For music that is identifiably Canadian
Matt Masters, Calgary AB
The first known recording artist in Alberta was Wilf Carter who chronicled the plight of the cowboy life. What Matt Masters does today is very similar. He writes songs about the pioneers, the history and the charm of western Canada. In 2008 Matt realised his dream of performing his own full-length musical play called Don Coyote, the songs of which appeared on CD. Don Coyote was also performed in Toronto for Nuit Blanche before 8,000 people. At 36, Matt should have a large future ahead of him. His music is identifyably Canadian.
The Ultimate Musician
Suzie Vinnick, Saskatoon, SK
Suzie took up playing guitar as a teen and got so serious about it that she moved to Ottawa where she met up with Alex Sinclair (of Tamarack) who was the first to record her. Since then she has moved to Toronto. Her love of the blues, folk and country music have made her a sturdy figure on the Canadian roots music scene. Last January Suzie was awarded two Maple Blues awards for Female Vocalist and Songwriter, but I contend that it is her guitar playing that stands out, especially in live performance, as with The Marigolds.
must be at least 25 years old to qualify
Margaret Christl, ON – Looking Towards Home, Logan’s Line Records, 1984
Margaret emigrated to Canada from Scotland in the 1960s and started singing in folk clubs, like Fiddler’s Green in Toronto. In the 1970s she recorded two albums of traditional folk songs before moving to Alberta. While there she recorded her seminal album Looking Towards Home. An album of contemporary and traditional songs made her the darling of folk festivals across the land and is one of the best albums of its kind. She currently resides in Toronto.
GEM OF CANADA
A Canadian Album that should be in everyone's home
Annabelle Chvostek, Montreal / Toronto – Rise
I’ve said it before: "Annabelle's CD Rise should be a blueprint on 'how to make an excellent album'. One of the very few 'albums' that are great! It's not just that all the songs are excellent—there's a lot more to it than that. A lot more." Years of experience, this multi-instrumentalist and one time member of The Wailing Jennys, has hit her stride. Rise includes ten original songs and two covers: one by Lou Reed and the other, Equal Rights, from Peter Tosh. Wonderfully recorded by past Porcupine Award producer, Don Kerr, it is definitely one of my favourite albums of songs – ever.
OFF BEAT AWARD
something or someone that's way out there and not stopping
Petunia, Laval QC
There’s lots to be said about Petunia and so little space to say them! He moved to Toronto and befriended comedienne Shiela Gostick who talked him into learning to play guitar, put a band together and became a street performer. When the band abandoned him, he called them a bunch of backstabbers: thus the birth of The Backstabbers band. He moved to New Brunswick where he yodelled and whined and won the hearts of many. Then a move to Vancouver where his sharp country twang won over audiences everywhere. He’s always been way out there where he really belongs.
FAVOURITE ALBUM of 2012
David Gogo, Nanaimo, BC – Soul Bender, 2011
My own preferences leech out of me here. I love rocking blues and this is a totally riviting experience of the rocking blues that you’ll find anywhere. Tasty, hard edge, guitar driven, mostly in the power-trio format, it’s the kind of music that I just love to listen to. What can I say!
to those who make Music sound so great
Joby Baker – Victoria BC
I get CDs sent to me and I always check the credits and when a certain name keeps popping up I take notice. Not only that, but when the music sounds great, I start thinking Porcupine. Joby Baker has worked with the Cowboy Junkies, The Fretless, Mae Moore and many others. He is also getting a name for his Mastering jobs.
