A Look Back at the Year in Manitoba Music

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With over 160 albums released, 34 trophies awarded, 126 nominations, and countless concerts, showcases, festivals, and more, 2006 was a busy year for Manitoba music. MARIA takes a step back to look at what happened, who did what, and what caught on fire in the past 12 months.

The year kicked off in January with the nominations for the 2006 Indie Awards in Toront. Three local acts, James Ehnes, roots singer/songwriter Alana Levandoski and hardcore act Comeback Kid, were up for four awards. Times Change(d) High & Lonesome Club celebrated its fifth anniversary while representatives from six local labels flew to Cannes, France for MIDEM, the world’s biggest music market. Eagle & Hawk also became Manitoba first band to officially showcase at MIDEM.

In February, two local songwriters – Keri Latimer and Cat Jahnke - battled it out against competitors from around the globe for the top spot at the International Songwriting Competition, both making it to the finals. Several Manitoba artists made it to the semi-final round, including Cara Luft (formerly of The Wailin' Jennys), Ruth Moody (of The Wailin’ Jennys), Robert Reimer, Scott Nolan, Abelardo Sarao (Project Overdrive) and Piet Shaw/Hazy Bright (The Revolutionary Theatre). Prominent local hip-hop artist Fresh I.E. headed to Los Angeles to attend the 28th Annual Grammy Awards, where he was up for Best Rock Gospel Album for his acclaimed album Truth Is Fallin' In Tha Streetz. This was his second nomination in two years. A little further south, six local acts stormed Austin, Texas for the 18th annual North American Folk Alliance Conference (NAFA). The Duhks, Madrigaia, House of Doc, Nathan, Scott Nolan, and Twilight Hotel all made the trip. The Duhks then headed to Nashville to work with co-producers Tim O'Brien and Gary Paczosa for the band’s third album, Migrations. Back at home, eight Manitoba acts celebrated the Juno nominations. The Duhks, James Ehnes, The Perpetrators, Amanda Falk, Billy Joe Green, Eagle & Hawk, and Burnt were all up for trophies for the April event. The Western Canadian Music Alliance named new Executive Director Dean Brokop, brother to country star Lisa Brokop.

Eight Manitoba acts headed to Toronto in March to showcase at one of Canada’s biggest music conferences, Canadian Music Week, including Inward Eye, Paper Moon, Amanda Stott, Mia Kulba, Jodi King, Red Blanket, Quinzy, and After All These Years. Joining the Manitoba delegation this year were some prominent local industry professionals including representations from Burning Circus Management, Unison Studios, Avante Records, Vinyl Republik Records, Race Day Promotions and Kray Industries. Manitobans headed back to mess with Texas at South by Southwest, including Lindsay Jane, Novillero, Inward Eye, Romi Mayes, and Christine Fellows. They also partook in the ninth annual BBQ at Caswell House, hosted by MARIA, Manitoba Film & Sound and North by Northeast.

April started with Canada’s biggest music celebration, the Junos in Halifax. The Duhks kept the Roots and Traditional Album of the Year (Group) statue in Manitoba (The Wailin’ Jennys won it the previous year), newcomer Amanda Falk brought home Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year, while Burnt’s Hometown album was named Aboriginal Recording of the Year. Manito Ahbee: A Festival for All Nations was officially announced for November, introducing the inaugural Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards. Eagle & Hawk and Little Hawk went up for trophies at the Native American Music Awards (NAMMY), a U.S. awards show. Meanwhile, rock outfit Tele began recording with three-time Grammy Award-winning record producer David Bottrill and at DNA Studios in Toronto.

As the ice theoretically started to melt in May, funk/soul singer/songwriter Jodi King heated things up with clothier Roots, which handpicked King to perform at the 6th Annual Rethink Breast Cancer event (past performers include Feist). King’s relationship with Roots included a cross-Canada performing tour of all major Roots stores, inclusion in Roots Radio, and having her merchandise available at Roots stores. Kevin Walters took a break from his duties at Manitoba Film & Sound to head up the 2006 Grey Cup Festival, Quinzy hooked up with Juno-winning producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda, and local producer Darcy Ataman put together a video and single featuring some of Canada's top artists including Ian Thornley, Danny Greaves (The Watchmen), Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar, Grady), Kyle Riabko, Ian D'Sa (Billy Talent), Choclair, Easily Amused and many more for "Song for Africa" to generate awareness of Africa’s HIV/AIDS crisis.

