The 19th Annual
The Porcupine Awards - 2008

for an outstanding musical accompanist


Watching Rachel Melas perform on stage is like watching a comedian who plays the stand-up bass. But as wacky as she can get at times she matches it with her bass playing. She is always locked into whatever rhythms and styles she’s playing, from klezmer to Cajun, folk or rock. Praised by other bass players, she’s done session work on many other artists CDs and and plays in many bands, quite often in tandem with her real-life parter, Connie Nowe on drums – an instant rhythm section. Never over-doing it unless you need her to over do it, she brings sparkle and bottom end to any performance which is not usually what you’d expect from a stand-up bass player.

only virtuosos need apply!

Pierre Schryer, Sault Ste Marie, ON

Pierre Schryer has just reached his fortieth year and yet he’s got a lifetime of achievements and awards behind him. Raised as one of the three great fiddling triplets, Pierre has won every major fiddling championship in Canada, and so have his brothers Louis and Dan. First recorded for Boot Records in 1982 by Bill Garrett on "The Schryer Triplets" (not to be confused with a later CD release with that same name) along with their elder sister, Julie, on piano. Pierre has crossed over into other mediums: he’s popular on the folk music scene as well as the Irish and World music scenes. French and German in background and raised in Northern Ontario, Pierre and his brothers were inspired to play by their  older brother Raymond. The entire family shared in 1996, The Jack Hayes Porcupine Award, while Pierre has previously been recognized for the 1996 Don Messer Fiddle Award and the Foreign Porcupine he shared with Dermot Byrne in 1999. He’s got that master’s touch!

This is the Mac Beattie Award for musicians who are proud to be identifiably Canadian.



It’s so hard to choose a Porcupine winner as sometimes the choices for a particular award are many and I can only choose one. But Jon Brooks fit into several catagories for consideration. He writes great songs, has a great CD and yet he also fits into the Songs of Canada category, which is where he’s being awarded the Mac Beattie Award for writing overtly Canadian songs. He sings about his experiences and those he saw others go through while in the Canadian military, serving abroad. He sings of the realities of wars, from then and now, from the human on the front lines stand point; about the wishes and desires of being holed up in a foreign desert, hoping to get back to boring old Mimico alive. The streets of Toronto and Canadian wars, poverty and tears, with longing and striving and succeeding in these strong songs that would make any Canadian sit up and take notice.

The find of the year Award!


'This isn’t here,' is a good self-description of David Celia’s view on things. While Organica (the name of his other CD) is his recipe to great pop songs with good organic roots. Two good collections of original songs and yet, it wasn’t until I had the David Celia Band into the CIUT studios to record a set of songs for later broadcast that I truly discovered the wonder of what he does. The songs are first class, interesting with a wide degree of topics; the playing is superb, surrounded as he is by excellent, hand-picked players. Bringing the spirit and power of pop rock to life, sliding through folk roots and rhythms, and being inspired by the likes of Harry Nilson, The Beatles and Syd Barrett has an organic compound built right in to his hummable, catchy and yet, never corny songs. I’m glad I dug this guy out of the old mine drift.

music which was brought here to enrich us all


JAYME STONE & MANSA SISSOKO, Toronto & Boulder CO / Quebec City

When Guelph meets Mali or when appalachia meets a kora playing African griot! When they first jammed it seemed to fit, and then it clicked and now they’ve recorded some excellent music with a superb band, blending in the rhythms of the Kora and the banjo, weaving them together in a web of superb sounds. Great for Chinquapin Hunting. Mansa Sissoko, now living in Quebec City with his gourd-harp, likes to hang around the city of Guelph, jamming and playing with other musicians. Jayme Stone pushes his boundaries on the banjo, exlporing new territory where his strings fit in. And together they blend the world of music and so…..Africa meets Appalachia!

something or someone that's way out there and not stopping


Primarily a guitar player, Mark Sepic, having gotten very proficient on his instrument, decided that he should not be limited in the way the world worked, especially when it comes to making music. He began to improvise ways of getting new sounds, using unusual percussion utensils and mouth noises while playing harmonics and melody on the guitar. Meet him in the flesh and what do you get: a wide-eyed, partly eccentric who just wants to keep on going, creating beautiful sounds out of emptyness.. His music is always fresh with spiritual renewal, riding on the wind and purified by the fire.