For First Nations Artists
Art Napoleon, Victoria BC
Last given out 2000. I just had to give Art Napoleon a Porcupine Award one of these years, but he just seemed to be falling through the cracks. So this year I was determined and in order to do so I decided to revive an old Porcupine category: the Lee Cremo Award for first nations artists. He and his two daughters, Niska and Quanah, recently released an EP called the Napoleon Collective. But it is the fabulous range of works he’s released over the years that have kept him in contention for this Porcupine Award. Singing in his native Cree from his CD Creeland Covers, Smokey Robinson’s
Dave Bidini, Toronto – Writing Gordon Lightfoot
Everyone should read this, especially if you can remember the summer of 1972. This is a humourous, bindini-esque look at the world that I enjoyed reading from cover to cover. It was recently nominated for a Toronto Book Award.
for an outstanding musical accompanist - est. 1997
Shelley Coopersmith, Toronto
Shelley is a musician’s musician who has never really had much of a solo career but has been everpresent in backing up other artists with her fiddle and mandolin. She’s a thoughtful player who’s been around for many years, who keeps her ego off the stage coz with Shelley, it’s all about the music. Once a member of Porcupine Hall of Fame band Tamarack, she always adds to the music instead of taking it over.
This is for a great, new, contemporary song which captures something unique about the country.
MENDELSON JOE, Huntsville ON: I Am Canuckian
There has been a lot said about Mendelson Joe over the years but one thing that cannot be denied is his Canadian patriotism. Back in the ‘60s when he was in Mainline, he insisted that the band be introduced: From Toronto, Canada…. He has always had Canadianisms strewn through his music and on ‘I Am Canuckian’, he sort of explains why.
SONG OF THE YEAR
one that keeps coming back at you
WHITEHORSE, Toronto: Peterbilt Coalmine
I have a hard time choosing this Award each year but there always seems to be one song that really stands out. Maybe it’s the hook, maybe it’s the chorus, perhaps the melody, whatever…. I just love mining songs and trucks…… Whitehorse is basically the duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland who only joined forces as Whitehorse a couple of years ago. This is from their second CD The Fate of the World depends on this Kiss.
The find of the year Award!
Scarlet Jane, Toronto, Timmins
Scarlet Jane is the duo of Cindy Doire and Andrea Ramolo. I got to see them perform last summer at the Eaglewood Folk Festival up in Pefferlaw and was smitten. Not only were they great on the mainstage, with electric instruments, but acoustically on an un-amplified stage they were equally impressive. They’ve got great stage presence and work together magically.
/ TOM McQUESTON AWARD
for old tyme music
Slocan Rambers, Toronto
Old time music never seems to go away, but as generations pass the approach changes and sometimes changes the nature of the music. Not so with the Slocan Ramblers who have spent the past couple of years honing their skills as a band. They play their music with a new approach and yet hold fast to the nature of old time country and bluegrass.
Barney Bentall – B. Toronto 1956, now living in BC
Barney is best known for his time with Barney Bentall and The Legendary Hearts. After years of touring, Bentall moved to the Cariboo country of BC and got into farming. The change of scene also changed his approach to music and he started writing some pretty powerful songs. He has since released three albums worth of excellent songs culminating in the recent release ‘Flesh and Bone’ this fall on the True North label. It seems that his influence has greatly affected his son, Dustin, who follows in his footsteps.
for lifetime achievement:
Big John T-Bone Little – Niagara Falls ON / Saint John, NB
Big John T-Bone Little - Steve Fruitman - John Valentyne @ CIUT's Map Room Studios
Last year I asked blues historian John Valenteyn: “Who was the first Canadian to record the blues.” He thought a little and answered: Big John Little. Little was born and raised in Niagra Falls, ON in 1929. He was always a big black kid whose grandfather came to Canada with the underground railroad. Due to his love for T-Bone stakes, other kids at school started calling him T-Bone. Musically, Little was raised on a diet of Country music, and it wasn’t until he was old enough to start frequenting the speakeasys on the US side of the border that he caught the blues bug. He began playing guitar and performing around the area with a band, put out a few records. Jimi Hendrix claimed in his auto-biography that Little’s “Rocking Crickets” was a major influence. It has been confirmed that he also influenced the career of Stompin’ Tom Connors by encouraging him, at a crucial time in his life, to keep playing gigs. Always a driver of Cadillacs, T-Bone married and moved to New Brunswick. At 83 he plays like a man half his age and still spends his summers playing gigs in the Niagara region.
