The 15th Annual
The Porcupine Awards - 2004

for an outstanding musical accompanist


Christopher McKhool, Toronto

Classical, Jazz, folk or rock music, Chris listens and interprets, rarely getting in the way, adding tonality and textures to other peoples’ music. As a violinist, he hasn’t much choice but to back up others. Easy going, dedicated and truly articulate with his craft, he is an up and coming musician who is much in demand. Since I have no other Chris McKhool music to choose from, I’ve used his 60 second song (which is actually 45 second long).


Oskar Graf & The Staff at Blue Skies Festival, Clarendon ON

Now 30 years old, I attended my first Blue Skies Festival last summer and was totally amazed that such a place as this survives the festival wars with good health and spirit, depending not an iota on anyone but themselves. Now about to purchase their own land from festival founder Oskar Graff, they will be the first folk festival I know of in Canada to own their own land. The spirit is infectious: a little bit of perfection in an imperfect universe.

Nancy Simmonds for Postcards from California by Colleen Peterson

Colleen left this world in 1996 so one would not expect a vibrant new release from her. Yet, here one is! These songs were basically demos recorded in Simmonds Carpenteria California studio between 1989 and 1994. A few have since appeared on a Colleen Peterson or Quartette album. But here, in the magical age of digital possibilities, with the able assistance of David Bradstreet and a fresh crop of dedicated musicians, a brand new collection of Colleen Peterson at her best.

only virtuosos need apply!

Michael Kaeshammer: Toronto

Originally from Germany, his family emigrated to Canada and settled down in BC where Michael took to ragtime piano when he was 15. He just kept getting better and better and by the time he hit 20 was recording great albums. He has since moved to Toronto where he has matured into a class touring act. Choice of song: Sunny Morning – a solo effort showing two-handed dexterity, incredible timing and improvisation.

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

Tim Hus: Calgary Alberta

Tim sings about things Albertan: Oil Rigs, Bull riders, tractor shows and Alberta Crude – the name of his CD. Utilizing a country rock house electric guitar picking ensemble that mixes diesel fumes and rodeo tonic, he is unabashedly Canadian. Choice song: Longest Stretch of Road about the Yellowhead Highway from Winnipeg to Edmonton and from there up into the Rockies.

that which was brought here to enrich us all

Rembetika Hipsters, Calgary AB

In a small area of central Greece, cut-off from their Turkish cultural background, is an island of Rembetika. Often confused with Greek music – probably due to the use of the bazooki – this music is different, it is meant to be danced to with ouzo or wine. Big dinners with tons of food! Laughter. Family and love. This is the ancestral home of Nick Diochnos who along with Allen Baekeland have formed the Rembetika Hipsters in the heart of oil country. Their first CD “Architects of Narghile” was hard-core Rembetika. Their second effort infuses other influences without harming the beauty of the original music.

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

no website or email address known

Minimalist Jug Band (Al Mader), Vancouver BC

I used to catch the Minimalist act at Toronto clubs in the late ‘80s: a poet with a washtub bass. He writes about anything – nothing rhymes but everything works. He turned up in Vancouver, still writing and pulling the broom handle back, plucking that single string – a one guy band. He is as un-mainstream as possible. A true artist who does go way out there to get things for us to hear.

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

Danny Bakan, Toronto

I have watched Danny Bakan mature over years as a musician and songwriter. His latest batch of songs – to be included on his up-coming CD 84,000 Ways – have been ruminating through my head for the past few months. Not just one or two great songs with decent filler; instead, these are powerful, full-bodied songs, sung from the heart without preaching, without pretension. I’ve chosen a medley to give you a sampling of his creative abilities.


one that keeps coming back at you


Marijuana & Alcohol by Shawn Sage, Toronto

While I don’t want to advocate getting stoned in back seats of cars, this song does capture the party spirit with a countrified, infectious feeling that sort of does want to make you wish you could be there. This song stood out from the pack. By playing chicken with puritanical views, challenging radio programmers like myself to actually play it on air, it pushes all the right buttons. Unfortunately, due to the lyrical content, don’t expect it to get airplay anywhere else but at the Sugar Camp.


to those who make CDs sound so great


Ian Tamblyn, Wakefield, QC

Ian has been around recording studios for the past 30 years both as a performer and a producer. The earliest of his productions that I can attest to was Ken Hamm’s splendid first album in 1980. Since then he has gone on to produce many other artists in a very natural, out-doorsy sort of way. Coming from Thunder Bay, Northern Ontario, he has worked in the Ottawa area for the last couple of decades. Here are a collection of his recent works from three different artists.