Sheesham and Lotus, Kingston ON

They were made to be played on old wax records and that’s the way their CD sounds: “Everytime!”. Good old jugband tunes join Ida Red and Canadian lumberjack songs, played with clawhammer banjo and various bass chromaticas, fiddle and guitar, and just two guys: Sam Allison and Teilhard Frost, once members of the limberjack band Flapjack, featuring another Porcupine Award winner: Karen Taylor. These guys are great at parties and festivals, and their cd just wants to get you up to dance. Lots of fun to see or hear.


PAUL MYERS – It Ain’t Easy – Long John Baldry bio, Toronto

The story of the birth of the British blues scene following the story of Long John Baldry. Openly gay and tall in stature, he played in the first British blues bands in the ‘50s, bands that members of The Beatles and Rolling Stones used to go to hear before their bands took off. Told by Paul Myres, a Toronto born singer/songwriter (and brother to Mike), it follows Baldry’s carrer through its ups and downs and how it relocated to Canada, first in Toronto and later in Vancouver where he eventually passed away. Interviews with prominent members of famous bands, praising the dynamics of Long John Baldry. Well researched and written.

for songwriting


Her first solo album, Oak Lake, was rated as Steve’s Favourite Album of the Year for the 2002 Porcupine Awards. While she is not a prolific recording artists, having just released Oak Lake’s follow-up, “Lucky Blue” in 2007, what she does choose to record and perform are solidly built, beautifully sung songs without any contaminating agents. She treats songwriting like a painter views a canvas, taking her time and getting it just right and then arranging them with her Producer / Partner, Lewis Melville. When every song you do sounds great, there must be something to ya!

one that keeps coming back at you


It’s a real challenge, every year, to pick one of the best songs that I can remember hearing for this Porcupine Award. That one song that stands out at me from the hundreds that I listen to each year. I’m not saying that I’ve picked the best one, but that the one I’ve chosen certainly deserves the title of Song of the Year. A sweet, lovely, spacey song, sung simply and with every once of meaning trickling forth, sung like a humming bird. A little bit of Emmy Lou Harris, a blanket of lovely sounding feelings that just take flight and you go with it. Singing to the hummingbirds.

to those who make CDs sound so great

DAVID ESSIG Protection Island BC

The moment that it was possible to build a good, little recording studio in Canada, giving a needed outlet for our recording artists who, up till then relied upong the expensive services of the likes of RCA and ARC Sound et al. A small studio in Hamilton, Ontario, built by the brothers Bob and Dan Lanois in their parents home. And one of the first producers to start recording there was musician, singer/songwriter David Essig. He produced great albums  by Willie P Bennett, The Original Sloth Band, Fred J Eaglesmith, The Humber River Valley Boys and more. Since moving to the Pacific Coast in the 1990s, he has established himself as an excellent producer of music, and most recently joined a Winnipeg collective called Beverley Street, whose first CD is filled with nothing but original David Essig songs. He was inducted into the Porcupine Awards Hall of Fame in 2006.

just a good excuse to recognize another great CD


Another album from a banjo player! Okay, I put it on and yes, it starts out as another album from a banjo player. But then it takes off into other dimensions with some really great songs. Proof of Love has everything needed to be a great album: a Porcupine Award recipient in producer Steve Dawson; a good record company – Black Hen Music; excellent tracking from song to song and a trip you kind of look forward into taking again and again, something sorrily missing from many CDs out there today.

must be at least 25 years old

SONGS OF THE IRON RAIL: The Canadian Railroad Experience in Song by BARRY LUFT & TIM ROGERS with GRIT LASKIN, Iron Trail Music, 1983 – Calgary AB / Toronto

This recording by Barry Luft and Tim Rogers with Grit Laskin previously garnered them a Porcupine Award in 1993. This is what I said then:

Barry Luft and Tim Rogers of Calgary for "Songs of the Iron Rail"

A complete album of Canadian railway songs that cover PEI, Hudson's Bay, BC, Ontario and all kinds of lines.
Along with accompanist Grit Laskin, Luft and Rogers present a great recording of folk songs for history and railway buffs."

Recently remastered and re-released on CD, this album is a real gem, even 25 years after it was first recorded. There are songs by Wilf Carter and Mac Beattie and others dug out of the collections of Edith Fowke and Dr. Helen Creighton, and sung in an acoustic musical setting, songs about Canada’s forgotten railroads.