Alan Fraser – Montreal
QC – Dancehall Girls
“Allan Hugh Fraser (born 21 July 1948 in St. Stephen, New Brunswick) is a Canadian folk musician and songwriter. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was part of Fraser & DeBolt (along with Daisy DeBolt), and released two albums with Columbia Records.” Thus reads the entry in Wikipedia. Since the 1960s Fraser has been writing songs and performing in the folk-rock style. After teaming up with Daisy DeBolt in the late ‘60s, he toured the American university circuit where their style had a major impact on the swelling folk-rock scene. After the break up of Fraser & DeBolt in the 1970s he sort of fell into obscurity, living in Montreal. And yet he has never stopped writing songs and performing. Attempts to revive his career never seem to click and yet the quality of his songs and his playing just gets better and better.
Anne Lederman – Toronto ON
Originally from Manitoba, Anne began her professional career as a fiddler in the late 1970s touring with Newfoundlander Harry Hibbs. Then she joined a bluegrass band in Windsor called New County Line. In 1983, as half of duo Muddy York with Ian Bell, she released the ground-breaking album called Scatter The Ashes: Music of Old Ontario. In 1985 and ‘86, she returned to Manitoba to study and record the music of Native and Métis fiddlers with Lawrence “Teddy Boy” Houle. This was followed by work with Izvor, an ensemble devoted to Balkan, Greek and other East European traditions, and then The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band. Besides recording several albums of her own music, she has worked closely with Cameroon kalimba player Njacko Backo of Montreal. Along the way she has learned to play numerous instruments and was last reported, on CD, in the traditional Canadian music trio, “Eh”. She was awarded the Noel Dinn Heritage Preservation Porcupine Award in 1991.
Eddy ‘M’ Melanson – Ayton
ON / Halifax NS
Eddy Melanson - Steve Fruitman
Probably the first Canadian rockabilly artist, Eddy M started performing in his native Nova Scotia in the early 1950s. He was knicknamed with the moniker “The Rockin’ Hillbilly”, which he detested, so he came up with a new name for his music and his band, The Rockabillies, even before he knew that such a term existed. It was no coincidence that his band was chosen to open up for Bill Haley and the Comets when they toured The Maritimes. With Haley’s encouragement he toured and played with well known acts, such as The Fendermen and Buddy Knox which eventually led him down to Nashville to make some records in 1962. But then the Beatles arrived and buried the rockabilly scene so the recordings were never released. Eddy moved to Ontario but always kept his hands on his guitars. His voice is deep and rich, like an aged tawny port. In the 1980s he recorded again and finally had an album to sell from the stage. He’s retired now, living up in Grey County with his wife of many years.
Shirley Montague - Norris
Shirley has been recording the music of Newfoundland and Labrador since the 1970s, telling stories of the people of her native Labrador. Born and raised in Northwest River, she was taken by the stark beauty of the land and the hardships of life in such an inhospitable place. She championed the plight of the trapper’s wives who faced insurmountable odds each winter while their husbands were away. Blessed with a voice to kill for, she ascended to the role of cultural ambassador of her region. She has been active in promoting the cultural heritage of Labrador, recording Innu and Inuit musicians as well as story tellers and singer-songwriters. Now living on the west coast of Newfoundland, near Gross Morne National Park, she has served as the chairperson for the Music Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and continues to perform around the province.
Vivian Hicks – Riverview
Born in Gagetown, New Brunswick, Vivian took piano lessons at an early age but it wasn’t until she met her soulmate and husband, Ivan Hicks, that she became seriously interested in performing. In 1974, they moved to Riverview, N. B. where the pair decided to dedicate their lives to their music. While Ivan stood in the spotlight, Vivian was always there chording behind him. In 1980s they founded the country and bluegrass band Maritime Express, and toured across the country. She has also served as president of the Maritime Fiddlers Association. In 1996, she was inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame. It is only logical to add her to the Order of the Porcupine, joining her husband who was inducted in 2001.