Fourteen local acts showcased at Toronto’s famous North by Northeast music conference and festival in June, including Inward Eye, The Waking Eyes, Cat Jahnke, Twilight Hotel, Burnthe8track, D.Rangers, Easily Amused, Paper Moon, Katelyn Dawn, Floor Thirteen, Novillero, Quinzy, The Nods, and Tele. Joining the bands were industry pros Danielle Strueby from RaceDay Promotions, Brandon Friesen of 441 Studios and Arbor Records, Jack Shapira from Unison Studios, and Glen Willows from Burning Circus Management. Eagle & Hawk picked up a NAMMY in Florida for Best Pop/Rock Recording, where the band also performed at the gala. Novillero not only had its music placed in Emmy and Golden Globe-winning television show Monk but also got some screen time and lines to say. The West End Cultural Centre officially launched its plans to knock down the existing building and build North America’s first “green” performing arts centre, including a brand new hall with a larger capacity, a more intimate space for smaller concerts, and greatly improved audience services. Cool FM announced three winners for the 2006 Project Cool contest, including Athavale, Marianne D’Elia, and Larry Roy. Three local acts made it to Canadian Idol’s Top 22, including Easily Amused’s Keith MacPherson, ex- McMaster & James singer Rob James, and Floor 13 frontman Jeremy Koz.

The Wailin’ Jennys spent some time on television in July, performing three songs during Garrison Keillor’s Independence Day A Prairie Home Companion special featuring Meryl Streep. Good timing for The Jennys, as Robert Altman’s movie about PHC had recently been released, the performance helped to launch The Jennys’ new release Firecracker into two of the top five spots on Amazon’s chart and several of Billboard’s charts, including Top Bluegrass Albums chart (for over 25 weeks in the top five), the top 10 in the Top Heatseekers (West North Central), Top Heatseekers and the Top Independent Albums. Eagle & Hawk picked up three nominations, this time at Milwaukee’s Indian Summer Music Awards, along with country singer Kimberley Dawn. Music industry bible Billboard Magazine added its voice to the growing number of people singing the praises of the Winnipeg music scene with a feature by Larry LeBlanc called “Winnipeg: Cold, Isolated and Happening,” which highlighted several of Manitoba’s top acts and industry professionals including interviewees Nicky Mehta of The Wailin’ Jennys, Todd Jordan of Paquin Entertainment, MARIA’s Executive Director Sam Baardman, and Steve Blair, Toronto-based Director of A&R for Warner Music Canada. The article also mentioned Comeback Kid, The Duhks, The Wailin’ Jennys, Novillero, The Weakerthans, Propaghandi, Inward Eye, Alana Levandoski, Burnthe8track, Nathan, The Waking Eyes, James Keelaghan, Doc Walker Smallman, Bacteria Buffet, G7 Welcoming Committee, and Dollartone Records. Arbor Records signed three-time Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter and Order of Canada recipient Susan Aglukark, while Toronto’s acclaimed Harbourfront Centre celebrated Winnipeg with its “From the ‘Peg” festival, featuring over 100 performers from all disciplines including The Duhks, Christine Fellows, Eagle & Hawk, Mood Ruff, The Waking Eyes, The Weakerthans, Prairie Soul Collective, and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. The Waiking Eyes went to England and played London’s prestigious Hyde Park Calling on the same stage as The Who.

Doc Walker snagged an important nomination in August, getting a nod as Group of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Awards. The nationally-televised awards show, one of Canada's annual entertainment highlights, is part of the Canadian Country Music Association's annual Country Music Week. Doc Walker's drummer, Chris Sutherland, was also represented at the industry awards as a nominee for All-Star Band Award. Manitoba artists and industry professionals were up for a total of six awards, including nods for Karen Black of QX104 FM, Ex-pat Julien Paquin of the Paquin Entertainment, Dauphin's Countryfest, and Casino of Winnipeg's Kelly Berehulka. More Manitobans showed up on television, including funk collective Moses Mayes, which licensed a track to The Movie Network’s original series, G-Spot II. Indie popsters Paper Moon went in front of the cameras as themselves for popular teen show Falcon Beach while Novillero’s version of Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” was featured in new sci fi show Eureka. Popular urban music festival Peg City Holla returned to Winnipeg stages in August.