A Classic Canadian Album


In 2002 I awarded Enoch Kent with the Golden Porcupine for Lifetime Achievement, an award that I consider the crème de la crème des Porc-épics. He was also inducted into the Porcupine Awards Hall of Fame at the same time. This time, instead of repeating what I’ve already said about him back in 2002, he has finally released, what I consider to be a Gem of Canada Award CD. He only started his CD recording career when he turned 70. Since then he’s recorded and released five CDs of great material. One More Round was produced by CIUT’s Atlantic Ceilidh host, Patrick Simmonds who, along with his Sudbury-born wife, Kelly Hood on the pipes, provide all the backing Enoch needs in this well produced CD made with tender loving care. This one’s done just right.

Order of the Porcupine
Hall of Fame Inductees 2008

The Golden Porcupine for Lifetime Achievement

Murray McLauchlan – Toronto ON – Scottish born on the fringe of Glasgow his family immigrated to Canada in the early 50s. As he watched Canada’s supersonic jet, The Arrow, fly above his head, he wondered where he would fly if given the chance. Armed with a guitar, he lived a life on the streets, writing songs and crashing places, getting into bands and out again. Armed with a harmonica and guitar, he set out for The Big Apple where we got to record his first album of songs. The Farmer’s song came out of that trip, so did Tom Rush’s version of Child’s Song. By the mid 1970s Murray had a number hit songs – he was the biggest selling artist on the homegrown True North Records label. When Bruce Cockburn hit it big, it was Murray and Bruce, the two label mainstays.

In the late 1980s McLauchlan hosted CBC Radio’s Swinging On A Star and was briefly recording for EMI. He’s been the recipient of many awards, including the Junos and the Order of Canada. Now he’s a Golden Member of the Porcupine Order

Memorial Order of the Porcupine

Kidd Baker – North Tilley, NB

From 1917 on his name was Ransford Baker and he began singing publicly when he was just 15. He entered a yodelling contest down in Maine and won first prize. He started calling himself Kidd, with two dees, and formed Yodellin’ Kidd Baker and His Texas Cowgirls band. Then he started playing the fiddle and got a radio show in Fredricton and a place in numerous bands. After WW2 he formed a family show called The Kidd Baker Show. He started recording in 1952 and scored some serious hits like Big Rock Candy Mountain 1956 and Wheeling Back To Wheeling, West Virginia in 1953. When his wife of many years took sick, he stopped performing. He was among the first three inductees of the fledgling New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983, with Don Messer and Ned Landry. He died in Arthurette, New Brunswick on May 9, 1992.

Stu Davis – Boggy Creek, SK

His family name was David Stewart and since he didn’t want to embarrass them should he not be received well, he used the moniker Stu Davis, a name that he would be forever known by. Born in 1921, he was destined to write and sing western sounding songs from Regina and Calgary and into the arms of Wilf Carter who got him signed to Sonora Records in 1946. His composition 'What A Fool I Was' was a major hit for Eddy Arnold in 1948. From there he went on to record dozens of singles and albums of mostly original songs into the 1980s. His songs were covered by Hank Snow, Wilf Carter, Ray Price and countless others. He was featured many times on the Grand Ol’ Opry, d Edmonton 25 Mar 2007

Jim Magill – Montreal QC

He might have been born in Ireland in 1902 or in Montreal in 1905, but what we do know is how great a fiddler and band leader Jim Magill really was. If any two bands were contemporaries it had to be Jim Magill and The Northern Ramblers, Don Messer and His Islanders and George Wade and His Cornhuskers. Why Magill didn’t become as popular as Messer had more to do with things other than fiddling. He died in 1954. He had a radio show on Toronto’s CBC station CFRB every Saturday Night till the year that he died. In all he recorded about 34 recordings of traditional and original tunes. His Fred Roden’s Reel became very popular in the Ontario fiddling repertoire.

Order of the Porcupine
Jack Schuller - Victoria, BC


Jack Schuller co-founded Black Swan Records in 1976. Today he's president and CEO of Festival Distribution, marketers of independently produced recordings of folk and world music. Jack began working at Festival when it began in 1980 as a project of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. It has since become a national distribution company with the Jericho Beach Music Label as a subsidiary. Jack has used his business acumen combined with a deep appreciation and love of the music he deals with. He knows what’s hot, what’s not, how to push things in a struggling market and where to find niche markets.

Valdy – Salt Spring Island, BC

Everyone knows the man called Valdy, the Play Me A Rock n’ Roll Song or don’t play me no song at all, guy. Born in Ottawa ON in 1945 as Valdemar Horsdal, his road stretched out before him offering  a never ending tour through several eras of the Canadian music scene. Originally a folkie, his first album, produced for A&M Records by Clair Lawrence of The Collectors, sold impressively in the US. By 1976 Valdy & the Hometown Band became a Canadian favourite. His songs were featured on both Country as well as Pop charts across North America and beyond. He still continues to perform fabulously, flawlessly across the country, always able to engage with an audience.

