Porcupine Awards - 1998

Brenda Stubbert, Cape Breton

[There are so many great fiddlers in Cape Breton that it numbs the mind. Incredible talent just about everywhere on the island. So it is very difficult to choose an artist for this award but I do my best. This year I went to Cape Breton and attended a concert by the Stubbert family; I realized just how phenomenal the music of the Scots can be in its true rural setting. Therefore, I have chosen this deserving artist at the 1998 representative of the Gaelic music award to receive this year's Porcupine Award]

Beth Ferguson, Renfrew ON

[You may remember Beth for her work with Malaika of Ottawa but her roots first took hold in her home town of Renfrew in the Ottawa Valley. This song speaks of her roots there in a current look at the town she grew up in. It even mentions the Renfrew Millionaires. Mac would have approved]

Joan Finnigan,  Ottawa

[Joan was born in the Pontiac region of Quebec just across the Ottawa River and has made it her life's work portraying the unique heritage of the Ottawa Valley in her many books of stories, poems and histories. Her best known work, the screen-play for the National Film Board production "The Best Damn Fiddler From Calabogie to Kaladar", from 1969, is still talked about today. Her books include "Tell Me Another Story" which features tales as spoken by ordinary folks of the valley. Other books: "Giants of the Ottawa Valley", "Finnigan's Guide to the Ottawa Valley", "Legacies, Legends and Lies", as well as books of poetry. She has written a number of plays, including the story of the last Laird Archibald McNabb. she has been awarded the President's Medal form the University of Western Ontario as well as a Genie Award for Best Damn Fiddler]

Brock Davis, Vancouver BC

[This CD has grown on me over the past couple of years. Every time I play a cut on the show someone calls and wants to know who Brock is. His songs are very strong and his recorded performances show his musical ability to be far above the average]

Steve Edge, Vancouver BC

[Since Steve moved to Vancouver he has been a tireless crusader of the world of folk-oriented music. Along with his Rogue Folk radio show, he publishes a newsletter of the same name and operates a very successful folk club, also of the same name. His work with folk group Jiggery Pokery shows how dedicated he is to the music of his tradition, in his case the UK. He is also a very nice man who took me out to eggs benedict when I was in Van: one of my vices is my love of Hollandaise]

Eve Goldberg, Toronto

[While this CD is not entirely blues, there is enough blues in it to qualify for this award. Besides, the presentations here are stainless! Everything about this CD makes for very enjoyable listening, in fact, this was considered for the Gem of Canada Award. A great first effort by a very down-to-earth person with a lovely feel for her music]

Bill Elliot, Orangeville ON

[Bill works tirelessly to promote the rural music of Ontario. His association with the Shelburne Fiddle Contest and the Orangeville Fiddle and Step Dance Camp show his dedication and devotion to the fine arts of Ontario folklore. He thinks so much of the tradition that he decided NOT to pollute it by taking up the fiddle himself. Will somebody give this man fiddle lessons to prove him wrong, please]

Dave MacIsaac, Cape Breton

[This guy backs just about every important artist in Cape Breton - he must be one of the most recorded people on the Island. His tasty accompaniment often remains hidden unless you listen closely to what he is doing. His own solo albums show the extent of his talent, his ability to perform Celtic strathspeys, marches, airs, jigs, waltzes and reels that is mind boggling! Just ask anyone in Cape Breton about this man's abilities. He is also quite a good fiddler apparently although I have never heard him play]

The Sadies, Toronto

[What are these Good Brothers doing to the family heritage that began in Richvale, Ontario with their grandmother sitting around playing Carter Family songs while her sons threw horseshoes? The sons who became known as The Goods? The Sadies use that country side of life with the grungy garage tones and surfing guitar riffs for a lot of fun. It is folk music that goes way out there]

Gord Fisch, Regina SK

[Gord has been associated with folk music in Saskatchewan through the Regina Folk Festival and the Emma Lake Fiddle Camp. He is an avid supported of old time music and a good friend to many Western Canadian fiddlers, like Calvin Vollrath. He has a great web site too. Check it out]

Éric Favreau, Quebec City

[Éric is an excellent young fiddler who has learned an extraordinary number of traditional fiddle tunes. He is also an interesting composer of tunes. I gave a copy of his first cassette to Graham Townsend who loved the playing and commented on the good form that Éric shows. He currently performs with Entrelouple of Quebec City]

