnered seventeen nominations across the CFMA’s nineteen categories this year.
First and foremost of the nominees this year are Nova Scotian sisters Cassie and Maggie taking in more nominations than any other solo artist or group, with a total of four nominations. Newfoundlander Amelia Curran wasn’t far behind, with three nominations for her album, Watershed.
It’s no small accomplishment for these artists. They’re going up against numerous talents from much more densely populated provinces on a national level.
“East Coast folk artists always punch above their weight at awards time, and this year is no exception, with the region’s artists garnering an impressive 17 Canadian Folk Music Association awards nominations,” says Kimberly Sinclair of Spincount, who represent several of the artists nominated.
“These awards recognize the continued relevance and enduring popularity of the genre and the important contributions to Canadian culture of our East Coast artists.”
Here are all your east coast nominees heading to the Canadian Folk Music Awards this year.
Cassie and Maggie
(Vocal Group of the Year/Traditional Album of the Year/Traditional Singer of the Year/Ensemble of the Year)
For their album The Willow Collection, Nova Scotian sister duo Cassie and Maggie lead the pack with four nominations in the categories of Vocal Group of the Year, Traditional Album of the Year, Traditional Singer of the Year, and Ensemble of the Year. Their combination of fiddle playing, guitar playing and sibling-powered vocal harmonies that work in both English and Gaelic have made them a touring favourite throughout North America, the UK, and Europe
(Solo Artist of the Year/Producer(s) of the Year/English Songwriter of the Year)
Juno-Award winner Amelia Curran is obviously no stranger to nomination lists; she just kind of hangs out on them like some sort of semi-permanent artist residency. The songwriter, activist and mental health advocate from St. Johns, Newfoundland, along with her producer, Chris Stringer, brought in nominations of Solo Artist of the Year, Producer of the Year, and English Songwriter of the Year for Curran’s album Watershed.
(New/Emerging Artist of the Year / Vocal Group of the Year)
Repatriated Maritimer Luke Fraser and newly imported prairie-girl Sarah Frank may have spent some time away, but we’ll still claim them. Breaking with a long tradition of the Tolkien character, Bombadil isn’t getting left out for a change, and instead are taking nominations of New/Emerging Artist and Vocal Group of the Year for their debut album New Shoes. They blend storytelling telling with Sarah’s strong vocals, some heavy fiddle playing and claw-hammer banjo to bring you a bottled kitchen party.
(The Oliver Schroer Pushing The Boundaries Award)
Revisiting his traditional east coast roots, Jay Andrews has come full circle with his album Celtic Remixing. It’s still got a modern twist, working in elements of Celtic, electronic and hip-hop music, but with all the drums and harmonies it wouldn’t be folk music without.
Les Hay Babies
(French Songwriter(s) of the Year)
Hay Babies’ newest album La 4ième Dimension (version longue), has kept the Acadian ladies busy all summer. They’ve easily been one of the most active East Coast bands and proven their brand of ‘rock knows no language barriers.’ Especially when they’re covering Elton John’s ‘Bennie And The Jets’.
(Traditional Album of the Year)
Còig is one of those staples for Atlantic Canada’s traditional music. With all the fiddle and mandolin (and piano, guitar, banjo, viola, bouzouki, whistles and about a dozen more instruments), they’re a mainstay in the genre. They’ve mastered many a jig, and if you haven’t already seen them perform, chances are you will sometime. Their album Rove is up for Traditional Album of the Year.
(Traditional Singer of the Year)
Dave Penny is an accordion player and composers from Newfoundland. He’s been cited as a key figure who is resurging in popularity of Newfoundland recitations. His latest album, All Turned Around, has him up for Traditional Singer of the Year, and will only solidify that claim.
(Contemporary Album of the Year)
We’re pretty biased when it comes to husband/wife duo Tomato/Tomato, and pleased to see them getting national attention. As two of the nicest people you meet anywhere, they’ve built an audience for themselves—if not by way of their niceness alone, then as a small-scale skiffle band. Together, John McLaggan plays guitar and banjo while Lisa McLaggan does everything else from singing and playing the washboard to tapdancing her way through the percussion, all simultaneously in a truly impressive feat of coordination. Their album I Go Where You Go is nothing but fun.
(Contemporary Singer of the Year)
New Brunswick’s Lisa LeBlanc’s second full-length album, Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen?, isn’t just up for Contemporary Singer of the Year, it was also nominated for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year at the JUNOs. Now living in Montreal, the singer/guitarist/banjo player has toured for five years and sold over 150 000 records.
Coco Love Alcorn
(Contemporary Singer of the Year)
Easily one of the more pop-rooted albums on this list, Wonderland has seen heavy rotation this year. Now living in Owen Sound, Ontario, Antigonish-born Coco Love Alcorn is just as comfortable working with jazz and R&B. With vocals that soothe, it seems she is a musical chameleon who is able to blend her way into any genre.
Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy
(Instrumental Group of the Year)
Natalie MacMaster is a legitimate Canadian household name. She has been doing this for 25 years now, has received the Order of Canada, and has released 11 albums—with sales of over 200,000 copies. She has won two JUNO awards and eleven East Coast Music awards, and has been nominated for a Grammy. The name Donnell Leahy should be familiar, as part of the family musical group Leahy: winners of three JUNO Awards. So is anyone surprised that their Celtic Family Christmas album is up for Instrumental Group of the year?
Scott Macmillan & Colin Grant
(Instrumental Group of the Year)
Both legends in their own right, East Coast Music Award winners Scott Macmillan and Colin Grant are another group that have proven that where one award-winning composer is good, two can be better. As a duo, they’ve released their debut album Good2Go, which took home the Traditional Instrumental Album of the Year at the 2017 East Coast Music Awards.
(Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year)
Halifax (by way of Montreal) guitarist Don Ross is a guitarist’s guitarist. He’s the guy who shows up with a with the guitar and the amp, then suddenly you’re wondering where all the music is coming from. Six strings and two hands can’t seem to justify it. His album A Million Brazilian Civilians is up for Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year.
(Ensemble of the Year)
We love the nomads. We never get to see Mama’s Broke because they’re perpetually touring, but the folk duo maintain some sort of regular mailing address in Halifax, even if they’re never there to check it. Their broad variety of influences distilled through a heavy mix of folk have made Count The Wicked one of our favourite albums this year, and has them nominated for Ensemble of the Year.
Bill & Joel Plaskett
(Producer(s) of the Year)
Well, it’s Joel Plaskett and his dad, Bill. Did you know that Joel has won multiple JUNO awards, is a celebrated songwriter, and has appeared several times on the Polaris Music Prize Short List? Of course you did. Over the last couple of years he’s toned it back a little and shared the spotlight with his father as they performed a powerful collection of original and traditional songs on their album Solidarity. It’s Plaskett at his folksiest.
This year’s 13th annual awards will take place on November 18 and 19 at the Bronson Centre in Ottawa. For more information visit www.folkawards.ca