just a good excuse to recognize another great CD

Dejeuner Canadien by Les Chauffeurs a Pieds, Quebec City, QC

A couple of months ago Antoine Gautier of Les Chauffeurs a Pieds sent me a CD of his band. He together with Benoit Fortier, Jean-Philippe Reny, Louis-Simon Lemieux and Inu Manzi have created something different – finally – from the Quebecois trad scene. While most new trad bands follow in the footsteps of La Bottine Souriante from Lanadiere, this band forging  new territories with new sounds. Here’s a selection from three tracks on the CD


must be at least 25 years old


Tryin’ To Start Out Clean, Willie P Bennett, 1975 – Woodshed Records

Willie P Bennett released three LPs in the 1970s and it was a tough choice to make since they’re all that good. However, this was his first album and it was a killer. Songs like Driftin’ Snow, White Line, Don’t Blame Your Blues on Me, My Pie and Willie’s Diamond Joe were riveting! With Dennis Pendrith, Bill Usher, Ken and Chris Whiteley, Zeke Mazurek, Ron Dann, Dennis LePage and Dave Essig backing him up you can expect a rough road for miles.


A Great Canadian Album


Maria Dunn, Edmonton AB
We Were Good People, Produced by Shannon Johnson - 2004

Maria, previous Porcupine Winner for song of the year (Whiskey Evening) has turned out a remarkable album of Canadiana. We Were Good People documents the plight of Albertans pioneers: miners, labourers, farmers through the hard, hard times of depression and pain. Those who worked the land for what came after. A great deal of thought and research went into the crafting of these songs. But what makes the album really tick are the great singing performances captured so beautifully by Producer Shannon Johnson.

Some responses to this year's Porcupine Awards:

Dear Steve,
Congratulations on another year of Porcupines! I just checked out this year's selections and wanted to commend you most heartily on the a couple in particular... I think Maria Dunn's new record is one of the great ones I've heard lately- a brilliant project both lyrically and musically and also, I hope, an example of what can happen when labour and artists get something going together.

and special thanks for acknowledging Mr. Al Mader. I think he is one of THE great minds around - the first time I saw him I just about fell off my chair, marvelling at how funny and how brilliant he was. I've since presented a few different times at cabarets and twice at our festival and have always loved hos work and the expressions on people's faces when they hear him for the first time.

Sometimes it can seem to those of us way out west that Folk folks in Ontario aren't much interested in anything further away than maybe Peterborough... but it's clear you have truly 'national ears'. Thanks again for letting people know about these truly amazing artists...

All the best,
Dugg Simpson

Hi Steve:   What a wonderful surprise and honor to wake up to this morning to find your e-mail announcing Porcupine awards.  This means so much to me and everybody who has been involved with this precious album and on behalf of all of us and Colleen (who lived for moments like this) we thank you for supporting our work.    It really is an honor to be in the midst of Canadian folksters who have made a difference to our music scene here.

Happy holidays to you and staff.

Nancy Simmonds

The Porcupine Awards
Hall of Fame Inductees

Golden Porcupine Award

Photo by Steve Fruitman
Daisy DeBolt, Toronto


Daisy has been singing up a storm of light for decades. First with Allan Fraser as Fraser & DeBolt before moving up to Sudbury after her son Jacob was born. There she indulged into the musical melange of a Northern town before returning to Toronto in the early 90s. She has released several CDs of her work, manages to accumulate some of the finest musicians and poets around, loves her glass of wine with Schnitzel, and continues to dazzle with her extraordinary voice. She's given us a lifetime of work, and more. Madame Daisy DeBolt

Buzz Upshaw, Toronto


One of the unsung heroes of the Toronto rock n’ blues scene, a fabulous guitar player and interpreter of songs. His love of mussspassed genres. He loved pop, do wop, r&b, funk and soul. Folk music amused him. He borrowed from them all. Growing up Black in Toronto, he first heard the blues on the radio in the late 60s and wondered: where has this music been all my life? and who are these guys that are playing it? He had to find out and he did. He passed away last summer without recording any albums.

Ian Tamblyn, Gatineau, QC


This years Producer Porcupine recipient, Ian is an institution in this country, both as a recording producer and, more importantly, as a player. He has been releasing albums since the mid-70s; songs such as Campfire Light have been covered by numerous other artists. Originally from Thunder Bay, Northern Ontario, his music has taken us from the high Arctic to the Antarctic, and everywhere in-between. He composes folk-style songs as well as environmental sketches from his travels in the frozen lands. A tasty guitar player - especially on the high stringed guitar - and singer.

Rodney Brown, Thunder Bay, ON

Photo credit:Margaret Evans

Also from Thunder Bay, but still living there and indulging in the fabulous folklore of the voyageur highway to the plains, Rodney Brown has been writing great songs with a Northern edge for years. His first albums came out in the late 1970s before he switched career gears and started entertaining children. He has recently returned to the adult world with some excellent work that goes wherever he wants – he's the master of his own musical domain. He has recently formed a folk band that explores the tales of the fur trade from Fort William - once the centre of the Northwest Company.