Rita Chiarelli – Hamilton
Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Rita began performing in Ronnie Hawkins' band in the early 1980s. After a short stint in his band she decided to check out her roots in Italy and ended up staying there for many years. When she returned to Canada in the late ‘80s she recorded a demo “Have You Seen My Shoes” which was picked up for the Roadkill sountrack by film maker Bruce McDonald. That began her passionate rise to Canadian blues-rock status. But she didn’t rest there: using her gutsy blues drenched voice, she released an album of Italian folk songs and recorded another blues album with the Thunder Bay Symphony. Last year she was awarded a Porcupine, The Gem of Canada, for her soundtrack album “Music From The Big House”. She’s won numerous other awards and accolades over the years, so she truly belongs in the Order of the Porcupine Hall of Fame.
Kelly Russell – St. John’s
It’s so easy to overlook people who are regional or behind the scenes. Kelly Russell fits that bill. Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Kelly grew up in the shadow of his father, the great story-teller Ted Russell (creator of The Chronicles of Uncle Mose - Tales from Pigeon Inlet). Being drawn to music at an early age, Kelly founded Pigeon Inlet Productions in 1979, a record company dedicated to the preservation of Newfoundland folk music. He played at the feet of two masters of the Newfoundland fiddle: Emile Benoit and Rufus Guinchard. He has played with some of the best bands on the island: Figgy Duff, The Wonderful Grand Band, The Plankerdown Band and many others. A teacher, a multi-instrumentalist, a story teller (he still performs his father’s Uncle Mose stories), producer, promoter… the list goes on and on. He’s toured the world and has received many awards and was even featured on the front cover of the 1997 Newfoundland & Labrador Telephone Book
Golden Porcupine Award
Sam Sniderman – Toronto
(June 15, 1920 – September 23, 2012)
What needs to be said about this enthusiastic promoter of Canadian music? Who, out there, doesn’t know his name or the name of his national chain of record stores? “Yes, this is Sam’s” said the sign in his downtown Toronto flagship store. And there, inside, was Sam the Record Man. Like so many kids of my generation, I made weekend pilgrimages to Sams and bought hundreds of records there. And unlike so many of the other records stores I frequented, Sam’s always profiled Canadian recordings, front and centre. And he was always there, by the stairs, by the cash, by the record bins with his glasses on his head like an uncle or a grandfather figure. In 1976 he was invested into the Order of Canada for founding the Recordings Archive Library at the University of Toronto. How can we forget such a wonderful man! We owe him so much for he has enriched all our lives!
Arlene Mantle – Toronto
(d. September 10, 2012)
Arlene was the real deal. She overcame a lot of difficulties in her life and sang with all her heart and soul. Arlene moved into the Bain Co-op around 1980 and lived right next door to me. She lived with Naomi Wall (Burbon Tabernacle singer Dave Wall's mother - I watched him grow up!). I was fortunate to watch her perform many times, in the Bain Community Centre, or at our annual street festival, solo, or with one other player backing her up. That was the best way to get the full impact of her music. She sang of social causes, promoted the world of the downtrodden, the underdogs, and never through it all never lost her sense of humour. She sang on picket lines, union halls, women’s shelters and for social causes.,
Art Snider (Arthur
Sniderman)– Ottawa ON
(b Ottawa 24 Aug 1926, d Toronto 26 May 1987)
Art Snider was a pianist, music arranger, composer and promoter, but was best known as a record producer. He started performing in the 1940s and ten years later was producing records on his own Chateua Records label. From 1956 to 1970 he was the music director for CBC’s 'Country Hoedown' and The Tommy Hunter Show. It was on the former program that he was impressed with a young square dancer / back-up vocalist named Gordon Lightfoot. It was Snider who produced Lightfoot’s first record with the Two-Tones in 1962. In the 1970s he formed Periwinkle Records and recorded many of Canada’s country music acts.
