The 14th Annual
The Porcupine Awards - 2003

for an outstanding musical accompanist

Jason Fowler, Toronto

You could say that he was a wannabe singer-songwriter who sounded just too much like Bruce Cockburn, but Jason Fowler had the raw ingredients required: the clean, precise and always tasty guitar playing, either acoustic or electric; slide or finger picked. And yet, after releasing a couple of fine CDs, he found his place bringing life to others' music. His guitars are like lungs breathing airs of brilliance behind a variety of foregrounds. Being an accompanist also means removing the ego from the music, giving it all and only that which it requires without taking anything else away, making room for the life of the song to grow in. It's a special quality that is all too much overlooked. But just ask anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Jason Fowler if he deserves the recognition of this Porcupine Award.


Colin Bray, Toronto, ON.

For the past 15 years this avid collector of  'Original Jazz' has been hosting Sugarfoot Stomp, bringing to life the lives and music of traditional jazz musicians. His scholarly approach and uncanny knowledge are like a textbook about the times when Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bichet, Kid Orey and Pops Foster ruled the jazz world. His collection of 78's is legendary. Co-owner of Jazz Oracle Records, he plods on to popularize - in his own small way - the music of an era gone by. Trips to New Orleans usually mean another haul of great CDs that are difficult to find make their way to the CIUT airwaves. It has been a pleasure and an honour to listen to his radio shows. Currently plays the stand-up bass with Jeff Healey's Jazz Wizards.

only virtuosos need apply!


Harry Manx, Victoria, BC

The making of an artist is as abstract as the canvas that he or she paints. Words pale in gray tones when attempting to describe this aspect of brilliance. No - one has to listen with eyes closed gently, as if in meditation, concentrating on the algorithmic patterns that emerge. The ability to create such a living work comes from the desire to transcend, to go far beyond the reaches of the imaginable universe. For Harry Manx, bluesy guitarist and singer, this meant going to the far side of the earth in search of his musical identity. It was in Europe that he discovered his own blues. In Japan he discovered his soon-to-be guru of the slide guitar: Vishwa Mohan Bhatt who played the veena. He went to live in Rajasthan at the feet of this guru, learning the complexities of the Mohan veena, eventually learning how to blend his Canadian blues with the slide of the desert. And now he's doing something totally unique and original, yet accessible. He's quickly become a driving force on the Canadian music scene.

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

David Francey, Ayer's Cliff, QC

A few years back I realized a lull in the Maplepost list group so I decided to ask: which new artist has made a stark impression at this years folk festivals. A few names were mentioned but after someone said David Francey - then pretty much totally unknown - others who had witnessed his performances at Blue Skies agreed. In a very short period of time Francey emerged. His songwriting was superb. His delivery was second to none. His stage presence engaging. A totally unassuming person, contented with being a tradesman living in the Gatineaus of Quebec, he was likeable in every way. Scottish born, he moved to Canada and explored its vitality from skating rinks to the river drivers, incorporating them into his songs. Impressed by songs about real people and places, he looked up to writers like Porcupine Hall of Famer Charles 'Chuck' Angus to portray - in four minutes or less - the feelings of lives lived by the ordinary folk.

relating to Canadian Music & Folklore


Rick Jackson for Encyclopedia of Canadian Country Music, published by Quarry Press Music Books, 1996 - ISBN 1-55082-151-2

This  book has become indispensable to me in my continued research into recorded Canadian music. It mines the underground of the formation of the Canadian music industry and its recording artists, providing decent and accurate biographical sketches as well as sound chronological cataloguing of their recordings. And it's best attribute? It's very readable too! It is a book that I've grown to trust. Where else could I easily find info on Buddy Reynolds, Hank Smith, Stu Davis and a plethora of other great country music stars? You won't find much about them on the net yet. Well researched and a joy to own.

that which was brought here to enrich us all

Galitcha, Ottawa

The neat thing is I only found out about this group just a few weeks ago. They performed at Folk Rendezvous in Montreal and were included on a compilation album which was sent my way. I emailed them requesting a play copy of their CD and was ever more impressed by the fine presentation of their interpretations of Indian music. Their name means 'tapestry' and that's exactly what they are. Uncompromisingly Galitcha scales peaks around the globe culminating in tabla driven songs that are danceable, touchable and irresistible. The prime suspects are: vocalist Kuljit Sodhi, harmoniumist Chris MacLean, and Linsey Wellman on flute and sax. Their CD called Satrang is the kind of album you just want to keep on listening to - never a dull moment on it which is no mean feat!