Paul James with Porcupine Pie
Photo by Steve Fruitman
Paul James Vigna, Toronto

Another music veteran who just keeps getting better and better, Paul James Vigna is like a Canadian Bob Dylan with Bo Diddley moves and a million dollar smile. He is a great entertainer, plying through old blues standards or Dylan tunes and writing a few good ones himself. A tireless performer, he's also one of the most down to earth people in the business. He has learned at the feet of the great blues masters and has been performing his own style of music since the mid-1970s. He was the first guest I interviewed on my second week of broadcasting and went out of his way to make me feel at ease. On of the true troubadour gentlemen!

'Antique' Ernie Blanchard, Saint John, NB

Antique Ernie & Steve Fruitman, Saint John, NB
Photo by Paul Lyon

Just a regular guy – that’s all he is! A guy who has always loved country music and would always be heard yodeling songs while delivering newspapers as a boy. A rhythm guitarist, he joined the Saint John Old Tyme Fiddle group to back them up and was asked to come forth and sing a few songs. Shy by nature, he needed prodding and wouldn’t speak on stage – he just played, and the people loved it. And so do I.

Oskar Graf, Clarendon ON

Oskar builds some of the finest guitars in the world, working wood into the image of the intended artist. One of the three founders of the legendary Blue Skies Festival, it is still held on a parcel of his land near Clarendon. A humble, practical man, he looks upon the Blue Skies experience as an extension of many minds that grew in a coherent, sensible way, a most democratic way, a way of inclusion. After attending folk festivals right across the country, I found the Blue Skies experience the most enlightening!

Holger Peterson, Edmonton, AB

Founder of Stony Plain Records in the 1970s, Holger has become a trans-Canadian figure, releasing dozens of albums by our home grown talent. In the 80s he took a short hiatus to anchor the fledgeling Edmonton Folk as a classic Artistic Director, guiding it to become one of the top festivals in the country. He hosts two influential blues radio programs – one on the CKUA Alberta radio network, the other, 'Saturday Night Blues' on the CBC. And on top of that he loves to play drums! I have found him a warm, large man with a big heart.

Ken & Chris Whiteley, Toronto

The brothers who spawned a dynasty! Whenever you hear it’s a 'Whiteley', this is where they came from. After moving to Canada from the States as teenagers, the brothers took no time in getting into the blues. They formed The Original Sloth Band in the 1970s and recorded three great albums. From there they split their time, sometimes together, but for the most part, apart. Ken backed Raffi – Chris dueted with his wife Caitlan Hanford. Whenever time permitted, they got together as the Junior Jug Band with Chris’s kids, Dan and Jenny. Ken went on to produce records and is a partner in the Borealis Record Company. Chris is always in demand as a multi-instrumentalist to back up others. They seem to have been around forever, yet they hover around 50 years of age. There will be a lot more to come from Ken and Chris Whiteley.

The Rheostatics, Toronto

They formed about 20 years ago as a teenage band from Etobicoke. They loved Stompin’ Tom and hockey, Rush and rock n’ roll. Wendell Clark and Aliens went hand in hand. A band that could do the Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald, play a folk festival with Jane Siberry, compose for The Whale Music film, and hold court for a week at a time at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern. The mainstays over the years: Dave Bidini, Tim Vesley and Martin Tielli. And now celebrating Martin’s 100th birthday (in 2067), they have joined the True North label. Bidini is also the author of books on Canadian rock and hockey around the world.

Eddie 'Baltimore' Hutchison, Toronto

He was a musician through and through. Rock, country, R&B and blues lived through his magic fingers. Eddie was the kind of guy who could play anything. His first big band, The Humble Sponge, opened for Johnny Winter at Massey Hall in 1969. After numerous trips to Louisiana, he brought that spicy flavour back into his music. A recording engineer, teacher, band leader with Slowpoke, he opened up horizons for others to follow their dreams. The CD “The Space Between” was released posthumously in October after he lost his battle with cancer last spring.

Charlie Chamberlain, Saint John, NB

Somehow overlooked by the Hall of Fame for all these years, I realized that I better plug a whole right now and right a wrong before it’s too late! The Great Charlie Chamberlain has so much folklore attached to his name, one of the most beloved entertainers this country has ever known. He joined Don Messer's Backwoods Trio in the early 1930s and stayed with The New Brunswick Lumberjacks and the Islanders till he died. The man with the derby hat and shillelagh on the Don Messer Jubilee, the man who did duets with Marg Osbourne, often pinching her bottom on live TV while they sang the spirituals. A joker, a drinker, a lumber camp cook, guitarist, singer and friend to all. He still step dances and sings to Don Messer’s fiddle at a great Barndance in the sky.

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