Joan & Jeff Weed - Toronto

She’s from Ontario’s Ketchup and Tobacco country; he’s from chilly, gray Wales. It was music that first brought them together and its still the glue that binds them. Jeff has been involved as Site Manager for the Mariposa Festival for about 30 years; Joan used to run the kids’ Folkplay area. He’s been a jolly Morris dancer for years, part of the Toronto Morris Men. They raised two boys in a house filled with everything from Fairport Convention to rock bands; singer/songwriters to traditional folk
artists. They hold house concerts in their Upper Beech home in Toronto, giving an inner warmth to all who perform or attend. These are the kind of people the musicians depend on.

Eric Wilson - Scarborough ON

Born in the heart of resession, he and his brother were forced to make it on their own when they were in their early teens. For two weeks they lived in leantos while looking for some kind of work. Eric emerged as a driver of trucks which he did from the mid-1940s. His love for country music, and the Canadian brand more exclusively, came from hearing the songs of Wilf on the radio. He got to see Hank Williams perform at Toronto’s Mutual St Arena October 27, 1949. He got to meet his hero, Wilf Carter and have a coffee and a chat. He’s been the Sugarcamp’s resident Country Music Specialist and has appeared on over 25 programs since 1997, more than any other person but me. He’s now retired and living in Scarborough.

David Woodhead – Toronto ON

There is a distinct sound of a person that can be found deep within; David Woodhead has found his sound for he sounds like no other whether playing guitar, mandolin or his basses. He broke his teeth with Perth County Conspiracy and went on to perform and record with the likes of  Stan Rogers, Loreena McKinnett, Daisy DeBolt, Oliver Schroer. He was the 1997 recipient of the Lenny Breau Award for musical excellence on the bass; in 1999 Off-Beat Music Award for his only CD of original music: Sweets and Conundrums. He can do so much and do so little, but what ever he does do is the sweetest conundrum of them all.

Order of the Porcupine

Blackie & The Rodeo Kings – Hamilton, Toronto, Guelph ON

Colin Linden, Tom Wilson and Stephen Fearing, what an unlikely combination to build a band around. Three excellent guitarists, one a rocking, folk blues wizard; another a Junkhouse rocker; the third a guitar picking singer/songwriter. And together they were Swinging the Chains of Love. Originally meant to be a one-off project of Colin’s, Blackie was meant to be a tribute album of Willie P Bennett songs but by the time it was finished it was a full-fledged band. Ten years later and they’ve released their Best Of CD. A supergroup that works!

Jim Magill and the Northern Ramblers - Toronto ON

The Northern Ramblers were built around fiddler and bandleader Jim Magill. They held the Saturday night at 10 PM slot on the CBC’s Toronto flagship station CFRB for 8 years. The band was built around Jim and his stand-up bass playing brother Joe. They played the best dance halls in Toronto during post-war ‘40s, including the Palace Pier. The late Fred Townsend, father to Graham, was one of his square dance callers. With the sudden passing of Jim Magill in 1954, the band disbanded leaving a legacy of three dozen recorded sides of music.

Perth County Conspiracy – Stratford ON

Where Shakespeare meets a hippie commune in the White Swan upon Avon. Perth County wasn’t really a band, as such, they were more of a collective of people who played music together. It wasn’t uncommon to have a couple of a dozen commune members with their kids on stage during their legendary performances at the Bathurst Street United Church in Toronto where they recorded their Alive record for CBS Columbia. The Perth County Conspiracy (Does Not Exist) became a buzzword at the turn of the 1970s. Richard Keelan, Terry Jones and Cedric Smith were central figures; others include David Woodhead, Bob Burchill, John Jackson and Larry Brown. The Perth County Conspiracy (still exist).

Rêve du Diable – Quebec City QC

In 1974 Gervais Lessard and André Gladu performed at the first  la Veillée des veillées as Rêve du Diable. Shortly thereafter Claude Méthé joined the band. By 1976 they had recorded their first album Le Rêve du Diable. In 1983 pianist, singer and guitarist Claude Morin joined the band and has stayed by Gervais’s side ever since. With seven excellent albums of traditional Quebecois music to their credit, they hold the title as Quebec’s longest lived traditional folk band. First recorded at the second Veillée des veillées, Porcupine Award winning album.

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