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

Washboard Hank, Peterborough, ON

Hank Fisher has been singing off-beat country songs for years, first cutting into the open as one of Reverend Ken's Lost Followers where he made the phelopian tuba a household name. After spending a good five years playing washboard for Fred Eaglesmith he decided to start a brand new band: Washboard Hank and the Country Squires. Their CD contains songs like "Donut Shops of Ontario", "Marmora Pig" and "I Love You Queen Elizabeth". I can't believe that Hank hasn't been given this award before! He did get the Porcupine citation for best political song back in 1990 for his heart rendering composition "Stompin' Tom For Prime Minister" and he has certainly proven to be off-beat enough. So here, Hank: this award is for you, for your one-handed washboard playing from the top of your head, all 45 lbs of hardware and guitar.



Harry Bryan, Guelph, ON.

For the past several years this guy has manually scanned through over a hundred playlists a week submitted to the Folkdj listserve, tracking the airplay of hundreds of Canadian artists. Each week Harry keeps track of these airplay spins and posts the results on both Maplepost and Folkdj listserves. No easy feat I can tell you. I actually started the process in the mid-90s and after three years my mind went numb. I sought out some sucker to take it over, never once thinking that all these years later that same sucker, Mr Harry Bryan, would still be providing such a great service to Canadian music interests. Tracking Canadian airplays from around the globe. I am humbled by the work he does.

a song is a song is a song eh? Ya, right!


Stephen Fearing, Guelph, ON

When he first burst onto the scene during the celtic-punk fad in the late 1980s, Stephen somehow got labeled "Celtic", which I could never really understand. His music was complicated and busy, too busy to let you think. It took me a good, long while before I could connect with what he was doing. Yet by that time he had changed directions, merging into a fine singer-songwriter - the Celtoid label being a thing of the past. His voice blossomed, his guitar playing opened up, he moved from Vancouver to Guelph and signed with True North Records. This lead him into contact with Colin Linden who produced his first real True North CD, Industrial Lullaby. This was a breakthrough for Fearing in a couple of ways: Colin believes in spontaneous performance - capture it and you've got yourself a take! Whereas Stephen, the perfectionist, was lost in chords, Colin was able to coax the best out of him. He tamed him with the words: "Trust yourself." The second interesting thing about this juncture was his inclusion in Colin's then-tribute band, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, along with Tom Wilson. This band has given Fearing another venue to display his fabulous songwriting skills. Some people are born with silver words in their mouths - Stephen Fearing only had to learn how let them out.

one that keeps coming back at you


Ronnie Hayward, Vancouver, BC for 'Whiskey Flavoured Kisses'

I was given this CD - The Utrecht Sessions. A stand-up bass player from Alberta goes into the studio in Holland with musicians he's never played with before and emerges with an amazing CD of country blues. A straight man who rarely smiles, he's been called "The Undertaker's Apprentice" by Washboard Hank. A second CD was recorded in Vancouver called "Too Many Chiefs", another simple bluesy CD of mostly original songs. But the one that sticks out most to me is his cover of "Whiskey Flavoured Kisses". I mean, what is it about about whiskey, good Alberta rye, that putting two mouths together can't enjoy? You take it places in your head, that catchy chorus without cliché. An excellent performance by a bass-mad slider that makes you just want to practice what it preaches. or

to those who make CDs sound so great

Paul Mills, Toronto, ON

He gave us CBC radio programs for 2 dozen years. He delivered Stan Rogers to the masses even years after the master died. He's produced and mixed and mastered albums for some of the country's most talented voices, all in a professional manner, egoless yet knowing. A man who prefers to remain in the background, whether it's in his Curly Boy Stubbs incarnation as a wizz of the guitar, the back of a folk club admiring the sounds of the stage, or encouraging his son, Trevor, in his musical endeavors. Several years ago Paul, along with his long-time musical / production companion (and, I might add, fellow Porcupine Award producer) Bill Garrett formed a new Canadian folk music label, Borealis Records along with Grit Laskin and Ken Whiteley. He has given so much to so many and so now it's time to give something back to him. Paul, the long wait is over.

just a good excuse to recognize another great CD


Corb Lund Band, AB for Five Dollar Bill

One of the most popular new countryish bands in the country, The Corb Lund Band's secret to popular appeal is very simple: really good, tough, gritty songs. I first heard of them via Michelle Rumball (another Porcupine Award artist) when she appeared on the Sugar Camp show toting this gem along with her. The album was produced by Harry Stinson in 2002 and released on Stony Plain Records. There isn't a 4 minute song on the album. It goes by quick, like a rodeo ride. The music is fun, never misses a beat. The production is clean and easy. They've aligned themselves with the Fred Eaglesmith sort of crowd, not traditional yet deeply rooted in the classical sense of cowboyism. I've never seen them perform but judging from the record I'm certain that they'd have absolutely no problem hooking an audience from the git-go. Check 'em out.