Barney McCafferey – Wilno
(1935- d. January 3, 2012)
A story teller, a social activist, and accordion player, a photographer, a subsistence farmer, a song-writer…. Barney was a real character. After serving in the US armed forces in the 1950s, he decided to move to Canada after being stationed in Newfoundland. Being half Scottish and half Polish, he found the land of his dreams in the Polish-Ontario community of Wilno. “If you don’t know, you Wilno” was one of his favourite sayings. Over the years Barney paid tribute, through song, to the men and women of the Ottawa Valley. With his trusty accordion, he would sing and laugh and drink some whisky. He was a founding member of the folk group, the Wilno Express, which recorded two albums. He was also a founding member of the Killaloe community radio station CHCR. When his old wooden farm house burned down on a cold winter’s day in 2004, the entire Madawaska community raised $60,000 to build him a new one. He guested on my Great North Wind program twice in the early 1990s.
Bernie Bedore – Crow Lake
(d. Renfrew ON, June, 2012)
One of Stompin’ Tom’s most popular songs is about the tales of Big Joe Mufferaw. Based on the legendary exploits of a real life hero, Joseph Montferrand, the tales of Big Joe were actually stories made up by Bedore and first published in his book, Tall Tales of Joe Mufferaw, in 1963. A musician and performer, story teller and humorist, Bedore claimed: "A lot of my stories come from those days before TV came in and brought the brush of sameness across the land." His lifelong friend Doug Scheels recalls, "I never knew anyone who possessed such a deep interest in people -- he could tell you dates and events throughout the Upper Ottawa Valley and could remember peoples' names, and tell you all about what their grandfather did and their great-grandfather." Heartbroken after the death of his wife of 62 years only seven weeks earlier, Bernie died at the age of 85.
John Ferguson – Dartmouth
(b. July, 1953 d. October 6, 2012)
Ferguson was a stalwart on the Nova Scotian music scene and his baritone voice will be greatly missed by many. In 1972 he started his long musical career with the band Miller's Jug, but was probably best known for his longtime membership in the bar band McGinty. When McGinty wasn’t playing, John had a solo career as well as a duo with Buddy MacDonald. He just had to play music. He loved learning to play different instruments, telling jokes and singing folk songs. He performed at the Celtic Colours music festival, held in Cape Breton, for sixteen consecutive years.
McGinty – Halifax NS
Halifax band McGinty formed in 1977: John Ferguson, Don Moore and Dave Hickey, and the line-up stayed that way for 33 years. They were a bar band, and were really good at it too. Their mixture of Irish songs, fiddle tunes, and songs by singer-songwriters such as John Prine, made them Halifax favourites. I got to see them perform once, in Halifax, at the Lower Deck, one of their favourite venues, and it was a wild night to remember. They acted as musical ambassadors of their province and their travels took them across Canada and the United States. Over the years McGinty recorded 8 albums of music. With the recent passings of John Ferguson and Dave Hickey in 2010, the future of the band is up in the air but they certanly deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
The Fallen Leaves – Timmins
The town of Timmins has given us some amazing artists: Stompin’ Tom and Shania Twain both got their starts there; Charlie Angus, Frank Mahovlich, Henry Kelneck, Cec Linder, Kathy Kreiner, Allan Stanley, Buddy McMaster…. Pretty good for a small northern Porcupine town. But in the heyday of the British Invasion there was really just one rock band worth going to see and that was The Fallen Leaves. For most of their short-lived career, the Leaves consisted of Ray Fournier, Dan Crocini, Barry "Fingers" Lewis, Jim Parres, Dave Van Leeuwen. They were the first rock band from Timmins to make records, recording two 45s on the Dominion label. Even today the people of Timmins look back with sweet nostalgia on The Fallen Leaves.
Le Vent Du Nord – QC
While La Bottine Souriante will always be remembered as the most obvious choice when people are asked the name of a traditional Quebecois folk band, Le Vent du Nord have been racking up points to challenge that. Since its formation in 2002, Le Vent du Nord have performed over 1,000 concerts, racking up several prestigious awards, including two Junos, a Canadian Folk Music Award, and 'Artist of the Year' at the North American Folk Alliance. They have released seven albums of music. Nicolas Boulerice - Simon Beaudry - Olivier Demers - Réjean Brunet are the current members of the band which has featured, at times, Benoit Bourque & Rene Simard.