Khac Chi and Ngoc Bich of the Khac Chi Ensemble, Vancouver BC

[I have recently included the Khac Chi Ensemble in my playlists and have noted that it was their desire to preserve and protect the musical heritage of their homeland. Imagine the state of the Vietnamese economy and society after years of devastating war, especially in the rural areas where folk music is still traditional. Khac Chi and his wife Ngoc Bich realized how fragile this tradition was and decided to dedicate their lives to learning from the elders. This was not easy in the Vietnam of the 1970s and 80s, and yet they persisted and ultimately succeeded in mastering many styles of Vietnamese folk music]

Claude Methé, Joliette QC

[Claude Methé has been working as a musician, collecting fiddle tunes and performing for over 2 decades. His early work with Rêve du Diable in the late 70s put him in league with the La Bottine crowd. He later performed and recorded with Manigance which included some of the finest musicians from Quebec City. Later, after a short spell with Danielle Martineau's cajun band Josephine, he moved to Vermont where he started performing with Dana Whittle in Jeter Le Pont. After their marriage and the birth of two children, they decided to move to Quebec and became Dent-De-Lion. Claude also makes fine bread-boards in his spare time]

Djelem, Montreal QC

[A brand new category for this year's Porcupines. Ever since I saw them perform in Toronto at the beginning of the year, I have been very keen about this band of gypsies. You ask Sergei or Anatoli what gypsy music is and they'll tell you that it is any music played by gypsies. Since they are gypsies anything on this CD is authentic gypsy music, incorporating anything they wish into their bloodstream]

Chopper MacKinnon, Ottawa ON

[A great supporter of Canadian folk music for over 2 decades on the radio over college station CKCU. Chopper has also been employed by the regional CBC to program folk oriented music during their local programming. He has been involved in every major folk event in Ottawa including the current Ottawa Folk Festival. He has had troubled health in recent years and still keeps on going]

Maybelle Chisholm McQueen, Cape Breton

[This was from Maybelle's first recording session when she was in her teens at the side of her uncle Angus, an historic personality in Cape Breton fiddle music. It was her desire to make the piano accompaniment the life of the music, something for the fiddler to play to instead of play over. She wildly went where no one ever went before, using every key on the keyboard and doing so in such a way that every fiddler wanted to play with her. Used in numerous recordings, she is now regarded as Queen of Cape Breton pianists.

This was from Maybelle's first recording session when she was in her teens at the side of her uncle Angus, an historic personality in Cape Breton fiddle music. It was her desire to make the piano accompaniment the life of the music, something for the fiddler to play to instead of play over. She wildly went where no one ever went before, using every key on the keyboard and doing so in such a way that every fiddler wanted to play with her. Used in numerous recordings, she is now regarded as Queen of Cape Breton pianists]

Danielle et Yves Gagnon, Saint-Louis de Lotbinière QC

[When their father Aimé was diagnosed with cancer, Danielle and brother Yves realized that this man's entire repertoire could die with him. A well loved fiddler from the Lotbinière region near Quebec City, Aimé had an unusual repertoire built over 70s years as a rural musician. For many years Claude Methé would sit in his kitchen and learn tunes few others knew how to play. Danielle and Yves decided to do something about it and gathered old tape recordings of her father playing with various other musicians, including his late wife on piano. They also recorded Aimé months before his death on a Sony Pro in his home. They took these tapes to producer André Marchand who came up with the concept for this wonderful album, thus preserving the heritage of their region]

April Verch, Pembroke ON

[Only the second female to win the Shelburne Fiddle Contest since its inception in 1951. But that was not good enough to win her this Porcupine Award. Hard on the heels of her first CD, this one jumps at you and swallows you up. Like the title says, it's fiddelicious. Just in her early 20s, April has the control and depth, the articulation and dedication of a much more mature person. She not only learns tunes and plays them for us, she also teaches the next generation in a good, old timey way]

Strada, Quebec City

[A brand new album that brings to life the traditional music of France of the 13th century on instruments built specifically to replicate those used when the music was contemporary. Well researched, this is the music of the minstrels of the streets, as performed in the taverns, courts and bivouacs of the day]

Scott Merrifield, Sudbury ON

[Almost 30 years ago, while he was still living in Sault St Marie, ON, Scott suggested an idea for a youth make-work project: a folk festival fashioned around the success of the Mariposa model. His first festival, Northern Lights, took place in Sudbury, ON. About 25 years later, the festival, now called Northern Lights Boréal to reflect the bilingual nature of Northern Ontario, Scott resigned as Artistic Director. The festival is one of the most successful festivals on the Ontario circuit]