must be at least 25 years old


King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar, for 'Official Music', Daffodil Records - 1970 - produced by Terry Brown for Love Productions

One of the first really Canadian rock albums to hit the spot in the days when CanCon was in the zygote stage, Official Music seemed to come out of nowhere like a telecaster swung into the side of your head. After leaving Ronnie Hawkins this group of musicians quickly matured into one of the country's super groups, actually getting airplay on progressive FM stations (while they existed). Richard Newell had already established himself as a great blues singer who could really blow the harp. The other guys in Crowbar were no slouches either. Canadian rock critic Ritchie Yorke stated: "Some music is official. Most isn't. Official means real, honest, no bullshit, straight-ahead music which shows the roots. This album has the most official music I've ever heard." In the liner notes he goes on to say: "Biscuit and Crowbar have taken the chance. Hawkins looked on with fatherly understanding. 'Biscuit's a good boy. Best damn harp player I ever heard. No-one's ever been that good on the mouth organ before.'" With that said, the album just rocks through some great blues standards and Biscuit Boy originals like Badly Bent, which best describes Richard.


Eric Wilson, Scarborough, ON.

I was introduced to Eric Wilson by Porcupine Award recipient Ossie Branscombe at his late, great Country Music Store in Toronto. Eric, I was told, was into good old time country music, especial Hank Snow and Wilf Carter. I decided to have him come in as a guest to do a show about Wilf and was amazed at how much he knew. Since then Eric has been a guest at the Sugar Camp at least a couple of times a year doing specials on Canadian Country Music. A selfless kind of guy, retired trucker, his connection to people and his wonderful memory are real assets whenever he gets on the radio.

A Great Canadian Album


Glen Gould, Toronto, for 'A State of Wonder',
Sony Records, produced by Louise de la Fuente

What can one say that hasn't already been said about the musical genius of Toronto's Glenn Gould? Why even try? Well, I'm not. What I am praising is last year's release of A State of Wonder: three CDs of an incredible journey that began when Gould recorded his greatest masterpiece - Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations in 1955. Remarkably remastered, this performance stands in direct contrast to Gould's 1981 revisitation - on disc two - of the Goldenberg Variations. His latter interpretation, slower and more mature, almost sounds like a different set of music! Disc three contains a classic interview with the master just a few weeks before his death in 1982. Here is an engaging Glenn Gould, playfully discussing his views with Tim Page. It concludes with some of the out takes from the 1955 sessions. What a great piece of Canadiana!

Lifetime Achievement Award
(Automatic Inclusion into the Porcupine Awards Hall of Fame)


Frank Wright, Toronto, ON

I first met Frank working at the post office - we were letter carriers in downtown Toronto. Many letter carriers have lead dual lives, doing more interesting things when they aren't delivering mail. Frank was one of these types. The forever young vibraphonist was a family man who used the post office to bring in the dough so that he could moonlight on the vibes, performing with the likes of Henry Cuesta, Norman Amadio, Jim Galloway, Rob McConnell, Peter Appleyard, and Trini Lopez. His musical gurus were Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson. He would play all night and somehow turn up for work at 6:30 in the morning to sort his mail. I worked beside him for several months. I remember him coming in to work dressed in a tux, shoes so shiny you could see your face in them. "Just got back in from Buffalo, boys." He would always tell you to take it easy, calm down, relax and enjoy the scenery. He retired from the post office in the late 1980s and has taken to playing jazz full time. He currently performs with the Canadian Jazz Quartet. (The photo above shows a young Frankie in the early 1950s). Another great Canadian musical icon.



Kirk Elliott, Toronto, ON
 - Kirk is a multi-instrumentalist who never seems to stop working. Known in different segments of the Canadian music biz whether for his creative music writing for films or TV, backing up the likes of Sharon and Bram or Magoo, working in collaboration with other artists such as Norm Hacking (on the CD Orange Cats) or his own celebrated albums of instrumental music. He first made a name for himself in the Juno Award winning band 'Short Turn' in the early 1980s. Mostly known for his fiddle playing, Kirk is also quite fluent on the trombone, mandolin, banjo, guitars and drums.

Rick Fielding, Toronto, ON - Rick Fielding is a passionate musician who has worked hard all his life learning the various stylings that dropped down through tradition. Music has been in his life forever, and it shows, in his dedication to performing, writing, teaching and broadcasting. He has put a lot of miles behind him, from the endless days on the bar circuit, the journeys through the folk festival scene and from nearly 15 years of weekly radio shows. Host of CIUT's "Acoustic Workshop", he has enabled countless performers to sit across from him behind the mic, chatting and playing their songs.