September saw some dreams come true for Inward Eye. The young trio was chosen to open three dates with idols The Who in Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton. Apparently, reclusive Pete Townsend even popped out for one of the band’s sets, complimenting the star-struck Erickson brothers on their performance afterwards. Eagle & Hawk picked up Indian Summer Music Awards for Alternative Rock and Classic Rock for its album Life Is... and Kimberley Dawn picked up a trophy in the Country category for her album I’m Going Home in Milwaukee. Hometown acts got 33 nominations for both artistic and industry awards at the Western Canadian Music Awards, including Madrigaïa, Paper Moon, Eagle & Hawk, Don Freed, The Perpetrators, Fresh I.E. Meghan Pierce, Ade, Alexander Tselyakov, Nadia Gaudet, Art Turner, Mood Ruff, Park-Like Setting, Alana Levandoski, Novillero, Paquin Entertainment, Brandon Friesen, Shawn Pierce, Gilles Paquin, Glen Willows, Colin Musulak, Daniel Roy, Gilles Fournier, Krisjanna Oleson,
Murray Pulver, Lochlin Cross, Sook-yin Lee, 441 Studios, Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts, West End Cultural Centre, Kelly Berehulka (Casinos of Winnipeg), Brian Kauste, Michelle Zieske, and Ron Sawchuk.

Eight Manitoba artists netted 10 nominations the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards (CAMA) in October, including Eagle & Hawk, Highway 373, Gerry McIvor, Edward Gamblin, Rezofficial, Cliff Maytwayashing, Harv Settee Jr., and producers Chris Burke-Gaffney and Vince Fontaine. The WCMAs took over Winnipeg for four glorious days of music, workshops, and awards. Local acts picked up 11 trophies at this year’s WCMA gala event, including The Perpetrators, Mood Ruff, Fresh I.E., Paquin Entertainment, Ron Sawchuk, Brandon Friesen, Murray Pulver, and the WECC. Legendary rock outfit Harlequin was inducted into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame while Heather Bishop picked up the Industry Builder Award and radio mainstay Howard Mandshein was given the Heritage Award. A heater caught fire at a party hosted on the historic rail bridge at The Forks for the WCMAs. No one was injured but the power went out. In typical Manitoba fashion, attendees continued to party in the cold dark. Political punk quartet Propagandhi was named the winner of SOCAN's first annual ECHO Songwriting Prize for its song "A Speculative Fiction." Manitobans picked up more trophies at the Covenant Awards in Calgary, winning seven out of 12 awards including four wins for Starfield, and trophies for Fresh I.E., Amanda Falk, and Adé.

November welcomed the first annual Manito Ahbee to Winnipeg – including pow wow, two-night music festival, education day, and trade show - and Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards. Local acts picked up 10 awards at the inaugural APCMAs, including two wins for Eagle & Hawk, Hank Horton, and J.J. Lavallee & The Freebird Band. Tracy Bone, Billy Joe Green, Sierra Noble, and producers Dezmond Mentuck and D.J. St. Germain also took home trophies. Ten more local acts snagged nominations at the second annual Canadian Folk Music Awards, including three for Madrigaia, three for The Wailin’ Jennys, two for James Keelaghan, and one each for Romi Mayes and don Freed. Grey Cup fever took over Winnipeggers and visiting fans who were treated to a two-night music fest, dubbed Cupfest, and several high profile concerts with plenty of local music. Three local acts picked up trophies at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, including (of course) Eagle & Hawk, Highway 373, and Cliff Maytwayashing. A delegation of a dozen Manitoba acts traveled to Toronto to showcase at the Canadian Aboriginal Festival, during which the CAMAs took place.

As 2006 comes to a close, plenty of things are still happening in the local music scene. Winnipeg was named as host of the 2008 Canadian Country Music Week and Awards, one of this country’s biggest music celebrations. The Duhks landed a Grammy nod for it latest effort, Migrations, while Madrigaia and James Keelaghan picked up trophies at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, and Madrigaia, The Wailin’ Jennys, Keelaghan, and the Winnipeg Folk Festival were all nominated for the second annual Folk Alliance Awards in Memphis.

Which leads us to believe that 2007 is going to be no less busy...

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