Gwen Swick, Guelph ON

[Gwen is an amazing performer with charisma to match like no other person I have ever seen. She is an original. But her songwriting skills are what won her this award. Always a little off-side and quirky, full of heart-felt lyrics and easily accessible melody lines, her songs have won her recognition for her solo work as well as her work with Tamarack. She has made a great contribution to the life of Quartette at a time when one of the pillars of their structure fell]

Discovering Saskatchewan Folklore by Michael Taft, NeWest Press 1983
(out of print)

[This book spells out in simple terms what folklore is, and how to understand it. Such an abstract concept and yet so tangible. After reading so many books on folklore by some of the most highly respected authors and professors, this is the bible for me. Here, I can always renew my understanding of the concepts of folklore which helps me communicate this to my listeners. Here is a passage to consider:

"A favourite 'tradition' among folklorists is arguing over the exact definition of the word, since different people tend to put different boundaries around the field. Put simply, however, folklore is the common creativity of humankind. It is the way in which you and I are creative, clever, and artistic in our everyday lives. If there is one characteristic which separates us from other species, it is that we all need to express ourselves in symbolic, metaphoric, or just plain intelligent ways. We appreciate such activity in others as well as in ourselves and we practice this cleverness every day in our lives. Not everyone is an accomplished and acknowledged writer, musician, artist, or craftsman his society, but everyone has the innate ability to share in these talents."

Bowing The Strings with Ned Landry, RCA Victor LCP - 1001

[Oh how I wish that I could just go in re-issue albums such as these. Unfortunately they remain rare and unavailable to the masses. This was Ned Landry's first LP - the first Canadian LP released by RCA Victor - that propelled him to the star status that he enjoyed most of his career]

Bill Usher, Toronto

[Percussionist, singer, songwriter, Bill Usher has had a remarkable career. However, less well known, is his participation with Bruce Cockburn, Robert Paquette, Sharon, Lois and Bram and their Elephant Records, and his collaboration effort with the Mariposa Folk Foundation in the mid-1970s that produced a great book called "For What Time I Am In This World". He is currently working as Marketing Director with the Ontario Arts Council, using his skills and resources to help enhance or create markets for performing, visual and media artists both at home and abroad.  His latest effort on their behalf was his work with Ontario Contact]

Margaret Christl, Boston, Mass

[She was born abroad but became a naturalized Canadian and for the past several years has resided in the US. The CD was recorded in Toronto and includes a photo of the Union Station rail yards on the sleeve. This is another example of Margaret's journey through life singing songs of meaning and doing so with great passion]

André Marchand, Joliette QC

[André has been involved with so many excellent albums over the past number of years, both as producer and engineer. From those who I have spoken to who have used his services, he is great to work with, understanding and caring, never condescending, bringing out the best performance possible from the artist. This has resulted in many CDs of very good quality that may have otherwise been less well received]


Tess, CD, 1998, TESSCD 0698
Tess Leblanc, Quebec City

Midnight Choo Choo, CD, 1998, Borealis Recording Co. BCD112
Jackie Washington, Hamilton ON

[The first time I have no been able to make up my mind at Porcupine time. Tess's album is a personal favourite of mine, utilizing three languages, great musicians, various paces and moods, and exceptional singing. She has shared with us the vast territory of her roots in New Brunswick: Acadian - Scots. But how could I not fall completely in love with Jackie's Midnight Choo Choo? I was caught unexpected when it first came out. I was expecting something similar to his previous work which I did not care for all that much: it was too stiff and two dimensional. This work brings out the beautiful character in the man as well as his music]

Celtic Colours Festival, Cape Breton

[Only in its second year, this 10 day festival is growing in leaps and bounds to become one of the great North American festivals celebrating Gaelic Heritage. While I was only able to take in one event, the program was filled with incredible programmed events all over the Island, from the small community halls to the large concert venues]


Stephen J. Foote a.k.a. Stevedore Steve, Saint John NB

Graham Townsend, Barrie ON

[This was also a tie but I had no trouble making up my mind for this year's lifetime achievement award. Steve Foote retired his Stevedore hockey sweater in November after serving Team Canada for close to 40 years as a singing troubadour. He was always one of my favourites. I was also quite aware of the condition of Graham Townsend and was hoping that he would have stayed with us a bit longer to receive this award. His contribution to the world of Canadian fiddle music cannot be defined, it is just too vast. Well Graham's dead and Steve's retired, both giving their lives to music of the people of the country]

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