Russ Gurr, Brandon, MB - Truly what you could call a 'real' country troubadour, Russ has always used wit and sassiness in his songs to tell stories about things that he knows through experience. Known as "The Singing Farmer", Russ didn't start his recording career until into his 50s. But before that he was a well known force in rural Manitoba, so much so that the PC Party recruited him to be their campaign chairman in the 1950s, simply because they wanted his name. His songs are about Magpies, Hogs, John Diefenbaker, getting his tonsils pulled and having lost 1500 albums down the drain! Recognized at the age of 5 for his perfect pitch, he was encouraged by his teachers to enter contests singing classical songs. Thus his unusual enunciation. Now, at 84, he gets asked to sing a funerals. But I can just see him now, driving his pick up truck singing "Hogs Are Beautiful" down the back roads of Brandon.

Mark Haines, Souris, PEI - Originally from Kingston, Ontario, this fine guitarist was lured into the playing of the country fiddle. With his thoughtful approach he developed a repertoire that consisted of Lord Buckley raps, electric guitar riffs, Don Messer medleys and bluegrass breakdowns. He was a member of Black Creek before going out on his own, recording three albums with his band, The Zippers. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: in the late 1980s Mark started doing acoustic gigs with his Zippers pal Tom Leighton. This musical friendship goes far beyond what can be heard - it can be felt, which is why this duo is currently very popular with audiences. Mark moved down to PEI and settled into a small fishing community a few years ago, a place that goes through several cords of wood each winter.

Oscar Peterson, Montreal, QC - I'm supposed to find words to answer the reason for this man's inclusion in the Porcupine Hall of Fame! This man who has become a grand-father figure to all Canadians. A man whose integrity is re-instilled with every chord he invents, with every counter-melody that he employs. Oscar is a Canadian legend, a man whose likeness should be engraved in every heart in the country. He has conquered all the mountains that he ever intended on climbing and by including him here I just hope that a little bit of his magical dust rubs off the rest of the Porcupines. That's all I can say.
Frank Wright, Toronto, ON - (See Golden Porcupine Above)

Memorial Inductees

Cliff 'Kid' Bastien, Toronto, ON (21/11/37 - 08/02/03)
For over 30 years, Kid Bastien and his Happy Pals held court at Grossman's illustrious tavern on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, playing gut-bucket, old time jazz. Bastien never missed a beat, it was said, and he never missed a Saturday matinee at Grossman's until last February. Apparently he was getting ready to do his thing when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He missed the first set and one his band members went by to see if he was ill. 'He will be missed' is putting it mildly for he was a regular institution.

Kent Brockwell, Peterborough, ON (1922-1998)
A farmer who loved the dobro, nearly blind, the man could sing. He loved to roll to the North Shore Yodel; country music was how he played. It wasn't unusual to hear Kent play at old time Jamborees, fall fairs and dances. He was as old time as it gets in country music, singing about the places he knew. A good friend of Stompin' Tom Connors and yet there was barely a whisper after he died.

Jim McHarg, Toronto, ON  (Sep 27, 2003 - age 76)
I Only met him a couple of times when he was guest on Rick Fielding's Acoustic Workshop (CIUT). Rick was so impressed that he asked me to give him a Porcupine Award in 1997  for ACOUSTIC WORKSHOP GUEST OF THE YEAR. Jim immigrated to Canada from his native Glasgow, Scotland in 1957 and quickly emerged himself in the jazz scene. A double bass player, he formed the Metro Stompers in 1965 with Jim Galloway. The Stompers would be the last band that legendary blues and jazz player Lonnie Johnson would perform and record with. He eventually founded the Molson Jazz Fesitval in 1979. He was 76 years old.

Richard Newell (a.k.a. King Biscuit Boy), Hamilton, ON  (1944 - Jan. 5, 2003)
He lived crazy and loved crazy but he was really crazy when he played the blues. So in tuned, blowing himself through that harp. I bet you someone older would have told him that the harp would be the death of him. But he wouldn't listen. Just another scotch, a burbon, and a beer please for one of Canada's all time great blues guys.

photo courtesy Maple Blues
Richard 'Hock Walsh', Toronto, ON  (1948-1999)
The blues world lost a legend it never knew it had! Hock and his brother Donny were the real Blues Brothers. After forming the Downchild Blues Band in 1969 their act skyrocketed, impressing Dan Ackroyd in the process. Dan was Donny and John was the Hock. The brothers never really got along musically and after being fired from Downchild the Hock drifted in and out of the Toronto blues scene. He failed to turn up for the new millennium, a new years gig in Peterborough. Hock died doing what he loved: watching television.

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